I have used the HDHomeRun dual tuner for ATSC (digital-over-the-air) TV for years. But recently my Dad decided to get digital cable from Time Warner, so we decided to try the Silicon Dust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC. This tuner uses a CableCard along with a “tuning adapter” from Time Warner and has three internal tuners.

First, I had to get the CableCard from Time Warner. This was relatively painless although once the hardware is installed I had to call Time Warner to activate it. Again, this was easy.

Next, I had to configure Windows Media Center. We use three computers to watch TV and we wanted them to each be able to access the HDHR3-CC. This shouldn’t be a problem since it has three tuners! However, it was tricky. In Windows Media Center there are requirements for watching digital cable, even though over-the-air ATSC has the same resolution streams. To verify that my computers would work with it, I had to install the Digital Cable Advisor. (Go to Extras -> Extras Gallery and install the Digital Cable Advisor. Then run it.)

Windows Media Center in Windows 7 will try to work with any hardware with an ATSC tuner, even if the hardware can’t play it well. But digital cable is a different story. You must have a digital display using either DVI or HDMI to get the full resolution of the stream. VGA won’t work and DisplayPort may or may not work. You must have 4 GB of RAM. You must have a graphics card from ATI, nVidia or Intel that supports HDCP with the display device. Silicon Dust recommends an NVIDIA 9500 or newer, ATI HD3000 or newer, or Intel HD Graphics. I can tell you that Intel HD Graphics 4000 series will work but the older 3000 series won’t.

Next, the older HDHomeRun tuners would send a signal to any device that connected to it. But the HDHR3-CC seems to configure itself for just one Windows Media Center at a time. If another computer running WMC tries to connect it, it will have to be completely reconfigured including a channel scan (which takes 30 minutes or more). So the fix for this problem is to only connect with three computers and to assign one of the three tuners to each computer. To accomplish this, set up the digital signal in WMC, but instead of letting it automatically configure the tuner, you must manually set up the tuner. That gives you the option to assign each of the three tuners to each computer. (Just assign one per computer.)

Once I learn more about this tuner, I’ll post it!