HDHomeRun Connect vs. Prime vs. Extend vs. Quatro: Which digital tuner is best for you?
So you're thinking of getting an HDHomeRun for your home. Which one should you buy?
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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 and $149 for the Quatro.
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.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. 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 steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine