SiliconDust Doubles Down On CableCARD

Dave Zatz —  January 10, 2018

Photo via Josh Pollard, Digital Media Zone

Well, what do you know… CableCARD ain’t dead yet. And, at CES, network tuner manufacturer Silicon Dust is showing an updated HDHomeRun Prime. This incoming model doubles the existing unit’s capabilities by simultaneously tuning six cable channels, in a smaller form factor that SIliconDust has been noodling on for several years. It sounds like the $200 HDHomeRun Prime 6 will effectively replace the $130 Prime when it’s scheduled to launch mid-year, within a more premium enclosure than the prototype shown above. Of course, hardware is only half the picture and some sort of software client is required to present content – current options include Silicon Dust’s own HDHomeRun apps and DVR service, Channels for Apple TV, and Plex on multiple devices including Roku. In that vein, Silicon Dust indicates changes are coming to permit access to CCI Byte-restricted channels like HBO (and something I assume is as much certification as it is software engineering).

20 responses to SiliconDust Doubles Down On CableCARD

  1. They did mention certification on Twitter as a reason it doesn’t also support OTA. This is also one CableCARD for the six tuners correct? Wasn’t their previous setup two sets of 3 tuners that required 2 CableCARDs?

    I may be tempted to pick one of these up to test with the Plex DVR service.

  2. Awesome! I’ve been waiting for this. 3 tuners just isn’t enough to switch all my recordings to Plex from TiVo. Still won’t be able to record copy once channels, but maybe Disney will remove the copy restriction for Fox at least on Fios. Definitely not holding my breath on that though.

  3. Any word yet on the number of concurrent streams it’ll support for the HD TV over WiFi function? It’d be nice to run Emby or Plex on smart TV apps throughout the house.

  4. Worthless for Cox. Only locals don’t have copy once bit set.

  5. That’s how TWC used to be, IIRC the Spectrum acquisition may have changed their draconian CCI flag policies at least in some markets.

  6. Regarding tuner count, SiliconDust also has 8 tuner rack-mountable models like the TECH4-8US, but in the $1400 range and geared toward public-view establishments like bars. The HDHomeRun Connect Quatro has 4 tuners for OTA, the HDHomeRun Prime has 3 tuners for QAM via CableCARD. Seems they’d really need both CableCARD and OTA and 4-6 tuners to compete with AirTV.

  7. For both Cox and TWC, CCI Byte flags may depend on region. I’ve heard (and experienced) conflicting reports. Also, like I mentioned, Silicon Dust is working to resolve that issue by midyear. I assume they are motivated as, beyond the new 6-tuner Prime, they’re also working on a DVR appliance of some sort…

    Brennok, they used to have a wider enclosure that was basically two 3-tuner Primes in one box. Also, as Mark say, they’ve got some commercial solutions as well.

    By the way, I was chatting with them prior to CES. They were encouraging me to swing by to see some new stuff and I was like whatever, I doubt you’re doing anything new with CableCARD. Yet here we are. :)

  8. Love the fact that they are stating that “changes are coming to permit access to CCI Byte-restricted channels like HBO (and something I assume is as much certification as it is software engineering).” My existing Prime has been sitting pretty much idle given those those restrictions. An important question, though. Will those changes affect existing 3 tuner prime units or only the new 6 tuner versions?

  9. Any word if this supports hardware transcoding? Seems like a logical feature if it’s supposed to be a replacement/upgrade from the Prime.

  10. Not clear William, John I’ll reach back out to CEO Ted Head who’s been remotely briefing me.

  11. Mark,

    >Any word yet on the number of concurrent streams it’ll support for the HD TV over WiFi function?

    You can have as many concurrent streams as your network allows. The HDHomeRun tuners don’t have a limit, they can all be used at the same time. It just depends on how fast your saturate your network.

    I’d suggest getting as many of your clients on ethernet as possible and not on wifi. It’ll make things a ton better and not kill your wifi while watching TV.

    > It’d be nice to run Emby or Plex on smart TV apps throughout the house.

    This is totally doable. Channels customers use this setup for their main TV watching, replacing their cable boxes, not just for specific use cases. Channels plays direct without transcoding though. With Plex, the amount of streams you can use at once will be dependent on how many streams Plex can transcode from MPEG2 to h.264, which for most people in between 0 and 1, lol. It takes a lot.

  12. It shouldn’t take too much. My Core i3 PC I use with TiVo recordings, kmttg, and Plex will send out two concurrent streams without any issue. But once you try to add a third stream it chokes.

  13. I hope the DVR appliance that they’re working on isn’t the solution to allow for CCI Byte flag/DRM recordings. If I need another hardware DVR vs just using the HDHomeRun software on a PC, TiVo might still be the better solution.

  14. Heard back from Silicon Dust — No native transcoding for Prime 6 but DRM improvements will also apply to existing 3-tuner Prime.

  15. Awesome to hear regarding the DRM improvements! Thanks for the diligent follow-up, Dave!

  16. Did they mention if DRM recording would be possible through HDHomeRun software on server as well as their upcoming DVR hardware? Really hope it’s not restricted to the DVR hardware.

  17. Still looking for that panacea of CableCard + transcoding. I’m baffled that they haven’t released a product like that – seems like a no brainer.

  18. >Still looking for that panacea of CableCard + transcoding. I’m baffled that they haven’t released a product like that – seems like a no brainer.

    To be honest, the Extend’s transcoding isn’t very useful. It doesn’t put it inside an mp4 container, it keeps it inside a TS container. So it’s not like it instantly makes the TV streams easier to consume on all of the devices we own. This was always a big let down for me. For me, transcoding is more about making it work better with a wider variety of devices that don’t have native mpeg2 decoding capabilities.

  19. The HDHomeRun Connect Quatro has 4 tuners for OTA, the HDHomeRun Prime has 3 tuners for QAM via CableCARD. Seems they’d really need both CableCARD and OTA and 4-6 tuners to compete with AirTV.

    So get a Connect Quatro and a Prime 6, when it comes out, and you have 4x OTA and 6x CC tuners. No reason HDHomeRun needs to put both tuner types into a single box.

  20. Interview with SD CEO stated recording DRM programming on both 6x and current 3x tuners are coming. When they arrive I’ll get a 6x tuner and dump my Cox DVR equipment.