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Review: The Mediasonic HOMEWORX Digital Converter Box HW130STB

By Brian
Published 07/26/2019
 | Updated 11/05/2021

If you have an old tube TV or a flat-screen that does not have a digital TV tuner, then the only way you can watch free broadcast channels on that TV is to get a digital converter box, or tuner box, as it is sometimes called.

You plug your TV antenna into the box, then you connect your box to your TV. It converts the signal either to an analog signal that your old TV can use, or to a digital HDMI signal that you can plug into a more modern HDTV.

Many of these boxes today have a USB port where you can plug in a USB drive or stick. You can then record broadcast TV shows for viewing later.

My Recommended Converter Box: The Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB

There are many converter boxes on the market today with almost the same feature set. At just $30, the Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB is one of the lower-cost units out there, but it has pretty much the same features as more expensive boxes.

Setup and Channel Search

I found the setup for the Mediasonic HOMEWORX box to be very easy. I never consulted the manual. I plugged in an antenna, plugged in power, then plugged it into my flat-screen Sony TV using an HDMI cable. Note that if you're using it with an old tube TV, you'd use the included analog cables instead.

Rear panel of the Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box
Rear Panel

After turning on my TV and selecting the appropriate HDMI input, I got the setup screen prompting me to do a channel search:

Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box setup screen
Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box setup screen

I kicked off the channel search by pressing the big OK button on the remote and it only took the unit a few minutes to do a complete channel scan:

Found channels on the HOMEWORX converter box
Found channels on the HOMEWORX converter box

After that, I could start watching live broadcast TV. Pretty simple!

Tuner Quality

The unit found 140 channels in its scan. For comparison, my excellent Sony HDTV found 154 channels.

So, the tuner is not quite as good as my Sony, but the vast majority of the channels it didn't find were ones I wouldn't watch anyway, i.e., foreign language, etc. It found all of the major networks and major local channels in my area (Los Angeles).

So, the tuner quality was more than sufficient for me.

Picture Quality and Channel Surfing

I was surprised that such a cheap unit could have such good picture quality. It was basically indistinguishable from my Sony TV's picture quality! HD channels looked crisp and colorful.

The unit was also pretty quick when changing channels. Time to change channels was about the same as my Sony.

The Weak Link: The Remote Control

The one annoying thing I noticed was that you have to point the remote control right at the unit. If you're off by a bit, it won't register. It's not the end of the world, but it would take some getting used to.

The remote control for the Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB
The remote control

If you read the reviews for other low-cost converter boxes, the remote control seems to be the weak link in most of them. Other units have problems with buttons triggering adjacent buttons, cheap feel, or like this one, the need to aim precisely.

If (or when) your remote breaks or gets lost, the good news is that the remote for this model is available separately on Amazon for only ten bucks. If you have the HW-150PVR, this is the remote on Amazon. Mediasonic also told me that their unit works with the Logitec Harmony remote control (now discontinued, but you may be able to find them on Amazon).

Setting Up a USB Drive or Stick

There's a USB port right on the front of the box where you can plug in a USB drive or flash stick. I chose the latter since I had a bunch laying around.

I plugged it in, and the unit immediately recognized it, but I couldn't get it to work at first. I went into the menus and realized that I had to initialize it first. After I did that, it worked fine.

Formatting a USB drive on the HOMEWORX converter box
Formatting a USB drive

Pausing and Recording Live TV

Even if you don't plan to use your converter box as a DVR, it might be nice to plug in a USB drive anyway so that you can pause live TV.

After I formatted the drive, I tried searching backward while watching live TV, but it wouldn't let me. I had to first pause to enter recording mode, then resume play. Then, it would let me rewind to the point at which I hit the pause button, or forward to the current time. Not the end of the world.

You can also just hit the record button to start a recording that you want to save. Super easy!

If you go into the menu system, you can find a page with your recordings. They are stored with somewhat cryptic file names but at least they contain the station call letters.

Page showing recording I made with the HOMEWORX converter box
Page showing recording I made

It took me a while to figure out how to replay my recording. The key is to look at the hints at the bottom of the screen which tell you which buttons to use on this page. I was able to select my recording and play it using this "legend".

File Format

The unit stores your recordings in .mts file format. You don't see this format a lot on computers, but it is used to store HD video on AVCHD and Blu-ray discs.

In spite of that, I was able to plug the USB stick into my Windows PC and play the .mts file recordings using Windows Media Player! Nice!!

If you Google around, you'll find plenty of software that can convert this format to more common computer formats like MOV, MP4, AVI, MPG, etc.

