For all you cord-cutters out there, very little options are available for recording Over-the-Air (OTA) broadcasts. However, with a little digging and some DIY know-how, you can get your OTA shows (most of which are now broadcast in HD) recorded to watch at your convenience rather than when they are aired.
Currently most DVRs (i.e. digital video recorders) are of two types: a traditional cable company set-top-box (that you do not own) or a third-party device like a TiVo (that requires a monthly subscription and an Internet connection). Both of these defeat the whole purpose of cutting the cord.
However, there is third option called a PVR or Personal Video Recorder which is a glorified OTA digital tuner with a USB port for an external USB hard drive and a very basic VCR-like operating system.
Two companies currently produce these: Channel Master and Mediasonic.
This article will look at the relatively inexpensive mid-range Mediasonic HomeWorx HW-150PVR ATSC Digital Converter Box as the preferred OTA recording solution.
Steps to take for setting up your HomeWorx PVR
1. Unbox the HW-150PVR ATSC Digital Converter Box
2. Connect your TV’s external antenna coaxial cable to the coaxial antenna input on the back of the PVR
3. Connect an HDMI cable from the HDMI out port on the PVR to the HDMI input on your HD television
4. Plug in the AC power cord for the PVR into a wall outlet (or better yet, a surge protector)
5. Turn on your HD TV and set the video input to whatever HDMI input the PVR is on (mine is on HDMI 2).
6. Turn on the PVR and choose “Select Language,” then “Select Country,” and then “Search Channel.” The automatic channel scan will begin.
Next you need an external USB hard drive.
The PVR’s front-facing USB port has a USB 2.0 rating, but you can use a current self-powered USB 3.0 hard drive. Do not use a drive with larger than 1 Terabyte capacity. Even though the documentation says it can go higher, I find that a 1TB is more reliable with this device and less expensive. Any brand from Toshiba to Western Digital will do.
Note: do not use a USB flash drive! It will only work for brief period and then will utterly die on you!
The drive should be formatted for “Windows NTFS.” This will give you the best drive storage for recording and playback of HD broadcasts. You can use any Windows PC for the formatting or the PVR itself through its menu options. (Refer to the included manual with the device.)
From here you will be able to program your PVR just like an old-school VCR back in the 80s.
The interface is very bare-bones, but it does the job.
Follow these simple steps to set the PVR timer
1. Press the “Timer” key on the remote.
2. Press the “1” key on the remote.
3. Use the arrow keys to scroll down to the channel, date, time, and frequency options.
4. Press the “OK” key when done
5. Press the “Exit” key to exit the menu system
How to record one show while watching another
This is accomplished by using a signal splitter.
1. Connect the OTA antenna coaxial cable to a sign amplifier (easily obtained at any consumer electronics store)
2. Connect the output cable from the signal amplifier to an A/B signal splitter
3. Connect one coaxial cable from the A port on the splitter to your coaxial antenna input on your HD TV
4. Connect the other coaxial cable from the B port to your coaxial cable antenna input on the PVR
All you have to do after that is follow the steps for recording above.
Finally, when your spouse wants to watch The Bachelor and you want to watch Supergirl, and they are both on at the same time, the latter will record while she watches her show. And then everybody is happy!