Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: SiliconDust HDHomeRun PRIME Cable HDTV (3-Tuner)
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Style Name: 3 tuners, USA Cable HDTV|Change
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on September 24, 2011
I've been following this product since it was first promised earlier this year. I read all the gotchas, problems, etc, and thought I would be able to use that knowledge to help when I finally got the product myself and installed it. I also have an HDHR so thought it would be similar. Here's my experience:

I received it today (wonderful one-day shipping from Amazon), and had picked up my MCard (CableCard) at Cox yesterday. Hooked everything up, plugged everything in, and went through the install - so far pretty straightforward. The setup did upgrade the firmware to 20110830, however, on SiliconDust's website they've released 20110920beta1, so I went ahead and upgraded to the latest. Finally get to the part where you call your cable company, and that's where things started getting interesting. The first call activated successfully, and I thought it was done, I said thank you and goodbye. But I only got basic channels, not extended (no ESPN, CNN, etc). So I called back, and she sent "hits" and "INITs", to no avail. Finally she had me unplug the Prime, pull out the CableCard, plug it back in and re-insert the CableCard. Then she re-paired it. But in my error, I gave her the wrong codes (you give them three ID codes). I didn't know that when you unplug, remove and reinsert the CableCard, it generates a new ID for the Data code. The other two codes are static. She couldn't get it to pair up again, but strangely, I started receiving all the channels! So we assumed everything was fine, even though it wasn't activated. Sure enough, in a few minutes I lost the channels again. A third call to Cox, and I gave him the correct codes (even though he was on the verge of saying he would just as soon send a tech out), and finally, it all worked!

My recommendations:
1. Get the setup and card activation done before even going into Windows Media Center. Use the SiliconDust Setup and QuickTV to verify things are working. Get familiar with the Prime setup web browser, so you can get the codes and see the status of the activation. Check the logs to see if the channels are subscribed or not.

2. Be prepared to give the cable company what they need - the three (correct!) codes from a web browser pointing to the Prime. Cox didn't need any special instructions for this product. The last tech kept referring to my Tivo (I didn't correct him).

3. Once you've verified it all works from the Setup/QuickTV, close all of the HDHomeRun windows so you won't get tuner availability errors, then go into WMC and configure your TV Signal. This part actually worked great for me.

I've been watching TV for a few hours now, both on my computer and on my Windows Media Extender, with no glitches or hiccups. Will withhold final judgement until I've gone a few weeks.

(ETA, just want to say that Cox was very helpful, this was all done on a Saturday night, and the second tech even called me back after giving me some time to find the codes and so she could do some research on it.)

Update 3 1/2 weeks later: So I was missing a bunch of channels, and after several calls to Cox and an onsite visit, they said I needed a tuning adapter for Switched Digital Video (SDV) channels. The tech that came onsite didn't have any, so another trip to the Cox store, and then I hooked it up at home. The TA wouldn't lock on the signal, so a few more calls to Cox, and another onsite visit finally resulted in the SDV channels coming in, but no cable channels! Finally one more call to Cox, and now I'm getting all the channels I should be getting.
Other than the channel problem though, I have been recording several shows a week, sometimes two shows at a time, and have had zero problems! It has been very reliable.
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I was furious the other day when my cable company decided to encrypt all of the channels that I was receiving on my televisions. Apparently the $90+ I spend on my plan wasn't enough and I now had to look at renting boxes to the tune of $20-30 extra per month to continue my service.

So I set out to see if there was a way to avoid paying the fees and get my television channels back. I am happy to say that you can do that with the HD Homerun Prime with a little bit of work and a few more gadgets.

The HD HomeRun supports the CableCARD format - something that used to be on every television set in the early days of HD but is now relegated to Tivo and a few other obscure devices. They basically act as a key to unlock encrypted channels that you're paying for in your subscription plan. In my case the card was "cheaper than free" in that I received the card for no charge and will now get a $2.50 credit on my invoice for customer-owned equipment.

