Sunday, March 7, 2021

Free 4K Using an Antenna: HDHomeRun vs. ZapperBox

ATSC 3.0 will make 4K content reception using an antenna possible, and it continues to be deployed across the United States.  In addition to a higher resolution, the new standard will make other visual and audio improvements possible.  Baltimore, Syracuse, and Buffalo are the latest cities as of the writing of this blog post to be making final preparations to have ATSC 3.0 services.  With the addition of these three cities, approximately 25% of United States viewers will have access to ATSC 3.0 according to Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc.  The areas that currently have ATSC 3.0 available and those that will have it soon are shown below. 

ATSC 3.0 USA Deployment Map
ATSC 3.0 United States Deployment Map

ATSC 3.0 Tuner Options

A compatible tuner is required to receive ATSC 3.0 broadcasts.  One option is to purchase a new TV with an internal ATSC 3.0 tuner.  A better option may be to purchase an external ATSC 3.0 tuner box for those who want to use DVR software to record TV content.  SiliconDust's HDHomeRun Connect 4K can be purchased now, and the ZapperBox can be preordered now.  The ZapperBox M1 will be available around September 2021 according to the manufacturer.    

HDHomeRun Connect 4K

The table below summarizes the key features and differences between these two products.  The table includes the features of the ZapperBox that are reported by the manufacturer to be included when the first model ships and future software updates.  The ZapperBox manufacturer indicates that software updates after the product is first available may expand its capabilities. 

Feature Connect 4K   ZapperBox M1  
Compatible with DVR software using IP connected storage Yes Eventually
HDMI direct connection to TV No Yes
Stream to devices on the network Yes Eventually
Ethernet port Yes Yes
Connection to network required for displaying content Yes No
Compatible with ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 Yes Yes
Direct IR remote control of external tuner No Yes
Dolby AC-4 audio pass-through Yes Yes
Optional direct Dolby AC-3 and AAC audio output No Yes
Simultaneous onboard ATSC 3.0 tuners 2 1
Simultaneous onboard ATSC tuners 4 1
Manufacturer's listed price $199.99 $329.00

Audio Considerations

The HDHomeRun Connect 4K requires additional hardware that supports Dolby AC-4 audio in order to use the ATSC 3.0 tuners.  A sound system that supports Dolby AC-4 is not required if a product such as an NVIDIA Shield which can decode Dolby AC-4 internally is used with the Connect 4K.


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