First Looks: AVerMedia HomeFree Combo TV & Video Streamer
Live TV Streaming in the Home
Let’s say you’ve your cable box hooked up to the main TV in the living room, but now you want to watch a particular program in the bedroom. What are your options? You could either unplug the set-top box and bring it to the bedroom, or if this scenario occurs too frequently, succumb to your service provider and subscribe for another set-top box. But what if you’re in front of your computer, or in the shower room with your iPad? How do you watch your TV shows then?
One solution is to get the AVerMedia HomeFree Combo. It’s a device that hooks up to your home network to stream live TV and video to two Windows computers or two iPads simultaneously.
There are various ways to connect media sources to the HomeFree Combo. Round the back of the device you’ll find RF input connectors for connecting analog and digital (DVB-T) antennas. (The HomeFree Combo has a pair of inbuilt TV tuners – one for digital and one for analog.) For other video sources, there are S-Video and composite jacks. There’s no support for either component or HDMI. Each set of video inputs is also paired with a set of output that acts as signal pass-through to the TV. It’s advisable to have your wireless router or access point close to where you’re putting the HomeFree Combo, since an Ethernet cable is used to link up the two (a 1.5m cable is bundled). An infrared blaster (IR blaster) is provided as well, and is used for controlling your set-top box.
Watch it on Your Windows PC
For Windows users, the next step after hooking up the necessary cables is to install the AVerTV 6 HomeFree software. The two things that you should do right after it's installed are to scan for available channels and have the HomeFree Combo learn the IR command signals of your set-top box. From then on, you can ditch your set-top box’s own remote control. While the HomeFree Combo doesn’t allow connecting to HD sources (due to the lack of HDMI and component inputs), it’s able to stream HDTV broadcasts up to 1080p.
Stream it to the iPad
To watch live TV on the iPad, you've to download the free HomeFree Player app from the Apple App Store. It goes without saying that you need to first have the iPad join the same Wi-Fi network as the HomeFree Combo. Similar to the AVerTV software, you can have the app scan for channels the first time you fire it up. The app takes advantage of the iPad’s touchscreen, so you can change channels simply by swiping on the screen (we found channel switching to be swift). It supports EPG (electronic program guide) and has simple social media tools. For example, you could take a screenshot of what you’re watching and upload it to Facebook. However, unlike on the PC, on the iPad, you can only view HD broadcasts in standard definition quality. So if you don’t want to lose any video fidelity, it’s better to watch a HDTV program on the PC.
The AVerMedia HomeFree Combo is a neat device to own if you want to watch live TV wirelessly, be it on the PC or the iPad around the house. Understandably, the iPad is a better device for video consumption due to its larger screen size in the portable media devices arena, but we still hope to see an iPhone/iPod Touch version of the HomeFree Player app. The HomeFree Combo's hybrid tuner and its ability to support two users to access different TV sources at the same time appeal very strongly to us. If you like to watch your TV wherever you are in the house, we suggest giving the HomeFree Combo a go.