HDHomeRun Connect vs. Prime vs. Extend vs. Quatro: Which digital tuner is best for you?

There are three great products from SiliconDust that can help you make more of your home TV experience. Not just when it comes to ditching cable, but even embracing it and making it suit your own home setup rather than being limited to the box the cable company provides.

Depending on your situation, there might be a very straightforward answer to the question. Let's look at each and explain why you might want to buy them.

Why an HDHomeRun at all?

HDHomeRun

HDHomeRun

There's a reason that SiliconDust's products have become so popular: They do what they do simply, and very well. In an ever-growing world of cord cutters or shavers, these little boxes can help transform your home TV experience using your own local network.

The HDHomeRun is supported by a host of third-party apps and services, Plex, Emby, and Kodi among them, and they're supported by all platforms. There's an official app for Windows 10, Mobile and Xbox One (as well as Android and iOS), that allows you to jump in and watch TV in a flash.

The HDHomeRun devices are affordable, easy to use and aren't reliant on your choice of mobile or desktop platform.

HDHomeRun is an essential cord-cutting tool for Windows users

HDHomeRun Prime - for keeping cable TV

HDHomeRun Prime

If you're a "cord shaver" rather than a cutter and you want to keep your cable TV but do more with it, then the HDHomeRun Prime is for you. This one box allows you to distribute your TV channels throughout your home without the need to buy or rent additional boxes from your TV provider, for $129.

It allows up to three different devices to watch HDTV at the same time over your home wired or wireless network, as well as being able to stream directly to DLNA-enabled devices.

You can also stack multiple Primes to increase the number of available tuners. Add another one and watch on up to six different devices, for example.

The HDHomeRun Prime requires a CableCARD and a valid U.S. cable TV subscription in order to operate, and that's also one of the downsides to anyone outside the United States. But if you have cable and you want some additional freedom with it, this is the one for you.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

An exciting development from CES 2018 is that later on this year (mid-2018 is all we know right now), SiliconDust will be updating the HDHomeRun Prime to include six tuners. That means six streams around your home from a single CableCARD.

HDHomeRun Connect and Extend - one key difference

HDHomeRun Connect

The HDHomeRun Connect is the basic box that's perhaps most popular. To use it you simply hook up an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna, plug it into your home network over Ethernet and spend about 5 minutes running the setup program.

The exact same thing can also be said of the HDHomeRun Extend. In fact, the two boxes are almost identical. They both receive ATSC standard OTA broadcasts from all around the world. So what's the difference?

The HDHomeRun Extend has a built-in transcoder that can convert the incoming video into the h.264 standard. This is particularly useful for viewing on mobile devices and over wireless connections as it's much more efficient. The addition of the Transcoder makes it a little more expensive, too, at around $170 (opens in new tab).

HDHomeRun Extend

If you're not so worried about mobile devices, then the regular HDHomeRun Connect is the one to get. The Duo (2-tuners) and Quatro (4-tuners) are great value products and offer virtually everything the Extend does. It doesn't perform badly, either, with mobile devices or over Wi-Fi, but there's no doubt the Extend is better in these circumstances. Transcoding to h.264 may also be of benefit if you're using your HDHomeRun in conjunction with a digital DVR service.

In many parts of the world, though, the Connect is the only one you'll be able to buy. And that's fine, for the price it's the best all-rounder. The older box has been succeeded by the Duo and Quatro, but if you're OK getting a refurbished unit you can get one now for around $36. It's basically identical to the Duo, too. The latest models start at $99 for the Duo (opens in new tab) and $149 for the Quatro (opens in new tab).

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

So there you have it. You're getting a great product whichever of these three you buy, but hopefully, this helps make the differences between the products a little clearer.

Updated July 12, 2018: Guide refreshed to provide latest information and pricing on the newest HDHomeRun boxes, the Duo and Quatro.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

15 Comments
  • IMO based on experience.
    digitaldevices(dot)de make the best and reliable TV cards etc... Been using their products for years and all are UHD ready.
  • Re: Hiswona,
    I looked at the web site but they didn't have an English version of the web site. Do they sell their products outside of their home country?
  • but they didn't have an English version of the web site
    They do, there's a toggle at the top of the page: https://digitaldevices.de/?lang=en  https://digitaldevices.de/home/
     
  • As JediTwang said, click on the UK flag for English,
    Yes, i ordered from South Africa and paid on the site..
  • I use a HomeRun Connect with Microsoft Windows Media Center (aka WMC and sometimes known as MCE) set up as a whole house system. Still full of features and family friendly.
  • Thats what I used to run. Now I have Silicon Dust's DVR running on my Synology NAS and recording to the NAS. I can view content on any PC or the XBox with the HDHomerun windows app. 
  • I recently bought the Connect and I've been satisfied with it. One thing that you did not mention in the article is the Extend uses the older 802.11n wireless standard while the Connect uses the newer 802.11ac. 802.11ac is much faster and typically has less interference (although will not penetrate through walls as well) and it generally would not benefit so much from the transcoding, so stating that the Extend is better for mobile or wireless connections would not necessarily be true. It really depends on what type of mobile devices you have, how far they are from your router, the walls and interference in your building, etc.
  • I didn't think either was wireless. Both use a standard ethernet connection?
  • They can be hooked up either way. I use the Ethernet connection myself.
  • For clarification.  ALL HDHomeRun products connect to your home network via ethernet to any router or switch where convenient. (Best near the Cable or OTA input).  By connecting to your home network, you can then stream Live TV via wired Ethernet connection to multiple devices throughout the home.  We always recommend wired for best performance as this is Live TV, however all HDHomeRun products will stream via your Existing Home Wi-Fi network.  If your home network is strong throughout your home without a lot of traffic while viewing then all HDHomeRun models will do fine (A/C network is recommended).  If you find that you have heavy traffic on your network (lots of downloading going on, many people and products going via Wi-Fi, then for OTA users the EXTEND has hardware transcode, meaning we cut the size of the high bandwidth MPEG2 live tv file in about 1/2 to facilitate using over a heavily taxed A/C  or a standard use N network. The transcodings is also useful for reducing the storage space of recordings from OTA live streaming that you may be recording using the HDHomeRun DVR service.  
  • I use Jadoo. Anyone? :D
  • The Connect has been great and lets me use their app or plex on any device. So easy
  • I would like to know if I can plug home run prime directly into my PC and use it to a PC connection and not to Wi-Fi because where I live we share Wi-Fi with the apartment building. Wi-Fi is included with the rent.
  • no EU version with cam module. I use cable television and a large part of the channel is "locked" and it is necessary to use the cam module and card. Will it have a circuit for the eu market with a cam module like it exists for the USA?
  • I've taken a look at one of these, but I'm still not sure it would work for me. I'd use an antenna for picking up local OTA channels (PBS, Fox/ABC/NBC etc.) and then connect to the box. My issue is with the output; I'm not really that interested in watching it on an app on my Win 10 laptop. My TV is a slightly older Samsung Plasma regular HD, that does have a wired ethernet connection (no WiFi) and supports DLNA. So ideally I'd like the box to stream directly to the TV as a DLNA device. None of the documentation or website makes it clear if any of them will do this. My second option is that I have a Chromecast on the TV too, which of course is WiFi. I use that when watching Watch ESPN in Chrome, or the Fox Sports app as you can cast from both of those. As far as I can tell, the box will only output onto wired ethernet, and even if you run the app on the laptop, the app doesn't support Chromecast either. Anyone got a definitive statement on what is possible with DLNA?