Plex DVR with HDHomerun

September 1, 2016

Well, this is an interesting development for OTA DVRs. Plex just announced that they have developed a DVR add-on to Plex Server that will allow Plex to record shows via SiliconDust HDHomerun devices. It looks like it will act like a full-blown DVR complete with guide data. I used to be a big fan of HDHomerun devices, I used one years ago on when the family cut the cord, it ran with Windows Media Center and worked decently.

Recently, the family started using a four-tuner Tablo device for DVR functionality and it works pretty good. It is far from perfect as it has some stability issues and some funcitonality is pretty basic (no priority scheduling, no 5.1 surround sound, a bare-bones Apple TV interface). But, for the most part, it works and it gets the family OTA TV. It is nice to see some competition in the network OTA DVR market though and I hope that it will motivate Tablo to improve.

In the HDHomerun family of devices, only the HDHomerun Extend does on-the-fly h.264 conversion of the incoming MPEG-2 stream off the antenna. The Plex DVR only stores the MPEG-2 stream unless experimental functions are used (see link below). There will be transcoding on the Plex server if it is going to serve out the MPEG-2 stream to devices that only support h.264 (such as mobile devices and Roku devices). That means there will be a need for a semi-beefy Plex server box.

With the Plex DVR solution, it means that there will be multiple boxes running on the network. If I wanted four-tuners like I have with the Tablo, I would need two HDHR devices plus one computer running Plex server. The server would probably have to have a fan on the chip because it is going to be transcoding. And if I used a fanless PC which would most likely not be powerful enough to transcode on-the-fly, the HDHR Extend does do transcoding on-the-fly, but guess what? It has a fan. With the four-tuner Tablo, it's a single box on the network and that box is passively cooled.

There is not any immediate benefit to switching to the Plex DVR solution as I am invested in the Tablo solution. But, it will be nice to see how Tablo reacts to some competition on the market.

Update: This support page details how incoming streams are handled.

Update: From the Plex DVR announcement it looks like the Plex DVR does not have functionality to watch live TV or timeshift live TV. "It is not currently possible to watch TV live or time-shift it. It's an area we're interested in." That's kind of disappointing.

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