Review Index:

An HTPC Perspective: Get Excited About CableCARDs and Tuners

Author: Tim Verry
Manufacturer: SiliconDust

Just Delivered: SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC Tuner


Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

One of the more popular CableCARD tuners, and the one I ended up choosing, is the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC. For $200, I got a shiny box with the tuner, a coax cable, Ethernet cable, power adapter, install CD, and quick start guide inside.

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The tuner itself is a matte black design with plenty of circular ventilation holes on the bottom and top to keep the components cooled. The HDHomeRun logo is etched into the top of the case, but otherwise it is a fairly simple design. The front of the networked tuner has five green LEDs that indicate power and CableCARD status on the left and three LEDS on the right that indicate which of the three total tuners are currently in use.

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The back of the tuner holds the various ports needed to get this thing connected to the network. When looking at the back (front facing away from you), from left to right is the coaxial cable input, SDV port, Gigabit Ethernet port, power jack, and the CableCARD slot.

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I think most of those ports are self-explanatory, but SDV may need a quick explanation. Although it resembles a USB port, you cannot actually plug in USB devices and have them work. Rather, it is a little adapter that communicates with the cable network to request channels from the cable company. You see, SDV stands for Switched Digital Video and is a technology that some cable television operators use to deliver more channels using less bandwidth. In a traditional cable setup, all of the channels are constantly being delivered over coax to all the homes in the neighborhood whether anyone is watching that TV channel or not. On the other hand, SDV only delivers channels that at least one house is watching. This frees up a great deal of bandwidth since it is very unlikely that every house would be tuning into (and thus requesting) every channel the cable company offered. This “extra” bandwidth can then be used to supplement available internet bandwidth, for example.

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Installation is fairly straightforward. You insert the CableCARD then connect it to an active coax outlet, power, and the network.  You then download a small piece of software from SiliconDust (I’d advise not using the CD as it is rather outdated at this point) and install it on your PC. Once installed and configured using the utility’s step-by-step guide, the tuners will show up as available when you go into your media center software. In my case, I used Windows Media Center. After the CableCARD was activated, I went through the TV setup wizard and was in business. It may sound complicated, but it was surprisingly easy as the guides walk you through all the necessary steps.

Build quality feels really good. Although made of plastic, the case doesn’t flex much (not that you would be doing that to it anyway, right?) and it seems like it could survive a good-sized drop without issue. Even better, it looks like Amazon is now selling it for $149 while the Ceton InfiniTV 4 card is still $199 making it a bit easier to deal with the loss of a fourth tuner should you go with the HDHomeRun Prime instead.

You can see more photos of the device and packaging below. If you have any questions and/or suggestions on what you would like to see covered as far as HTPC tech, let us know in the comments below!

What tuners are you using to watch and record cable TV? Do you rely on WMC or have you had success with a Linux-based solution?

All Images courtesy Tim Verry. Used with permission.

Additional photos of the HDHomeRun Prime tuner

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Additional photos of the HDHR3-CC box

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July 30, 2012 | 09:01 AM - Posted by Reade B (not verified)

I have this exact setup at home for recording the Olympics...

Working very well.. Some tips.

1. Harmony remotes can be setup to emulate xbox 360 remotes.. and work very well to control both TV and Xbox.

2. I was getting bit-rate problems from my WMC pc to the Xbox's until I got hard-wired GB ports directly to them. I Tried for the dual-nic setup with streams coming from the HD-Home run on one and outputs to the xbox's on the other, but that didn't seem to be necessary. 10/100 switch with a shared uplink was not good enough though.

3. You don't need an xbox live gold account for using the wmc extender functionality, but you do need it for Netflix.

I'm going to try to move the WMC setup to a dedicated Zotac box to reduce my power requirements and get it off my main pc. Not sure it's going to be powerful enough though as it appears the extenders use a glorified RDP session to display the video.


July 30, 2012 | 10:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

ewww.. just move the box to your TV and save yourself the pain.

