We’ve covered the Channels app for Apple TV and iOS several times this year, and have come to the conclusion that it’s a great companion app for cord-cutters. But to take advantage of the greatness that is Channels, you’ll need a special hardware device from the folks over at SiliconDust. Enter the company’s newly redesigned HDHomeRun Extend.
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The HDHomeRun Extend allows users to broadcast OTA (over-the-air) television signals via a local home network. The Extend, a unit specifically built for free OTA broadcasts, is a fairly simple device. It features a single coaxial input for connecting an old-school terrestrial antenna, a LAN port for connecting to a router, and a power input.
Older HDHomeRun Extend units were comprised entirely of plastic. Not only did this make the device feel somewhat cheap, but it also necessitated it having a loud internal fan to keep the unit cool. SiliconDust’s redesigned HDHomeRun Extend addresses this issue in a large way. Gone is the annoying fan, which is thanks to a sleek new metal case.
By going with metal casing, the new HDHomeRun Extend’s exterior is essentially a large heatsink. This has allowed engineers to rid the unit of its internal fans, which results in dead-silent operation.
Aesthetically, the update is a breath of fresh air as well. The old Extend units were all grey plastic, and featured perforated holes that lended to its frugal appearance. The plastic units looked like a standard issue from my local cable provider, and if you’re familiar with the set-top box hardware issued by most cable companies, you know that’s far from being a compliment.
That’s not to say that the original HDHomeRun Extend wasn’t good. The old Extend is still a more than viable option for those looking to get into the cord-cutting game if you can find one on the secondhand market. It’s just that the new Extend is a marked improvement design-wise, and it’s quieter as well.
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SiliconDust produces several versions of its HDHomeRun hardware. There’s the Extend, which features a dual-tuner setup, 802.11n wireless connectivity, H.264 transcoding, and a Gigabit ethernet connection. The company also sells a Connect version, which features a similar dual-tuner setup, and a Prime version, which is for CableCARD-owning cable television customers only.
If you’re not a cable television customer, or if you’re looking to get rid of cable, then I recommend going with the HDHomeRun Extend. If you wish to retain your cable television subscription, but you want the benefits of being able to view your favorite shows inside the Channels app or via a solution like Plex’s DVR, then you’ll definitely want to go with the HDHomeRun Prime.
Since Plex announced its DVR plans, stock levels of SiliconDust’s hardware has fluctuated. If you can’t find the HDHomeRun available on Amazon, you can check the company’s where to buy page for more retail locations. We’ll have more coverage of both Channels and Plex DVR in the coming months.