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SiliconDust HD HomeRun Prime First Impressions

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While we've covered the Ceton InfiniTV4 (USB and PCIe), there are other options on the market when it comes to getting premium cable content into your HTPC. I recently got my hands on SiliconDust's HD HomeRun Prime Digital CableCARD tuner. Like Ceton's product, the Prime allows you to get a CableCARD from your provider and unlock the full range of premium channels available.

Unlike the competition however, the Prime doesn't get installed or attached to your HTPC. It's a network attached tuner meaning that once you connect the device to your network and pair a CableCARD you're all set to enjoy live and recorded TV on pretty much any computer in your home. There are some caveats to this tuner sharing and we'll get to those but the ability to push live TV (and record it) to any set in the home is a feature that comes ready to go out of the box. A claim that no other company can make. It is possible to use your InfiniTV4 in a network environment but you'll need to setup some extra software.

There's nothing special about the outside of the Prime. The front has lights for power and tuners. On the back of the device you'll find a cable in, a USB port for an SDV adapter, power, an Ethernet port and a slot for your CableCARD. The device can be placed anywhere you have both cable and network access so there's no need to keep it in the living room with your HTPC or right next to any other TV either. It can be hidden away since you shouldn't need to access the hardware once setup is complete.

The Prime comes packaged nicely and comes with everything you'll need to get CableCARD up and running except for the card itself. As well, SiliconDust doesn't include a USB cable for a tuning adapter but this is excusable since 1) many people don't need them and 2) most TAs come with the needed wiring, including USB.

The tuner I received for review is the 3-tuner version but the company does offer a 6-tuner flavor for those of us who need to be able to record more channels or who have multiple PCs we'd like to share tuners with. Interestingly, the 6-tuner Prime is simply two 3-tuner devices in a single unit. You'll actually need two CableCARDs, two network connections and two SDV adapters to access all six tuners. While I'm sure this helped keep hardware costs down, current M-cards will decrypt up to six streams a time so needing two of everything could be an issue for some people.

Something to keep in mind with the Prime is that just like Ceton's InfiniTV, the tuners will follow copy protection rules. That means that for many premium channels, you'll only be able to view the recordings on the PC they were recorded to. As with any CableCARD device, this is something controlled by the MSOs and there's not a thing that SiliconDust can do about it.

Stay tuned as I walk through setup of the HD HomeRun Prime as well as provide a full review. I intend to use the tuners in both a wired and wireless environment and while SiliconDust can't do anything about how good your wireless service is, it'll be interesting to see how well HD TV streams across a wireless home network.

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