Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Next Generation SageTV Extender Arrives – Hello HD300

Over the past several years SageTV has been able to differentiate itself from the Home Theater PC (HTPC) crowd with their dedicated hardware.  Their last extender – the SageTV HD Theater HD200 model was a definite success and considered top of the class when it comes to HTPC extenders.  Anyone who has wanted a new extender for SageTV recently has been out of luck since it’s been out of stock at the SageTV store since June 1st causing much speculation on the forums.  We now learn the reason for the lack of extenders this summer – the next-generation, SageTV HD300 is here.

5591 HD300 Angled

I’ve been using this new Extender/Media Player for weeks now and will have the full, GeekTonic review of the new HD300 later this afternoon (UPDATE:  The complete HD300 Review is here), but I wanted to run through the important highlights of this next-generation SageTV HD Theater:

Small & Light Footprint

5 1/16" W x 1 1/2" H x 4" D

The HD300 has a small footprint.  Even smaller than the last version HD200.  Here’s a photo of the HD300 next to a deck of cards to give you a feel for how small.

SageTV HD300 & Playing Cards


Faster CPU & More Memory

Compared to the HD200 it has a 1.5x faster processor, 2x more memory bandwidth, and 2x the total RAM memory.  I’ll go into more detail on the chipset & capabilities in the review.

HD Audio & DTS Decode/downmix

HDMI 1.3 output w/ support for Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD/MA passthrough.  An important feature that many SageTV enthusiasts have been clamoring for.

DTS decode/downmix to 2 channel – Those Blu-ray discs will play on all TVs and receivers even if you don’t have HD-Audio.

External IR Receiver Support

An external IR receiver is sold separately.  I have one with my test HD300 and it not only allows you to hide the HD300 in a cabinet or mount behind your flat-screen TV – it also gives you excellent IR range.

SageTV HD300 External IR Receiver

Less Annoying LED Light

One of the things that annoyed many HD200 users was the ever-blinking and too-bright LED light on the front.  The LED on the front of the HD300 is much more subdued (not as bright) and doesn’t blink constantly.  We’ll put this under minor, but welcome improvements.

Cheaper Price

I’m not sure if anyone saw this one coming.  The HD200 sold for $200 and more recently $180 after discount.  The new HD300 beats both of those prices with a $149.95 retail price!

Semi-Programmable Remote

We still get the same mostly-boring & geeky remote control that came with the HD100 & HD200 with a couple of changes.  They’ve added 3 IR-Learning buttons for TV Volume Up/Down and TV Power.  Note: The Online, Search, Prev CH and DVD Return buttons are removed from the old remotes to make room for these buttons.

More Internal Memory

The number of import files allowed when using in standalone mode (for media-player use without HTPC server) is increased to around 100,000 (HD200 was around 15,000).  This should take care of the biggest problem we saw using the HD200 as a standalone media player.

Other Info:

  • 10/100 Ethernet (still no gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 USB Ports
  • S/PDIF output
  • Breakout cable with Composite, analog audio and component video connections included
  • Power supply plug is designed to fit into most power strips w/out blocking other outlets


Without question the top 3 Important Changes the SageTV HD300 brings to the table are:

  1. Tiny size.  It’s small – very small
  2. Price – Cheaper is something I didn’t see coming.  I expected it to cost about the same as the HD200.  But I’m not complaining.  Hopefully, we’ll see these drop to $125 or even less with discounts down the road as we did with the HD200.  But $150 is a pretty good price in my opinion – especially for the featureset compared to other non-HTPC extenders even.
  3. Audio Improvements – the HD Audio and ability to downmix HD Audio to your old TV & audio components is a great improvement. 

To read the complete, GeekTonic Review of the SageTV HD300 HD Theater click here

Preorder your SageTV HD300 at the SageTV Store – expected ship date is September 10th