After plugging the card in and calling my cable company for activation, I connected the HD HomeRun to my network and it immediately popped up on my Mac using the free and open source VLC video player. I was able to watch most of my cable television channels, but a few like HBO were still inaccessible.

Enter Windows Media Center (WMC).

Windows Media Center is included in many versions of Windows and can be purchased as an add-on for Windows 8. It also has been blessed by the high priests of the cable industry and has adequate copy protections in place to receive premium networks like HBO and other networks that run 'no copy' rules like ESPN. I installed WMC on a recent Sony Vaio laptop and was surprised by how nicely everything ran with it. It was worlds better than the piece of junk DVR the cable company will rent you for $15 a month. But things get more interesting when you run the WMC extender on the Xbox 360. Suddenly your Xbox is transformed into a cable box - and you're able to watch recorded shows, set new recordings, and even tune into live television. I do recommend have the Xbox and the WMC PC connected via hard wired ethernet - HD streams drain a lot of bandwidth that might strain your wireless network and deliver sub-par performance.

Playstation 3 users can connect to the HD Homerun directly without a PC. And I've heard that it will also play the premium channels - but you won't get DVR capability like you will with the WMC/Xbox combo.

The HD Homerun can support up to three simultaneous streams. It appears to automatically allocate tuners based on demand, and it's possible to have WMC running simultaneously with other devices that might want to connect to it.

In short, if you're willing to do a little work you CAN beat back the gotchya fees from your cable company and pick up an additional $2.50 a month. Not bad at all.
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on September 28, 2013
I was tired of renting a DVR and cable modem for $36+tax/mo from Time-Warner Cable, so I decided to buy my own equipment.

Replacing the cable modem was pretty easy - just get one from their list and call them with the MAC address and return theirs, it'll pay for itself in under a year.

Replacing the DVR required more effort but the end result is much better than a rented DVR. The HDHomeRun PRIME is the start for CableCard-based independence.

With Time-Warner Cable, here's what you need:

1. The HDHomeRun PRIME
2. A CableCard from Time-Warner Cable ($2.50/month)
3. A free Cisco DTA 170HD Digital Transport Adapter (connected via USB to the HDHomeRun PRIME, it transparently re-tunes switched digital video) from Time-Warner Cable
4. Windows Media Center on a PC that's on your LAN. This is a must; nothing else will play anything but local broadcast TV on Time-Warner!
5. Activate the CableCard as well as the Cisco Adapter with customer support over the phone. You'll use your web browser to see the HDHomeRun PRIME, and plan on 1/2 to 1 hour to get to the right support rep
6. Install the HDHomeRun PRIME software/driver on the PC
7. Get Windows Media Center PC properly configured for the HDHomeRun PRIME. This is pretty quick from WMC's tasks - settings menus

The reason that Windows Media Center is the only viable computer software for TWC is that TWC transmits the copy-once flag for virtually every channel. Connect any other PC/Mac program (including VLC) to the HDHomeRun Prime and it will refuse to play almost all channels within one second or less. The Time-Warner people confirmed for me that WMC is the only fully functional computer-based solution. Sadly, even Windows + WMC in a VMWare virtual machine will not work because the display driver isn't "end-to-end encrypted." You can also extend WMC to other rooms with an XBOX 360 or a different WMC extender. Once set up, the HDHomeRun PRIME will view or record up to three simultaneous channels. Overall it's not exactly a no-brainer to get it going with Time-Warner Cable but it works great!
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on October 17, 2011
HDHomeRunPrime provides cable card decryption for my Comcast TV. Converting the encrypted channels that you pay for (anything above ch 30 and above) into IPTV format.
I have tested it with Microsoft Media Center and have found that it works well streaming the content real time over the Ethernet. For those who do not have Microsoft you should be glad to know that they support a variety of TV watching applications (on Linux to boot). However their is one big thing to note. If a broadcast has been flagged on TV you cannot watch or record it on any program except Microsoft Media Center. Be sure to check to see if your TV provider flags all broadcasts or leaves it off by default. Comcast (which I have) leaves about 99% of their TV programing un-flagged by default. ALSO for flagged broadcasts be sure your have a complete hdcp complaint setup as the flag requires that type of DRM.

