Catching Up With Silicon Dust

Dave Zatz —  January 7, 2011

HDHomeRun-Prime2

My last stop of the day was a visit to Silicon Dust. They’re the folks behind the HDHomeRun networked dual tuner, which has had quite a run… without a refresh. And that’s about to be corrected by the HDHomeRun Dual which will beginning shipping later this month for $130. The Dual essentially provides the same functionality as the original unit, in dual tuning and streaming ATSC content over ethernet, but re-engineered into a tighter package. Additionally, El Gato will be bundling a Dual with their EyeTV software at some point in the requisite Mac white.

Potentially more interesting is the HDHomeRun Prime, a networked CableCARD device to feed three HD streams of digital cable to Microsoft Media Center. Unfortunately for those tracking this device, I bring no new information. Silicon Dust is gearing up production while awaiting final CableLabs certification. So we could still be a few months away. However, given the lack of MC extenders, and the number of inexpensive small form factor PCs that I could place at each TV, it’d be the right solution for me (over Ceton) should I decide to roll my own whole home DVR.

20 responses to Catching Up With Silicon Dust

  1. why is this a better solution than Ceton?

    i have seen Ceton work. While it took them a while to get to market and today demand is so strong they can’t keep up with back-orders, the product installs. once installed, it keeps working. i never thought we could use four tuners until my wife wanted to use it for a movie, two baseball games and a football game.

  2. This is better than ceton because I don’t need to run a windows machine to use it, in theory. :)

  3. If you have a PC for the CETON, they have the firmware now (in Beta since Oct.) to expose the 4 tuners on the network to any other devices, just like the HDHomeRun. Just sayin’…

  4. I am holding out for this perfect storm device while the Ceton may emulate some of the features the HD Home Run Prime does i have approximately 5 locations through out my house with windows 7 and are awaiting this card and from what i understand i can setup 3 Prime’s and stream to the 5 pcs.

    Out of the 5 only 1 is the closest to Average sized computer the fest are SFF and USFF i cannot house a ceton card in them and the one that is large enough isn’t large enough to house 2 cards which is what i would need to com close to the 3 HD home runs and from what i am hearing there will be a Rack mountable version of the prime in the works which will support 6 tuners in a single device.

  5. The HDHomerun Prime is also a bit less expensive than the Ceton card. $250 vs. $400. That’s a big deal right there. Sure, one less tuner but at a significant cost savings.

    I have a regular HDHomerun and love how easy it was to set up on the network.

  6. Does the Dual drop QAM tuning? With the prime coming along, it wouldn’t surprise me.

  7. Sherr, Brian, I’m will Jamell. I’d want a SFF PC at every TV and the Prime could reside in the basement with my networking gear. I also agree with Joel, that the pricing is good and 3 tuners meets my needs 95% of the time. For the other 5%, Showtime runs everything like 6 times. ;)

    RSR, I assumed the functionality was exactly the same. I’m double checking on the clearQAM point, though.

  8. with only one coax input it can’t be exactly the same, since the older version had two tuners (and inputs) which could be independently set to ATSC or clearQAM.

    using it for clearQAM is a cludge anyway (assigning channel/guide data to frequencies; channel frequencies changing requiring reassignment, etc), and with the prime leveraging the cablecard for channel info, it wouldn’t surprise me if they went with an OTA/ATSC only version.

    I use them via SageTV for some clearQAM now (and some OTA), but it’s a lot more hands on than the average consumer wants or frankly, could handle, IMO.

  9. I did notice they dropped to one input. But I wonder how many folks tune both clear QAM and OTA, as in my experience clear QAM includes all those locals. I’ll let you know when I know more.

  10. Well that was quick! Just heard back from Ted (CEO) who confirms the Dual will handle clear QAM and has a powered internal splitter. The decision to go with a single input was made to avoid confusion and variance issues. (Of course, the Prime is QAM only as it’s designed for digital cable.)

  11. but it won’t do both at once on the single unit, I guess? Like I said, I don’t think it’s that big a deal, because if you want access to both OTA and digital cable, you’re likely to use the prime/cable card setup for the cable side anyway.

    I’m not sure anymore, but I think we got the first Homerun when we were still satellite subs, and sat didn’t offer all the local sub-channels.

    Then as cable subs, the DVR didn’t offer nearly enough recording space, so we recorded a lot of local broadcasts via SageTV/HDHomeruns.

