Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB 3 / 4 Channel HDTV Digital Converter Box with Recording and Media Player (New Version)

Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB 3 / 4 Channel HDTV Digital Converter Box with Recording and Media Player (New Version)
From Mediasonic

List Price: $34.99
Price: $28.30 Details

Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

16 new or used available from $22.99

Average customer review:
(3.5 stars, based on 2475 reviews)

Product Details

  • Sales Rank: #311 in Home Theater
  • Brand: Mediasonic
  • Model: HW180STB
  • Dimensions: 2.00" h x 8.00" w x 8.40" l,

Features

  • Receive Over-The-Air Digital Broadcast to your Analog and Digital TV, Projector, and Computer Monitor. Antenna Out Analog Pass Through, Favorite Channel List, Parental Control Function,USB Multimedia Player Function.
  • Auto Tuning, HDMI 1080P Output / Composite Out / Coaxial Output, Closed Caption,Real-Time recording & Programmed Time Recording, Auto, 16:9 Pillar Box, 16:9 Pan G Scan, 4:3 Letter Box, 4:3 Pan G Scan, 4:3 Full, 16:9 Wide Screen. Timing Start Up & Shut Down.
  • Recording require user to connect a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 2.5" / 3.5" External Hard Drive via USB (Up to 2TB).
  • **PLEASE NOTE**:This converter box is designed to receive Over-The-Air signal, and it is not a replacement of cable box. External Antenna is required to connect to this converter box in order to receive signal. This product does NOT Work with TIVO and cable company such as Comcast, DirecTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, etc. In general, this product does NOT work with encrypted cable signal

Media sonic HOMEWORX HW180STB is a digital converter box which converts Over-The-Air ATSC digital broadcast to your analog and digital TV. The built-in Media Player function allows user to play back picture and video files via USB connection. The built-in recording function allows user to record their TV programs and play back. Please Note: this converter box is designed to receive Over-The-Air signal, and it is not a replacement of cable box. External Antenna is required to connect to this converter box in order to receive signal.


Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

93 of 98 people found the following review helpful.
5Works good as a low budget DVR.
By Coz
I cant compare to other options that are out there. But I had been looking for a DVR option for over the air broadcast's. Most purpose built DVR's are expensive and/ or have a monthly service fee. If you want to record you do need to add your own USB external memory. I had a usb drive already. My main goal was to be able to pause live TV. This product does that excellently. You can also set to record from the menu. That option works well but is not as easy as a high end unit. But for the price. A+++++

504 of 547 people found the following review helpful.
5Love the HW150PVR, this one too! GREAT for those w/ special needs ͡° ͜ʖ ͡° !
By Trancelucence
[Updated review] I decided to buy another Homeworx unit for the spare bedroom. I'm a big fan of their previous recording model, the HW150PVR, though it has a glitch or two. I've been waiting for Mediasonic to bring out another recorder- this 2nd generation HW180STB is it (the 1st generation model doesn't record). I tried to cover a lot of bases in this review, just pick and choose what may be useful to you.

The specs in the listing say "Composite Out/Component (YPbPr) Output" but no such jacks [green/blue/red] are shown in the photo, a puzzle. After receiving the unit, I found that the photo is correct, the description is not. The older 150PVR has these jacks (I need them for my Samsung analog HD DVD recorder). It also has a coaxial digital out jack for playing Dolby 5.1. (HDMI also carries Dolby signals.)

The 180STB is smaller than the 150PVR, maybe ¾ the size- LxW smaller than a 6" Kindle, and less than 1½" thick- TINY, but a little dynamo. The remote is smaller than the original too, performs a few more functions and the buttons are placed differently, so some re-learning there. They're a definite improvement. The legends for play, pause, stop, fast forward, rewind, skip forward, and skip back are now shown in white on the keys themselves, along with the words below each key. And, the buttons are better situated. The Menu, Exit, EPG, and TV List buttons form a square around the volume and channel up down keys, which form a diamond with OK in the center. Much easier to see at a glance and feel, and learn.

