Unlike standard set-top box (or set-top unit) appliances, HDHomeRun does not have a video output that connects directly to the user's television. Instead it receives a live TV signal and then streams the decoded video over a local area network to an existing smart phone, tablet computer, smart tv, computer, or game console. This allows it to stream content to multiple viewing locations.
There are currently a number of HDHomeRun models on the market:
- single-tuner ATSC/clear QAM
- dual-tuner ATSC/clear QAM
- dual-tuner commercial (TECH) ATSC/clear QAM
- dual-tuner DVB-T/unencrypted DVB-C
- three tuner CableCard/clear QAM
All models are designed to receive unencrypted digital broadcast or cable television and stream it over a network for use by any PC on the network. HDHomeRun normally receives an IP address via DHCP but will also work via an auto IP address if no DHCP server is available.
The HDHomeRun Windows driver presents the tuners as standard BDA tuners, enabling BDA-compliant applications to work with the HDHomeRun. The HDHomeRun can also be controlled via a command-line application which is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, and other POSIX-compliant operating systems. The control library is open source and is available under the LGPL for use in custom applications.
Select retail packaged HDHomeRun units are distributed with Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre.
- QAM - North American cable with protected content support for USA cable using CableCARD for access control
- ISDB-T - South America over the air
- DVB-T / DVB-T2 over-the-air unencrypted digital TV
- DVB-C - QAM 64/128/256 (annex A/C) unencrypted digital cable TV
- 6/7/8 MHz channel bandwidth (Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Taiwan)
- 100Mbit Ethernet RJ45 connection
The HDHomeRun can be controlled and viewed from a wide variety of DVR/PVR software. Microsoft provides Windows Media Center for Windows XP through 8, but discontinued the product in Windows 10. Apple macOS 10 runs EyeTV 3. Linux runs Myth TV.
Newer models of HDHomeRun are DLNA device compatible.
Introduced Fall 2011, the HDHomerun Prime adds CableCard support to allow viewers to view and record all the digital cable channels they subscribe to without using a cable supplied set-top-box. This includes premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz. It integrates easily with Windows Media Center (WMC), included with Windows 7 and available with Windows 8, and turns your PC into an HD DVR. With 3 tuners, the Prime lets you record two programs and watch another live all at the same time. Once set up on your local network, other DLNA home video devices like most current HDTV's and Blu-ray players, Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, and WMC Extenders Version 2 all have access to live TV and recorded cable TV.
- CableCards are available from every US digital cable provider and are always less expensive than renting a set-top-box; usually less than $3 per month.
- The Prime can also be used without a CableCard in cable systems that still have clear QAM channels available.
- The Prime does not support digital cable on demand, but can receive PPV that is ordered on the phone from your cable provider.
- The Prime is a dedicated cable TV device with no ATSC tuner and thus can not be used with an antenna.
- Windows Media Center is the most widely used software available for use with the Prime, and the only one with Digital Rights Management (DRM) to view and record premium cable channels like HBO. Many other software options are available; please see the list in this Wiki and the Silicondust website for details. When running WMC, an additional, separate ATSC tuner can be used with the PC and WMC will combine both the Prime and ATSC tuner in the guide for live TV and recording. By default WMC has a 4 tuner limit for each type (ATSC, CableCard) of tuner, but a 3rd party software product called TunerSalad increases the number of tuners to 32 per type; you can use up to 32 cable tuners (11 Primes = 33 cable tuners) and 32 ATSC tuners, for a total of 64 tuners. There is also another 3rd party software called My Channel Logos that adds channel logos to the WMC channel guide. For detailed discussion of WMC, please see TheGreenButton.tv website.
Please note that WMC was included with Windows 7 but is an additional $100 for Windows 8/8.1 and an additional $10 for Windows 8/8.1 Pro. It is not available from Microsoft on Windows 10 but members at The Green Button are developing a way to use a modified version of WMC with Windows 10.
The HDHomeRun DVR is a DVR software designed for installation on a network-attached storage device. It is intended to be used with a HDHomeRun tuner and is expected to overcome digital rights management complications.