July 30, 2012 | 01:13 PM - Posted by FnordMan (not verified)

Ah, a fellow CableCard/HDHomerun Prime user.
I mostly ended up choosing the HDHomerun due to cost. At the time I set up mine there was two choices: the $250 HDHomerun and the $400 InfiniTV card.
Sort of a no-brainer there but I still spent almost as much for the tuner as I did for the computer. Computer == Inexpensive AMD Socket FM1 setup. Works great, use a cheap rosewill branded media center remote as the interface.

Anyway, yeah.. using a 320Gig laptop HDD (price: "Free" as it was a leftover from a laptop that died) as the recording drive.
But yeah.. the thing I love the most is that I can throw most recording into VideoRedo to strip the commercials out before re-compressing it as h.264 for the shows I want to save. a ~4-6Gig 1 hour 1080i show becomes a 1.2Gig 720p h.264 mkv. I keep the original 5.1 track rater than re-encode it as stereo.

July 31, 2012 | 12:19 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Does it strip out the commercials automatically? That does sound like a good option for storing as many recordings as possible, the HD WMC recordings can get pretty large :).

July 31, 2012 | 03:32 PM - Posted by FnordMan (not verified)

It's kinda half automatic under ideal conditions. It does a commercial scan that does a decent job but on some channels (like Syfy) it'll miss some commercial content so you've got to go in and do a bit of manual correcting.
It can operate in automatic mode though if you so choose.
If you don't mind the AC3 (5.1 audio) track being squashed down to stereo it'll even do the h.264 encoding itself. (pure CPU, it'll take a bit)
I use either DVDFab ($$, GPU accelerated, randomly fails) or Handbrake (free, pure CPU based) to do the encodes myself.

July 30, 2012 | 05:26 PM - Posted by Activate: AMD (not verified)

does the HDHomrun Prime act as a dynamic tuner pool for networked PC's? I am an early owner of the Ceton InfiniTV4 (yes I waited on line and paid $400+!). One nice feature is the ability to allocate tuners to multiple PC's over the network, but its not dynamic. I have to set a certain number of tuners to certain PC's and if i'd like to use more than the allocated number I can't do it dynamically.

July 30, 2012 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yes. The way it works is that you hook it up to the network, and then install a small bit of software onto any computers on that same network that you want to have access to the tuners. Then, in WMC you can either assign specific tuners to each machiner or select all tuners (the default), and each computer will attemp to use the first available tuner when tuning into a channel. When one computer is watching or recording a channel, it will lock one of the tuners, making only two available for the other computer(s) to choose from, and so on.

EDIT: and when a channel is no longer being tuned by a computer, that tuner goes back to being available to any of the other computers to use.

July 31, 2012 | 02:38 PM - Posted by Activate: AMD (not verified)

Ah thats much more convenient than the Ceton. I currently have 3 out of 4 tuners allocated to my HTPC, but it only has a small SSD. For long-term recording storage it offloads the recordings to my WHSv2 box. I'm worried about running into a storage wall trying to record multiple channels of Olympic Games and it would probably be easier to have my main PC do the recording on to one of my many large drives. I really wish Ceton would add a dynamic tuner allocation feature since it would make the extra tuner (vs the HDHomerun) a lot more useful than it currently is.

ah well, thats what you get for being an "early" adopter.. its still better than my old single tuner ATI CableCard tuner!

July 30, 2012 | 08:29 PM - Posted by thatsmychin (not verified)

I'm in the middle of kicking my Comcast DVR out the door, I have two ATI tuners that I was going to use.....but I was inspired with your article, so I bought the Ceton tuner last night. I can't wait! I jumped on it because the Ceton was about $100 more expensive 6-8 months ago, so with the drop in price, I was able to justify it. Thanks for the great article.

July 30, 2012 | 09:16 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Very cool :).

If you do opt for a self install, the number to call should be: 1-877-405-2298. Best of luck dealing with Comcast :).

Let me know if you like that Ceton card, I've heard good things and have been considering adding it so that I could have more tuners in addition to the three dynamic ones in the HDHR :).

