A few weeks ago I made the mistake of switching to cable. The cable company provided me some really bad hardware, I lost full home DVR capability and I could only record two shows at once.
Luckily I found a great solution made by our friends at Cetion. They make a variety of cable tuners and to improve the user experience from the standard carrier provided hardware. The unit we got was the network TV tuner, it is a cable card tuner that works over your LAN and connects to Windows Media Center (WMC) PCs.
Setup was complicated and a little frustrating. In order to use the device, software needs to be installed on the PC that will serve as the media center host. The device requires a CableCARD (M-Card) to work. It allows the tuner to receive TV content from the cable provider. Once I had the software installed and the adapter updated, I attempted to activate the CableCARD several times. After several trips and 4 cards later Time Warner gave me a working card and I was able to watch TV with the new device. Although I did have some problems setting the device up, they were all cable provider issues and not problems with the network tuner itself.
I had to add an additional piece of hardware called a Tuning Adapter; it basically sits between the InfiniTV 6 and the service line. Not all cable providers require such a device for third party hardware to function, but some do.
Using the device:
Once the setup was complete I had the most powerful and nicest TV experience I have ever had. I now have the ability to watch and record 6 shows at once! YES I said 6 shows at once! I can also add additional storage to my DVR without having to pay a monthly fee.
Windows Media Center is used to access the TV tuner. More than one PC can be used to access the tuner, or you can use Media Extenders. I setup all the PCs in my house to access the network tuner, so I can watch TV on my PCs now, but I also used my Xbox 360 as a Media Extender to watch TV in my living room. Ceton also sent us an Echo media extender, but more on that later.
The Windows Media Center GUI is intuitive to use and takes full control over any media you have on the host PC, or on shared or mapped network drives. This is in addition to getting a guide, DVR, and extensive management capabilities. There is a really nice feature that shows movies that are on now, and movies that are being screened later. With a few clicks you can record whatever you want and never watch a commercial again. The search function included is fast and provides various filters to find what you are looking for quickly.
The Echo is a Windows Media Center extender. WMC extenders mirror the functionality that you get inside WNC on a specific PC over a LAN connection. The device is small, and easy to tuck away in a media cabinet. Setting up the device was simple, I just connected a few cables and followed the on screen instructions. The remote was really nice, it is small and easy to use, and made navigating screens and controlling the device a breeze.
The TV experience I had with the echo over my network was wonderful. I was able to browse movies that were on or coming up soon, search for upcoming shows, watch recorded content, and stream music and family movies from my computer.
Unfortunately Microsoft dropped support for third party media extenders in Windows 8. The Echo does work with Windows 8 but it must be controlled by Ceton’s My Media Center application. I found it worked well, but I enjoyed the familiar WMC experience with the Windows 7 host machine. I was pleasantly surprised that the My Media Center application was available on iOS, Google Play, Windows Store, Windows Phone Store, Amazon Apps, and Nook Apps.
Before you get rid of your cable boxes completely just be aware that while these products are amazing, they will not be able to access On Demand content, so consider keeping one basic cable box or investing in a streaming device that works with your provider.
- No monthly fees
- Full control of your TV shows
- Watch TV on any LAN connected PC with Media Center
- Included very clear instructions that were easy to follow
- Echo is about the same price as an Xbox 360
- Echo does not provide access to on demand content
- Heavy bandwidth requires both of these devices to be hard wired, they recommend at least a 1 gigabit network connection
The infiniTV6 ETH is availible from Ceton for $299. http://cetoncorp.com/products/infinitv-6-ethernet/
The Echo is availible for $179 http://cetoncorp.com/products/echo/