HD HomeRun modernizes the old-school over-the-air TV game

The thing about being a cord-cutter is that you're always trying to plug holes. It doesn't matter what streaming video service you ultimately go with — there's almost always something missing. For many of us, that hole comes down to local channels. And while services like YouTube TV are trying to fill that hole, there's still something to be said for a good, old-fashioned broadcast antenna.

This generally is simple enough. You stick an antenna somewhere, and it plucks the local broadcasts out of the air and pumps them directly into, well, wherever. (Generally that'll be a TV, but hang on a second ...)

There are a couple problems with this, though. First is that if you're going straight from the antenna into a TV (assuming it still has a tuner, and not all models do these days), you're pretty limited. One antenna, one TV. Second is that broadcasts can be pretty directional, especially if it's on a VHF frequency. In other words, if the antenna isn't pointing the right way, you might well be missing channels.

So the key here is flexibility. I've dabbled in wireless antennas. But as many have pointed out, there's a better way. A much better way.

Enter HDHomerun. Or, more specifically, HDHomerun Connect.

Here's the gist: You plug your antenna into this little gem of a box, which then connects to your router via Ethernet. From there, it spits out the broadcast channels over your wireless network, to be picked up by the HDHomerun app, or any number of third-party apps — on nearly any platform you can think of. The box has dual tuners, so you can watch on two devices simultaneously, and it downloads channel listings, too, so you're not guessing what's on. (Like we had to do in the bad old days of OTA TV.)

If it sounds like I'm skipping some setup steps involving scanning and networking, well, I'm not. This has been one of those rare products that just works. Plug in the antenna. Plug in the Ethernet cable. Install the Android app (opens in new tab) on a phone or tablet or Android TV. Watch local TV, for little more than the expense of the HDHomerun box ($99 and change), and an antenna. As an added bonus, it works great with Android TV's Live Channels app (opens in new tab), keeping more things in one place.

HDHomerun fills the content gap on nearly every platform and is ridiculously easy to set up.

What can you watch on? Damned near everything. Mac. Windows. Linux. (!) Android. iPhone and iPad. Xbox via the Media Center app. You can record what's coming in through any number of methods, including Plex and HDHomerun's own DVR service. That ups the complexity of this little endeavor by a decent amount, and you can venture down that rabbit hole just as far as you want. If all you want is live TV, though, it couldn't be simpler.

Now's the time to mention that there are three products here, actually — HDHomerun Connect, Extend — which includes a hardware transcoding which makes recorded playback easier on your network — and Prime, which is meant for Cable Card situations. For me, Connect has been just fine.

Yeah, it's another expenditure in the quest for cheaper TV. But in this case it's absolutely been well worth it, plugging what for me was a pretty big hole in my lineup.

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Phil Nickinson
  • I have two HDHomeRun Extend units for 4 tuners. I use their DVR software and it works well for me. I have the recordings go to my WD MyCloud 4TB NAS. I also have the same antenna that was in the video. And an outdoor antenna makes a huge difference compared to an indoor one.
  • Man, it's too complicated for a lot of folks, I feel.
  • Worth noting and a bit surprised it isn't in the article (maybe in the video? didn't watch that) that while you can watch on "damned near everything" that does not include the most popular streaming box on the market currently in the roku. At least not without running extra software on your computer to convert it and then stream the converted format. Less than ideal for those in deep with roku boxes unfortunately.
  • Mentioned in the video.
  • hdhomerun + Synology Nas = excellent. I used run the system with the HD homerun Prime + cablecard. That worked very well too (except for poor cable support and high costs for programming). Now I have the connect for Ota TV and am saving much $. Been watching the NBA finals for free so thats been good. Also Recording all kinds of free programming from public TV. Also started using the nvidia TV box which is very powerful and works well for full HD Netflix and hdhomerun software.
  • The hdhomerun app on Android and fire TV will not play DRM channels.
  • I should say that i previously used a windows 7 HTPC while i still had cable (and premium channels) so it wasn't a problem at the time (also i wasn't using the HDHomerun DVR software very much at that point). And of course I've since dumped cable. Its helpful to know if i ever decide to start buying premium channels over cable again. Is that a forever thing? Or another feature that was promised a for "the future" but is a long time coming?
  • "One antenna, one TV."
    Not true. Use a splitter. You can even run it to where your old cable was hooked up and it'll reach all of your TVs. Your old cable company may have even left a convenient amplifier at that point.
  • If Phil is reading these comments I have to ask... are you able to pick up Fox 10 with that antenna? When I cut the cord I had to go without Fox 10 or watch Fox shows online using other means.
  • How is the video quality on mobile devices? The Connect says SD video quality on mobile devices and the Extend shows HD support. Is the SD quality any good? The Extend product is a lot more expensive. Thanks.