HTPC – TV Tuner Reviews

by Jarred Walton on 12/7/2005 12:05 AM EST
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  • nastasin - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    I am trying to choose the right tuner card for my HTPC and could use some advice. My top three choices are: MyHD MDP-130, ADS Tech PTV 380-ef, Kworld ATSC 110. All have strengths and weaknesses. this is used exclusively for HT except when doing HTPC maintenance.

    Specs: AMD 3800, 1g RAM, 500g HD, 6800GT, Panasonic AE-900 HD projector (DVI) w/110" Firehawk screen & 17" dell flat panel (analog).
    OS: Windows MCE

    Requirements:
    PCI based card (no PCI-e)
    Must operate with windows MCE
    Able to operated using a remote
    Able to display using digital cable (no OTA necessary)
    Able to display in near original picture resolution and clarity
    Record shows from digital cable
    Priced under $200 is possible

    Thanks
    Reply
  • nvmarino - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    First off, thanks for the article. I have been spending quite a bit of time with various HTPC components over the past few months/years with HD capture cards being the one big hole in my research. Your article definitely helped clear up a few questions I had about the MyHD and DVICO cards. Thanks for that.

    I am still slightly confused about the functionality of the MyHD card though. You mention when switching to "HD" mode on the card it "bypasses the graphics card and uses the output of the MyHD card instead." Is this the *only* option for outputting HD, or can it be output directly from the graphics adapter without using the pass-through? If you can output directly via the PC graphics card, is the decoding still done by the MyHD hardware, or is it then the responsibility of the CPU/Graphics card? With old school MPEG2 decoder cards that worked via pass-through (like the Sigma Designs Hollywood+), the card could only output via its own video output. So if you wanted the output of your graphics card and MPEG2 video decoded by the H+ on the display, your only option was to use VGA pass-through. Just curious if this card works the same way.

    One tip on getting HD output from your graphics card - in my experience a little utility called powerstrip (http://entechtaiwan.net/util/ps.shtm)">http://entechtaiwan.net/util/ps.shtm) is something you simply cannot do without. Powerstrip offers fine tuning of your video way beyond what you get from the card manufacturers and it operates independently of the manufacturers drivers so you won't get all those annoying issues with the resolution bouncing around when rebooting and such - at least once the application loads (your resolution might be screwy until you log in to the box and powerstrip kicks in though.) I've been using it for years to get HD resolutions out of my cards. The most useful resolution for me - 960x540 (or some derivative of to accommodate for overscan) output in 1080i. My TV isn't capable of 720P and, as you mention, 1080i is terrible for outputting anything but video. But 960x540 (essentially 540P) output using 1080i timing is crystal clear and rock solid with both text and video. I am at a loss as to why ATI and NVIDIA drivers are still painful and limited when dealing with HD resolutions while a third party utility is able to achieve such impressive results.

    On another topic, I think there is another important option to consider that is not mentioned in your article - firewire capture directly from your cable box. This option can capture both SD and HD video, provides quality at least as good as any of the tuner cards and is much less expensive (possibly *free*). The beauty of firewire capture of analog channels is all the hard work of encoding is already done for you in the cable box - resulting in virtually zero overhead for recording. Of course, the PC still does have to decode the MPEG2, so if you want to watch HD you will still need some horsepower. However, if you don't care much about HD, you can get away with some VERY low end hardware - especially if you've got a dedicated MPEG2 decoder. Using firewire, I've been able to capture and playback smooth SD video on an 330Mhz Pentium II paired with my trusty Hollywood+ card. Of course as always there are a few caveats to firewire capture.

    First off, your cable company has to offer a set top box with firewire output enabled. I've got no idea how common this is, but my cable provider (Comcast in Burlingame, CA) provides a Motorola 6200 with active firewire ports when you subscribe to HD service, which costs $5 a month. If you’re already paying the $5 a month for HD, your cost is zero. I have always subscribed to HD so I have no idea if this box would be provided to non-HD subscribers. Also, rumor has it there is some FCC mandate that requires cable companies to provide STB's with firewire output enabled, so you might even be able to get one of these boxes just by calling your provider and asking for one. Also, take in to consideration that you would need one STB for every channel you wanted to access simultaneously. So if you want to record one channel while watching another, you need two STB's - not quite as simple as splitting your cable line to multiple tuners and could incur additional costs.

    Second, depending on your provider, firewire capture will most likely only work with non-copy protected channels. This is thanks to a DRM scheme known as 5C. The net net of 5C is that if the device connected to the STB is not 5C compliant (which your PC firewire port is not), the cable box will only allow channels which are allowed to be copied freely (most likely broadcast channels only) to be output via the firewire port. I have read that cable providers in some areas have not turned on 5C content protection yet, so you can get every channel via firewire, but rest assured they will at some point. As I only subscribe to basic cable I cannot comment on whether pay channels are accessible via firewire in my area. The solution to this of course *might* be when cablecard finally comes to the PC, but we'll see if that ever happens - even if it does, I'm sure the devices will implement 5C properly so you will only be allowed to record shows the provides want you to - and other restrictions such as the number of times you can copy a show will be enforced - but these restriction will also be enforced on all DVR's at some point so at least PC capture solutions will be on equal ground.