In a nutshell, both units do a comparable job of recording (crystal clear), output signals in SD/HD via RF-coax cable, RCA cables (red/white/yellow), and HDMI, and at various resolutions/screen widths, allow pausing of live TV, etc. The menu functions look to be nearly identical. I heartily recommend both. Here are the relative advantages of each:

The 150PVRPVR:
-Has a Digital coax out jack for Dolby Surround Sound.
-Has a Composite Out/Component (YPbPr) High-res Video Output for accessories that can make use of this signal
- Can tune cable channels (unencrypted QAM) with the QAM firmware update

The 180STBSTB:
-Has a better remote (though smaller)
-Presumably has the latest programming and circuitry
-Displays multiple pages of the programming guide
-Has a small form factor for tight spaces
[NOTE: I don't have cable, but I read in Daniel Solomon's review that he has used it to tune cable. See his review for details. I imagine the process will be streamlined with a future firmware update.]

One caveat- I did various recording, all went well, except when I hit the RECORD button and just let it go- it stopped precisely on the next hour (started at 5:02 pm and stopped at 6:00 pm exactly). Don't know why, found nowhere to specify automatic recording duration. I plan to go back and play with this. [Have done and results are inconsistent. I thought perhaps it was stopping, as would be ideal, when the program was over, but sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't so I'm stumped.] However, it's easy enough to circumvent by hitting the TIMER button instead, then ADD (the current channel and time pop up) then enter the time you want it to stop. A few extra button presses but takes only a few seconds, and works fine that way.

UPDATE: I used this for a month or so then reverted to my older model in the living room. But when I used it the default mode for any type of recording was "record." I just moved it to another room, hooked up a new antenna and hard drive, and now the default mode is "view." (WTH? I didn't even know it existed). This is now the case whether I'm attempting to record from the program guide or by entering a manual timer. I mention this because if you're having trouble recording, look down at the last option- "Mode" and change it to RECORD. I'm actually delighted it changed somehow or other to VIEW mode because it's a function I used daily when I had DISH.

DETAILS: When I scanned for channels, the new unit found 146 over-the-air channels, the same as my other unit. On the 150PVR, in EPG (program guide) mode, on a particular channel it might show "Page 1 of 4" but I could never get it to page down beyond the first page of program listings. I was gratified to see that this unit/remote does (via both the down arrow button, down one listing at a time, and the NEXT/fast forward button, for a page at a time, even though unlike the 150PVR it always showed Page 1 of 1, even when on subsequent pages). So now I can record something more than just a few hours ahead by paging forward then hitting OK/Enter while on a program listing. What I've done in the past if I knew something was coming up was set a manual timer. How nice. [Update: it's no longer paging down while in EPG mode- why I haven't a clue. It still pages down fine in another mode though, discussed further along. I'm wondering if it has to do with some interaction of the unit's insufficient internal memory with the fact that I hooked it to a weaker indoor antenna, but I don't know enough about such things.]

I went to Mediasonic's website to see if there was a firmware update (for this AND my 150PVR, since an issue came up, mentioned below). I couldn't find any- in reading a bit in the forums it seems you ask and they now send them to you by email- apparently people downloaded and applied the wrong updates and froze their units (I've emailed them several times- they're responsive and helpful). There doesn't seem to be a firmware update for this unit yet (it's new). To check later, or see if you have the latest update for your 150PVR, you can go to:

forum.mediasonic.ca/

...(they're in Canada) and type in or copy and paste into the search box:

HW-150PVR Firmware versions

...the page that results explains how to check which version you have and what's what. I couldn't find anything about this new unit, but I only had a quick look round. UPDATE: there are lots of posts and question there now, and tips on who to contact to get the answers you need. Still no firmware update, as of 4/15/15.

The issue I had was that I plugged a hard-drive with 150PVR recordings on it into the 180STB. It recognized the drive, listed the recordings, but wouldn't play them. I recorded several things using the 180STB onto this drive- it interspersed/listed these new recordings with the old, and played the new recordings just fine. They were also listed as .mts recordings, same as the older ones. I'm stumped. I went to the mediasonic forum to see if I could find out anything there, and thought updating the firmware on both might resolve the issue. But both units seem to have the latest firmware. I plugged the drive into the 150PVR, and likewise, it couldn't play the NEW recordings. I plugged the drive into my computer, and VLC Media Player played BOTH units' recordings just fine.

