Microsoft makes a big deal about how the Xbox One lets you watch live TV directly through the console. Just plug your cable box into the HDMI In slot, they say, and you can view the full channel guide and schedule your DVR without ever switching inputs. You can even change channels with voice commands (if you have Kinect) and "Snap" the video to the side of the screen while you play a game.
Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn't given much love to cord cutters, at least in the United States. The console itself lacks an RF antenna input, and while users in Europe can buy an official Xbox One TV tuner, that device won't work for U.S. broadcasts — and there's no word on whether we'll see a proper U.S. version.
There is, however, a workaround: Reading through some recent posts in Reddit's cord-cutters forum, I discovered a $35 box called the MediaSonic HomeWorx HW180STB.
The HomeWorx HW180STB is both an analog-to-digital converter and an over-the-air tuner for U.S. ATSC broadcasts. Equally important, it has an HDMI output that can be connected to an Xbox One, enabling most of the gaming console's TV features.
Here's what you need:
- MediaSonic HomeWorx HW180STB (Amazon has it for $35)
- Two AAA batteries
- A TV antenna (This $12 amplified one works for me; TVFool can help you figure out what range antenna you need.)
- An extra HDMI cable
- Either Kinect or some IR extension cables (any off-the-shelf ones with a 3.5mm jack should suffice.)
Setting up the box
Before connecting the MediaSonic box to your Xbox One, you'll first want to plug it directly into your television via HDMI. You should also plug your TV antenna into the box's RF In jack before before powering the box on.
MediaSonic's remote control doesn't come with batteries, so you'll need to supply your own, at least to get through setup. From the setup screen, scroll to the "Channel Search" option and hit OK. Wait a few minutes while the box scans for over-the-air channels.
Once the scanning is done and you have live TV coming through, unplug the HDMI cable from your television and plug it into the HDMI In jack on the back of the Xbox One. The cable should run from the MediaSonic box to the game console, and a second HDMI cable should run from the Xbox One's HDMI Out jack to to your TV.
Fine-tuning the Xbox One
Turn on the Xbox One, press your controller's start button (the one with three horizontal lines) and go to Settings and then to TV & OneGuide (under the Console section). You'll land on the Device control menu, where you should select "Cable or satellite box." Don't worry about MediaSonic's status as a lowly DTV converter; you should still select "Cable or satellite box setup" from the next screen.
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