    And finally (for those of you still with me) setting up firewire capture is a royal pain in the ass. I definitely wouldn't recommend it for the non-technically inclined, but if you are willing to invest the time, I've been able to get great results with both SageTV on Windows and MythTV on Linux. It is also possible to configure firewire capture with MCE but, as far as I understand, it is a bit of a kludge in that you need an analog tuner for every firewire device you want to capture from, even though you aren't using the capture card. I have no experience with configuring MCE with firewire so I could be completely off base here.

    For those who are interested in pursuing setting up firewire capture and/or HD output from their video cards, www.avsforum.com is definitely the best place to start. I'd also recommend checking out the forums for SageTV if you want to pursue that option, the forums at www.thegreenbutton.com for getting MCE running with firewire, and http://wilsonet.com/mythtv/">http://wilsonet.com/mythtv/ for a great "how to" on getting MythTV up and running, which includes info and further links on both firewire capture and HD output.

    --Nino
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    Great post, nino!

    I actually have thought about the firewire aspect, but I didn't mention it as I haven't actually attempted it yet. Everything I've read points back to your one comment: "setting up firewire capture is a royal pain in the ass". LOL - and that might be somewhat understated. Firewire also doesn't allow you to do the tuning on the PC, as I understand it: the STB has to be tuned into the channel. It's more like using an old VCR to manually record something, but that's still better than nothing, right?

    For the MyHD card, it does hardware decoding and outputs its own signal in bypass (HD) mode. It appears to be the straight DTV content, which is a good way of handling that I think. The card has an overlay mode that shows a preview of the content in a window. Due to the PCI bus bandwidth limitations, though, it is limited to 720x480 resolution (at 30/60 FPS depending on how you configure MyHD). I mentioned this above, as basically 720p and 1080i uncompressed signals can't be piped via overlay since they contain too much data.
    Reply
  • nvmarino - Friday, December 09, 2005 - link

    Thanks, Jarred. Not bad for my first post, eh? :) I've been reading Anand on a regular basis for years so I guess it's about time I contributed something to the community!

    As for channel changing, it is now supported via firewire, so no need to do anything manually. Firewire capture works just like any other tuner in SageTV or MythTV - just a little trickier to get setup.

    Ah yes, it makes sense the MyHD card couldn't decode and then pass the video via PCI due to bandwidth... Thanks for the clarification

    On another note - After taking a second look at the article, I found the results of Digital TV performance very confusing. My understanding is that a digital stream is already encoded and compressed, which you also mention in the article, so I would expect the only overhead when recording - assuming you are not doing any transcoding - would be writing to disk - which I would expect to not be much overhead at all. Since the real work with a digital stream is in decoding the stream for playback, that's where I would expect any significant overhead to kick in - at least when doing the decoding in software such as with the Fusion. However, unless I'm misinterpreting something, the Fusion graphs tell a very different story. I am confused even further by how DxVA could affect the performance of capture, again unless there was some trascoding or some other processing going on.

    In an effort to figure out if I was misunderstanding something I did some testing with one of my boxes (a 2.4GHz P4) and the results are much closer to what I would expect. When capturing via firewire (I'm using VLC media player for the capture), my CPU usage hovers between 4% and 10%. I have VLC saving the stream as PS, which is about the only work I would expect the cards to have to do when capturing a digital stream. So where is all that extra overhead coming from?

    When playing back the stream on the same box (I am using the NVIDIA PureVideo decoder on an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro) my CPU hovers between 25% - 35% usage with HW acceleration enabled. When I disable acceleration, CPU usage shoots up to about 80% and over 100% with lots of motion, resulting in choppy playback.

    On a side note, these results are with HT disabled. I was originally testing with HT enabled on my P4 and it *looked* like the CPU was only sitting at about 40% when playing back with no acceleration, so I couldn't understand why playback was getting choppy. As soon as I disabled HT it became clear the CPU was over taxed.

    The only conclusion I can come to is something is misbehaving when capturing with the Fusion - either the driver or the capture software. Thoughts?

    --Nino
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 09, 2005 - link

    I probably didn't make this clear: "recording" was really "watching and recording" - basically a worst case scenario. I believe both the Fusion and MyHD can be setup to record a channel without displaying the content, in which case the CPU use drops to 5 to 10% or something. Basically, I was watching a channel and then I would press the "record" button.

    I'll have to give Firewire a shot in the near future - of course you need to have a digital cable + HD STB in order to capture that way, which is $25 a month extra over the cost of basic cable, but I have that regardless.
    Reply
  • nvmarino - Saturday, December 10, 2005 - link

    Gotcha - now I understand the numbers.

