4/24/2020 UPDATE: SiliconDust has added a second run of hardware to the campaign, stated to deliver in August.
SiliconDust, the company behind our favorite network tuners and accessories, has announced a new product today. We know what you’re all wondering: Is it the long-awaited HDHomeRun Prime 6? SiliconDust has been touting plans to follow its popular Prime CableCARD tuner with a successor for years now…with no actual product in sight. So you’d certainly be justified if that’s what you were thinking or expecting.
No, it’s not the Prime 6. Rather, this new product is a 4K and HDR-compatible, ATSC 3.0 version of the HDHomeRun Quatro tuner. SiliconDust’s Connect Quatro is an over-the-air network tuner with four ATSC 1.0 tuners. It retails for about $150. This new device will upgrade two of those tuners to support ATSC 3.0. So while it is a 4-tuner device, not all four tuners will be ATSC 3.0-compatible. Presumably, this is to keep costs down. The new device will cost just $50 more than its predecessor, coming in just under $200. Even with that limitation, though, broadcasters sharing channels or offering multiple sub-channels will make it possible to watch up to four HD programs using just those two ATSC 3.0 tuners.
Why ATSC 3.0?
ATSC 3.0 is still in the testing phase, and U.S. broadcasters are starting ATSC 3.0 trials across the nation this year. On the surface, it enables over-the-air 1080p and 4K content in HDR with up to 7.1.4 surround sound. But under the covers, it supports tons of other features for broadcasters, including overlays, interactive content, DRM (of course), and emergency alerts.
How this all goes is yet to be seen. Even amongst our contributors, we’re wondering if the current economic conditions might somehow impact the ATSC 3.0 transition, which likely wasn’t going to happen until sometime in or after 2023 anyway. This is all very early days. Anyone buying into ATSC 3.0 now likely falls into that early adopter category!
Will It Work for Me?
The big question for most is whether their own equipment will support 4K OTA playback. Maybe…maybe not. Depending on the codecs and other factors, even your 4K streaming box may not necessarily be ATSC 3.0 OTA-ready. And you probably won’t know for sure until after the trials are completed and broadcasters settle on a standard set of features and capabilities. SiliconDust is committing to necessary firmware updates as things change, but as far as your other hardware is concerned, that’s still a big unknown. Regardless, all the tuners will be able to pull HD OTA content on the legacy ATSC standards, so it will be backwards compatible.
Get ’em While They Last
Itching to get one of these new devices? You’ll need to act fast! SiliconDust launched the HDHomeRun Quatro 4K on Kickstarter today. The initial “run” is for something around 2,000 units. Just two hours after today’s launch, they’d already funded at nearly twice their initial goal. As part of this funding initiative, SiliconDust is also offering a Quatro 4K DVR bundle that includes the 2TB HDHomeRun Servio for $329 and a devkit version of the Quatro 4K for $299.
SiliconDust expects to deliver the HDHomeRun Quatro 4K in July 2020. That’s three months from now. In Kickstarter time and under the current conditions in the market, we’ll be happy if we see it sometime this year.