Introduction

It seems that now more than ever people are using their computers for a much wider variety of applications than in the past. For example, home theater systems are being centered more around computers now because of the versatility these systems offer. The level of quality being offered with computer home theaters is approaching - and in some cases surpassing - that of stand-alone components, and having one at the center of a home theater setup is looking more and more attractive for many users.

While your parents or grandparents may be more comfortable dealing with more traditional separate audio and video components, most people who are able to navigate around their computers well enough wouldn't have much trouble getting a home theater setup on it. There is a wide variety of hardware and software out there to make this easier for us, and at the core of a PC setup like this would have to be the video card, sound card, and a TV tuner card. This article will focus on the last of those components.

There are many TV tuner cards available right now, and we'll be focusing on one in particular from NVIDIA for this review. We have previously reviewed the Hauppauge PVR-250 and ATI Theater 550, and we concluded that those two cards are the best quality analog tuners at present. (We also provided a look at the Theater 550 compared with a couple HDTV options, and that article provides some insight on how many of us currently view the HTPC market.) In the past, ATI has been the one to provide these kinds of parts among the graphics chip makers, and they are still ahead of NVIDIA in this area. However, with the release of the DualTV MCE tuner card, NVIDIA takes a step forward in this department. Hauppauge has also been a staple in this market, but as we feel they basically offer equivalent quality to the ATI Theater 550, we will only be including the ATI card in this article.

TV and movie recording services like TiVo and other DVRs are popular right now, but many people find their subscription fees and recording limitations undesirable. Luckily, there is an alternative and more people are beginning to see the benefits of a personal computer TV tuner/recorder for recording and watching their favorite shows.

We'll be looking closely at the NVIDIA DualTV MCE and it's features, as well as comparing it to a couple of other TV tuner solutions available in competition with this card. ATI's Theater 550 Pro has been around for a while and is similar to the DualTV MCE as a stand-alone TV tuner card. Also, while not quite as similar, ATI's All-In-Wonder line of cards offer TV tuning and graphics acceleration in one package and we'll look at the pros and cons of a solution like this as opposed to the DualTV MCE. So first let's take a look at the hardware.

The Card
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  • Johnmcl7 - Sunday, May 21, 2006 - link

    That is correct, out of the box MCE cannot be joined to a domain although it can be modified to do so but at the cost of losing media extenders. Microsoft clearly wanted to keep businesses using Pro and MCE for home users.

    John
    Reply
  • XMan - Saturday, May 20, 2006 - link

    "The PVR-500 requires two separate CATV inputs, however, rather than splitting the signal internally."

    Ehh . . . no, the PVR-500 splits internally. The second input jack is for FM radio, just like the NVTV.

    And the latest Hauppauge drivers have fixed a lot of the issues folks are having. I'm using two PVR-500's on MCE 2K5with the 23348 drivers and they work marvelously.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, May 20, 2006 - link

    Crud. That was my error. I'll fix it - thanks. Reply
  • justauser - Saturday, May 20, 2006 - link

    I guess that people who come to Anadtech have a strong technical background.

    Is anybody still watching analog TV out of this group? I haven't seen an anaolog program for over two years - in fact I find it impossible to watch & listen to analog. Surely every tech person has their HDTV & surround sound set up, don't they?

    What's this nonsense about limited channels on OTA HD? We get about 40 in LA, of which about 15 have content I'm interested in. I don't bother with cable.

    More nonsense about trouble receiving OTA HD. If you can get an analog signal you can surely get an HD digital one - do you realize how much more power is used to broadcast HD? It can be over 1 MW! When setting up an HD set you can test the HD picture with a set top antenna. You get an HD signal even when you can't see any analog channels.

    So, dump reviews of analog tuners. People who buy them have limited tech knowledge and will probably never get them working anyway (like my neighbor who watches stretched analog on his HDTV and has got used to actors with fat heads, but nevermind HDTV is great!).
    Reply
  • Trisped - Sunday, May 21, 2006 - link

    Most people don't live in a big metorpolitan area, so they will be lucky to have 1 or 2 HD channels broadcast in the area.
    HDTV cable is rather expensive compared to the analog or even digital, and the fact that most channels are a sick mix of high and low def makes the veiwing experince undesireable (at least that is what my local friends say).

    I don't own a DTV or HDTV tuner. Instead I own a high quality PC. I have been thinking of upgrading to an HDTV tuner, but the only one I have heard of is the ATI HDTV tuner which is PCI and has was reported to have some compatability problems. Since this is a first gen card that is to be expect, but I don't want to pay $100+ to be part of the beta testing. I will wait till there is a PCIe version that seems to work well with what I use, then I will upgrade.
    Reply
  • nullpointerus - Sunday, May 21, 2006 - link

    Anandtech reviewed some other brands of HDTV tuners in their last roundup:

    http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.aspx?i=2634&p...">http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.aspx?i=2634&p...

    Unfortunately, there's nothing in that review that meets all your requirements.
    Reply
  • Schugy - Saturday, May 20, 2006 - link

    Of course I use DVB-T with MythTV, xine or dvbtune+mplayer. DVB-S is no option because some people want to make money with encrypting free tv. That guys must be kidding. Reply
  • austonia - Saturday, May 20, 2006 - link

    checked nvidia's store and was dissapointed to find out that the package that comes with an MCE remote costs $50 more! $219... ugh.

    http://store.nvidia.com/product.aspx?sku=2866288&a...">http://store.nvidia.com/product.aspx?sku=2866288&a...

    Reply
  • gman81 - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    this website's inability to take your comment or this nvidia tuner review. Both are lame. (the comment window wipes your text if you're not careful or when you click Post Comment, it has a "server error"). What junk. Reply
  • nullpointerus - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    I think when you wait to long to hit the "post comment" button, there is a server error. No idea why. Reply

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