    For cable service, the a bare minimum is basic ($12) + HD ($5), at least in my area - bringing my grand total to $17 hard earned bones a month. Comcast doesn't require me to order digital to get HD. Of course I'm only getting very basic service but as long as I get football and Lost in HD I'm happy as a pig in sh.... I spend much more time in front of the PC than the telly anyway which is how I justify paying nearly 4x that for my broadband connection. :)

    Also, my recent testing uncovered something I was unsure of earlier. I can capture pretty much every basic SD channel via firewire, but I can only capture the major broadcast networks in HD. ESPN HD, INHD, and Discovery HD, for example, are DRM'd so no FW capture is possible.

    Here are a few pointers that will hopefully save you (or anyone else who wants to give FW capture a shot...) some time getting started.

    The firewire drivers can be downloaded here:

    http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community/shwmessage...">http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community...6&Me...

    Once you get the drivers installed, I've found the simplest way to test is to use VLC (download here http://www.videolan.org/)">http://www.videolan.org/) to either watch or capture the stream. Once you have VLC installed, you can watch the stream like this:

    File --> Open Capture Device

    "Video device name" --> click the "Refresh list" button

    In the "Video device name" dropdown, you should now see two options for your STB, a "tuner" device and a "Panel" device. Choose the "Tuner" device.

    Click "OK" and that's it. If all went well you should be watching the firewire feed on your monitor. Oh yeah, make sure the STB is tuned to a basic channel so you don't have to worry about 5C DRM.

    One thing to consider - as far as I know VLC doesn't support DxVA so if you're not on a beefy box, playing HD streams directly in VLC will be choppy.

    Which brings me to my next topic - capturing with VLC...

    Follow all the steps above except clicking "OK".

    Once you've got your tuner selected as the video device, check the "Stream output" box and click the "Settings" button.

    In the settings screen, check the "file" box and put the file where ever you want it, just make sure you save it with a .mpg extension

    Click "OK" and "OK" and now you're capturing!

    To stop capturing, just click the stop button on VLC.

    Now, to play back the capture, I'd highly recommend the NVIDIA PureVideo decoder - even if you have an ATI card. You can download a 30-day trial here:

    http://www.nvidia.com/object/dvd_decoder.html">http://www.nvidia.com/object/dvd_decoder.html

    I've had mixed results with other decoders handling an HD capture properly, but I'm sure there are others out there that would work as well.

    Once you've installed the decoder, you should have no problem playing the .mpg file you captured in Windows Media Player.

    That's about it for the easy part! You're on your own from here. There are instructions for getting FW working in MCE in the driver download package, or you can view the readme directly online here:
    http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community/download.a...">http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community...load.asp...

    And for SageTV, you can find an excellent setup guide here:
    http://forums.freytechnologies.com/forums/showthre...">http://forums.freytechnologies.com/foru...owthread...

    Good Luck!

    --Nino
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, December 11, 2005 - link

    Thanks again! I'll be giving that a shot in the relatively near future. (Got a few other articles to finish first.) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    You can download some demo files to test out how the DVICO card would fare on your PC if you want. A reader sent me this tip. http://www.fusionhdtv.co.kr/ENG/Download/Demo.aspx">Here's the link, if you're interested. Reply
  • xtknight - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Great review, I enjoyed the downloadable stream clips from all the cards in the different modes. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Last I checked (this morning), about 125 people had downloaded the video clips. I'm actually curious to what the readers feel about using BitTorrent for this. It seems like a natural fit to me, as even a fast data center connection can be overwhelmed by a bunch of people downloading video clips. How was the speed? Did you like this? (Maybe we can get some sort of Torrent server on an AnandTech server in the future so that I'm not using my home network. LOL) Reply
  • Brian23 - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    I'm supprised more people aren't talking about this. I haven't downloaded them, but I assume they are recordings of OTA broadcasts. If that's the case, then I'm suprised Anandtech posted them. In the news section they're always posting stuff about how people are getting sued for sharing movies. Most of the movies out there on torrents have been broadcast OTA at some point which would make them public domain. Everyone is so quick to judge someone when they post a torrent of something, but mysteriously no-one has said anything about this yet. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    They're basically 30 second clips demonstrating analog/HDTV videos. If anyone wants to come after me for posting sample content... wow, they have way too much time on their hands. I guess I didn't bother to get "express, written consent" though.... Reply
  • Brian23 - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    I don't fault you for posting this, and I don't think you need express written consent. I think the whole lawsuit thing over p2p file sharing is a bunch of crap. My point I was trying to make in my previous post was that I was suprised that no-one was was posting anything about copywrite violations. Normally the people here at Anandtech scream and yell if there's something being distributed that's copywritten, no matter what it is. I think people should be able to share stuff that they recorded from OTA. Reply
  • valnar - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Perhaps I missed something in the review, but what's the point of posting screen shot comparisons of a transport stream? They would all be identical across all the cards, unless there were bit errors in the stream. Of course they all look good! They should also look the same too. The only way to show a difference would be through a video card, such as a particular ATI or nVidia in either overlay or VMR9 mode. Or with the hardware output of the MyHD series of cards, which is vastly superior to the software based cards. If you have an HDTV and have used the DVI or Component out of the MDP-1xx, they are fantastic. Of course, a screenshot wouldn't show that. Maybe a digital photo or something(?).