Now as for streaming stability, I have noticed that if you go to wireless and attempt to access HDTV their will be some glitches as wireless does not provide the consistent quality of service and will drop packets causing your show to stutter. Wireless N might be a possible solution to solve this issue. However all I have is wireless A and G so I cannot test N.

Recording TV shows on any PC is now possible no matter its location in the house. We have three pc's and this device can send HD TV to all three without even breaking a sweat. Keep in mind if you have Ethernet over power in your home it will have the same issues as wireless. (How do you think I know that >_>

Silicon Dust provides a TV preview window so that you can quickly see if the device is working when you activate it. Oh speaking of activation, if you have Comcast expect to set some time down to get this device activated as most reps at Comcast are not to familiar with cable card activations. Ah, one other thing if you pay for TV you have the right to get one Cable card from your TV provider free of charge. MAKE SURE for this product that you request a CABLE CARD M and NOT CABLE CARD S. (FYI You can get the cable card from your Comcast store.) I have a you tube video overview of the physical device (update you will need to look for it on youtube amazon removes links.)

(Update 1-15-2012) Having had the HDHomeRunPrime for a while I have a few observations to bring to light. First and foremost if you have multiple windows pc's and have purchased this device you will need to get each one activated with your cable provider. Second for your machines to receive HD on certain channels you will need to know if your machine is HDCP compliant. Lucky for you Microsoft has put a testing application in media center under settings to test to see if you are HDCP compliant. <- this can save you a lot of time. On that same note if your machine has not been tested by that app it will say its not compliant anyways so use the app.

*Updated 2-17-12* Finally I would like to point out that you cannot get pay-per-view television or video-on-demand on the HDHomeRunPrime through the device itself. However, their is a possible exception, if you order pay-per-view from your cable provider then you may get pay-per-view on the device. I, personally, have not tried to order any pay-per-view so I wont know if the exception works.
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on December 8, 2014
I almost returned it.

Comcast provided me with a cable card. I installed it and called them and they paired it without any problem, but it only got 3 channels out of over 435 available. The tech on the phone that paired it couldn't find any problem, and escalated to second level support. Second level support said the device was incompatible with Comcast!

I escalated it up to a manager that said the device was incompatible, then finally agreed it was compatible, but stated that they won't support it.

I opened a Service Request with Silicon Dust and told them what had happened. The next day they emailed me back after checking my error logs. This was the body of the email they sent me:

Hello,

The logs indicate that the CableCARD has not been authorized to receive any channels. The most common reason for this with Comcast is if the rate or rate code on the outlet the CableCARD is on is set to something other than CableCARD, like a digital adapter or set top box. With their system, if it is set to anything other than CableCARD, any CableCARDs on that outlet will not be authorized for anything. They would need to change the rate to CableCARD and do a refresh and that would fix the most common problem. Other possible issues would be not having the correct channel packages added to the CableCARD.

Silicondust Support

I called Comcast's install line back and read them the email. I stated that I believed that they had activated it as a set top box or something else, but not as a regular cablecard. The tech put me on hold for a while then came back to the phone and asked me to try again.

I scanned and got the full lineup. All channels including the music channels and premium channels. All three tuners work perfectly now. It also feeds my Windows Media Center Extender on my network to my living room TV and works flawlessly. I then installed the software on my laptop and now I can watch HD channels over Wi-Fi (n) on my laptop as well.

No more missed shows for me.
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on September 11, 2014
The gadget works fine -- the real challenge is finding a matching CableCard. Comcast declined to ship CableCards to me by mail or bring them to my home on a service visit. (At least in my area; yours may be different.) Instead Comcast invited me on an expedition to its local office.