Scheduled Recordings (DVR Functionality)

The fact that is box can do any kind of recording at all is pretty amazing at this price point. There is also the capability to do scheduled recording. You set up these recordings on this page:

How to set up scheduled recordings on the HOMEWORX DVR
How to set up scheduled recordings

This is very reminiscent of how we used to set up recordings on old-school VCRs. But to my surprise, there is actually also a channel guide available if you press the EPG button! Press "OK" to record any show.

The Program Guide

Granted, it's not as flashy the channel guides on some of the more expensive DVRs out there like the Tablo, Channel Master Stream+, or the Amazon Fire TV Recast. Those are much easier set up recordings on, or even record whole seasons (however they require Internet access to display the guide). The Homeworx unit only shows one channel's shows at a time.

And note, you can't record one show while watching another since the unit only has one tuner.

But, as I mentioned, at this low price, this box is worth it just for the converter functionality. I see the DVR as a bonus that you may or may not use.

Signal Strength Meter

One thing this box does that my Sony TV doesn't is provide a signal strength meter.

Manual channel search page showing signal strength meter ("Quality") on the Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box
Manual channel search page showing signal strength meter ("Quality")

This can be VERY useful if you're trying to fine-tune your antenna placement.

Summary

This is an amazingly low-cost box that lets you use a broadcast TV antenna with your older TV with a basic but functional DVR as a bonus!

My only beef is that the remote control is pretty cheap and you have to aim the remote precisely at the unit in order for it to trigger. This was annoying but not a show-stopper for me.

The picture quality and functionality of this one are great. If you need to find a converter box for your tube TV or older flat screen, check this one out! You can find it on Amazon:

Hope this review was helpful to you. Let me know what you think of the Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB in the comments below, or send me a question!

If you want a DVR that is easier to use, with more features, check out the Tablo! - Brian

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
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Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

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I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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John Hymann
John Hymann
1 month ago

Don't waste your money! It all sounds good and while its working its great but the reliability is terrible. I have 2 of them both with the same problem of trying to control from the remote is impossible making the unit useless. Its not the remote malfunctioning its internal to the unit . They both were junk in no time....waste of money.

Alice Barragan
Alice Barragan
2 months ago

What can i do to get those channels back

Alice Barragan
Alice Barragan
2 months ago

I have rescaned several times i cant get ch 2 or any of the 30's

Ernie
Ernie
3 months ago

Awesome review on the Mediasonic Brian. I think I can make all of this work once I get past the problem of viewing a guide. I looked at the Titan TV guide site and signed up as a member. Though tedious to use, it will be well worth the savings cutting the satellite cost out. I have a second TV in another room, a Westinghouse flat screen tv which perhaps by splitting the antenna feed to it perhaps I will be able to have a built-in guide not requiring internet connection. I will determine whether it has a guide or not before putting the Mediasonic converter box on it. Not much point in recording if you don't know what is on in advance. It's all a work in progress but well worth it. Thanks for all your help Brian.

Brian
3 months ago
Reply to  Ernie

Hi Ernie,

Thanks for sharing, and glad you were able to use some of this info.

Best,
Brian

Ernie
Ernie
3 months ago

Thank you for your reply Brian. The TV is an LG. Tablo would probably not work for me because it seem it uses internet? Ursheng recorder box and I think Mediasonic makes one that does not need wifi. This is all new territory for me.

Brian
3 months ago
Reply to  Ernie

Hi Ernie,

Ah, right. Yes, the Mediasonic doesn't require Intenet access. Here's my review of it:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/mediasonic-homeworx-digital-converter-box/

I don't own an LG but wouldn't be surprised if it does require an internet connection to show the guide. For an alternative, check out the Titan TV guide on your phone:
https://www.titantv.com/

Best,
Brian

David
David
4 months ago

Thanks for posting this. I was about to return the unit bc, for the life of me, I could not get the USB to work. Didn't know that it needed to be formatted, let alone how to do it. Thanks to your information, I can now record live TV, pause it, and set up scheduled recordings. It's unbelievable that I don't have to pay anything for HD locals OR DVR capability. Thank you!

Brian
4 months ago
Reply to  David

Awesome, thanks for posting David! I'm glad my article was helpful!

Best,
Brian

maw2980
maw2980
9 months ago

I have an old Sony TV. We only get analog channels. I don't have a router or a modem. Will this gadget work? I'm in a campground and the only cable company refuses to give out more routers.

JULIO CASANOVA
JULIO CASANOVA
9 months ago

Why does my homeworx box stop working. All connections show "on." All was ok and all of sudden we don't receive the local channels...help!

calirad
calirad
9 months ago

Hi Brian,
The product description on Mediasonic's site states: "Real-Time Recording & Programmed Time Recording, recording require user to connect a USB 2.0 or 3.0 2.5" / 3.5" External Hard Drive via USB (Up to 2TB, MBR format) (USB Flash Drive Not recommended)"

It's that last parenthetical that concerns me. I can't reach anyone at their contact line to ask why a USB flash drive is not recommended tho' you say you used one and there were no identifiable problems.

