best external hdtv network tuners

Best External HDTV Network Tuners

Today we will review the best external HDTV network tuners on the market today. External HDTV network tuners have been around for several years now and have grown in favor over traditional television tuners because of the maximum flexibility the provide. Companies like SiliconDust, Tablo and Hauppauge have been leaders in this market for years. Let’s take a look at the best they have to offer so that you can make an educated choice on which one best suits your needs.

Why Buy External HDTV Network Tuners

Before we jump right in and look at some of the top external HDTV network tuners on the market right now, let’s discuss some strong reasons why they should be at the center of any serious Cord Cutters setup.

Maximum Installation Flexibility

Buy buying external HDTV network tuners you untether your HDTV OTA Antenna from your television set location completely. What do I mean? I mean that by going with external HDTV network tuners you no longer need to be concerned with how far your antenna run is from your television set or splitter.

Since we know that cable length will affect signal quality, it is generally better to keep your cable runs as short as possible. For more best practices be sure to check out my article 7 Ways To Boost Your HDTV Antenna Signal!

By purchasing external HDTV network tuners you can position your tuner box or boxes (in my case anyway) in a convenient location in order to minimize the distance between the tuner and your antenna. If you look at the image below, my tuners are actually stored in my upstairs closet tucked neatly out of site.

My antenna cables run through my attic and come down through the ceiling in my closet area. This keeps my antenna cable runs as short as possible and eliminates the cabling “eye-sore”.

best external hdtv network tuners

You can see that I have two SiliconDust HDHomeRun EXTEND network tuners which are a personal favorite of mine. Each one of these tuners has two tuners built into it. This means I can bring in one antenna signal and that signal is shared across two tuners. What this will allow me to do is watch two completely different channels from one shared antenna signal. Pretty cool!

Multiple HDTV Tuners Built In

You may be asking, why does he have two of these? That’s a fair question, so let me explain. I have two directional antenna mounted atop a 10 foot mast off my pergola. One of them points toward my American broadcast towers and the other points at my Canadian broadcast towers (yes I live close to the US/Canada border).

By having two of these external HDTV network tuners, there is no need to motorize or move my antennas. One antenna (US) comes into the one tuner box and the other antenna (Canada) goes into the other tuner box.

Because both of these tuners are “dual tuners” I effectively have a total of 4 HDTV tuners in my setup. Of course, because the antennas point in different directions they don’t pickup exactly the same channels, however, there is significant overlap due to my location.

If you would like to get yourself one of these tuners, I highly recommend purchasing one from Amazon using the link here. The SiliconDust HDHomeRun EXTEND gets my top spot for external HDTV network tuners!

Of course having one, two, three or even four tuners is not unique to the HDHomeRun alone. Many of the top external HDTV network tuners on the market have multiple tuners built in. The Tablo 4-Tuner OTA DVR is another top performer and claims the number two spot on my list.

Before we list even more reasons why you should buy external HDTV network tuners for your OTA Antenna setup, let’s recap my top two picks so far.

  1. SiliconDust HDHomeRun EXTEND
  2. Tablo 4-Tuner OTA DVR

Wired and Wireless Streaming Options

This is another reason you should be buying external HDTV network tuners for your new OTA Antenna setup. The ability to receive your antenna signal and then distribute them over your wired or WIFI networks is nothing short of awesome!

That’s right, by purchasing an external network tuner you are no longer constrained to watching television in just one place. By purchasing one of the tuners listed above, you can stream your OTA antenna signal to one or more televisions (via an Android or similar media streaming box like the NVIDIA SHIELD TV), tablets, smartphones, you name it.

Basically any smart device that is compatible with their system. Here is a list of some of the compatible streaming devices that will work with these external HDTV network tuners:

Third-Party Signal Strength Apps

This is an often overlooked advantage to purchasing external HDTV network tuners. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to go up on a roof to adjust or fine tune my TV antenna. Without external HDTV network tuners in your setup this task requires two people (or a lot of up and down a ladder for one person!).

One person at your TV looking at the builtin signal meter and another person on the roof adjusting the antenna. This is usually followed by the two people yelling at each other…HOW’S THAT? and the other person yelling A LITTLE MORE…A LITTLE MORE STILL…TOO FAR GO BACK! I think you get the picture.

The benefit of external HDTV network tuners is that most of them will have third-party signal meter support. I personally use Hdhomerun Signal Meter which is a free app downloadable from the Google Playstore. This little app has been a life saver on several occasions for me whether at my own house or family members houses.

It will automatically find you HDHomeRun EXTEND devices and allows you to tune different channels on your device right from the app. Check out the screenshot from my phone of this app in action!

best external hdtv network tuners

You can see it measures Signal Strength, SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) Quality and Symbol Quality. It also gives you the data rates it’s currently transmitting at and will allow you to tune in a station right from your phone. This is a great feature and all in your back pocket on your roof…can’t do that with your builtin TV tuner!

Dedicated HDTV Tuner Hardware

The last advantage I will state that should give you more than enough reasons to buy external HDTV network tuners for your OTA Antenna setup is that fact that it is dedicated hardware. When you buy a television set you’re not buying it because of the tuner hardware in the TV (in most cases anyway).

You’re buying a TV because you want to have a crisp, high quality picture that will deliver 1080p or pristine 4K video. The TV tuner hardware that is builtin to the television set probably doesn’t even get a thought.

As a result most TV manufacturers will put little investment into the tuner hardware that is builtin to these television sets. Companies like Silicon Dust, Tablo TV and Hauppauge, this is all they do! They are in the business of building tuner hardware, therefore, this hardware will be built with better quality components, within tighter specifications and as a result will yield better and more reliable picture quality.

I’ve mentioned Hauppauge twice now in this article but have not presented any tuner options for you from this company. Hauppauge is a company that is targeting the PC market and as a result build more USB and traditional PCI (internal) type tuner cards, however, they do offer a tuner box similar to those list above.

If you are in the market for this type of tuner hardware let me recommend two external devices that I have personally used with excellent results. All the devices listed below are available on Amazon.

  1. Hauppauge 1660 Broadway TV Wi-Fi Network TV Tuner
  2. HAUPPAUGE WinTV-DualHD Dual USB 2.0 HD TV Tuner

Final Thoughts

Well there you have it, some solid reasons why external HDTV network tuners should be a part of any serious Cord Cutters HDTV OTA Antenna setup. For a complete overview of my current setup be sure to check out my article on The Best HDTV Antenna Setup Right Now!

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some of my other articles today:

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my Top 10 Antenna Picks for this year and leave me a comment!

The Antenna Guy!