This partly comes into play for me because of the feature I like most about the 150PVR, its ability to auto-play recordings (discussed in detail below). And yes, the 180STB does it too, hooray. But this compatibility thing may be an issue for current 150PVR owners (I'm sure some computer whiz out there will know what's up). Anyway, for now I won't be able to swap hard-drives between the two units/rooms.

The bottom line is you'll need a dedicated hard-drive, either new or one you can let the 180STB format and set up. I like Toshiba Canvio drives, have several of them now, loaded with movies and entire TV series. I've never had one malfunction, and they're reasonably priced. They come pre-formatted in the requisite NTFS format.

Note: Some of the following is contained in my 150PVR review. As with with that model, the 180STB is just as easy to set up. There's a bit of a curve involved in learning to use it, but it's surprisingly intuitive, the remote too.

The buttons on the remote have different functions depending on what mode you're in, but since the options are shown on the screen whenever they differ from the buttons' usual functions, it becomes second nature surprisingly fast. It's evident that considerable thought has gone into which buttons have been programmed for which additional functions. The newer remote is a big improvement functionally because it does more than the older remote (in program guide, for example, details below).

We have a large rooftop TV antenna my Dad put up about 40 years ago (yes, it brings in digital signals perfectly- digital signals are broadcast via VHF and UHF bands just like the old analogue signals were, it's the decoding mechanism that's changed)- it brings in stations from miles around. I live in the LA area and it also brings in stations from Orange County, so it auto-found 146 stations (15 PBS stations alone, so cool). Obviously, as with any tuner, you need the largest, most elaborate antenna you can accommodate to pull in more channels.

As I said before, the issue I was most concerned about was whether the 180STB would retain the ability to auto-play recordings. I found with the 150PVR that when you played a recording and let it run, it continued to play them one after another in the order they're in on the hard-drive. My mother visits often and has poor eyesight, so can't see to use a remote very well, though she can make out some images on the TV and likes to listen to certain programs. She also has dementia, gets confused/frustrated easily. This one too automatically plays one after another, great. I record a whole list of shows she likes and have them play automatically, she needn't do a thing. Though she hasn't the eyesight (or patience) to mess with the remote, I painted the PAUSE key with bright orange nail polish, she can push it to pause or un-pause if need be, that's all she needs.

And since the unit auto-tunes to programs you have set to record, and you can watch them while recording, I can pre-set it that way to tune automatically to a channel, or to programs I know she wants to watch, like Judge Judy, Huell Howser, whatever (and keep the recordings that were a big hit, delete the others). UPDATE: as mentioned above, the "view mode" will auto-tune to my mom's shows WITHOUT recording. This is a huge improvement over the former model. Obviously we don't need recordings of Judge Judy, the local news or game shows. I can plan the evening's viewing and just sit back and let it tune.

The Skip Ahead/Back key when you're in USB/PVR mode, looking at the list of recordings, skips forward and back by recording- it will advance to the next or the previous recording on the hard drive. So handy. I've worked with special needs populations, in residential, hospital and classroom settings, and this feature allows caregivers/teachers/aides, whomever to advance from recording to recording, to illustrate points while teaching/training (for example, skip from one exercise video to another one). You can watch just part of a recording, and then skip to next one- show just the scenes you want in each recording. There's also fast forward and back buttons, so you can go forward or back at 32X speed within a recording, to quickly find the scene you need. There are many uses for these features.

Another reason I wanted a second unit is that I volunteer in the skilled nursing/rehab facility where my mom lives. There's little in the way of recreation or entertainment there in the evening- like a ghost town, the time when many are most anxious, at loose ends. This little unit took less than 30 seconds to hook up to the big screen TV in the activities room (ditto with the TV in my mom's room). This way I can show whatever to residents, tailor showings- for example, old Carol Burnett shows and skits, I Love Lucy, big band performances, Shirley Temple movies, the Beverly Hillbillies, etc. Men really like Star Trek, Batman, Sanford and Son, Bonanza, etc., I've noticed. Anyway, last night The Monkees and Ozzie and Harriet were big hits. I've showed movies on DVD before and read aloud to patients but TV shows are much better. Seeing old favorites with which they're FAMILIAR is comforting, puts residents at ease and gives them a reason and opportunity to socialize- they can laugh together and feel connected, whatever their cognitive status (even those who can't speak). A silver lining to the cloud of dementia and memory loss is that sufferers can enjoy their favorite shows over and over.

