I’m not quite sure why, but I have been on a bit of a cord cutting kick lately. We haven’t had cable now in about 3 years, so I’m not quite sure why it’s on the forefront of my mind, but I figured I would pass along some great information. When we first got rid of our cable TV service and cut the cord, the hardest thing to adjust to was our missing DVR (Digital Video Recorder). We found that the HomeWorx HW-150OVR ATSC Digital Converter Box makes a pretty good DVR Tivo alternative for over the air television signals.
So how did I stumble upon this DVR Tivo alternative? Well, I was thrift shopping the other day, and saw a really good deal on a tube style TV. It was fairly large, but had a pretty incredible picture. Being the tech guy that I am, I have a really hard time passing up great deals on gadgets and gizmos. The major problem though is that it didn’t have an HDMI port, and it was made way before the digital conversion. I knew that I could get an over the air converter box that would take the digital signals that are transmitted and convert them to signals the older TV could understand, but I knew they were around $50 or so at Walmart. So add that to the cost of the old TV that just wanted to be given a new home, and it wasn’t such a great deal for the kid’s playroom.
So I started researching online. I ran across the HomeWorx HW-150PVR ATSC digital Converter Box that was around the same price as one of the converters from Walmart. So why would I buy one? Well it’s a bit different than the standard over the air converter box. It has a USB port and an HDMI out port in addition to the standard RCA style jacks! It also turns out that this unit has PVR capabilities and can be setup as a DVR Tivo Alternative with no monthly cost!
So first things first, Why is the HDMI output important? I have a few friends that have some fancy projectors, but none of them have TV tuners in them. The projectors themselves are capable of crazy crisp pictures, but they are limited to HDMI input or the RCA jacks. You lose quite a bit of sharpness if you’re just using the RCA jacks. This tuner box is perfect for those with a projector setup that want to watch actual TV or those looking to record something on their new HDMI capable TV.
OK, so not a big deal you don’t own a projector… Remember that USB port? You can connect a USB hard drive or thumb drive to it! My dream of a DVR Tivo alternative is coming true! With all these awesome specs and incredible ideas floating around in my head I couldn’t get my hands on one quick enough! Thank you Amazon Prime for fast shipping to my door! I received it Friday night, which meant that when the boys were asleep I was going to get to play with some tech!
I was very excited to checkout this DVR Tivo alternative, so I opened the box and was started digging though the contents. It was pretty standard for a TV tuner. Remote control? Check! Tuner? Check! RCA Cable? Check! Batteries? No…… HDMI Cable? No….. Coax cable? No……. I was a bit disappointed at what the box didn’t contain but I carried on. I happen to have a spare HDMI cable dangling in my TV setup so that wasn’t such a big deal. Batteries would have been nice, but I had a few in my junk drawer. Those things are fairly forgivable, after all for the price point, I suppose you can’t get everything. The coax cable was a bit of an annoyance though.. I took a moment to step back and think of the intended target audience though. The entire point of an ATSC tuner and this DVR Tivo alternative is to sell to folks who need a digital converter for over the air TV signals. They would probably connect this to their TV via an RCA cable. They more than likely already have a coax cable. Since my TV already has a digital tuner, it would have been nice to go from my wall antenna outlet to the box, then over to my TV via coax so I could record a channel and watch my TV independently. It’s a very quick and inexpensive fix so I won’t spend too much time on it. Just buy or find a coax cable somewhere if that’s how you want to hook it up.
So there I was, the box all hooked up, with a nice crisp HomeWorx splash screen and the box booted right up to the menu! The user controls seem easy to figure out with some minimal onscreen instructions and a fairly detailed manual that somehow managed to be written in proper English. I did a quick channel scan and in only a few minutes I was picking up digital TV! I even had a simple menu showing what was going to be coming up on the channel for the next few hours.
Because of my temporary test setup, I didn’t have the box where it would go permanently but instead pretty much just on top of some other gear on a shelf. While working with the remote, I noticed that the infrared needed to almost be straight on in order to get it to recognize when I was pressing a button. This isn’t a deal breaker but instead something I can overcome. Another side note is that the remote seemed to be a bit light. I’ll probably program a universal remote control anyway to work with my media setup, but be forewarned that it just feels inexpensive.