If your Comcast local office is anything like mine, the customer service counter is staffed by older ladies who are mostly clueless about technology, electronics, and computers. Their perch is patronized by grumpy customers who resent paying the high prices Comcast imposes. The goal of the counter-ladies is to dispense with the grumpy customers swiftly and reach their lunch on time. Behind the counter they keep stacks of set-top boxes, modems, remote controls, cables, etc., and they award these jewels to customers as merited. Over in some forgotten drawer of a dust-covered desk there's a pile of CableCards too.

The CableCards in the pile all look alike: aluminum case (shiny!), credit-card-sized but thicker, same weight as a pack of gum, indecipherable gibberish written on the back. The CableCards arrived at the pile mainly because nobody wanted them. Maybe a grumpy customer brought them in. Maybe they were found skating around the back of a service van. Maybe they were inherited from that office the next town over when it closed. The ladies learned in training that CableCards could plug-into Comcast’s fancier set-top boxes to tune extra channels. They also heard rumors that CableCards were needed for the newest TiVo appliances. They remembered reading a nasty memo explaining how Comcast was legally mandated to hand over CableCards to paying customers without further charge. Yet requests for CableCards were few and far-between; for the most part the CableCards simply sit neglected in their drawer.

Enter our Hero: a man who just purchased an HdHomeRun and is motivated to make it work before his wife discovers its cost. He asks the counter-lady for "an M-card," quite properly. She knows an M-card is one sort of CableCard, and she knows the CableCards are kept in that drawer in that desk over there in the corner, so she smiles politely and steps away. She pulls open the drawer, leafs through the pile, and notices how much alike all the CableCards appear. They’re all so shiny (!) and that gibberish printed on the back of each is too small to read anyway. She silently sings a verse of "eenie-meenie-miney-moe," selects a fine specimen, and delivers it to the hapless customer at the counter. What could go wrong?

If our Hero is to succeed in his noble quest, it is here and now he must assert himself. Let’s review the key obstacles.
1. Many of the CableCards in the pile are programmed for use in Comcast set-top boxes. Those same cards will not work in HdHomeRuns or other third-party appliances. It’s one or the other.
2. The counter-lady has never heard of an HdHomeRun (and doesn’t care to learn).
3. The counter-lady cannot distinguish an M-card from other sorts of CableCards that are not M-cards. In fact, the distinction never occurred to her. She’s bewildered by its significance to our Hero.
4. The counter-lady cannot differentiate a functional CableCard from a faulty CableCard.
5. A substantial fraction of CableCards in the pile are broken/fried/defective. (Recall the pile constitutes an accumulation of CableCards nobody wanted.)
6. Lunch time draws near.

Before he retires to his castle, our Hero must examine the CableCard for himself. He is honor-bound to reject any CableCard which…
1. Bears a "Motorola" logo (on the front) and a serial number (on the back) which begins with any letter other than "M".
2. Bears a "Cisco" logo (on the front) and a serial number (on the back) which begins with any letter other than "P".
3. Seems to have endured a game of badminton.
4. Seems to have been rode hard and put away wet.
5. Smells like dog poop.

So endeth the lesson.
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on April 24, 2015
A certain Horrible Cable Company finally got around to encrypting all its channels in our area -- including the regular broadcast ones we were paying for because our antenna reception just wasn't good enough. We'd been piping those formerly Clear QAM channels through an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid to a Mac hooked up to the TV, but the Hybrid couldn't descramble that now-encrypted signal. Despairing at the thought of being extorted $10 a month by Horrible Cable Company for a cable box I didn't want, I instead found this gizmo. It plugs into the coaxial cable at one end, your router at the other, and cheerfully streams TV signals over your network.

One trip to the Horrible Cable Company service center for a self-install CableCARD kit, a legally dubious $10 fee, and a mostly painless call to a service center somewhere in India later, I was once again enjoying cable TV extortion-free. (Heck, Horrible Cable Company even adds a $2.50 _credit_ to our monthly bill for using our own box.)

Initial configuration is a mite tricky -- you have to know what IP address the box occupies on your network, then browse there to use the Web-based interface, which can involve a bit of guesswork. But online guides can help you with that, and once you've finished that one-time process, you're all set. The web-based interface also shows you all the info you need to relay to your cable company (Horrible or otherwise) so that a very nice person halfway around the world can activate the CableCARD.

