What is an HDHomeRun Connect Duo?
SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Connect Duo lets you capture free, over-the-air (OTA) television broadcasts and stream the video over your home network.
The HDHomeRun Connect Duo lets you stream live TV shows simultaneously to two devices on your home network. Simply downloading the HDHomeRun app gives you whole-house TV.
With SiliconDust’s optional DVR subscription service, the dual tuners let you record two TV shows at the same time or watch a show while recording another.
Although SiliconDust tries to make the Connect Duo accessible for non-technical customers, you’ll need some tech-savvy to make the most of it. The DVR in particular only works best if you run a network-attached storage device on your home network.
- Low-cost way to get live TV on a home network
- Easy setup and app interface
- Apps for many streaming devices
- DVR subscription service is competitively priced
- Unlimited recording capacity — with enough hard drives
- No WiFi so must be placed near wireless router
- Mac app locked up after changing the channels 3-4 times
- No support for 4K UHD broadcasts
- Weak support for Roku and Apple TV
- No support for remote access
Design, Weight and Dimensions
The Connect Duo’s slim, rectangular design is small enough to fit in wherever you keep your wireless router.
Size: 3.8” x 3.8” x 0.75” ( 97mm x 97mm x 19mm)
Weight: 5 ounces (140g)
There are three ports on the back of the Connect Duo: the power jack, a 100 Mbps Ethernet port and a coaxial connection.
Inside the Connect Duo, there are two ATSC 2.0 TV tuners and enough memory to briefly pause live TV. This is a fanless device so it will not make a lot of noise with heavy use.
Supported Devices and App Features
SiliconDust has several dedicated apps to manage the Connect Duo and watch TV:
- Desktops and Laptops: Windows, Linux and macOS
- Mobile and Tablet: Android, iOS and iPadOS
- Streaming Devices: Amazon Fire TV and Android TV
Owners of Roku-based devices, game consoles or smart TVs must use their device’s DLNA feature to access the Connect Duo. TV makers developed this compatibility technology so devices could exchange content. You will not get the same interface as the HDHomeRun app.
Owners of Apple TV devices cannot stream directly from the Connect Duo. Instead, they must use the HDHomeRun app for iOS and AirPlay the video to the AppleTV. Third-party Apple TV apps like Channels and Plex will also work, but they are not free.
Every HDHomeRun app has the same features and user interface which makes switching from device to device easy. The apps can support 1080p broadcasts with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, closed captioning and other features — as long as your local station provides those features.
By default, the apps will let you pause your TV stream for up to 60 minutes or rewind the previous 5 minutes. The apps also include a free 24-hour electronic programming guide.
The Connect Duo’s TV tuners are compatible with the current generation of over-the-air broadcasts. That means you can get full 1080p HD resolution if that is the format your local station supports. Unlike cable, satellite and streaming companies, your local stations do not use compression with their HD broadcasts. OTA TV is the best-quality HD video you’re likely to get.
Smaller local channels, or the sub-channels from your local network-affiliate stations, may broadcast in 720p high definition or in 480p standard definition.
SiliconDust has a relationship with Best Buy that makes the retailer an exclusive dealer for many of its products. You can buy the $99 Connect Duo directly from Silicon Dust or from a Best Buy store. However, you won’t find it in every Best Buy. I would have had to drive 50 to 200 miles for same-day pickup. Even then, the stores only stock one or two units. There’s a pretty high risk that I would drive an hour or more only to find the store never really had one in stock.
The version of the Connect Duo you’ll see at Amazon for $69 is refurbished and sold through the Amazon Renewed program. You will also see an Amazon listing for a Connect Duo bundled with an HDTV antenna and sold by SiliconDust for $99.
Other HDHomeRun Options
If two tuners aren’t enough, consider the 4-tuner HDHomeRun Connect Quatro. The $149 device lets four people stream TV at the same time. With the DVR subscription, you could record as many as four shows simultaneously.
The HDHomeRun Scribe Duo (a Best Buy exclusive) is just like the Connect Duo but it has enough built-in storage to record 150 hours of content. However, the $199 price does not include the DVR subscription so you’ll have to pay the extra $35 per month.
HDHomeRun DVR Service
You will need to subscribe to SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun DVR service to make the most of your Connect Duo. For $35 per month, you get the following features:
- 14-day Electronic Programming Guide
- Schedule and record up to two shows at the same time
- Watch one channel while recording another channel
- Record by TV series
- Record by sports team
- Resume watching when you switch devices
However, the Connect Duo does not have internal storage or a way to attach external drives. You must have a computer or networked storage device running on your home network all the time. A desktop computer will work fine – as long as it doesn’t reboot.
The most robust option — and the most technically complex — is to run HDHomeRun’s software on a network-attached storage (NAS) device. These servers hold multiple hard drives and are designed to run around the clock.
Third-Party DVR Services
Connect Duo owners are not locked into using SiliconDust’s DVR service. Several third-party services will also work with the networked tuner. Users of Plex or Channels can stream content from the Connect Duo and record that content through each app’s own DVR service. Note that these apps all have subscription plans of their own.
How Do I Set Up A HDHomeRun Connect Duo?
The first thing you see when you open the box is the Connect Duo’s Quickstart Guide. There’s no other documentation in the box so you’re on your own figuring out how the software works.
The Connect Duo lies beneath the Quickstart Guide.
Also included in the box are an Ethernet cable and an AC adaptor. You have to provide your own TV antenna.
