Editors' note: This review has been updated since its original publication to clarify the difference between the Elgato and SiliconDust versions of the product. See the "two versions" section below for more information.
If powerful, inexpensive consoles such as the PS3 and the Xbox 360 turned the once-popular gaming PC into a niche product, then by comparison a rash of cheap set-top boxes have crushed the need for the already-niche Home Theater PC (HTPC).
Yet, despite the proliferation of Apple TVs and Roku boxes, many people still want to watch TV on their PCs--whether they're hooked up to a separate TV or not. In fact, a recent survey suggests PC users spend an hour and a half a day watching video content on their devices.
If you're serious about using your PC to watch TV, eventually you might want the flexibility of filling its screen with (legal) free, live TV channels from an over-the-air HDTV tuner. While USB tuners like the Elgato Eye-TV Hybrid are available, they can only be used on the PC they're plugged into, and are not mobile-device-friendly. To the rescue comes the HDHomeRun Dual, which offers two tuners and multiple viewing options.
Before we get to the details of the product, let's clear up some confusion. The hardware is created and sold by SiliconDust--but it's also licensed and sold by Elgato. Here's a quick cheatsheet:
SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual: The version sold by SiliconDust includes no software, and is designed to run with Windows Media Center, which is present on nearly all versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 except the Starter Edition (usually found on netbooks). Retail price is $130, but it can be widely found online for $100. As a result, this version is best for Windows users (and for Linux users, who can use MythTV).
Elgato HDHomeRun: In addition to the exact same SiliconDust hardware listed above, the Elgato version of the product includes the EyeTV software for Macs. The Elgato retails for $180, but can be found for as little as $150. Because it includes the EyeTV software ($80 value), it's the best choice for Mac users--including those who want to stream live video to their iPad or iPhone via the EyeTV app.
With that out of the way, let's talk about the product itself.
Design and features
The HDHomeRun Dual is a twin tuner box that connects to your home network and can serve over-the-air TV to your PC, Mac or mobile device while in the home.