The description for their product next up the line (HW-150PVR), on the other hand, states: "Recording function require users to use their own USB 3.5" external hard drive (Support up to 2TB) or USB flash drive (Support up to 64GB)"

Do you have any insight into this state of affairs and do you think now there might be some problem you didn't consider at first using a flash drive with the HW130STB? Thanks so much.

Don
Don
1 year ago

Mr. Shim,

I enjoyed your article on the Homeworx Mod:HW130STB and have a few questions:

1-in your article, the Homeworx does not show a usb port in front or back, only an HDMI, so where do you connect your external usb thumb drive?

2-also, with having an HDMI port, can I connect my ROKU device to it? with the Homeworx having audio/video outputs, then I can connect a vcr to it and

I presume that I can record a program?

3-Can you only record the program you’re watching or can you watch one channel and record another?

4-also, it has a Scheduled Recording function…so, I can set it up to record a program when I am not there?

The other similar products you imply are better…would any of those provide a good result and easier setup that I’m looking for?

Thanks again for your expertise and info.

PS I don’t know how to connect any other manner than thru email, sorry.

Regards
Don

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Don

Hi Don,

Thanks for your questions. Here are my responses:

1. The USB port is on the front, to the right of the Power button.
2. No, you can't connect a Roku to this box, however, you can use a Roku on the same TV that you use this box with. I suppose you could connect the outputs of this box to a VCR and record to a tape, but I've never tried that myself.
3. This only has one tuner, so you can't record one program while watching another.
4. Yes, you can set it up to record a program while you're not there.

If you want a more fully-featured and more user-friendly option, I would recommend the Tablo. Read more about that here:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/tablo-dvr/

Best,
Brian

p.w., you can respond by leaving a comment on my website, and I can answer there.

Cris Takacs
Cris Takacs
1 year ago

Love the unit. Cannot figure out the closed captioning. Several options, but the only one that seems to work is captions while the sound is on. How do I get captions on MUTE? Thanks

hvacgaspiping
hvacgaspiping
1 year ago

I have a 120 stb box, and it works fine. The only problem I have is that I can`t record anything more than 21 hours in advance. Is there any way to program things several days ahead?

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  hvacgaspiping

Hmmm, I don't have that exact model, but I don't see why it wouldn't record more than 21 hours in advance... Maybe check the manual?

Brian

hvacgaspiping
hvacgaspiping
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

I went through the manual several times, and it never said anything about this issue. I don`t think this unit can do any more than it already has.

jannatul fardous
jannatul fardous
1 year ago

Thank you for share this review.
palmer-tk

George Albert Villa Sanchez
George Albert Villa Sanchez
2 years ago

Hello Brian,

Thanks for your review.
Can I use this box to watch tv with my projector?

Gavilan

Myles
Myles
2 years ago

No VHF Low or VHF High channels? At what frequency does your Homeworx start the scan? How high does the scan go?

Needs help
Needs help
2 years ago

We recently bought the Homeworx HW130STB. We live in Alaska & I need to reset the internal clock, but I can't find out how. First of all, Alaska (-9) time in between Pacific (-8) & Hawaii (-10), not to the west of Hawaii time as listed on their time zone options. Secondly, while on DST, I set it at Hawaii time & it was only 3 min off. Now, back on standard time and after a power outage, it's 3 hrs off (Hawaii time); 4 hrs off for DST option; 2 hrs off on AK standard time; and 3 hrs off AK DST (plus the 3 min on all of these). I need to set it 1 time zone more to the west, but it only gives me USA, Canada & Mexico options.

At this point I can't keep it straight without trying all the options & writing them down. I just need to set it correctly so I don't have to do the math every time I want to set it to record.

Can you tell me how to change the internal clock?? Please??!!

PS - This is the 2nd very similar tuner we've owned & the internal clock was off on that one, too, but more like 23 minutes.

Frankie1429
Frankie1429
2 years ago

Hi Brian. I have a Homeworx box and was using a Logitech My Harmony remote to control all of my entertainment devices. Unfortunately, that remote is getting hard to operate, so I bought an RCA Universal remote. MediaSonic and/or Homeworx are not on the list of codes and automatic search doesn't work either. RCA Remote Support was of no help. Do you happen to know the code? The remote is RCR414BHE by RCA and the box is a Homeworx HW-150PVR.

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