Although you wouldn’t want to leave things looking like this, the physical setup isn’t too complicated. Attach the antenna to the Connect Duo, then attach the Connect Duo to your wireless router. Finally, plug the Connect Duo’s AC adaptor into an outlet.
The next step is to open the HDHomeRun website using a desktop browser on your home network. The Connect Duo communicates back to SiliconDust which presents you with the status of the device and your DVR subscription.
From a Mac or a PC, you’ll download and install the HDHomeRun app.
Installing the app also runs a utility to update the Connect Duo’s firmware. On the Mac, this happens in a Terminal window. The technically inclined won’t have a problem with this, but it could look people used to prettier software might be concerned.
At this point, you can open the app and start watching TV.
The Connect Duo’s documentation does not explain how to use the HDHomeRun apps. Fortunately, the apps share the same layout on all platforms. Figure it out once, and you’re set. When not in fullscreen mode, you get a channel listing to the right of the screen and playback controls along the bottom. This image came from a Mac:
The next image came from an iPad. Each item on the channel listing expands out to tell you what’s airing in the next 24 hours.
Rather than scrolling through each channel, the EPG will present a grid of all the shows airing right now.
The EPG also collects the shows that will be airing. If you subscribe to the DVR, you can tell it to record all shows for a series.
The EPG recognizes the movies your channels will air and collects them into one place.
SiliconDust provides thumbnails and summary info about all of the content. The EPG will show which channels a movie or TV show will air the content.
The Mac version of the HDHomeRun app kept freezing after the second or third channel change. Streaming resumed after restarting the app, but it a few channel changes always locked it up again. The controls are another annoyance as the HDHomeRun app works best with keyboard shortcuts. Without any documentation, it’s up to the user to figure out what those shortcuts are.
The iPad version never froze and the interface works better using touch.
Even using my older 802.11ac router, the Connect Duo’s streaming performance was consistently good. While using AirPlay to relay a 1080p stream from the tuner to an Apple TV, I opened a second 1080p stream to my laptop and carried it two stories up. The streaming quality never changed.
Your experience may vary depending on how many WiFi devices you have on your home network, whether your router uses an even older 802.11 standard, etc.
What Local OTA Channels Can I Watch With A HDHomeRun Connect Duo?
When you power up the Connect Duo for the first time, it automatically scans for TV channels while you’re completing the setup process.
The Connect Duo found 58 local channels using the Mohu Leaf 30. Of course, you get local the affiliates of the national broadcast networks. The Connect Duo lets you watch national networks like PBS and The CW that few streaming services carry. You can also get sub-channels, such as Comet, that cater to particular interests.
The Connect Duo did a better job of getting these signals than my TV did during my review of the Leaf 30. None of the channels were glitchy and none were missing.
Individual experience, however, will vary. Something as simple as living in a stucco house could reduce the number of channels you get. This is where the Connect Duo’s lack of WiFi becomes an issue. The Ethernet-only connectivity tethers the device – and by extension your TV Antenna – to your router. The best place to broadcast WiFi in your home may not be the best place to receive TV signals.
What Antenna Should I Use With The HDHomeRun Connect Duo?
Flixed’s review of the Mohu Leaf 30 that it offers a good balance of price, performance and style for most people.
If you live in a more rural location, the Mohu Sky 60 is an amplified rooftop antenna that can pick up signals from 75 miles away.
What Hard Drive Should I Use With The HDHomeRun Connect Duo?
The Western Digital 2TB Elements is an affordable and reliable way to add more DVR storage to your home PC. For $64, Windows users get a fast USB 3.0 connection and 2TB of storage.
Synology’s NAS DiskStation DS218j is a good way to run the HDHomeRun DVR around the clock. The DS218j sells for $217. However, that price does not include any storage. You will have to buy two drives, each of which could cost you $100 or more.
HDHomeRun Connect Duo Vs. Tablo
Tablo’s $140 Dual Lite OTA DVR has two built-in TV tuners and an Ethernet connection just like the Connect Duo. The device has WiFi which gives you more flexibility when placing it in your home. You also get a greater selection of apps for devices like Roku.
The Tablo offers a $50 annual DVR subscription. In addition to all the features SiliconDust offers, you can stream live TV or recorded shows to your mobile device while away from home.
HDHomeRun Connect Duo Vs. Tivo
The Tivo Bolt OTA is a more capable — and more expensive — option with four built-in TV tuners and a $250 price tag. The device also runs Netflix and other streaming apps.
App support is limited to mobile and desktop platforms. The iOS and Android apps support download-and-go viewing of recorded content as well as remote streaming of live TV. You cannot use Tivo with devices like Roku or Apple TV.
Tivo provides enough built-in storage to hold about 150 hours of recorded content, but only with a $70 per month DVR subscription. A lifetime subscription costs $250.
The HDHomeRun Connect Duo’s low-cost hardware, competitively-priced DVR service and two-tuner design all seem like a great deal. However, this is not a truly plug-and-play consumer device.
The Ethernet-only design means you can’t set up the Connect Duo and antenna to get the best possible reception. The software installation works fine but exposes users to Terminal windows they may not be used to. And getting the Connect Duo to stream to a TV set requires work-arounds that may frustrate other family members.
Moreover, the DVR feature really works best when you have a network-attached storage device on your home network. That does not apply to most consumers.
For the more technically inclined, the Connect Duo is an affordable way to stream live TV on your home network. If you want a simple, plug-and-play solution then consider paying a little more for a competing product.
Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.