For a while now, we've been able to watch over the air (OTA) channels and analog cable on our PCs. TV tuners are nothing new. The ability to turn an HTPC into a DVR is quite nice trick. Unfortunately, there are limitations.

Many current TV tuners lack the ability to tune in digital cable channels. For viewers in our area, this means anything above channel 75 is out of reach. But there are options for those who want to watch unencrypted digital cable (the channels that come with a basic digital cable subscription) on their PC. The least desirable option is to connect a cable box to the PC. This gets in the way of easily scheduling recordings and the like. Alternately, you can pick up a TV tuner that supports Clear QAM (the type of modulation used to for digital cable).

While a TV tuner that supports Clear QAM can tune in some digital cable channels, PC owners still won't be able to watch premium or pay-per-view content without a solution that supports a cable card. And even with a cable card, PC owners aren't able to take advantage of on demand video features. While technologically feasible, the industry has not yet decided on standards for opening up their networks to the two way communication necessary for on demand and similar functionality.

Today, AMD joins Hauppauge and Pinnacle in offering Clear QAM TV tuners for the PC. This is basically a refresh of the TV Wonder 6xx line-up, as the only major difference is the addition of Clear QAM support for digital cable. This does come with some caveats though. Let's take a look at AMD's new TV Wonder lineup.

AMD's New TV Wonder Line Up and Initial Thoughts
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  • Casper42 - Thursday, October 25, 2007 - link

    Last I checked, Vista MCE wont tune Clear QAM channels though will it?

    And even if it can be tuned, does Microsoft provide the Channel Lineup information?

    I have a TV that does QAM Decoding and I figured out which channels my local CBS HD, NBC HD, ABC HD and FOX HD were on. CBS was like 92.1 and NBC was 92.2, etc. I called Time Warner and asked them if they had a channel lineup in this type of format and they didnt have a clue what I was asking about.

    Can anyone confirm that this new ATI Combo Tuner, or any other Clear QAM Tuner actually WORKS with Vista AND they can get the Digital Channels to show up in their Listings Guide?
  • troos - Tuesday, October 23, 2007 - link

    I picked one up at Fry's and tried it. Everything works well on XP, except the QAM. Nothing on the box or website or limited instruction manual, mention this. Clear QAM will only work with Vista, so that the signal can be properly DRM'd.

    I returned it and bought a Homerun!
  • Chadder007 - Friday, October 19, 2007 - link

    What? No PCI version with the hardware mpeg2 for Clear QAM??
  • Gannon - Thursday, October 18, 2007 - link

    ... the fact that many TUNERS do not update the screen in REAL TIME which makes playing video games impossible. Older TV tuners that used a "passthrough" method did not have a screen update lag-time....

    I think this is a CRITICAL test by the way, people should know what they are getting, I bought a TV wonder 650 only to find out there is lag time on the screen update, and I was not pleased.
  • Chadder007 - Friday, October 19, 2007 - link

    I think you can turn off the Pause feature somewhere in ATI's program and that will allow it to show in real time to play games. Otherwise its keeping some of the video in memory before showing to the screen so that it will have a skip free pausing of the TV broadcast.
  • flashbacck - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - link

    Do you know what's the story with the ATI TV Wonder 650 that was introduced last year, and this new version? As I recall, the old one was recalled and then we never heard anything about it until now.
  • Affectionate-Bed-980 - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - link

    I wonder how this will match up against DVICO's FusionHDTV 5 as that's pretty much one of the best products you can get out there for QAM support. I liked ATI's remote and the interface, but without QAM I had to settle for DVICO. Maybe my second tuner will be ATI =)
  • skyyspam - Monday, October 15, 2007 - link

    It's "ATI", not "AMD". Anand's the ONLY website that goes out of their way to call ATI "AMD". Annoyance++
  • ksherman - Monday, October 15, 2007 - link

    Do any of these have OS X support? Specifically the USB version. I would also, on that note request that if you all are doing a roundup review of these new tuners that you throw some USB tuners in the mix, I am curious to see how they stack up. I am looking to be able to plug one of those USB tuners into my MacBook Pro to record TV shows for me.
  • bigpow - Monday, October 15, 2007 - link

    I'll stay with my provider's HD Box (with IEEE1394 enabled for recording on the PC)
    and cheapy analog tuners for the SD shows

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