UPDATE: She's coming home now, this unit will improve the quality of her life exponentially. She'll be in bed most of the time. Besides the obvious (things she loves to watch), I had previously put family photos on her Kindle and then on a tablet for her. Now I'm putting those on the 180STB's new drive, she can see them on the big screen.

Regarding the auto-play feature in general (the fact that recordings automatically play one after the other), if you have small children, cognitively/ perceptually challenged children, adults or seniors or seriously ill patients who can't master a remote or the TV in general, this will allow you to have something good (and/or reviewed for appropriate content) going in the background all day or evening long. Ditto with instructional or training materials. Perfect for daycare, nursing homes, hospices, assisted living, residential treatment, invalids (store displays too). I use it sometimes to have favorite/inspiring programs playing in the background while I'm doing whatever. UPDATE: Or, you can program it to auto-tune to whatever.

The unit automatically lists recordings on the hard drive in alphabetical/numeric order, so if you want them to play non-stop in a particular order, just rename them with 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C at the beginning of each file/recording name. The renaming process is easy and works flawlessly (more on this below).

OTHER ISSUES:

I imagine, as with the older unit, this one will commence recording at the designated time, but only if the channel indicates the program is actually on. For example, if a program has been preempted by a football game, it won't record (nor will it if both the program and the time don't match the local station's data). The unit bases its time on the time given by individual stations. It will commence recording according to a timer you've set, but if the station's time doesn't match the unit's time it will stop.

There's one batch of stations in the LA area that ALWAYS has the wrong time [channels 8.1 thru 8.6- annoying because some of my favorite shows are on these stations, like Da Vinci's Inquest, Dark Shadows, early Doctor Whos and other rarities- UPDATE: these stations are either temporarily or permanently off the air now]. If you want to record these you have to leave the box on the desired channel AND use that station's time (obviously, a hassle, too much trouble but the point is that it's the stations' fault, not the unit's). It's too complicated to discuss here, but you can't do this while ALSO having other timers set for stations with the correct time (due to dueling time conflicts, nothing will record properly). I emailed the station(s) asking them to please sync their times, to no avail. [BTW, half the time they don't bother to upload/broadcast info for the program guide- if you want to see what's on you have to go to their websites, and often the times given there are wrong too!]

A programming/recording feature I like is the fact that if you attempt to program a recording and it conflicts with another you've already set, you're given the option to cancel the existing one, right there, very handy.

Two other useful features- first, when you continue viewing a program you've already watched part of, a box pops up asking you if you want to continue or start over, so it remembers where you left off!

Second, at first I was annoyed that I always had to press a button to make the image full screen when playing back recordings. But it's in this "editing" or organizing mode that you have extra options, for example, the foregoing. Also in this mode, you can delete old recordings, look at any recording while fast forwarding with a time elapsed/time remaining counter on the screen- so for example if you want to fast forward to the last five minutes of a program you can (you see the video fast forwarding in a smaller window).

Another option you have in this organizing mode is renaming recordings. Since you're looking at the list of recordings you already have while doing it, you can rename a new recording accordingly, e.g., BORGEN3,6 (Borgen season 3 episode 6) or whatever. This allows you to be consistent so you can watch episodes of a particular program in order. If you DON'T do this, the unit orders programs by channel and then by date. So if you've recorded Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and American Masters on PBS this week, for example, they'll play in that order. OR, you can plug the hard-drive into your computer to organize/rename recordings, if you know what you're doing.

One feature both units share that I LOVE is that you can see detailed info on any program for which the channel has provided it. PBS stations tend to give long, detailed descriptions. For some reason, when you're in EPG mode (seeing what's on a particular channel for hours ahead), and you highlight a particular program, sometimes the long description provided will be listed on the right-hand side of the screen and sometimes it won't (or it will be wrong, or jumbled). If you hit the INFO button twice while on a particular channel, you get a listing of whatever's on now and what's coming on next. Provided are the long descriptions of each, even when they don't appear or are jumbled in the EPG. For example, if a show like Masterpiece Mystery is listed and there's no description showing in the EPG, you can do this (within 1-2 hours before it begins, anyway), read the description and see which MM it is, and what episode. Sometimes the description is several pages long- to page down through it you use the NEXT/Skip Forward button on the newer unit. I do this a lot, though I've been unable to get past page one with the older unit.

