The iPad’s missing link found: streaming TV

I gave up on using the iPad as a notebook replacement months ago and began to appreciate its brilliance as a media player. I now use it for quick web surfing and email checks but mostly for watching movies and TV shows downloaded from iTunes.

But the missing link is live TV on the iPad and I’ve been looking for a solution for months – mostly because there’s only one TV in the house and nothing’s more frustrating than having to fight over who gets to watch what. AverMedia’s HD HomeFree Duet has provided one solution by streaming a big fat raw TV signal to my iPad via the home Wi-Fi network. Since the HomeFree Duet has two tuners it can also stream to a second computing device so I also set up my notebook to receive TV as well.

Having set up the HomeFree Duet at home I can sit on the couch and watch another freeview TV channel while a show about English antiques is running on the main TV. Or I can get up and watch it in the study or anywhere else in the house where there is a wireless signal. Or in the garage. Or in the backyard. You’re only limited by the range of your wireless signal.

Although the AverMedia HD HomeFree Duet has HD in the title only devices which have the appropriate graphics hardware to display an HD signal will show HD. Disappointingly the iPad hasn’t got the engine to show a full HD TV streaming signal so you’ll see it in standard definition but it still looks good. In fact when you finally get the TV signal on your iPad and you’re able to take it around the house with you it’s definitely one of those technology “wow” moments. Not earth-shattering by any means but life has suddenly gotten more convenient.

The beauty of the HomeFree Duet is that the receiving devices such as iPads or notebooks (or desktops) don’t need any tuners or extra hardware – just a connection to the home wireless network and software and drivers from AverMedia that come with the package (and which can be updated online). On the iPad you can find the HomeFree Duet software in the App Store. The streaming device also comes with software that makes it work with Windows Media Center.

Setting up the HomeFree Duet was straightforward. I ran an ethernet cable from my Wi-Fi network router to the device and plugged the aerial into the back of it. I then installed the software from the App Store onto the iPad. For me it worked first go but a big caveat here: the performance of the TV signal does depend heavily on the performance of your network and the ability of the receiving device to play back video. It was hassle-free for me but in checking what others had to say about it in forums it’s evident that people on G connections can have issues – and so do those who don’t download the latest firmware from AverMedia.

In all an absolute must-have for iPad and if you’re into watching TV on notebooks.

Available from Altech retailing for $179.
APC rating: 9/10 (Editor’s Choice)