    It should also be noted that watching HDTV on overlay is a big no-no. The overlay was never meant to register more than 540 lines of resolution. While deciding between overlay or VMR9 for DVD (740x480/NTSC) watching is a matter of religious debate, overlay can never resolve HD properly. I would submit that the reviewer possibly didn't see any of those cards in their full glory.

    -Robert
    Reply
  • xtknight - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Where is this overlay limitation stated and what happens when you go above said lines? I'm sorry but I find that hard to believe. SIL overlay vs. SIL VMR9 looks the exact same to me as I remember it. What does 540 lines mean? What resolution is the max (x by y)? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I'm a little confused by this overlay limitation as well. I mean, obviously the Fusion5 only works through overlay, but the video stream is transferred digitally from the TV Tuner to the graphics card. There should be no limitation other than bandwidth, I thought? Maybe I'm using the term "overlay" incorrectly here?

    As for the HD images, I mentioned that they are all identical for TP captures. They were included to show people exactly how much data HDTV contains (and how much better looking HDTV is) relative to analog/SDTV. The upsampled SDTV image is also there to show how poor that looks in comparison to a real HDTV stream - and I get far too much upsampled content on most HD channels.
    Reply
  • valnar - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    These limits are discussed in all the usual forums, like avsforum.com.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    Link please? I just don't see how the hardware overlay interface on your video card could possibly be limited to only 720 x 480. Windows Media Player uses the overlay mode for playing video. Last I checked, it's fully capable of playing 1080I resolution. NTSC signals have nothing to do with overlay mode inside computers. Reply
  • valnar - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    It not limited per se, but you won't see much of an improvement at a rez above 540 lines horizontal. Everything (like WMP) can use the Overlay, but if you were to truly show a video in 1080P mode, for example, it wouldn't be as sharp - because of most video card overlay limitations. It's hard to explain, as the resolution of overlay is more an "analog" style of limitation, to use that metaphor inaccurately. It simply doesn't resolve the detail of HDTV, period. Get a 100" screen and a projector and it becomes obvious. Forgive me for not being able to articulate it, hence my recommendation to visit Home Theater/HTPC specific forums. Reply
  • xtknight - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    I can't find anything about this limitation with google or avsforum search. Are you mixing up overlay with interlacing? It would be nice if you could provide us with a link because we effectively have no clue what you're talking about here... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    Just to clarify, I'm speaking of overlay mode in general. The MyHD card overlay mode is limited to 720 x 484 reason. It does hardware decoding, which means it's generating the uncompressed HDTV stream on the card. A 720P compressed signal is up to 15 Mb per second. That presents no problem for the PCI bus. Uncompressed 720P, on the other hand, requires more bandwidth than the PCI bus can handle.

    1280 x 720 = 921600 pixels per frame
    4 bytes per pixel = 3686400 bytes per frame.
    60 frames per second = 221184000 bytes per second.

    The PCI bus is a 32-bit bus, running at 33 MHz, giving a maximum bandwidth of 133 MB per second. Uncompressed 720P would require about 211 MB per second. This is one of many reasons that the AGP slot was created. The CPU can render into an AGP cards memory at up to 2133 MB per second, at least in theory.

    So there is a reason that the my HD card doesn't render the overlay mode in anything more than 720 x 480. That doesn't mean I have to like that limitation. :-)
    Reply
  • Crucial - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I don't understand what the point of this review was. Why would you test a hardware based analog card with 2 cards that have software based analog? The addition of the theatre 550 card was completely unecessary and frankly makes no sense at all.

    A more effective test would have put the 2 HD cards up against the ATI HDTV wonder and another seperate test putting the 550 against the Hauppage pvr150 and an Avermedia card.
    Reply
  • The Boston Dangler - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Good one Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    The review was because I had the cards. We've had complaints about putting out single item reviews. We've already looked at the HDTV Wonder, and it doesn't work for me - no QAM support and I don't want to get an expensive OTA antenna for a rental home. The whole article is a "state of the TV Tuner market" as well as individual card reviews, or at least that's how I intended it. Besides, the Theater 550 PCIe is really just a PCIe version of the PCI card we've already looked at, which is good to know.

    Previous analog tuners have been reviewed, and the ATI HDTV Wonder has also been reviewed. If you can get good OTA DTV reception, you probably have no need for something like the Fusion5 or MyHD. For people like me, though, the choices boil down to forgetting about DTV, getting a DVR upgrade to my cable box, and/or getting one of those two cards.