A few important things you'll want to know:
- The Mac software is adequate, but not great. Setup is super easy. The viewing app works well and is easy to browse, but will win no points for beautiful, elegant design. You can also use VLC to watch channels, but that interface is even less graceful.
- Microsoft forked over the big bucks to license the keys to cable's digital rights management scheme. Apple did not. So while unprotected broadcast channels will come through fine on Macs, protected channels -- like the lone Premium Channel Involving Dragons And Naked People that's part of our cable package -- just won't play on your Mac at all. (That's OK -- we just use that channel's online streaming service instead, as our subscription allows us to do.) I don't know about non-broadcast, non-premium channels, because our package doesn't include any.
- I'm given to understand that PC users occupy a beautiful wonderland in which a $10 purchase of Windows Media Center will turn their computer into a full-fledged DVR that works seamlessly with the PRIME. I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to be jealous of people running Windows. It's refreshingly nostalgic.
- If you want to view or record in HD, make sure that any device on which you wish to do so is connected _by Ethernet_ to the same router connected to the PRIME. HD channels come through beautifully over a wired connection, but for reasons I cannot fathom, the PRIME only has the bandwidth to send SD signals over Wi-Fi. Those SD signals do show up just fine on a wireless connection, but don't expect to casually stream live HD television to any room in the house, unless you also plan on running a whole lot of wires everywhere.
- Delightfully, the PRIME uses a technology variously known as UPnP or DLNA, which is technology industry for, "If your TV or DVD player or whatever also has this technology, and is connected to the same network as the PRIME, its channels will magically show up among that device's video sources." Being able to watch live TV through our Blu-ray player, though hardly essential, is a nifty bonus. Note that it does not work with our Roku, which is UPnP compatible, but apparently cannot decode the MPEG-2 video streams involved.
- After much careful reading of instructions, desperate message-board posts to incredibly nice people, and swearing at the TV, I was able to get the open-source DVR software MythTV up and running on my Mac. It's a bear to set up; its various interfaces range from "tolerable" to "why are my eyes bleeding;" and for some reason it's not smart enough to automatically start up or shut down your computer when it wants to record something. But it works extremely well with the PRIME, and can record stuff from all three of the PRIME's tuners simultaneously.
- Then I discovered that my existing EyeTV software could be confused into thinking that the PRIME was actually another model of HDHomeRun box it supports. I lose the use of one of the PRIME's three tuners, but in return, I get super-easy setup and beautiful recordings, even when capturing two different shows on two different channels at once. (Shhh. No one tell Elgato, which has a big intimidating page on its online Knowledge Base that emphasizes how EyeTV software WILL NOT WORK with the PRIME, and you definitely shouldn't even try it, or think about it. So it might not work for you. But it worked for me.)

In short, this box does exactly what it promises, with minimum hassle or fuss, for a reasonable price. At no extra charge, you will also receive the warm glow of having thwarted the latest in your cable company's never-ending efforts to squeeze a few extra bucks out of you for something you never wanted and probably don't need. Hooray!
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on July 3, 2014
The short version: it works well, about 90% of the time. The other 10% can be frustrating and require lots of effort. Most of the frustration is with the cable company (Time Warner). On the other hand, the 90% of the time is a really good experience.
Understand what you're getting into before you decide to buy.

The long version (mostly talking about the 10%):

First off, I should say I'm *super* picky about my TV setup. Some of the things that bother me are unlikely to bother most people. I spend 2 hours a day, at least, in front of this thing and want it to be as perfect as I can get it.
Software

With Time Warner Cable, you need to use Windows 7 or 8 and Windows Media Center. If you're hoping to use linux, or any other software package, Time Warner Cable encrypts everything except the local networks. WMC is the only software package out there that can use a CableCARD and decrypt the channels.

If you're not OK with this limitation, walk away now.

