Slick wall-mounted television but can one remotely locate the Verizon FiOS set-top box?

Consumer electronics nuts:

I’m about to dive back into the world of being a cable TV subscriber. The plan is to put a television on the wall and feed it with Verizon FiOS. But what’s the point of a slick wall-mounted television if one needs to have an ugly set top box on a nearby shelf? The CableCARD idea doesn’t seem to have taken off and does not provide full FiOS services. How about remotely locating the set-top box? Put it back in the closet where the main Verizon FiOS service comes into the house. Then run HDMI cable through the wall to the television (or somehow push the HDMI signal through CAT5 wire as Wikipedia suggests). Then run some sort of infrared repeater back from a sensor in the wall to the set-top box in the closet?

Comcast seems to have thought about this (reference).

I don’t want to get too experimental. Watching TV is already too complicated. What’s practical?

21 thoughts on “Slick wall-mounted television but can one remotely locate the Verizon FiOS set-top box?

  1. The Monoprice HDBaseT Extender Kit (Product Number: 10225) not only runs HDMI over Cat5e (or Cat6), but it also has IR repeating as well. So, you put the HDMI transmitter in the closet, and plugged into it is the FiOS box and the IR Transmitter is placed (or taped) in front of the IR receiver in the FiOS box). In the living room, you plug the TV into the HDMI receiver and velcro the IR receiver to the top of the TV.

    If you want to be fancier, the living room side can be a wall plate instead of a box (Monoprice Product Number: 10224), but if you want a wall plate in the living room and a box in the closet, you may have to purchase the parts separately.

    They also sell HDMI+IR switches that can be used to support both multiple TVs and Bluray players or other HDMI sources.

    Other brands offering similar products are BlackBox and Gefen offer similar systems.

  2. IOGear makes a couple of wireless HDMI bridges for $200+ that are spec’ed for uncompressed streaming. They also have the IR passthrough functionality. I haven’t tried one yet myself – I went the low-tech route of buying a $10 plastic cable conduit at Home Depot and running it from my wall mount TV to the entertainment center. Paint it to match the wall and it’s hardly noticeable.

  3. Denis, Joshua: If you have a slick wall-mounted TV, how does it help to have this little box for decoding the HDBaseT signal? Aren’t you right back where you started? The little box is admittedly smaller than Verizon’s set top box but it still isn’t small enough to tuck behind the TV, is it?

  4. It is definitely small enough to fit behind (most) tv’s. It’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes(less than that). Majority of tv’s I’ve seen have enough space behind to hide it. Even if not – it will usually fit inside a space for cable/electric conduit. Or in the worst case, considering that you’re wall-mounting tv anyways, ask to make a little space for it in the drive wall while they do a mount.

  5. Thanks, Denis. A few more dumb questions… the IR receiver is on a cable it looks like so that you can pull that out from behind the TV? And the spec says that it only goes to 1080p. Why is it hard to do 4K? These boxes aren’t decoding the signal, right? And finally why don’t they all push power over the Cat5 or Cat6 cable so that the receiver doesn’t need a little power supply? That would seem like the logical way to engineer one of these given that the receiver might be more or less in a wall.

  6. If you’re interested in a TiVo instead of the FiOS settop box, TiVo sells an RF remote, so you wouldn’t need line of sight.

  7. Mitch: Good question. I guess it would be nice to have Blu-ray player, but if we solve the “keep everything in the closet” challenge that could also live there. I am not setting up a surround sound system so there is no need for a receiver. We will listen to the sound from the TV speakers! (mostly the TVs will be used to show digital photos, content from computers, etc.)

  8. Phil,

    The spec doesn’t seem to be available, but HDBase-T appears to work by taking the HDMI, and recoding it to work over 4 pairs of cat-5e or Cat-6. It also has some separate channels for audio, 100Base-TX ethernet, and IR. The video consumes the most bandwidth and baud rate from the HDBase-T patent application, is quoted as 500 Megabaud with PAM-16, which gives 8 Gbit/s. (500Mbaud * 4 bits/baud *4 pairs in Cat-6)
    so HDBase-T in theory should support HDMI 1.4 (4k @ 30p), if they use a low overhead line code* but my guess is for more than a few meters its not going to work very well because of the intersymbol interference of Cat-6 cable at 500MHz. The equalization and error correction required is incredible, and consumes a lot of power. My guess is for the lower data rates (1920x1080p) , they use a lower baud rate to get the longer range.

    *the line code in HDMI is 8b/10b so it adds 25%.

  9. What FiOS features aren’t covered by the CableCARD and the smart TV together? I’ve opted for a card myself (CI+/Common Interface+ is what we call them in Europe) and I don’t miss any of the features of the receiver – the card decodes analog and digital SD, HD and paid/encrypted channels, and the smart TV (a Samsung in my case) covers DVR functionality, web browsing, playing network content and USB content.