    After playing with all the cards, I would say your best bet for quality is to get two cards, one of analog and a second for DTV.
    Reply
  • Ceramicsteve - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Hey can you include a Mac based HDTV tuner in your round up? The only one I know of is EyETV from Elgato systems and it comes in a form of a breakout box. Reply
  • scott967 - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I take it none of these tuners support HDCP on the digital out?

    scott s.
    .
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    That's correct, though I may have screwed up when I talked about my TV. I don't know if it has an HDMI or an HDCP port. I thought it was HDMI, but I could be mistaken. Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    > Using the Sempron 64 running at 2.50 GHz was more than sufficient for everything but the MyHD analog recording.

    There are no Semprons that run at 2.5 ghz.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I had it overclocked -- I was trying to see if I could get it to work OK for the MyHD card. Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    It may be a good idea to mentioned you were overclocking. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    The only system it impacted was the MyHD for analog. I did perform most of the tests at stock clock speeds. But yeah, I should probably make that note. (The X2 was overclocked to 2.6 GHz as well, if you didn't notice, but I only tested the MyHD card in that system.) Reply
  • The Boston Dangler - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    "While the Toshiba 46H84 is in fact a 1080i display - or really a 1920x540p display, if I understand it correctly"

    The display has 1080 horizontal lines of resolution, scanned alternately. 1080i format signals carry data roughly equivalent of 540p.

    My opinion: Having owned both 1080i and 720p sets, and watching programs in their native formats, the difference in pic quality is entirely upon the display. There are both formats present in OTA/Cable, something always gets converted. Either format can provide great pics, even after conversion. It's all about the display.


    "The onscreen Guide also doesn't work for me - it shows up blank - but this appears to be at least partly Comcast's fault. The FusionHDTV software is supposed to read the EPG information from the channel stream, but Comcast isn't including that in my area, as far as I can tell. (This was a problem on the MyHD as well, so that lends credence to the assumption that the local Comcast provider is to blame.)"

    EPG is usually considered an extra service by content providers, thus a cable box and subscription are required. There are online alternatives, sometimes with handy plugins.
    Reply
  • slashdotcomma - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    What's the lag between signal and display? Would I be able to use any of these tuner cards and play on a gamecube,xbox(360),ps2/3, etc? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I'm not quite sure what you mean. Are you trying to capture videos of your gameplay? Or just get the game console input onto your computer screen? Tuning to digital channels introduces about a two second lag, and on analog channels it's more like a .5 second to one second lag. Obviously, neither of those would be acceptable for gaming. It sounds like what you really want would be some form of transcoder?

    Note: it never even occurred to me to test this aspect of the cards, and I don't have a game console with which to test it. Sorry -- I'm a PC gamer. :-)
    Reply
  • slashdotcomma - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Yes, I'm trying to get the game console input onto my computer screen. Lag for changing channels and lag between signal and screen is slightly different. For example, I played around with an AIW-9800 pro and changing channels would introduce a slight lag, but playing game consoles on it was beautiful. No lag, and everything was smooth as silk (p42.8c, 1gb ram, don't remember which MMC v9 it was). Actually it doesn't even have to be a video console, try plugging in a dvd player or vcr and try moving around in the menu. I wish more reviewers would add this to part of their reviews. I plan on playing around with Dscaler if I get the chance. There are ways to hook up game consoles to computer screen but you lose the recording ability and in some cases DVI support. Do you have a chance to play around with the older tv tuners as well? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I don't have any older TV Tuners, though Anand might still have some of them. I'll have to see if I can get a game console over to try out in this fashion. I might actually have an N64 boxed up somewhere. I use PCs for DVD watching, and I don't have a VCR either, so it's going to take a bit of work. I do know that if I tune in the Comcast box to an analog channel and at least one or two of the tuners (I don't recall which), they were not in sync with each other; the Comcast was slightly ahead all the time, so it seems like lag is present. Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I record for example LOST from the s-video out on my HDTV receiver, and it goes to a Lite On recorder on highest quality, and if you see it you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Or, you can simply record 720x480 at a high quality via s-video in and get the same results on these cards. Of course that means setting up two devices.

    Does HDTV recording from these cards preserve the Dolby Digital 5.1 signal as well?
    Reply
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Yes, they should. If you have ever checked out any of the Lost tv torrents you would be familiar that this is possible also ;) Reply
  • vailr - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    ATI's MMC v. 9.10 may work with 550 tuner cards, according to this thread:
    http://www.rage3d.com/board/showthread.php?t=33835...">ATI words on MMC 9.10: Dual-tuner MulTView + 550 support!
    Combined with their Gemstar GuidePlus software, would enable an electronic program guide.
    Note: MMC 9.10 is not currently available on ATI's web site; only on the software CD provided with their latest XT180AIW card.
    Reply
  • vailr - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    quote:


    Print this article
    Email this article
    Find the lowest prices or Buy it from PC Alchemy.com for $79.95
    Bookmark this article


    The link is for the older PCI version, not the currently reviewed PCIe version.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    That's one of the vagaries of our pricing links. I'll see if I can get our pricing person to fix it. Thanks! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Okay, I have the "Buy it now!" links corrected. The T55EP03 code wasn't in the pricing engine last week when I was working on this, but it is now. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    In the article, Anandtech mentioned the IOData AVPL2/DVD network converged DVD player, and said if there was enough interest, they'd test it.

