What separates the HDHomeRun Prime from other CableCARD tuners on the market? What features does the device bring that others don't and why might you want to consider this for your Media Center HTPC? Read on and find out why the competition in CableCARD tuners is alive and well and why this is a good thing.
Like Ceton's InfiniTV4, the HDHomeRun Prime CableCARD tuner will allow you to use a small, credit card-sized device to access premium HD programming from your cable provider, including FiOS.
The specs are a bit different though. Where Ceton hands you the ability to record up to four programs at once, the HDHomeRun Prime comes in two flavors: three and six tuner versions. Where the three tuner version of the Prime only requires a single CableCARD (and SDV Adapter if needed), the six tuner version is really just two three tuner devices in a single case and therefore requires you to use two CableCARDs and two SDV Adapters. Why SiliconDust made this decision is beyond anything I can understand but it could have been a cost saving measure.
No matter which version you choose though, your Media Center set-up procedure is the same as with any other tuner. What is different is that you'll first have to run SiliconDust's software on each PC where you want to use the tuner. That's right, like the HDHomeRun, the Prime is a network tuner. This means that you don't actually connect it to your HTPC but instead place it somewhere with wired network access and then configure each PC you want to have access to the device. For a full run down of how to configure a Prime device with your HTPC, see our previously written article.
When it comes to reviewing tuners, the biggest point is whether or not the device works as advertised. Honestly, once setup and configured the device itself really just sits there. In this particular case, you probably won't even see it again once working. And with the HDHomeRun Prime, that's exactly what happens. It works and works well.
If you follow the simple instructions that the company provides, your setup should be quick and painless. Also, as long as your network is properly configured, you won't have any issues with recording or viewing live TV. SiliconDust's network tuner software works flawlessly.
Recordings are crisp and clear. I never had an issue where recordings were missed. As well, tuning live TV is just as fast as with other tuner solutions. Most delays for me are felt due to SDV issues, not because of the tuner hardware.
Is This the Tuner for Me?
Deciding whether or not to purchase an HDHomeRun Prime really comes down to only a few things. 1) Do you need tuners on multiple HTPCs? and 2) Price. Both Ceton and SiliconDust have produced products that do their job and do it well. That said, SiliconDust has Ceton beat on two points. The first is the ability to easily share the tuners with multiple PCs. While Ceton provides a software solution allowing this feature, it's never been a priority and the focus was lost some time ago. SiliconDust on the other hand brings a lot of experience from the original HDHomeRun to the table in this regard.
On the price point, a three tuner HDHomeRun Prime can currently be found for around $129 on Amazon. Ceton's four tuner device will run you $179. Only each buyer can decide if they need the extra tuner or not.
Whether you look at the three or six tuner HDHomeRun Prime CableCARD tuner for your HTPC, you'll be happy with your purchase. Being able to not only run multiple HTPCs in your home off a single tuner device but to do so in a stable and easy way makes the HDHomeRun Prime a must have for HTPC owners, no matter how many tuners you need.