Need Help choosing a TV Tuner
I just need a simple tv tuner to watch tv, while my computer is busy processing things or just to watch tv for the heck of it. And I need the tv tuner to be able to record shows when I'm not home or asleep. Any recommendations? or any links that would boost my knowledge of tv tuners would be great.
1. ATI makes a pretty good tuner (Theater 650). I just bought one a few days ago for $141 at my local computer shop in Ottawa. www.ncix.com can probably send you one too. The hardware quality is excellent, I think you get better image quality than with Hauppauge. The software is incredibly bad, it's simply not finished IMO. If you go this way you need something like GBPVR (free software) or SageTV or BeyondTV (these are commercial products, $40 or $70, depends on rebates, etc.)
2. Hauppauge makes a few good models. From a hardware point of view they are identical, except for some pieces added to each successive model. That is, you'll get the same image quality regardless of which model you choose. PVR-150 has nice quality and works with Windows MCE, at least for me. PVR-500 is a dual tuner, i.e. you can record two channels at the same time (for example when House and Stargate new episodes air at the same time or whatever...) Prices are around $100 to $250.
Both ATI and Hauppauge models mentioned here have hardware encoding, i.e. allow your CPU to keep working without losing more than 5% or 20% of its power (depending on which CPU and especially whether you watch or just record). Watching means record + display, so recording takes much fewer CPU cycles than watching. It sounds weird, I know... I think it depends on your graphics card too, maybe with a super graphics card your CPU won't even be bothered at all. Also, PVR-350 has a video decoder i.e. you can connect it to the TV and not occupy the CPU or video card at all, at least that's what I understood from Hauppauge's web site.
I heard good things about Saber 2020. NCIX has it, for example. I can't say more about it because I've never seen it.
One more rant about ATI: they have the nerve to say it's an advantage that you get a free remote. The truth is, Hauppauge and others just put the remote in the box, while with ATI you need to provide them with your personal data, buy a stamp, wait, pay for shipping, then maybe get a remote. Personally I prefer a not so "free" remote that is included in the price and in the box.
Don't know about Vista support. Probably not there yet, as everything else. With XP MCE you should be fine. With XP Pro it may work. I got my Theater 650 working on XP Pro (not MCE) but it doesn't have sound. It records MPG's well with sound in Intervideo DVD Creator, it's just annoying if I want to watch it as it records because DVD creator isn't that good as a viewer.
I'd say read a few reviews first before deciding. Google something like "PVR-150 review" or "Theater 650 review".
Yup, the prices are terrible. There are some cheaper (and older) versions out there, for example ATI's version based on the Theater 200 chipset. That cost about $70 two years ago, it's probably less these days. The image quality sucked though, you really wouldn't be happy with it. Not sure if you can even find it in stores these days.
Theoretically the PVR-150 does not require MCE, true. However, it may be hard to get it to work. I downloaded the drivers from Hauppauge's web site and tried to get the card to work in XP SP1 (the machine has dual boot, MCE and XP SP1). The tuner works nice in MCE, but in SP1 I couldn't get it to work. It could be I screwed something up, or maybe it wants SP2. Also, I got the tuner in the PC (prebuilt HP from BestBuy), didn' t get any CD with software. You would buy it retail and get the software and it may work perfectly for you. I dunno.... Maybe buy it from a store that would allow you to return it, like FutureShop or BestBuy...
Here's a cheaper version:
$70. No idea if it has a hardware encoder, try Googling it. For your Core 2 CPU it may not even matter because it's fast.
Another thing: some of these tuners can get hot. If your PC has a problem with that (overclocking, for example) you may want to consider a USB tuner. Even more expensive though.
I'd stay away from the AIW cards. That was my first thought too but I found lots of unhappy people on the Web commenting about them. The image equality is apparently weak. The cards themselves are not that great for games either. (But this is hearsay from forums, it may not be true...). If you can afford it you're probably best off with PVR-150 and 8800 GTS - they just released a somewhat cheaper version with 320 MB today and it got some great reviews already.
You can see which ones come with a remote, here:
Here's a good resource, too, as you requested in your OP:
http://ruel.net/pc/tv.tuner.links.htm and here:
Hauppauge is popular because a lot of the multimedia OS's recognize their products, such as MythTV, BeyondTV, and GB-PVR. I'd stay away from the AIW, they pretty much don't cut it compared to the other offerings available.