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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  • SilkySmooth - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    That has to be one of the worst AT reviews I have ever read. It shows a total lack of understanding of what the HTPC audience looks for in a TV tuner card. As other posters have mentioned even a basic side by side image comparison is missing not to mention encoding, audio, cpu utilization. Reply
  • Woodchuck2000 - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    One completely different screenshot per tuner does not an IQ comparison make.

    What about the cards' de-interlacing quality? What about CPU utilisation? It looks sufficiently like someone at nVidia said "We've got this new card, can you knock up a quick article to publicise it?"

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

    I didn't read the whole article, so I might have missed an explanation.

    Either way, how on earth could AT publish a review of an MCE-certified TV tuner without including anything from Hauppauge's product line? The PVR-150MCE and 500MCE's are pretty standard fare as far as the HTPC community is concerned. AT really ought to consider republishing this article with that in mind.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    See last page. PVR-350 is mentioned as one of the few other good dual-tuner cards. PVR-500 is about the same, AFAIK, though the drivers are at present apparently iffy. (The beta drivers are basically required.) Reply
  • GoatMonkey - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    I'm using a Hauppauge 500 MCE with Beyond TV, and have no need for any beta drivers. The thing works perfectly.
    Reply
  • Tegeril - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    It's clear that you have never used a MCE system with Hauppauge's cards and neither has anyone that was involved in the writing of this article. I've got a 350, yes it is a single tuner, the 500 is dual, and the system was constructed over a year ago and the drivers I'm using have not needed updating, I find it very difficult to believe that the drivers haven't changed in that time, and no, I'm not even using beta drivers now. Reply
  • mindless1 - Saturday, May 20, 2006 - link

    Umm, so unlike every other bit of hardware on earth, you are presuming that with your specific card, if one person on earth has a driver version working ok, then it is golden for everyone? I don't think so. Reply
  • GoatMonkey - Monday, May 22, 2006 - link

    Here's the latest driver...

    http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/support/support_mce...">http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/support/support_mce...

    The driver is not a beta.

    There is a beta of the radio software for windows media center edition. But media center edition sucks so, it doesn't matter.

    Why should we assume that because some random guy says you have to use beta drivers that it is correct?

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

    The http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/products/data_pvr35...">PVR-350 is a single-tuner card. Reply
  • fanbanlo - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    I expected a lot more from AnandTech on this review...

    no screenshot / side-by-side comparison?
    no CPU Utilization graph??
    no audio comparison?
    no MediaSqueeze review?

    Reply

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