Elgato HDHomeRun HDHR3 Dual Tuner

Jul 07 2011

When I initially saw the announcement from Elgato that they have released the HDHomeRun under their own brand name I was immediately curious as to what this was all about. After all, the SiliconDust HDHomeRun has been one of the most popular tuners for home theater PC (HTPC) users since 2006. What Elgato is offering is the 3rd revision to the HDHomeRun hardware, coupled with the latest version of their Mac-exclusive EyeTV 3 software. Retailing at $179.95, it’s exactly $50 more than the PC-only version (note that from Elgato’s website the EyeTV 3 software costs $80), so it is a savings of at least $30.

Inside the Box

Everything inside the box is very tightly packaged. The only branding from SiliconDust is on the actual hardware itself; all manuals and documentation reference Elgato. This is both good and bad as we’ll cover later.

Inside the box we find the following:
• HDHomeRun Network Dual Tuner for HDTV
• EyeTV 3 software for Mac (CD-ROM)
• Driver for Microsoft Windows 7 Media Center (CD-ROM)
• Ethernet cable
• Power Supply
• PDF Product Manual (CD-ROM)
• Quick Start Guide

It’s nice to see that although the main marketing push with the HDHomeRun is for Mac customers, Elgato still includes drivers for Windows users.



Technical Specs

Input and OutputAntenna/cable input: standard F connector

Two ATSC/QAM TV tuners

100Base-T Ethernet port
Power Supply5V DC, 1A
Weight & Dimensions4 × 4 × 1 inches

3.8 oz (109 grams)

If you have ever used or are familiar with the original HDHomeRun then you will be immediately caught off guard by the size of the new version. Elgato has used the HDHR3-US version of the SiliconDust tuner and have not made any modifications that I could see to the body or internals of the unit. That being said, since our original review of the HDHomeRun back in 2006 was of the first version, a lot has changed since then:

  • The first revision used the Oren CAS220 chipset
  • The second used the Micronas DRXJ chipset
  • This third one uses the MaxLinear 1GHz silicon tuners (as shown in the pictures below)

Besides the actual hardware underneath there is a lot different that has changed between first and third revisions. As you can see in the pictures below, the body has reduced by over 50% in size, and now is black instead of the beige. This is really a personal preference but I really like the new design and color since it takes up so much less space. Another item of note is the need for only one antenna/cable connection as there is an internal splitter built into the board to process the signal between the two on-board tuners. This will be very convenient for most users, but if you were interested in picking this up and using one source QAM and another source Antenna, you will no longer be able to do so since you can only have one input cable. I think most customers will not fall in this category and will be happy with the reduced overall footprint of the new body.




Setup and Testing

Testing the Elgato HDHomeRun was quite simple since I already had the version 1 HDHomeRun in my home theater environment. For those unfamiliar with the HDHomeRun dual tuners and configurations, please refer to our review from 2006--although it’s 5 years old, the setup and configuration portion has remained the same on the Windows side of things.

The EyeTV 3 software also remains the same as we covered in our review of the EyeTV Hybrid USB based TV tuner recently, so please refer there for screenshots and details. One of the features which I did not cover in detail with that previous tuner which now is usable, is the Picture-in-Picture feature, both in digital HD quality! Since the HDHomeRun has dual digital tuners built into it, the EyeTV software allows you to utilize both at the same time.

I found the image to be crisp and detailed and could not discern any difference in quality between the image from this and the one from the Hybrid tuner. I also could not tell any difference in picture quality between the original HDHomeRun and this new HDHR3 model. Where the difference was obvious--and something I took for granted--was the channel changing speed. By channel changing, I’m referring to jumping via the guide from one digital channel to another. With the original HDHomeRun this process took a surprisingly lengthy 5-6 seconds from the point I clicked the channel until I got picture and audio. This same process on the new HDHR3 took approximately three seconds! I am mainly a recorded TV watcher so this benefit is wasted on me, but I know there are plenty of people who watch Live TV as well.



For those curious, yes the original HDHomeRun unit I had was fully capable and functional with the EyeTV 3 software, which can be purchased direct from Elgato for $80 (Upgrades cost $40, and each version includes one year of EPG license data). Unfortunately, the software will only work with one device, so two tuners is the maximum--hopefully as more users move over to Mac OSX for their HTPC Elgato will consider expanding this capability.

My only issue occurred during the initial setup where as I already had the EyeTV software configured for use with the Hybrid tuner, it would not detect either of my HDHomeRun tuners. After searching Elgato’s support website I gave up and went over to the SiliconDust forums, where I found the very simple and obvious solution--I needed to go through the EyeTV Setup Assistant once more--duh!



Conclusion

At the heart of this package it’s basically the combination of two products we are familiar with, the SiliconDust HDHomeRun HDHR3-US tuner and the Elgato EyeTV 3 software, packaged in a box with a sticker price of $179. Considering the software alone costs $80, and that you can find this package priced at Amazon for around $162--meaning you are basically saving almost $50 on the software by purchasing them together (The HDHR3-US is selling at $129 at time of this article).

I only have good things to say about the tuner hardware itself--having a network based tuner is simply amazing and it’s magical to see high definition streams coming from a tuner across the house via  ethernet. SiliconDust have made a name for themselves off of their flagship HDHomeRun brand product and it’s great to see the improvements they have made. The only complaint I saw is the single input for connection type; this will limits those looking to use two different sources such as QAM and OTA signals as you could with the original version.

At only version 3, I think the EyeTV 3 software does a wonderful job of bringing a wealth of TV features onto the Mac platform. And with the plugin for Front Row available to launch it you can essentially use this as a complete home theater PC, which of course at Missing Remote is our goal! The features of the software combined with the package cost savings make this a pretty easy decision if you are a Mac user and need dual tuners--which unless you are a mobile laptop TV tuner user, I cannot imagine why any full time HTPC could even survive with only a single tuner anymore. With that being said, I would love to see support for more than two tuners since that will be a large blocking point to a lot of Windows or Linux HTPC users who are familiar and demand much more. Also I would be remiss to not wonder if Elgato taking the forefront on TV tuner software for the Mac, along with their working so closely with SiliconDust, would have any indication as to the possibility of seeing CableCARD support on the Mac platform....maybe someday.

Pros

  • Cost
  • Tiny hardware
  • Dual Tuner support on Mac OSX


Cons

  • Support confusion


Special thanks to Elgato for providing the review unit.

Comments

Are there any advantages of replacing my old HDHomeRun with the newer version? i'm wondering if the new tuner performs better...

IIRC, there were some minor improvements to the RF section in revisions of the HDHR that came after the very first version that shipped. The HDHR3 is a different product altogether so they have likely incorporated at least the same level of performance in this model as the previous model.

Picture quality i honestly couldn't tell the difference (there are pictures in the review).

The 2 definite advantages are: only needing a single coax input, and 2. Channel changing is WAY faster

If you can live without those two, then you probably wouldn't benefit from the new purchase

One thing I wish the HDHR3 had was a provision for mounting to the wall. It is also a bit clunky because while the size of the product is small, relatively stiff and heavy coax attached to the unit makes it tip back so that the unit does not lie flat on the shelf. I recommend having some velcro on hand to deal with this.

How about thos "hard to get" channels? Does the newer HDHR performs better when there is signal noise or low quality signal?

I have a few channels that glitches sometimes. Maybe the new version has a more sensitive tuner? 

The tuners are definitely different. Personally though, in my testing with the channels I use and could scan for, I did not notice any difference in signal pickup. But to that point, there's none that I think I'm missing or have a weaker signal.

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