That said, WMC has the best software interface, by far, of any DVR I have used. It's really, really good. I've used u-verse, the comcast box, and the time warner box. The u-verse box was the only thing close to WMC's level.
One other thing to know: You can't watch recordings of encrypted channels on another computer. This is a limitation imposed by the encryption used by WMC/CableCARD. You can watch them with a WMC extender, however.

Just to be clear, you can use the tuner with multiple computers at the same time. For example, if you have a computer hooked up to your TV, and are using another machine in another room, both can watch cable using a single HD HomeRun Prime tuner. However, they cannot share recordings. To share recordings, you need a single "master" computer, and WMC extenders hooked up to the master.

Picture Quality
My first issue was with picture quality. I would get lots of macro blocking and weird video studdering. After lots, and lots, and lots of hours trying to figure out what was going on, I read about the "29/59" bug. Long story short, switching from the onboard graphics of my ivy bridge system to a nvidia graphics card made all of these issues go away. My picture quality is now the same as the set-top box from Time Warner.

Having the system be usable but having occasional, hard to track down issues like this was pretty much my experience.

Signal Issues
I started with a ceton infiniTV 4 tuner. It took 10 seconds (!) to switch channels. The channel switch time with this tuner is usually under 2 seconds. It's not lightning fast like most of the cable boxes I've used. As far as I can tell, there's no way around this. I usually browse with the guide and mostly watch recoded TV anyways, as opposed to channel surfing, so this was not a huge problem for me. Again though, know this is a limitation, and walk away if you're not OK with this.

Tuning Adapter
Time Warner uses something called Switched Digital Video (SDV) for some channels. You can google it if you're curious, but the short version is you need another box called a Tuning Adapter to make the setup work. The tuning adapter is provided for free from Time Warner, and connects to the USB port on the tuner (the cable signal also is routed through the Tuning Adapter).
This thing is the source of most of the headaches in keeping the system working. I have seen things like "SDV error: 1" more times then I care to think about.

The problem is almost always with the tuning adapter's activation. The CableCARD and tuning adapter have separate activations from the cable company. Every month, they reactivate the Tuning Adapter, and then the activation times out after a month. Before the timeout, it's supposed to get refreshed, and you should never notice this process.

Unfortunately, for me, about once every 3-6 months this process fails, and then my Tuning Adapter is deactivated, preventing me from watching some channels. This is easily fixed by calling Time Warner and getting them to manually send the box an activation refresh.

However, figuring this out the first time was a huge pain - all of the errors are unintuitive and undescriptive, and you'll be spending lots of time digging through configuration pages and using google to understand what's happening.
Once you figure out what's going on, it's usually an easy fix. However, in the mean time you may have missed shows you were trying to record, and it also means an annoying call with lots of time on hold until you're bounced to the right service tech (most of them don't know about CableCARD setups). To Time Warner's credit, these guys are around 24*7 to help you out, and once you manage to reach the right person, it's a very easy fix. Also, there's a special CableCARD number you can call. You'll get very familiar with it.

If you're not OK with this level of fiddling, walk away.

On-Demand TV
You cannot use any on-demand services, at all, with this setup. You can have premium channels like HBO, but none of the on-demand features will work. Recurring theme: know what you're getting into.

Streams
So now that I've talked lots about the bad, it's time for the good. This box can record or watch 3 streams at the same time. Time Warner's cable box can only do 2. Need more? Buy another tuner, and hook it up to your network. Each additional set of 3 will only add $2.50 a month to your cable bill, for another CableCARD.

WMC can also work with a hodge-podge of tuners, and lets you assign priorities for what tuner you use per-channel.
For example, I also have a HD HomeRun (not prime) hooked up to my network, which records over-the-air TV with 2 tuners. Picture quality on over-the-air is noticeably better then most cable streams (I've tried time warner and u-verse), so for local channels I default to using the HD HomeRun.

You can add sources per channel, so the local channels appear only once in my guide, but can use either the HD HomeRun or HD HomeRun Prime to get the signal. What tuner is used is something that happens automatically, and "just works".

This lets me watch or record up to 5 channels total at once. Having multiple tuners works very, very well with WMC.