Do you remember I mentioned that USB port? Well it turns out that the HomeWorx HX-150PVR is actually a very inexpensive DVR Tivo alternative! That’s right, plug a USB hard drive or a thumb drive into the unit and you have an impressive lineup of features available at your fingertips! One of the greatest Tivo features is the ability to pause live TV. This DVR Tivo alternative can do the same thing! Press pause to get up for a few minutes from your couch, and then press play when you get back, it’s that simple. You can use standard forward and back controls to move along the timeline. However, the USB port is on the front, it would be nice if it was on the back to keep from seeing the cable or thumb drive, but the thumb drive I was using has a small light on it, so I could actually see when the unit was recording which was a bit of a trade-off.
When we got rid of cable years ago, I did miss the ability to record live TV. Most of the shows I watch are available via another streaming medium, but for the evening news, Big Brother, and even some of our other favorites I missed the ability to record a regularly scheduled program. With the HomeWorx HW-150PVR you’ll have that ability again! It’s not so much a point and click feature on a TV Guide style grid, but think back to your days of VCR recording. You had the select a channel, time and duration. The same applies for this DVR Tivo Alternative. You can select a program from the menu, but you won’t have the advanced features of recording all shows that some on a certain channel, or first run vs. reruns or anything. Still not too bad of a way to record your nightly showing of Wheel of Fortune!
Since there is no internet connectivity with this unit, you won’t be able to watch YouTube or Netflix, but as a media device it’s fairly capable. In addition, there is no service or monthly programming fees like you would have with Tivo. The programming data is freely sent out for each day’s line up by the TV stations. You can’t view programming for other days or search for programs by name, but those are features that I can live without for the price.
Once you have made a recording, they are viewed via the Media option on the HomeWorx unit. Recordings appear with the channel number and some time details, but you can rename them whatever you want. This unit also supports MP3, photo slideshows, and even video playback. I have a few DIVX files that played without issue, but the unit seemed to choke on many of my photos. I suspect the file sizes were too large. Once programs are recorded to either your thumb drive or external USB drive, you can actually watch them on your computer, or compress and change to another file format if you would like. The video files are recorded in what appears to be an industry standard for cam corders, so you can even edit or play with the files if you would like. This is great for quality, but the recordings can become quite large.
So while I’m certainly impressed for the price, users must realize that they need an external drive to really turn the HomeWorx HW-150PVR into a DVR Tivo alternative. I’m a bit of a tinkerer, and didn’t mind the old school recording style and appreciate the fact that I can easily bring the files over to my computer. Something Tivo has never really excelled at. The way I look at it, is that this unit is the same cost or even a bit cheaper than the units you can purchase at Walmart, and there are quite a few additional features.
Overall, the unit seemed to perform very well for my needs. When checking some of the online reviews, it seems to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some folks love them, others seem to really hate them. There have been a few hardware issues with a handful of them, but if you purchase via Amazon you can’t really go wrong when it comes the return policy if it tuns out that you aren’t really satisfied or if it arrives dead on arrival.
Bottom line, the price is about the same or cheaper than the competition without all the features. If you’re just looking for a converter box, this will work great! It also has the added benefit of an HDMI port which the units at Walmart generally don’t have, but if you’re looking for a DVR Tivo alternative without a monthly cost, then this is it!
Want to give the HomeWorx HW-150PVR and this DVR Tivo alternative a try?
Start with this:
HomeWorx HW-150PVR $38.99
You may need these:
HDMI Cable $5.49
Coax Cable $6.99 (Or see what you can find at a thrift shop!)
Batteries 2XAAA $8.99 (Might as well get rechargeable!)
You’ll Need Some Removable Storage If you Don’t Already Have One To Use as A DVR Tivo Alternative:
Thumbdrive 32 GB $17.99
External Usb Hard Drive If you’re going to get one, might as well be a big one!