    Count me in as interested. It looks really cool, and for a reasonable price.

    By the way, good review --one of the better ones I've seen from Anandtech in recent history. Thanks for taking the time to review products that many of us have wanted, but have not had enough information to decide to pull the trigger on. Might have to think about setting aside some cash for that PowerColor card.
    Reply
  • Dug - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    What wasn't mentioned (or I didn't see it) is that the Fusion card can use so many other programs with it. You don't have to use the crappy software included. In fact I don't know of one person on AVS that does.

    MyHD afaik can only use the software included with it.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I'm not positive on this, so perhaps you can answer: as I understand it, the QAM decoding is done by the FusionHDTV software. Obviously, that was of major importance to me. Beyond that, though, you're right: the Fusion5 card can be used with more software than the MyHD. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    You mention that PowerColor named their card the "Theatre" which is the UK spelling of the word. It seems strange that a company called PowerColor would do that, as "Color" is the US spelling -- in the UK we use "Colour". Of course it isn't important, just seems a little odd. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    "The major networks all have HD channels - ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC - but the amount of actual HD content is relatively limited."

    Uhh... No, it's not. Every primetime show on the Big Four networks, plus UPN & WB, are in HD, except for reality shows. Sports are not the only thing on television (thank God).
    Reply
  • gibhunter - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I agree. Most prime-time shows are in HD. Regarding sports, most NFL games are in HD. NCAA basketball tournament plus the Big East tournament games are in HD. I also now get the TNTHD which shows NBA games in HD. INHD shows a lot of Red Sox games in HD and ESPN shows most baseball games in HD as well as most prime-time college football games and all Sunday Night NFL games are in HD. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I wasn't saying that there aren't other HD broadcasts, but they're still far more SD than HD and out there, at least where I live. Most NCAA stuff is still upsampled SDTV/analog. Major league baseball is almost always an HD that I saw, at least on ESPN, and most of the pro sports are generally HD. I don't watch a lot of primetime programming, but I do know that the most popular shows are generally an HD.

    Honestly, what I want is to be able to tune into an HDTV channel and never see anything that isn't broadcast in widescreen. I imagine it may be several years or even a decade or more before that's the case -- there's a lot of last generation analog equipment that still works very well, for example. Here's hoping I'm wrong. :-)
    Reply
  • ElJefe - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    hardly anything will be broadcasted in wide screen. HD is great for people who like hd, and for movies, and for etc etc but not the unionized broadcast television stations. they prefer 4x3 and will for many years.

    this is a big problem with buying a widescreen fancy tv, most likely nothing much of a person's day to day schedule of shows will be in it.

    widescreen tv's are a gimic that is forced upon people. get ready for big black band on the right and left side for a long time. suxorz. (i sell tvs too :) gimic has made me a lot of cash)
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    bottom line:

    if i want to watch/record hdtv channels like HBO and/or discover via a PC...
    im out of luck?


    those channels are not ota... are provided through a cable provider....

    i can do this once cable card finally comes around?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    HBO and most other movie channels are encrypted. Funny enough, some of the on demand channels seem to be picked up. For instance channels 101-1, 101-2, 102-1, 102-2, and several subchannels on the physical channels 93 and 94 all showed what amounts to random content. Movies, cartoons, and yes, even porn. If you tuned in to one of the channels, sometimes you would see it going to fast-forward mode, like the person watching the content was skipping ahead.

    Cable card is supposed to allow you to view encrypted content on TVs as well as computers without a set-top box. Until I see it in actual use, though, I'm not exactly sure how it's going to work. I would assume it will just store an encrypted TP file, and the cable card will contain the decryption logic.
    Reply
  • nullpointerus - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cablecard">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cablecard

    I've been waiting for decent HTPC CableCard products for ~2 years now. They'll probably come out very late in 2006, achieve their intended interoperability sometime between the second and third generation of products, and become practically flawless around the same time that they become obsolete. That's just a guess, mind you...
    Reply
  • Tujan - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    It was intriging because nobody has really compared the use of DIY HTPCs. With what limited parts are available.

    I wouldn't use a non-multicore processor for something dealing with HDPCs. Just the shear amount of graphics and screen space,the relative newcomer to its display of screen space,. The notorious 'switching between apps,and those running in the background,- much less using the PCI bus to do so.

