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How to End Cable Box Rental Fees Forever

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About a week ago, I mentioned how I was undergoing a digital media overhaul, consolidating all my music, movies, and television and making them available from any television, PC, or tablet in my home. It's an ambitious project, but getting my Dell Zino HD yesterday rocketed it in the right direction. My wife came home and was shocked to see the old mini-tower PC gone, along with the DVD player and my Namco Joystick for Dig Dug (yes Dig Dug is that awesome of a game), all moved.

The biggest thing in our entertainment center left? The Comcast cable box. It's with that in mind that I thought about looking back to an article that I wrote three months ago: HDHomeRun Prime: End Cable Box Rental Fees! That article described how with a Microsoft Media Center (included in my Dell Zino) can combine with a one-time hardware purchase (the HDHomeRun Prime) and a CableCard from your cable company to eliminate fees for renting a cable box. For me it is $16 a month - nothing to sneeze at. It turns out that Silicon Dust had a little trouble getting the HDHomeRun Prime out there, but it's finally available. The only problem is me. I just bought the Dell Zino (for the media center) as well as a pair of TouchPads ($99 each). That's over $700 in a short span of time. Does it make sense to drop another $250 for the HDHomeRun Prime?

It very well might.

As is often the case, Rick Broida of CNET's Cheapskate read my mind and posted a deal today for a dual-tuner CableCard adapter for $127. The maker of this gem is Hauppauge, a company well known for integrating television and computers. This looks like a direct competitor to the HDHomerun Prime. However, it's not the only one. Centon makes one as well. What sets these all apart? The biggest difference is the number of tuners.

The number of tuners is what allows you to record multiple television shows on your DVR at one time. With two tuners, you can record two things at one time. With three you can record three things. It may sound ridiculous to have to record this many things, but we've run into situations where a reality TV show will run 5 minutes later bleeding into the timezone of another slot causing an conflict... and we don't watch that much television.

It dawned on me that perhaps, a little comparison was in order. Here's a list of current external tuners (external is necessary with my Dell Zino), how much they are per tuner, and the number of months before I'd get the money back for renting my current cable box at $16 a month.

  • Hauppauge WinTV DCR-2650 Dual-Tuner - Retails at $149, seems to sell at $127 if you get the right deal (if the retailer Rick mentioned is reputable). Shipping is extra and it's only a few weeks old. Price per tuner: around $65-75. Months before it pays off: 8-9.
  • HDHomerun Prime 3-Tuner - This will set you back $249 on Amazon, but it's a little slow to ship (2-4 weeks). That will run you $83 per tuner. Months before it pays off: 15.5
  • Centon's InfiniTV 4 - This model has 4 tuners and is expected to ship in the next couple of weeks. It clocks in at $299 or $75 a tuner. Months before it pays off: 18.5
  • HDHomeRun Prime 6-Tuner - This is essentially Silicon Dust gluing two of the 3-tuner boxes together. You'll need two CableCards from cable company and you'll need to be prepared to plunk down twice the cost of the 3-Tuner - $500. For the math wizards out there, this comes out to the same price per tuner ($83) as the 3-Tuner. Months before it pays off: 31

The only apples to apples comparison with my dual tuner is the first one, which pays off in 8-9 months. I should be able to convince my wife that this is a wise financial decision. I may be able to get her to go for the 3-Tuner model as I think she'd see the functionality in being able to record three things at the same time. I'm pretty sure the 4-tuner and 6-tuner are not even worth asking about. I think those would come in handy if we have movie channels and more options of things to watch.

I was close to predicting this to be the holiday gift of the year, but I think it's probably too much to expect the average person have a computer hooked up to their television to take advantage of this. Also, the cost of buying a computer for your television significantly delays the months before this would pay off.

Posted on September 7, 2011.

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5 Responses to “How to End Cable Box Rental Fees Forever”

  1. Thanks for the info on dumping cable boxes – it kind or relates to what we just went through. Following earlier posts on LMAM, we tried the Mohu Leaf antenna which worked great at our last residence. We moved about two weeks ago, and unfortunately – due to trees, or hills, or whatever – it wasn’t working out too well. So I sold my used Mohu on Amazon (actually another reason to try a Mohu; if it doesn’t work out – someone else will buy it. Ours sold for about $25 in less than 24 hours.) I VERY reluctantly called Time Warner and asked if they only had an option for local channels. They did – you have to ask for it, by the way. The TW guy showed up and fixed us up (we already had TW Road Runner) service, and no cable box was installed. We pay about $22 for the local channels option – which is a bargain since we still watch plenty of Hulu, Redbox, and other net-based TV when we want. Just throwing out the option to those who want to ditch at least SOME of their cable.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Ugh, I remember about 12 years the local channel option was around $9 and the full cable package was $25. Usually, the cable companies say that it costs more because there are more channels, but in general the local channels haven’t changed.

  2. Big-D says:

    @track your bucks .. is that high def? My local provider only provides high def local channels in QAM (thus need a cable card or TV card that can decrypt it). We have $17 for local channels, but that is SD. Just curious. I am doing OTA antenna and a Windows Media PC with 2 dual TV tuners in it and love every minute of it. Can watch TV on either xbox which are on both of my TVs for free.

  3. […] couple of years ago, set out to end cable box fees forever. That journey lead me to buy an HDHomeRun PRIME and hook it up a small computer running Windows […]

  4. […] couldn't think of much. I kind of want this Intel NUC to update our Windows Media Center that eliminates our cable box rental fees. The Dell Zino that I got 5 years ago is showing its […]

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