The consolidation of many electronic components into one is big business. Think about it. Does that DVD player that sits underneath your television only play DVDs? Probably not. It likely plays CDs, MP3s, and VCDs on top of DVDs. How about your motherboard. Does it only provide interface for the CPU or does it also include extra components such as an IDE controller, port controller, and more?
It only makes sense to combine two products into one if both serve similar functions. Since our DVD players contain all the physical components necessary to play CDs, adding a chip here and there to allow for other forms of playback only seems natural. Not only does combining components save space, it typically saves money as well. It is cheaper to get a DVD player that can play CDs than it is to get a DVD only player on top of a standard CD player.
There are two electronic components, items that are strikingly similar, that have yet to be combined. You are likely reading this article off one of these components and probably sat in front of the other one within the last 24 hours. Obvious, isn't it? Your computer monitor and your television are essentially the same beasts, yet problems such as resolution and refresh rate have kept the two from merging.
Attempts at bringing the PC to the TV have, for the most part, failed. The fundamental reason for this is that while computers are operated from a distance of a foot or two, televisions are typically viewed at distances of 5 feet or greater. As many have experienced, using a computer from a distance is not enjoyable, nor is sitting close to a television screen.
On the other hand, the concept of bringing TV to the desktop has gained quite a bit of momentum over the past few years. Initially flawed due to the small screen size of computer monitors, many current desktop monitors are larger than the televisions typically found in small apartments or dorm rooms. Add-in TV tuner cards that allow for cable input into a computer have been around for some time now, however these proprietary cards are quickly being replaced by video cards that combine computer display and TV input on one card.
In the past few months we have seen new TV tuner video card solutions from a variety of manufacturers. Of these, solutions from ATI, Matrox, and NVIDIA all sport new features that make eliminating your boob-tube even more tempting. Today we take a look at the ATI Radeon All-in-Wonder, Matrox G450 eTV, and NVIDIA GeForce3 with NVIDIA's Personal Cinema and help you decide which is best for your tuning needs.
Before we get to deciding which TV tuner video card is best, first we must see what is behind bringing TV tuning to the PC. Then, we will be able decide if one of these products is appropriate for you. Not everyone should consider using their CRT or LCD for television display, and after a bit of background we will see why.