    What I did miss out of this story,was a shot of a connected MYHD130 to its screen display. Kind of lost me there. With the connect ups to utilizing a screen,and the computers video card. See Im reading imagining toggling between user interface,remote,and what this means to the rigging of separate devices outside the computer itself.Caveat Emptor for/from them along side. And you mentioned that ATI was 'out-of-the-picture , for HDTV unless the components where hooked up. So to share that ATI graphics cards are not useful for the MYHD130.

    Would certainly make a wish list to the MYHD130 to put it onto the PCI-e lane.Get it off the PCI bus.

    As for those encrypted channels.Are you sure they would stay that way ? Think you could pick out your PPV (Pay-Per-view) channel from that list ? [ ]

    You mentioned your Monitor,that they have in common Overscan.I simply have the question included to involve just how a HTPC will correctly recognize a monitor (consider a 32 to 40" LCD TV) ,when most this involves the PNP feature Ive known for doing so.? [ ]

    ATI cards aren't any good with the DTV if using the DVI for/from them for the HD screens ? Think 32" to 42" LCD TVs here.[ ]

    - glad your doing the experimenting here.Good article.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    LCD TVs shouldn't have a problem with overscan. Any rear projection displays will have overscan, and I believe all DLP have overscan as well. There are some good DLP displays that only have 1% overscan, though -- too bad they're really expensive.

    If you want a picture of what the MyHD looks like when connected, let me see about uploading one and I'll provide a link. This is with the DVI daughter card:

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/multimedia/tvt...">DVI Passthru Image

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/multimedia/tvt...">VGA Passthru Image

    Hopefully that's clear - there's a lot of cable clutter, so I labeled the pertinent connections.
    Reply
  • Tujan - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Thanks for reply. Even though I know a lot,Im still a novice. Know a lot of the acronymns,but dealing with things marketed off the top just keeps me on to them for a limited span.

    The picture there,the top card is the video card,with the lower cards being the TV tuners then.Im thinkin that somehow your giving up a controlled connection to your display from the computer by using the MyHD130 ? Or it limits the 'out of your video card when you only would have a single hook up on the Display.[ ]
    - I will go to there site to look for more.

    Encryption ? [ ] Mean if you subscribe to HBO via your home cable line,HBO will not be able to be seen if utilizing the HTPC with the QAM/HD TV cards ?
    Certainly the situation would be averted for the configuration of the cable to Display(cable box to default display) - since (T,F) the Display has an encryption chip within it to do so,(1),or (2) Encryption is handled via the cable box. With everything else dealing with something of the HDCP,HDMI type scenarios.... The encryption mechanism has got to work somewhere in the final render at the Display. Certainly the Cable Company isn't selling me the Display.....
    Of course this is a whole nother anchalotta.
    I pretty much just look for the configuration compatibility in the input,output for the hookups.And if the software will work/..how difficult to navigate them.

    Thinking everythings hunky dory after a large investment ...Again thanks for reply.


    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Decryption of the encrypted channels is handled by the cable box. The cable card standard will allow other devices to do that decryption -- basically, the key/algorithm will be stored on the cable card. Of course, that means you need to have a TV and or computer that has a cable card slot. Hopefully they'll make a USB adapter. Reply
  • mariush - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I'm a bit dissapointed that you have used Divx to test the analog recording. XViD would have probably been much faster, at least that's how it is on my computer.

    Also, I would probably either use XViD set to record with quantizer 1 (max quality) which takes about 6-10 MB/s at 768x576 25fps or I would use a lossless encoder such as HuffYUV (~12 MB/s at 768x576 25fps)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    The DivX codec is officially supported by the MyHD software. Xvid was far slower, and that holds in general, unless there is a special setting to get it to encode faster. All the real-time encoding has to be done through a VFW codec, and I couldn't find a fast codec to handle that. The DivX codec is also the only codec that allows you to resize the video content, at least as far as I could tell. Otherwise you end up with an incorrect aspect ratio, as seen on the top left picture on page 15.

    If you download the videos, you might feel that the DivX codec results in a loss of quality, even on the X2 system. That video sample is actually very close to what you see when watching live analog content with the MyHD card. At best, it's decent analog video. Just about any analog-only TV tuner will produce equal or better output.

    Back to the codecs, if you really want to get a decent compression, while not losing a lot of quality, I would recommend using a second PC or re-encoding the videos while your computer is sitting idle. You could do the same thing with the TP files, re-encoding them using the Xvid codec with a data rate of around 1 GB per hour and the target, resolution of 720 x 480 -- or perhaps go for 2/3 GB per hour and target a 1280x1024 resolution.

