Last summer, my daughter asked to have a television in her room, initially I said no. I had my reasons, first there was the issue of getting the cable wiring to her room, and after the “how?” came the “what?” under the form of what content would be delivered to the TV.
I have a dual tuner satellite receiver from Bell (9241) in the basement, and a second, single tuner receiver (6131) upstairs. Both are HD capable but the second tuner on the 9241 is SD only. It’s also connected to the main house cable redistribution system, which does not reach my daughter’s room, but can be remote controlled using the receiver’s own UHF remote control.
Enter this small device: The AverMedia HomeFree AV+. It’s basically a stand alone set top box, which takes an output from any media device that provides a composite/SVHS out, or an ATSC antenna, sadly encodes it to its own proprietary streaming format, then re-broadcasts it on your local network and Wi-Fi.
The picture quality on a gigabit wired PC is surprisingly good, leaving little artifacts and allowing a viewer to easily follow a hockey game or F1 race. Things get slightly dodgy though, when using the iPad. First of all the app needs to be downloaded from the App Store, and although it’s a free app, it’s fairly limited allowing you to pick one of the three inputs, and to remote control any device plugged into the HomeFree AV+, by using an included IR blaster. In its defence, the app is easy to setup, searching your LAN for the broadcast automatically.
Then there’s the actual picture and sound quality on the iPad, even when streaming from an N (300Mbits theoretical) Wi-Fi network, the picture seems to skip a frame every few seconds, and the sound cuts in and out. News and soap operas are watchable and ok but don’t count on it for sports. Anything with more action than a game of curling looks like it’s slightly slo-motion and the sound is off by just enough to be nuisance.
The idea is fantastic, and the quality on a wired PC is great, but if you’re looking at this to watch the LFL on your iPad you might be disappointed.
Finally another problem I encountered and that is not mentioned anywhere either in the documentation brochure or website, is that the device does not multicast, thereby limiting any viewers to one, single device. Meaning that I cannot be watching Sidney Crosby get another concussion by violently receiving confetti on his helmet, simultaneously on my iPad, and on my PC. This could be a serious limitation for many people out there.
If you’re looking for a multicast solution perhaps one of the other products from AverMedia, like one of their streaming servers might do, or for the normal people out there who do not have 10.000$ to blow on a multicast streaming server, just use VLC Video Player with a decent video cap card. It’s a little more complex to configure but it’s worth the 9900$ savings.
As for my daughter, she can now enjoy a decent, if slightly choppy SD broadcast, in the comfort of her room, by borrowing my iPad. And even though the adverts and other reviews mention Android app support, a suitable player is nowhere to be found on the Android market, the proprietary format of the stream forbids any web-browser based viewing. All in all it’s a good device for the price paid, but if I had to choose between an actual TV and the iPad, I’d have to go with a TV.
So based on the above, I cannot recommend this device.
Price: 109$ (Staples)
Overall score: 6/10
-Suprisingly good performance on wired connection
-Nifty iOS App allows you to control the channels on your device by using IR blaster
-Extremely easy to setup
-Does not allow multicast
-No Android support at this time
-Sluggish performance on N band Wi-Fi (the point is to NOT need a wired connection)