I haven't explored either unit's full capabilities, but according to the specs they can play video in multiple formats (play music and display photos too). With video conversion software one could convert ANY video to play- old home movies, videos downloaded from the internet, old VHS tapes, anything. And organize it all, easily find and show anything, right at your fingertips, on any TV. Toss this little guy in your bag and take it to Aunt Minnie's house, to work or a meetup group. So MANY possibilities.

If your TV has a built-in digital (ATSC) tuner, you'll have two tuners so you can watch one thing while recording another, utilizing the unit's built-in pass thru feature, which passes the raw signal thru to the TV's own tuner just like old VCRs used to do. If your TV lacks such a tuner, you can use any set-top box. You could easily hook up a 2nd 180STB to record two shows at once, connect both of them to your TV with an A-B switch from Radio Shack, if you haven't the jacks on your television to accommodate two units (you'd also need a splitter to split the incoming antenna signal into two leads to feed both).

My Zenith TV has two sets of RCA jacks (red, yellow, white), I have the HW-180STB connected to one set of jacks and a [fabulous] ROKU unit connected to the other set of jacks. This setup lets me watch virtually any video source from the internet with the ROKU- like Amazon Instant Video or other subscription services like Acorn, MHZ, Hulu Plus, Netflix, etc. (as well as zillions of free sources, even you tube). The 180STB not only tunes but records any over-the-air channel (INCLUDING PBS stations that show Acorn and MHZ programming for FREE). BTW, regarding that autoplay feature I like so much, Crackle (LOVE this free station), does it too, thru the Roku box- it auto-plays TV shows in episode order or movies in alphabetical order within a category. I'm currently, leisurely working my way thru the Larry Sanders show (what a pleasure- seeing Peter Falk, Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Carol Burnett, so many people again, at the top of their game and with few restraints). No need to do anything, just pause, leave and it resumes when you go back- GREAT. And its FREE!

And BTW, if you have high-speed internet thru a cable company, even if you don't subscribe to their cable TV service, they usually include movie channels (like EPIX) free of charge via the internet along with your internet service- you can watch THOSE on your TV with a ROKU box.

With the number and quality of over-the-air channels and offerings ever-increasing, there's lots to watch and record with this NIFTY unit. So satisfying to kick satellite or cable to the curb and find better uses for one's cash. And for an initial outlay of under $40- AWESOME!

281 of 305 people found the following review helpful.
4Very nice digital converter that works best with OTA content
By Paul S. Remington
UPDATE 10/19/15: This product has failed and has been thrown in the trash. For the last month, my reception has slowly deteriorated. Thinking it was the indoor HDTV antenna I was using, I decided to purchased and install an outside antenna with a preamp. I wired this to my house cable wiring and it works great! Except for the TV where the Mediasonic HW180STB is installed. That TV receives signals terribly pixelated. I then direct wired the line to the TV, bypassing the Mediasonic, then tuned the Samsung flat screen. All my channels are back! It's the Mediasonic tuner that's the problem.

So I've reduced this review to four stars. It's a good box, as long as it's running properly.
------------------------------------
ORIGINAL REVIEW

Having been locked in the cable and satellite television market for years, I've been accustom to using a rented box to receive my television stations. We recently "cut the cord" and ditched our cable TV, which freed up about $800 a year in television bills. In the process, we purchased this box as a way to receive local over-the-air (OTA) content. It's been since I was a child, in the 1970s, that I last pulled stations in using an antenna. Boy, has this process changed, and for the better! No more staticy, ghosty signals that constantly require adjusting the "rabbit ears" to pull the signal in well.

