So many TV solutions to choose from between cable, dsl and satellite providers. However, people always seem to forget about OTA (over the air). Paid TV isn’t your only option, no matter what the providers tell you. All of your local channels plus a handful more you may have never even heard are waiting for you and don’t cost you a monthly cent.
We have spoke about this before in writing about how you can ditch these expensive providers and make use of what’s floating around in the air for free. Now it’s time to highlight it again thanks to the HomeWorx HW180STB HDTV Digital Converter Box by Mediasonic. This is a channel box and DVR solution for those who make use of the OTA world. It allows you to receive these channels if your TV doesn’t have a digital tuner (although almost every TV available now does), and function as your faux cable box (tuner), while passing the signal (up to 1080p) to your TV via HDMI.
One benefit of this (for everyone) is that it also acts as a powered amplifier. So if the antenna you use isn’t quite strong enough, this will help a little in the mix. On top of that, it is capable of passing 5.1 digital sound to your receiver as well (assuming it’s in-line and you are using it as your switching source).
One of the most unique benefits is the ability to attach a USB thumb drive or external hard drive to record your favorite TV shows, turning it into an OTA DVR device.
Locally here, any time we test something using OTA, we typically get 68-72 channels because of the antenna we use for testing. Throwing this in the mix means you now have the ability to record anything you want on those 68-72 channels. Not a bad deal for something you don’t have to pay monthly for, especially when 1/4 of those channels come in as HD. Of course, how many channels you actually receive depends on where you live, the strength of their broadcast, the distance between you and their broadcast source and the antenna you are using.
It supports up to 64GB on a thumb drive and up to 2TB using an external hard drive, so that you can watch your shows at your own leisure. You can pause, fast forward and rewind through all of your content. Even better, the same USB port can be used for media playback of movies and images you place on your drive.
On the back, you will find an RF out (coax for pass through), HDMI out, and RCA out. There is no optical out, so if you want 5.1 sound, you have to use HDMI. Also something to keep in mind is that it does not come with an HDMI cable. It comes with an RCA cable only.
Now lets look at performance. It does mostly what it says as it records very well. The recorded image was clear and audio seemed just fine. However, a few times it looked like the video would glitch a little (which obviously shows in the recording). To make sure this wasn’t a signal issue coming from the antenna, another TV was next to it in-line with the splitter and cable plugged directly into the TV (no external tuner). At the moments we experienced the glitch, the TV next to it did just fine. It wasn’t enough to ruin a show, but enough to note that the electronics inside were not top shelf at all.
The device itself looks pretty cheap and simple. Nothing too fancy that is going to make you want to sit it next to an expensive vase or statue in your living room. It does do pretty well for how little it costs though. If you want something better, you are looking at around $150 (ie, TiVo Roamio is a great device). In fact, we would recommend the TiVo over this any day, but it comes down to price. Are you willing to spend $150, or is less than $50 more within the budget? Good luck finding something better within the price range. That makes the HomeWorx a feasible option.
The remote also wasn’t much to be excited about. It worked. That’s the best we can give it. It comes with a basic remote of no bells or whistles. Truly something made in China (the company itself is based in Canada), and will not work from clear across the room. It does however work right from where you would normally sit, and that’s all that matters in the end.
It isn’t the best of the best, but it does pull it’s weight in cost and then some. It records in HD, puts out 5.1 sound, amplifies your signal and we didn’t see any loss of channels between that and our placebo TV sitting next to it. We even played some anime (a geek necessity) and music videos from a thumb drive. It could be more. Maybe a slightly better range on the remote and fix the few glitches in video we saw (with our without using the DVR functions). As far as we know, that could be as simple as a firmware upgrade. To be fair, once again, it only happen a few times. For now though, we gave it a 7/10, with the potential of being closer to a 7.5-8 if those variables were attended to. In the end, it proves to be a good low-cost DVR and media playback solution for those who don’t want to pay for TV.
- Converts Over The Air Digital ATSC broadcast to your Analog & Digital TV, Projector, and Monitor
- Output: HDMI / Composite / RF
- USB Multimedia Player (Support USB Flash Drive up to 64GB, External hard drive up to 2TB)
- Support MPEG-2/4, H.264/AVC, 1080P HD Digital TV
- Support MPEG-1 Layer I & II Dolby Digital Audio
- Antenna out Analog Pass Through
- Channel 3 / 4 Function
- Favorite Channel List
- Parental Control Function
- Auto Tuning
- Auto, 16:9 Pillar Box, 16:9 Pan G Scan, 4:3 Letter Box, 4:3 Pan G Scan, 4:3 Full, 16:9 Wide Screen
- Closed Caption
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.