The thing about being a cord-cutter is that you're always trying to plug holes. It doesn't matter what streaming video service you ultimately go with — there's almost always something missing. For many of us, that hole comes down to local channels. And while services like YouTube TV are trying to fill that hole, there's still something to be said for a good, old-fashioned broadcast antenna.
This generally is simple enough. You stick an antenna somewhere, and it plucks the local broadcasts out of the air and pumps them directly into, well, wherever. (Generally that'll be a TV, but hang on a second ...)
There are a couple problems with this, though. First is that if you're going straight from the antenna into a TV (assuming it still has a tuner, and not all models do these days), you're pretty limited. One antenna, one TV. Second is that broadcasts can be pretty directional, especially if it's on a VHF frequency. In other words, if the antenna isn't pointing the right way, you might well be missing channels.
So the key here is flexibility. I've dabbled in wireless antennas. But as many have pointed out, there's a better way. A much better way.
Enter HDHomerun. Or, more specifically, HDHomerun Connect.
Here's the gist: You plug your antenna into this little gem of a box, which then connects to your router via Ethernet. From there, it spits out the broadcast channels over your wireless network, to be picked up by the HDHomerun app, or any number of third-party apps — on nearly any platform you can think of. The box has dual tuners, so you can watch on two devices simultaneously, and it downloads channel listings, too, so you're not guessing what's on. (Like we had to do in the bad old days of OTA TV.)
If it sounds like I'm skipping some setup steps involving scanning and networking, well, I'm not. This has been one of those rare products that just works. Plug in the antenna. Plug in the Ethernet cable. Install the Android app on a phone or tablet or Android TV. Watch local TV, for little more than the expense of the HDHomerun box ($99 and change), and an antenna. As an added bonus, it works great with Android TV's Live Channels app, keeping more things in one place.
HDHomerun fills the content gap on nearly every platform and is ridiculously easy to set up.
What can you watch on? Damned near everything. Mac. Windows. Linux. (!) Android. iPhone and iPad. Xbox via the Media Center app. You can record what's coming in through any number of methods, including Plex and HDHomerun's own DVR service. That ups the complexity of this little endeavor by a decent amount, and you can venture down that rabbit hole just as far as you want. If all you want is live TV, though, it couldn't be simpler.
Now's the time to mention that there are three products here, actually — HDHomerun Connect, Extend — which includes a hardware transcoding which makes recorded playback easier on your network — and Prime, which is meant for Cable Card situations. For me, Connect has been just fine.
Yeah, it's another expenditure in the quest for cheaper TV. But in this case it's absolutely been well worth it, plugging what for me was a pretty big hole in my lineup.
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