I wanted to get the SiliconeDust HD Homerun Prime Tuner for a long time. The HD Homerun Prime is like a cable box but for your home network. It enables you to watch TV on a computer, tablet, or phone connected that are connected to your network. The tuner is able to produce 3 separate streams to 3 devices. This means that 3 devices on the network can watch and change channels independently of each other. It takes a little tinkering and patience to get everything set up and configured. It’s all worth it in my opinion.
The HD Homerun Prime can replace your cable box if you have a home theater PC (HTPC) connected to your TV. For me, Charter Communications charges $6 a month to rent each cable box. The cable card costs $2 a month. The price will vary depending on your cable provider. THe HD Homerun Prime costs $150. But you can get it for $100 when it goes on sale.
There are some good 3rd party apps for your tablet or smartphone. I use the HomerunTV app, which costs $2.99, for my Nexus 7 tablet. The app are a little buggy but works well once you have everything configured. Overall, it’s worth the time and effort to get this running. Any device connected to your network could be a TV.
Let me give you a few warnings about setting it up and using it. You will have to become a CableCard expert whether you like it or not. When you call the cable company, 99% of the representatives will not know anything about the cable card or now to troubleshoot. Most of the time, I’m guiding a representative through their system when something goes wrong.
HD Homerun Prime Setup
I’m going to breakdown the setup process into 3 parts; hardware, installation, and cable company.
Obtain a CableCard M-Card from your cable company. You’ll also need something called a tuning adapter. Most of the cable reps don’t know. Just ask them for the box that goes with the cable card. It looks like a cable box. You’ll also need a PC and the HD Homerun Prime. I’m also assuming you have a home network too.
You need a high performance home network to accomodate the bandwidth needed to stream 3 unique HDTV sources. I have a wired gigabit (10/100/1000) network and a wireless N router. It has to be gigabit and wireless N for a clear signal. I made sure to connect my dedicated HTPC to the wired network to make sure I get the best signal possible. Wireless N is just fine when I watch HDTV on my Nexus 7 tablet.
There are many guides about setting up an HTPC. You have your choice of operating systems and different options of media players. I went with the simplest way possible. I used Windows Media Center on a Windows 7 desktop. Windows 8 doesn’t come with Media Center. It’s a downloadable paid app from the app store. Windows 8 Pro does come with Media Center. So check your computer before doing this.
Windows Media Center (WMC) is fully capable of being your DVR. It downloads a guide for you to schedule all recordings. The first thing you need to do is install the HD Homerun driver and software. In WMC, you need to install the “Digital Cable Advisor” found in the Extra menu. You can’t watch most digital cable channels with the Digital Cable Advisor. It makes sure that your recorded show can only be watched on your that computer.
I’m going to assume you’ll have an extra coaxial cable lead from a splitter. You might need to get a cable guy to come to your house to set up an extra outlet.
1. Tuning apater – 3 wires; coaxial in (from the cable company), coaxial out to the HD Homerun Prime, and usb cord.
2. HD Homerun Prime – 3 wires and cable card; stick the cable card into the slot, connect the coaxial from the tuning adapter, connect the usb cord from the tuning adapter, connect the cat-5 network cable to your network.
That’s it for the hardware
In WMC, go to Settings> TV> Set up TV Signal. WMC will scan for any available tuners. WMC will give you a screen of different numbers from the tuner. Now it’s time to call the cable company.
Call your cable company and tell them you want to set up a cable card. They’ll ping your cablecard to make sure they can see it on their network. Ask them if you can give them a Host ID. This is important. Without the Host ID, nothing will work. After you they enter the Host ID, you should be all set with the cable company.
Windows Media Center
Now scan for channels again. With WMC, you need a free plugin application called, Digital Cable Advisor. It’s available in your Extra menu. It’s basically for copyright purposes. Some TV shows are locked to that one PC only. That means you can only watch the recorded show on the PC that recorded it. It’s important that you never shut down your PC if you schedule a recording. Instead, set the PC to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity.
That’s about it. I’m sure I’m missing some minor details. It’s been a while since I set this up.