July 31, 2012 | 02:22 PM - Posted by ButtonPuncher (not verified)

I've found that a ton of RAM and a SSD helps greatly on my HTPC. I'm just building a new one with a 120GB Intel 320 SSD and 16GB of RAM. It runs sooo smooth. I'm also running two Ceton InfiniTV4's and two Hauppauge 2250's for 12 tuners total. The video card makes a big difference too on guide performance because it uses an overlay. Make sure that your drivers are up to date.

One person mentioned having errors saying subscription needed or SDV errors. I've found that those are all due to low signal. Put in a 12dB bidirectional 1GHz amplifier (that amplifies the feed and the return), and your error will most likely go away.

One thing that I like about Ceton is that they let you make a certain number of tuners in to network tuners. Kind of like how Silicon Dust does things.

The other thing that I'm trying on my build is using a 32GB flash drive for the live TV buffer. I'm interested to see how much more responsive that it is and how long that it takes to burn out the thumbdrive. hack7MC has a bunch of good info on redirecting your live buffer directory and increasing the buffer size.

BTW, TunerSalad lets you run up to 12 tuners for each type of tuner. You could run 12 cable card and 12 QAM.

July 31, 2012 | 05:21 PM - Posted by krankycheese

Nice article. About a year ago, I built a HTPC to handle my TV DVR and viewing. I have the 2 tuner HD Homerun to handle OTA broadcast and the 3 tuner CableCard HD Homerun Prime for my cable tv. The only roadblocks that I ran into with the CableCard device was that the HD Homerun Prime is a one direction device so SDV channels would not work with it out of the box and their support/technicians are not as trained on the technology. Time Warner Cable provided me a tuning adapter/resolver for free to help with the SDV channels. As for the tech support, it is a little better but still lacking.

I have not experienced many issues with WMC performance. The OS is on a SSD drive so it is very fluid. The recordings go onto a 2 TB drive. Will you be trying add-ins?

July 31, 2012 | 10:59 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

WMC performance on my desktop isn't a problem. But on the Xbox 360 using WMC Extender the interface is very sluggish.

What plug-ins did you have in mind?

My OS (and WMC) is on an Intel X-25M gen 2 SSD and my recordings go on a 2TB Samsung Spinpoint so it seems like we have similar setups, though Comcast doesn't use SDV in my area yet.

August 3, 2012 | 03:36 AM - Posted by thatsmychin (not verified)

Got my Ceton infintv4 today, Comcast slipped me a single stream cableCard. Had to go back for the M-card when WMC told me to (happy they let me install it though). Digital Cable Advisor balked on my fanless AMD 5450. Ran Windows Experience Index (3.7 from 3.1)and DCA passed it after that.

I'm running a cheap Foxconn board, AMD 4200+, 2GB of DDR2-800 because it was laying around. Not very responsive, but not much worse than my 8yr old Comcast DVR. At least I have control over it, and can have DVD, Netflix, home video, recorded TV on one device. Of course they warned me that they were changing format in January and my cableCard might not support my cable package. May need a cablebox, which would screw up my intentions in the first place!

Any thoughts on using Blu-Ray for a WMC HTPC?

August 3, 2012 | 06:57 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Hmm strange.. I have not heard anything regarding Comcast changing formats. What cable package do you have right now? Maybe they are moving to SDV in your area... hmm..


Hmm, I think I remember reading that there is software that will plugin to WMC to allow you to play back blu-rays in WMC, but I'm not sure how good it is as I have not tried it myself. You might ask Robert Heron of HD Nation (@robertheron) as I believe he's tested it before. I just can't for the life of me rememeber the program he recommended :P


That AMD card should be plenty of horsepower for the HTPC, congrats on the Ceton card, yay for four tuners! :)

August 4, 2012 | 03:46 AM - Posted by thatsmychin (not verified)

I can't say that the rep was exactly in the know, she had a hard time understanding that I was putting my card in a PC. She did say that come January it would not be possible to "plug the cable directly into any TV" I asked about QAM tuners, and she said, "you will not be able to use anything unless a Comcast box is attached...we're going all digital.....I don't even know if you're cablecard will work." Of course Comcast went 'all digital' a couple of years ago, so I don't know.