Harddrives
Another nice feature is you have as much storage space as you're willing to buy. The Time Warner box always seemed to be filling up. I never have problems like that with a 2TB hard drive.

Another buyer beware though: WMC will not let you use a network drive to store recordings. So if you have a NAS, it won't help. You need a dedicated drive in your WMC system.

Network
Warning: using wireless networking is a BAD idea. A single channel requires 4-12mbit/sec of bandwidth. This will quickly bring a 802.11g network to it's knees. Even with a high speed 802.11ac network, things like packet loss that are inherent to wireless mean dropped frames and studdery, jerkey, or macro blocked video from time-to-time. This will invariably happen the moment before the big play, when the plot twist is afoot, or whatever moment is the least ideal.

You will want a wired, gigabit ethernet connection between the tuner and every device you want to watch video on.

If you're hoping to use an xbox 360 with a wireless connection as an extender to watch video, only do so if you can accept occasional video drop-out.

Conclusion
I read a lot of reviews here and elsewhere before I bought this, and none of them really talked about the "gotchas". Look to the other reviews for what this thing is and why it's useful.

I give the tuner itself a 5 star rating. It does what it's advertised to do, and does it well.

However, I give Time Warner a 3/5 star rating for the Tuning Adapter issues.

I also give WMC, with it's recording limits, 4/5 stars.

Thus, I would give the overwall experience of actually using this thing 4/5 stars.
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on April 15, 2015
Very happy so far, partly because...

Win 8.1 pro with Media Center works well with this unit. The only downside is the recorded video is in WTV format. Would prefer a choice, but everything else works so good that I can live with having to convert the files. Upside, when you convert, you can remove commercials.
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on July 20, 2014
I haven't had cable TV in about 9 years. I got a new roommate last month and he pushed for us to have cable in the apartment. I had always missed cable because of football and basketball. My only options before were to get crappy 360p streams on shady websites and/or go to a bar. I hate getting viruses and I don't drink. So I pretty much just settled for highlights on ESPN.

I decided if we were going to get cable, I would do it as cost effectively as possible. That meant not leasing a cable box from Time Warner Cable for $12-15 per month (multiplied by three for each room). I started looking in to Tivo. The problem with TiVo is the Roamio Plus HD, two TiVo minis, and the lifetime subscription... it was going to be a $1300+ adventure and it would be another device I would have to find an input for in the living room receiver. So that idea went right out the window.

I had always heard of PC TV tuners. My initial idea was to get a TV tuner for the PC and just use Windows Media Center on our PCs. Your PC basically becomes the cable box and the ability of DVR functions as icing on the cake. However, this was only possible if we had a PC that would be on 24/7. Having an always on PC is not practical and not feasible.

Enter HDHomeRun Prime.

This is probably the coolest little device I've ever had the pleasure of owning. Setting it up is not for the faint of heart. It's not because it's difficult to set up, but it's because you have to go through hula hoops with the cable company to get it working. It took me an entire week. Yes, an entire week. Hopefully, I can give some advice to other Time Warner Cable customers and save you all the frustration. Here's how to set up the HDHomeRune Prime if you live in the NYC area and have TWC (but I'm sure this will apply to all TWC customers in the U.S. as well).

1. Don't order anything over the phone in the hopes that you'll be able to negotiate the price. They only negotiate once you have the service and threaten to cancel. Order everything from your TWC account. Sales reps over the phone will actually charge you an extra $10-12 per month for their cable packages even when you tell them it's not what is on the website. They'll just tell you, "Order it from the website."

2. After you upgrade your service, order a cable card from TWC AND a tuning adapter. You should be able to do it all at the same time when you order online. Your cable card and tuning adapter should arrive in 2-3 days. If you are in NYC, DO NOT go to the actual store like I did (they have two locations on the West Side - both locations are terrible). There are only two other things worse than going to a TWC store... the DMV and the ER. It's a very similar experience of pain, anguish, and misery.

