IntroductionIt 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.