    I’ve been extremely happy to get rid of the extra box + extra remote from the STB 🙂

  10. I have a Samsung 4k TV that comes with a remote IR and knows how to control the FiOS cable box from the TV. The TV has several options for remote controls including a mouse, keyboard, and also hand motions. The IR cord is not super long but could be extended as it has a standard earphone type plug. It also has internet connectivity for all kinds of things. A 50 inch was $1600.

  11. Don’t make the mistake of mounting the TV high up on the wall like an oil painting. TV should be viewed with the screen centered at eye level. Since presumably you will be sitting down this is not very high. If you are not going to have a cabinet nearby, where will you put your sound system or sound bar (you know that flat screen TV’s have terrible speakers), your DVD player (if you still own one), etc.?

    The idea of mounting the TV on a bare wall looks good in magazine photos but it’s not very practical. A really nice look is to have a custom cabinet made in which the TV is integrated.

    If you want a clean look without wires hanging out, you need to have a power outlet and the cable outlet installed in the wall behind the TV.

  12. The simplest solution is to buy a logitech harmony. Even their simplest version works very well and you can program it on your computer. You place their RF/IR converting hub near your equipment in the closet and the rest is taken care of.

    The other solution is to buy a higher end blu-ray / media player and pick up one of the cable boxes that both allow an external IR input. Then run the slim little cable through the dry wall wherever you locate the FIOS box and media device(blu-ray),etc with the IR repeaters on the wall. These can be hidden beside picture frames, etc. Keep your HDMI cable runs under 45 ft. with good quality cable and you should have no problems. Theoretically there is no limit to the HDMI length, but in practice there have been issues with longer cable.

    I am personally not so sure about HDMI over ethernet, I think it is a bad idea and only a HDMI spec change away from causing problems. But to be fair, I have not used it.

  13. If you have a blu-ray in a closet, will you be able to see the TV screen from there? It would be a pain to insert a disk and not be able to see whether or not it is playing and have to go back and forth.

    You should rethink your idea about speakers unless you really don’t want to watch movies. A big part of modern film is immersive sound. Having a big screen but tiny speakers is like losing half of the experience. You can have speakers put in the walls or ceiling if you are determined to have an ultra-clean look (and the stereo can go in the closet – speaker wires can have long runs). Not to mention that you can also listen to music without TV if you have a decent system. A wall mounted sound bar with hidden wires immediately below the TV (which can be done) is still a very clean look.

  14. What are you watching on cable? Don’t you have channels over the air? Isn’t there plenty to watch via U2tube/hooloo/metunes/Amazonian/usenet? There must be a local access channel that you want to view.

    Request: can you run another database short course this winter?

  15. Rick: I think that we will do the database course again in January!

    What am I watching on TV? The last thing that I watched at home that was broadcast in real time was the Sochi Olympics (by plugging in an antenna to one of the TVs that I use for digital picture frames). I’m usually writing at night instead of watching TV.

  16. Okay, the runs from the closet where FiOS comes in and the two TV locations are not very long (maybe a 50′ cable would do it). So I think the idea of using Logitech Harmony and an HDMI cable is a good one.

    How does in-wall HDMI work? Do they install a single male-to-male cable and have it flop out of the wall? Or terminate on the spot into a female connector and have additional connectors in the signal path? Or something else?

    Has anyone had good experience with particular brands of cable? I don’t want to put a cable in the wall and then have it fail! (A friend suggested a Monoprice cable with a little chip inside (“Redmere technology”) but I checked the reader reviews and one guy had already experienced two failures)

  17. I used a simple passthrough to get the cables in and out of the walls.

    I would have used something like this if the wall I mounted on wasn’t so shallow.

    My use was simply going from the cabinet below the TV up to the TV. So I used basic Amazon HDMI cables since they were easy to pull and at 8 feet there isn’t much chance of them failing. Against the advice on the package I also ran the TV power cord the same way.

  18. >Against the advice on the package I also ran the TV power cord the same way.

    It’s not just the advice on the package. The electrical code forbids running stranded electrical cord inside walls. It’s not rated for that use. The right way is to install an outlet behind the TV, preferably in a recess box so you have room for the plug. Theoretically, at least, there could be drywall screws and nails, etc. protruding inside the wall and fraying the soft insulation on the cord and you wouldn’t be able to see the damage.

  19. If you don’t want to leave a gaping hole in your wall for drafts, vermin, etc. (which is what you get with a pass-through) then they sell wall plates:

    These are available in various combinations (HDMI + cable, HDMI + cat 5, just hdmi, etc. or you can use a “keystone” system that allows you to create any possible combination)

    I assume that every time you terminate a connection there is a certain amount of loss of signal (esp. as connections corrode, etc.) but since HDMI is digital, basically it either works or it doesn’t (which is why “high end” HDMI cables are a joke).

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