The cord-cutter’s secret weapon
The cord-cutting movement -- that is, the growing number of consumers abandoning cable TV in favor of streaming video and over-the-air HDTV -- is picking up steam, and showing no signs of slowing down. Users are finding new ways to bring their favorite shows and movies to their TVs without having to rent a painfully slow cable box and pay for service, and one of the most innovative new approaches is making big waves: Using a network tuner.
A network tuner is a small, unassuming box that connects to both an HD antenna and your local network -- and it's only job is to tune in over-the-air channels and make them available for streaming devices (like a streaming box, smart TV, or smartphone) on your network. They're perfect for watching your local channels on just about any screen, and you can even record shows and movies to a local hard drive -- so it's now possible for cord-cutters to build their own DVRs.
One brand that does network tuners better than anyone else: Silicon Dust's HDHomeRun devices have consistently been the backbone of many cord-cutting setups, and the company is beloved by cord-cutters all over the world.
If you've ever thought about becoming a cord-cutter, or if you're ready to level-up your cord-cutting game, it's a perfect time to learn more about network tuners -- what they do, the different models available, and how you can use one to help build your own cord-cutting empire.
How HDHomeRun devices work
To set up and use an HDHomeRun network tuner, you'll need:
A local network with at least one available ethernet port (you likely have this if you have the internet in your home)
An HDHomeRun network tuner
Every HDHomeRun device works on the same basic principle: You connect it to an ethernet cable and a coaxial cable (that's connected to an over-the-air antenna), and then plug it in to the wall for power. Once powered on, running through a one-time setup process makes it easy to scan for channels. When channel-scanning is complete, your HDHomeRun network tuner is ready for use.
Once you've gone through the setup, your HDHomeRun will be available as a video source to other applications, so to watch TV, you'll need a device and an app. Silicon Dust makes compatible apps for most major platforms (including Android, iOS, Windows, OS X, and Roku), so once you've selected your viewing device, all you need to do to get started is download the HDHomeRun app.
Meet the HDHomeRun family of network tuners
Silicon Dust makes a variety of HDHomeRun devices, and while they each perform the same basic functions, they're primarily differentiated by the number of channels they can record simultaneously.
The HDHomeRun Connect Duo features two tuners, so you can watch one program and record another, or record two shows at once.
The HDHomeRun Connect Quattro is identical to the Duo, but it has four tuners instead of two.
The HDHomeRun Extend also has two tuners, but it supports hardware transcoding, which can make it easier to use with some older media players.
The bottom line: Which HDHomeRun you use to receive and record broadcast HDTV should depend on how many tuners you'll want. But if you're worried about not buying enough, don't worry: You can buy multiple HDHomeRuns and use them on the same network seamlessly.
Ready to add a network tuner to your TV setup? Here's all the gear you'll need, depending on how you watch.
For TV binge-aholics
If you love watching TV for hours at a time, you'll need devices that can keep up with you. Here are our favorites for binging.
TV: The Samsung 55NU7100 is a solid 4K set that supports HDR and includes all of the best streaming apps.
Streaming box: The Amazon Fire TV 4K has solid picture quality and a surprisingly low price tag -- and the native HDHomeRun app is a joy to use.
Network tuner: The HDHomeRun Connect Duo is small, but mighty. With two tuners on board, it'll have you binging in no time.
For non-technical people
If you're excited about the idea of adding a network tuner to your home media setup, but intimidated about making it happen, here's the equipment that will make it painless.
TV / streaming box: If you're a fan of simplifying, a Roku TV from TCL like the 55R617 is your best bet. The 55R617 has Roku's streaming platform built-in, so there's no need to buy a separate streaming box. With the 55R617, you simply download the HDHomeRun app, and it handles the rest -- all from one remote.
Network tuner: The HDHomeRun Extend is the most straightforward model they offer, and the built-in hardware transcoding means you can even stream TV to some of your older devices.
For home theater fanatics
HDHomeRun network tuners integrate well with most major platforms, but if you're looking to enjoy over-the-air TV in the best audio-video quality available, you'll want to pair it with the right tech.
TV: The LG OLED65B6P is one of the best TVs on the market. Its brilliant display supports 4K, HDR, and the built-in upscaling will make even the grainiest TV broadcast look spectacular.
Streaming box: The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is an incredibly flexible streaming box, and it's one of the very few that natively work with any HDHomeRun devices (so you don't even have to bother setting up the HDHomeRun -- the Shield TV will handle everything).
Network tuner: The HDHomeRun Connect Quattro is perfect for making sure you never miss an episode -- the four built-in tuners can record simultaneously. It's rock-bottom price point doesn't hurt, either.
Jaime is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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