After much research, I chose the Mediasonic HW180STB HomeWorx digital converter. This little box grabs signals from your antenna, converts the analog signal to its digital constituent, then passes this processed signal to your television or home theater receiver for viewing. The advantage of using this converter, for us, is it unlocks Dolby Digital 5.1 over an HDMI line to our home theater receiver. Our television doesn't have an HDMI return channel feature to pass the audio from the television back to the receiver, so if we didn't have this box, we'd forever have to use the television's internal tuner and speaker, leaving our surround sound unused.

After receiving the converter, I set up this little box in a matter of minutes. It was really simple! All I did was plug in the HDMI cable from our old cable box into the HDMI out on the back of the converter. This cable runs to our home theater receiver, but it could also go directly to our television. I then plugged the antenna in and plugged the convert into an AC outlet--done! When this was complete, I powered it up. After the box booted, I pressed the Menu button. From there, it's very easy to locate the Antenna Tune function from the onscreen GUI. A total OTA tune took only a few minutes, and this tuner found 28 channels in our modest, local market.

The first thing I noticed was how rich and sharp the 1080i stations are. Cable and satellite stations utilize a compression algorithm to reduce bandwidth. The compression used is lossy and produces a "softer" image than OTA images. Using this box, you get uncompressed OTA digital stations. I found the OTA 1080i images to be really stunning! They contain sharper detail than their cable/satellite counterparts.

After you've completed a tune, you can press the extended programing guide button to see what's on each channel. Unlike cable and satellite tuners, you don't get an overall guide showing everything on every channel. Rather, you get the schedule for what's on the station you're currently watching. This information is encoded into the digital OTA signal. Using the tuner in my Samsung television, I wasn't able to view the channel programming guide. That's a nice feature that the Mediasonic digital converter provides that is really handy.

If you want to view cable stations, the Mediasonic HW180STB also supports tuning to your cable provider's cable line. This tuning process takes quite a bit longer. I left the room and came back in five or ten minutes. It also isn't as feature rich as your cable provider's cable box. You won't have a fancy program guide, for example. We cancelled our cable service, but I connected the cable line and performed a cable tune to see if I could grab anything off our cancelled service. Sure enough, I was able to tune all our local stations and a few cable stations. Unfortunately, the tuner also grabbed 167 scrambled stations, and the watchable channels it grabbed were mixed into these, making it very difficult to easily locate the channels I could watch. There was also no programming guide for each local channel. In addition to this, the local channel 1080i quality was inferior to the OTA content, so I wouldn't recommend viewing your local content this way. Using an OTA antenna is really the way to go, if you can do it.

The Mediasonic converter can act as a DVR. Mediasonic refers to their DVR function as PVR. The PVR feature records programs either by pressing record while viewing a program or scheduling a program to be recorded at a later time. Unlike many DVRs, you cannot watch one channel while recording another. Programs can be recorded to either a USB thumb drive (up to 64GB) or an external USB hard drive (up to 2TB).

Experimenting with the PVR feature, I found using a USB thumb drive to be inconsistent. I have several thumb drives of varying size. Some worked smoothly while others caused pixilation and screen freezing. I found two Verbatim thumb drives, each of the same size, were inconsistent. One worked well while the other failed. This failure could have been due to problems with read/write times to/from the drive chip, or it could be due to a problem that Mediasonic may correct in a later firmware update. There's no way for me to tell. I didn't test further to determine what was causing the inconsistency between each thumb drive.

In place of the thumb drive, I purchased a Western Digital Passport 1TB external hard drive. This worked perfectly. Recordings were captured smoothly and effectively. Playback was also excellent.

Using a memory device, such as a thumb drive or external hard drive, programs can also be paused and played during general viewing. This is helpful during those times you need to make a quick bathroom pit stop, grab a drink, or attend to something else. Mediasonic calls this their Time Sync feature. As with the PVR feature, pausing and playing a program only works well with properly supported devices. It uses the memory device attached to the box to buffer content when viewing is paused. If the storage device gives you problems when recording, you'll also have problems when pausing.

For the money, this is a fine digital converter. It supports a number of very helpful features, allows for HDMI connectivity (not found on all converter boxes), and supports both OTA antenna connectivity and cable/satellite connectivity. Its use really excels for OTA use.

If you're in need of a digital converter at a reasonable price, the Mediasonic HW180STB is a nice selection.

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