HD Content in an External Package

While we've covered the top five HDTV tuners before, sometimes users require a purely external solution. If you use a small form factor case for your home theater PC, TV tuner manufacturers have you covered. While I personally 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 five of the best.

1
SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime

SiliconDust HD HomeRun Prime
Image copyright 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 (that passes the Digital Cable Advisor) to use a tuner to record or playback live TV. As long as there is a free tuner, you can use your childrens' laptop, your work machine or any other PC in the house as a TV. A great feature and one that other companies are adding with even their internal devices.

2
SiliconDust HDHomeRun

Silicon Dust HD Homerun
image copyright Amazon

If you're not a cable subscriber, SiliconDust still has you covered with their 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. Only a dual tuner however, you'll more than likely 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.

3
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.

4
Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650

Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650
image copyright 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.

5
Ceton USB Tuner

Ceton USB Tuner
Image Copyright Amazon

Another great solution from Ceton, makers of the InfiniTV4, their forthcoming USB device will function in the same way; providing access to CableCARD encrypted content this time in an external package. While the device isn't yet available for purchase, you can bet that if it functions with the same quality as the InfiniTV4, you won't have any problems recording or viewing your favorite content. Releasing with four tuners, Ceton's USB solution will also ensure that you don't miss your favorite shows.

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