Right now I have the digital starter package, I used to pay $120 a month for TV and Internet for the last 6 years. I added the phone 9 months ago, after the 6 month bundle discount ran out, I went up to $190 a month due to rate hikes. I downgraded to the digital economy package and ditched the phone, HD, and the DVR. Once I turn in the DVR I'll be down to $85...of course we'll have to see if I can live without HD. The rep even said she wasn't sure my economy package would work with cablecard once I turn in my DVR and my service is downgraded.

The bummer is Comcast lets me pay $10/month for the cablecard, vs the $17 they charge for the DVR (email campaign anyone?).

(not being verbose to engage in conversation, but when I was searching for hiccups in my setup, I was pointed to this article. So I thought I'd document a few things completely in case someone runs across it in the furtur.)

Thanks for the tips!

August 4, 2012 | 04:16 AM - Posted by thatsmychin (not verified)

The rep's warning makes me wonder if Comcast is going to lock down HD for those getting HD channels with their QAM tuners, and only paying for an economy package.....wouldn't surprise me.

August 4, 2012 | 05:06 AM - Posted by thatsmychin (not verified)

EDIT: Just finished a chat session with a Comcast rep. She assured me the first cableCARD is free, not the $10/month the rep in my local office told me I would be paying. I almost felt the wrath of my wife BEFORE the bill even came.

August 4, 2012 | 09:38 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yes, the first CableCARD should be free. You may even get a $2.50/mo customer owned equipment credit if you are lucky :)

From what I can tell from what you reported of your conversation with Comcast, you should not have to worry about your CableCARD not working. In my area (and I want to say all over in the US but not sure ont hat), Comcast went all digital for every channel earlier this summer. CableCARDs and accompanying tuners are compatible with digital delivery, so you should be okay there. Going digital just means that its no longer an analog TV signal going through the coax cables, it's a digital signal and allows Comcast to pack more channels into the same cable and/or free up more bandwidth for other uses. Unfortunately, it also allows them to lock stuff down even more and it's not compatible with older TVs. If you ever had a TV just hooked up the coax and not to a Set Top Box, it was likely being fed an analog cable TV signal. Once Comcast goes digital in your area, you will need a DTA (digital-to-analog) converter box from Comcast for the TV to continue tuning channels without a STB or CableCARD. There are a few TVs that have digital tuners in them, but for the most part you are looking at getting a DTA. 

At least in my area, the first two DTAs are free, after that there is a fee for additional TVs. I think the economy package confusion relates to... if I'm remembering this correctly.... Comcast is locking down the DTA boxes to only be able to tune up to a certain package of channels. Basically, they are pushing you to upgrade to a more expensive STB ;). If you are just running an all CableCARD home, then you shouldn't have anything to worry about with the digital transition. On the other hand, if you have older TVs in the house currently without boxes, you'll need to get converter boxes for them to unscramble the digital TV singals.


Hope this helps clarify things :). It's nice to know that my article is getting recommended :)

September 11, 2013 | 04:59 PM - Posted by Ron (not verified)

Hmmm...Comcast gave me my first cablecard for free. Second cablecard costs $2.99 a month. Comcast offers a customer owned equipment credit $2.50 a month. I get a monthly credit of $5.00 off my bill. They won't tell you about this credit if you don't ask and a lot of the reps will try to tell you there is no such credit. Don't believe them.

August 4, 2012 | 09:40 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

PS Oh, also the reps in general seem pretty confused when you mention that you're using the CableCARD in a PC ;) Just tell them it's a Tivo lol.

August 3, 2012 | 02:30 PM - Posted by genomad (not verified)

Awesome article.

Im too cheap to get a full cable package and so I only get the major networks over clear QAM with my htpc.

There is an awesome remote that goes for about $15 on amazon. I think everyone who does windows media center should try it out. I love mine.

August 3, 2012 | 04:22 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Thanks :)

I can't blame you man, cable is expensive! 

Once I get an actual pc built for the living room--instead of the xbox 360 in extender mode, I'll def. be checking out remotes, and I'll keep that one in mind :).

August 18, 2012 | 03:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The programs that you record will be DRM-protected. You will be able to play them back only on the computer that recorded them, and if you have to reinstall Windows, you will not be able to play them back even on the computer that recorded them.