    In either case, I like the redundancy of OTA in case our paid provider suffers an outage.

    I’m probably in a small group of people that subscribes to cable, and lives in an area with a large selection of reliable digital OTA and uses an antenna for it.

    I’m very likely to upgrade the cable side of the equation to the prime when it’s available, but I’ll still use our current HDHomeRuns for OTA at a minimum to free up the prime tuners for the encrypted channels.

    Thanks for checking, Dave. I was hoping to hear some news from Silicon Dust at this CES.

  12. HomerunOwnerSwitchinToCeton January 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I have a Homerun and it works beautifully. I was really looking forward to a Prime. The public relations for SiliconDust though has been really poor, and basically I could have had my Ceton 2 months earlier, which just leaves a bad taste in my mouth about SD. If the Prime ever hits the market, I am sure it will be a great product, but some of us were expecting this thing a year ago.

  13. William C Bonner January 9, 2011 at 1:06 am

    I’ve got two of the existing HDHomeRun tuners. I love the way that they are network connected and didn’t require an available slot in my primary desktop.

    Knowing something about RF splitters, I wasn’t overly happy with the pair of inputs on the back. I used a splitter that has 7.4db drop, which seemed about as good as I could get for a four way splitter. I assume that an internal splitter can get a better loss level than what most consumers would pick up at a store.

    What I’d be most interested in with the Prime is how the drivers coexist with the older HDHomerun, or even the new “Dual”? (I’m talking specifically for Win7 MC)

    Right now I’m over the air completely, but have considered adding cable with the prime. Would my Win7 be able to utilize all 7 tuners? (Or at least any matching set of up to four at a time?)

    Wim.

  14. I’m really torn about this, Dave. I’m stuck in a Cox monopoly here, and they have next to no experience or competence when it comes to CableCard installation here in Northern VA. While I’d love to go with the HDHR Prime, I fear they’re likely to decide that a networked tuner can’t work. And on the technical side, while we’re wired with gigabit ethernet top to bottom, TCP/IP has proven to be less than ideal for high-bandwidth, constant data streams like that might be needed with a heavily DRM-laden data stream. USB may end up being the best way to go, though I’d be happier with the HDHR Prime. I guess the question is one of being able to use it at all (HDHR Prime with Cox) or waiting forever (Ceton).

  15. As a former Cox subscriber through January 2, 2010, I feel your pain.

    What makes CableCARDs that much more challenging in Cox’s environment is switched digital video and the poorly supported tuning adapters technology that comes with it. At the moment, their Cisco tuning adapters only handle dual tuning so your 3 or 4 tuner HDHomeRun Prime or Ceton card will require two of them if you want to record/watch more than 2 shows at a time.

    So that’s the bad news, but with gigabit ethernet, I don’t know that you’d have a throughput problem.

  16. Oh, well, that’s useful to know too. I guess Cox “forgot” to mention that, because when I called and asked specifically about SDV, I was told I’d need a single adapter. I’m not sure if you’re in the Northern VA area, but if you are – would be helpful to know if there were any techs or supervisors worth giving a call to if/when the switch from our current setup happens. Right now … this is what it looks like (and surprisingly, it works perfectly) – we’re basically subverting their own boxes using HD-PVRs + DVBLink: http://tinyurl.com/VRNNewDVR

    It’s scalable to 4 tuners, but I’m already getting concerned about the overall size of the whole thing.

  17. Looks like you’ve crafted a good solution. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it I say.

    Regardless of whom I spoke with at Cox, including the customer advocate here in NoVA, I never resolved all my tuning adapter issues. I had TiVo pull my logs at one point – 22 reboots in 10 days. Not sure who’s to blame (Cox, Cisco, TiVo, CableLabs), but we the customers collectively suffer. I think the FCC suggested Cisco to up their tuner support, but I don’t know the timing or if it’s mandated.

  18. Isn’t it a terrible thing when that monstrosity of cables is considered a good solution? :) My main problem is with the Cox boxes – they occasionally restart themselves and since naturally they don’t remember that they were on, they just sit off until I realise. So I’ve recorded (twice in six months) a completely black screen. That’s the main advantage with the Ceton or HDHR Prime – you’d not need to worry about whether the box is actually on. That’s a very useful thing not to worry about.

    I may have to start pestering my landlord about Fios again – right now, I don’t have an option other than the bastards at Cox.

  19. Twice in 6 months beats 22 times in 10 days… ;)

  20. Touché, touché.