3. This next step is VERY VERY VERY important. TWC nickel and dimes their customers. If you have internet with TWC... in order to have a Wi-Fi capable router, they will charge you an extra $5-6 per month in addition to the $5-6 per month cost of leasing the modem. Even if the cable modem they gave you doubles as a Wi-Fi router, they will deactivate the Wi-Fi functionality of the router unless you call them and pay for that monthly $5-6 Wi-Fi charge. Here is where it gets funky.

If you pay for the Wi-Fi capability to be turned on or you have their highest tier internet service called Ultimate 100 (highest tier internet service customers get Wi-Fi capability on their routers turned on at no additional charge)... they will turn OFF the bridging capabilities of your cable internet router. Why do they do this? I have no idea. You need the bridge to be opened. Otherwise, Windows Media Center will just keep telling you that you have a weak TV signal.

You have to call internet tech support and explain to them that you need the bridge on your modem to be activated in order for you to run HDHomeRun Prime. They will give you a lot of resistance and tell you that if you have Wi-Fi activated they can't also activate the bridge. It will be a fight but eventually they will fold and activate the bridge for you as long as you agree that you will not be piggybacking your own Wi-Fi router to their unit and that you'll just use it strictly for HDHomeRun Prime. I actually had to threaten to cancel my cable TV subscription in order for them to open up the bridge.

4. Once you are done with that headache, now you can get started to setting everything up. The main cable coaxial goes to the Cable in of the tuning adapter. The cable out of the tuning adapter AND the USB connector needs to go the HDHomeRun Prime. Connect the HDHomeRun Prime via Ethernet cable to your internet router/modem. Pretty self-explanatory.

5. Plug your cable card in to the HDHomeRun Prime. Download the HDHomeRun Prime software on your PC. If you did everything correctly, it will automatically detect HDHomeRun Prime tuners and update it. If there is something wrong with your network, the HDHomeRun Prime software will detect it to warn you and give you ideas on how it could possibly be resolved. 6/5 stars to SiliconDust for that. It is how I eventually discovered the bridging issue.

6. Call the TWC cable card department. They close at 11:00 P.M. EST so don't think you'll be setting this up at 2:00 A.M. in the morning. All the reps know what the HDHomeRun Prime is. They will give you step by step directions on what you need to do in the HDHomeRun Prime GUI in order to help them sync everything. They basically will be sending hits to your tuning adapter and cable card and confirming it with you. The final step is the authorization. It could take 10 minutes or an hour. You just have to sit and wait. If the GUI still says you are not authorized after an hour... I would call them back.

7. Windows Media Center - well, this is another headache in of itself. You MUST MUST MUST run Digital Cable Advisor in Windows Media Center and/or download it from Microsoft and run it. Navigate to Extras and then Extras Gallery. You will see the picture of a coaxial cable, that's the Digital Cable Advisor. After that, then you can set up your TV signal in the Tasks and Settings menu. Windows Media Center should automatically update with PlayReady during the setup process.

Then VIOLA! You should be home free. Our cable bill with Ultimate 100, one DVR, and two cable boxes would have been $175 per month. Now it will be $118 per month. That's a $57 per month savings. The The HDHomeRun Prime will pay for itself after 2 months and effectively save us $684 per year.

Tip: The tuning adapter green LED light should flash while it is syncing. It will be a solid green once it is fully synced. If it doesn't stay solid after an hour and/or the LED just turns off, then you have a bad tuning adapter. You need to get it replaced.

Tip: If you happen to accidentally unplug the HDHomeRun Prime, the cable card may lose authorization. You might have to call TWC to re-authorize it and do the 10 minute to 1 hour wait for it to sync.

Tip: If you have an older PC, the way protected content works and was implemented, your GPU might be too old and/or not have the hardware capability to view that content. Essentially, you won't get any channels.

Tip: If you have your PC connected via DisplayPort, you will get the same issue of being unable to view protected content.

In conclusion, this device is awesome! Works exactly as advertised. You just have to have a lot of perseverance, technical know-how, and patience with cable companies to get it working.
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