4 Best External HDTV Tuners

Deliver HDTV to your PC with these gadgets

While we've covered the top five HDTV tuners, sometimes you need a purely external solution. If you use a small form factor case for your home theater PC, TV tuner manufacturers have you covered. While most people prefer an internal solution, there are times when using an external TV tuner, whether USB or Ethernet, is the best option. If you're in the market for an external solution, you have no limit to your options. Let's take a look at four of the best.

SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime

SiliconDust HD HomeRun Prime

Photo from Amazon

Cable subscribers rejoice! If you've been waiting for a decent external CableCARD solution, SiliconDust has the tuner for you. The HDHomeRun Prime comes in three and six tuner configurations, so you should never run out of tuners on heavy recording nights.

The HDHomeRun Prime is a network tuner which will allow any PC in your home to use a tuner to record or playback live TV—so long as the PC passes the Digital Cable Advisor. If there is a free tuner, you can use your childrens' laptop, your work machine, or any other PC in the house as a TV. This is a great feature and one that other companies are adding to many internal devices.

SiliconDust HDHomeRun

Silicon Dust HD Homerun

Photo from Amazon

If you're not a cable subscriber, SiliconDust still has you covered with the original HDHomeRun. Tuning ATSC and QAM signals, the HDHomeRun will allow you to watch and record OTA and ClearQAM channels from your local cable provider. Also a network device like the HDHomeRun Prime, the HDHomeRun allows any PC on your network to become a TV. As it is only a dual tuner, you will have to manage who's using the tuners and when.

Something to keep in mind when choosing the HDHomeRun: While you will be able to tune cable channels with the device, any encrypted channels will be unavailable to you. If your cable provider encrypts most of their channels, you'll want to look towards the HDHomeRun Prime to fulfill your needs.

Hauppauge HD PVR

Hauppauge HD PVR
Hauppauge

While not truly a TV tuner, the Hauppauge HD PVR does something that no other external device can: capture and record HD content from satellite providers. While it will require some more setup versus a CableCARD tuner, once connected, the HD PVR takes advantage of the "analog hole" to allow users to watch premium HD content from companies such as DirecTV and Dish Network.

Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650

Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650

Hauppauge

Hauppauge's first foray into the CableCARD tuner world brings us the WinTV-DCR-2650. A dual tuner device, the WinTV-DCR-2650 is a USB-connected tuner that, like the Ceton InfiniTV4 or HDHomeRun Prime, will allow you to view and record premium cable content.

Like the other CableCARD solutions, your PC will need to pass the Digital Cable Advisor tests in Windows Media Center, but once it does, you'll be all set to record premium content.