When I read about HDHomeRun being integrated into EyeTV’s software, I immediately ordered one from El Gato. I’ve been using two EyeTV 500 units to watch and record OTA HDTV programming for a while on my Mac HTPC and have been quite satisfied with the set-up. So, why the change? A few VERY compelling reasons.Read More
By signing up with DirecTV back in 1999, I was able to enjoy a grandfathered month-to-month package that consisted exclusively of my local channels and the HBO package for about $17/month. I tried out their Total Choice early on, but was overwhelmed and have never wanted for something to watch since changing to the last package I had.
So when I decided to leave, I knew that any new programming package was going to cost a lot more than I was used to spending on television. This led to exploring OTA HDTV options and quickly found that this wasnât something Iâd need an engineering degree to accomplish. The electronics almost selected themselves by virtue of being the only Mac-friendly choices in my price range.
A summary of the total cost follows:
$106 – Antennas Direct DB4 Antenna & Terrestrial Digital PA-16 Pre-Amp
$199 – Refurbished EyeTV 500
$249 – AveL I-O Data Linkplayer
I was lucky to already have a large hard drive (an imperative when individual shows eat up GIGABYTES of storage), so I dodged that cost. And coax and Ethernet cables were already lying around my âcord boxâ? at no additional cost to this project.
Itâs really hard to find fault with any system that offers your first HDTV experience and Iâm very satisfied my money was well spentâ¦particularly because Iâm confident that all three items will sell easily on Ebay whenever I move on. Comcastâs HD box was around $500 and DirecTVâs was a little less, not even counting the programming costs and obligations. $554 for my entire system didnât leave me feeling drained (the usual harbinger of overspending).
That said, Tivoâs interface is addictive and I still yearn for it when clicking up to whatever percentage I need on the Linkplayer. I only wish their future looked better. Comcast adopting them later this year is probably going to give that cable company another chance in my household. And their first standalone HDTV Tivo box was debuted in January and will supposedly go on sale later this year. Iâll look (and lust) but the rumored $999 pricetag means Iâll be waiting. Just donât read Wall Streetâs take on the companyâs future prospects.
Since I decided to forgo satellite and cable companies in favor of an OTA antenna, the first thing I needed was proper reception. My initial solution was to buy an RCA HDTV Antenna from Best Buy for around $100 that ended up being capable of catching a clear (albeit frequently interrupted) HD signal from our local PBS station, but little else. With hopes of a little more consistency, I made quick use of Best Buy’s return policy.
Sporadic reception of some channels was unacceptable, so I started to do more research on what was working for people in my area. It became very clear that I first needed to find my location in relation to the local broadcast towers. Antenna Web offers a simple service that shows you what sort of OTA programming you should be able to receive. Based on my address, I quickly had a list of local digital stations.
I found universal praise for Solid Signal’s stock and expertise, so I emailed them with the specifics of my location per Antenna Web’s calculations and the fact that I live next to a municipal airport asking for advice. Less than 2 hours later, I received a detailed response recommending the Antenna Direct DB4 HDTV Antenna combined with a Terrestrial Digital PA-16 Pre-Amp which I promptly ordered for a total of $106.
Installing the antenna (which is smaller than it appears in photos) and pre-amp was a breeze. I split the signal and ran one cord directly into the TV and another back to my office. Googling the DB4 had shown it to be one of the most popular (and powerful) UHF antennas and I was not disappointed. ALL of the channels I wanted were available and clear for my HDTV’s tuner to discover with just a bit of tweaking the antenna’s orientation. I unplugged the pre-amp to see if I actually needed it’s added power and quickly discovered it was an imperative if I wanted a constant signal on the full compliment of available stations.
I then proceeded to indulge in an activity every new HDTV owner has indulged in…watching programs simply for their picture quality regardless of the content. And it was better than I imagined! It’s so hard to believe that I’m getting BETTER picture quality with the OTA antenna for free than the one my satellite company was providing for a monthly fee! The “free” aspect is still hard for me to believe, let alone other people I tell. There’s a misconception that HDTV is too expensive for “everyone else”…it’s simply not true. The best antenna and pre-amp only cost around $100! Bounce that off a satellite set-up cost and the spectacular reality of OTA HDTV is abundantly clear.
Now…how to record this beautiful HDTV programming is the next challenge.