    One of the benefits of the DivX codec is that quite a few consumer-electronics devices now support it as well. I'm not aware of any DVD players that can handle Xvid.
    Reply
  • xtknight - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Sorry for the double post, but by the way, the program AVI.NET can encode xvid and divx for standalone players. That's the whole purpose of it: to use only the features standalone players support. I recommend you try it out. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Does DirectShow encoding plug into the VFW interface? (I think I've only used it for decoding, not encoding.) Same goes for AVI.NET - I haven't ever heard about that one, but then there's all sorts of stuff I've never heard of. :) Reply
  • xtknight - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    DirectShow doesn't necessarily use VfW. It's a separate interface for the most part, although you can still plug in VfW codecs in DirectShow filter graphs (basically flowcharts for video playback/capture/etc). You probably have only used it for decoding because there are not many DirectShow encoders.

    Homepage for AVI.NET: http://www.clonead.co.uk/">http://www.clonead.co.uk/
    Reply
  • xtknight - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Realtime encoding can also be done by DirectShow, but I'm not aware of any apps that use it. Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    if it supports divx it supports xvid usually as well.

    Of course I could be wrong, but the way it works is they encode differently, but both can be decoded the same, right? Xvid can decode divx, so isn't like the same with mp3, different encoders but one decoder can do it all, since it is just mpeg-4?
    Reply
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    There is good reason for using Divx despite the fact xvid/ffdshow exist. Primarily from experience I should say taht xvid/ffdshow (with the latter of the two being particuarly bad) are slower than Divx as far as playback speed. This becomes more noticeable on slower computers, actually making a difference between full speed and jittery playback on some. If you have the CPU power, however, go for using xvid/ffdshow combination. Reply
  • bofkentucky - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Problem is, my cable boxes (Motorolla 6412, Dual tuner, DVR) can only output HD signals on the component, DVI, and HDMI ports, anyone know of a HDTV tuner card than has component or DVI in or a converter box that can take a component in coax out without mangling the signal? Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    |-------
    | AFPL )
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    |
    |
    Reply
  • The Boston Dangler - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    There is no such beast, nor will there be. Reply
  • gibhunter - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I too have the Moto 6412 Dual Tuner HD box. It is so good that it has kept me from actually building an HTPC. Now regarding your question, I don't think there is a way to do it. I do know from reading the www.avsforum.com that there is a driver for windows that will allow you to hook up a PC to the Moto DVR using the firewire connection. Then you can just copy the recordings straight from the DVR instead of re-recording them on the PC. Reply
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    As in NO I have never considered using my PC as a home entertainment center. I guess some folks do but for me I'd prefer to build an "entertainment center" from commercial hardware components, not from add-ins to my PC.

    I could see a college student or someone with limited space combining their PC and movie viewing into one piece of hardware or maybe for viewing at work, but for the home, I don't see the advantage of using your PC for the basis of an entertainment center when it's not the best "tool for the job".
    Reply
  • SynthDude2001 - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I'm glad to see some attention being given to HDTV tuners; this article is a pretty good primer for anyone considering getting one.

    I've personally owned the MyHD card (and DVI daughtercard) since February and I'm extremely happy with it. I do often recommend the Fusion 5 to others though, based on its very reasonable price ($99 or so for the Lite version).
    Reply
  • highlandsun - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I've had a Dvico Fusion Gold-T for a few months, it was the immediate predecessor to the Fusion 5 card. So far I've only used it for analog reception since I haven't subscribed to digital service yet. (Comcast; there's no OTA reception here at all.) I installed everything and played with it for a short while, but have basically left it idle. The analog picture I get is much much grainier/noisier than on my Sony Wega TV, so I've not invested any more time into it. I did go so far as to rebuild my Linux kernel with the necessary Video4Linux drivers to get it working, but that's about it.

    I also have a Dazzle Firewire bridge, so I can use that to pipe the Sony's tuner output into the PC. That means I have to record in DV format, which is pretty disk hungry. I think now that I have an X2 3800+ I can probably transcode it to something else, but haven't tried it yet.
    Reply
  • vijay333 - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    good to see that the Sapphire Theatrix (based on the ATI 550 chipset) that I bought in July/August is still the best with regards to analog captures :) Reply
  • NordicNINE - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Since you're looking at doing a future article with a Nvidia IGP, I think this motherboard would be perfect. I just got a pair for the wife and my son and they seem great. Hi def audio & DVI out would make them perfect HDTV PC's. Too bad they don't make a socket 754 version to pair a Sempron with. Hopefully AMD will release a socket 939 Sempron soon. I'd def be interested in seeing how they'd handle it. I might need to get a couple more. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Funny you mention that. It's precisely the motherboard I had in mind, as most of the NVIDIA 61x0 boards don't have built-in DVI ports. I'm a little irked that the TV/Component out is a separate option, though. The board I have didn't include the adapters, so I'll be focusing on the DVI port. Reply
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    The quality is actually pretty impressive... its good to know its supported in BeyondTV also. Makes me really consider getting one when I build my PVR. Reply
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Too bad I cant edit my previous post. I downloaded that torrent of the video feeds and all I can say about the analogue capture from the PowerColor Theatre is... WOW! I dont even think the good ol Happauge WinTV PVR's were that good! Reply

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