August 19, 2012 | 02:42 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Well, not everything is flagged as copy-once :)

August 19, 2012 | 01:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Time Warner Cable flags everything on their cable service except for their Clear QAM stuff as Copy Once.

September 21, 2012 | 04:57 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Ouch, I'm sorry to hear that, that really sucks :(.

November 8, 2012 | 10:07 AM - Posted by JFo (not verified)

I have a question about the Ceton/Hauppauge/HomeRun systems. Do they only tune the signals for watching TV on a computer through the WMC system?

What brought me to this article was just looking for a simple way around using the DTA boxes to watch basic cable on secondary TV's around the house. I have a brand new flat TV for the bedroom that I just simply want to watch basic TV on without paying the $2 a month for DTA box and mount the TV straight to the wall. I want to use the TV remote only to flip through unscrambled channels coming directly from a coax line I have mounted in-wall in a box. Going for clean and simple look here. I would add whatever cableCard tuner ect in the basement where the source comes in.

Can one of these CableCard systems be put in place further down the line (where the cable comes in at my basement for example), unscramble the signal, and sent to the TV for regular use. Like the "good old days" when you had a analog signal with all the channels being broadcast into your house.

I know this article seems to be for a lot of DVR discussion, but I can't imagine I'm the only person in the world who wants to simply have all their TV's in the house have 1 cable line in and no DTA box (especially now that all are $2 a month per TV through Comcast).

Thanks in advance for any input.

January 21, 2013 | 08:53 AM - Posted by Roger F (not verified)

Nice Topic, I have been running 2 home built HTPC's runing xp MCE for over 5 years, I am still in the analog era due to the digital cable encryption not having any packages in the clear, so far the analog is still on in my rural area of Ontario Canada but the time will come when the will shut it down as they did with analog radio stations this last fall.

I stick with XP MCE because my good Aver Media A169 dual analog tuner is not supported under Vista, 7 of 8

as well a couple of deal breakers were introduced in vista & have remained thru 7

they are dual audio @ the same time under xp you can output analog audio to your TV speakers & digital to a HTR, with vista & up you can only have one or the other not both, the other deal breaker is the shut down options, with xp in the advanced screen saver options you can set the PC to prompt you with a options menu when you push the power button on the remote, with vista & up it just goes into standby, you can not choose to close media center, shut down the PC or reboot the pc from the remote power button as you can with XP MCE

as for copying & archiving files I am using the older ms dvr format & I have no problems playing recorded programs back on other PC'S running XP MCE but if I copy to a PC running vista, 7 or 8 files which were flagged as "non protected" in xp have now become "protected" and will not play.

so I simply convert any recorded content with "video Redo" to mpg 2 for SD files this also removes any protection flags that I have encountered, I do this anyway for editing & archiving any content I wish to keep.

the TV decryption card either with a tuner or to work with digital tuners installed in a media center is what is needed to give us access to cable HD TV as I refuse to buy or rent PVR's & cable boxes for each TV & have them control the content I pay for.

whats is needed is information on any cable card tuners that are compatible with windows media center & linux as well as which brands or scrambling systems these cable card slots support this will help those of us looking to make the jump from analog to digital with their HTPC as well those looking for options to the cable company set top box.

November 1, 2014 | 06:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

> There are some drawbacks, however. Mainly that On Demand does not work ...

A big advantage for the people I know. They make the "On-Demand Button" extra big, and with a softer spring, on the Cable Company Remote Controls provided in my area.

When On-Demand is activated it takes you to Channel 1. In order to exit you must wait for it to startup, to register you and load the Channel selections, finally you must navigate through the Menu to the "Exit" choice. Then when you choose to exit it confirms that you really want to ... all the while you are missing your show.

We really would like to see a few newer Articles on obtaining a reasonable substitution for Cable TV at a better price. Fancy Antennas or Internet Hardware we don't care, as long as it's not over $40 / month.

I cut a few of my Cable Channels since I found I could watch the Station online and avoid a paying an extra $10 / month for just one Channel.

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