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TV Tuner Card for Comcast

Hey all,

I'm looking to build a HTPC for recording TV shows from my Comcast basic cable and need information on TV Tuners.

The card needs to meet the following criteria:
1. Works with Comcast basic cable (no HD)
2. Easy to use for recording and playback (good interface, not very buggy, etc)
3. Works with W7 32 bit (maybe 64bit - need to see what licenses I can get, but most likely 32bit)
4. Not ridiculously expensive ($50 ballpark)

I've heard cards like the Hauppage 1250 are pretty solid, but I have no idea what I need, so any information would be very useful to me. I have an ATI TV Wonder 600 but the software was awful and although it could watch TV it absolutely refused to record.

9 answers Last reply Best Answer
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  1. Do you have a set top box from Comcast?

    -Wolf sends
  2. Set top box meaning that dumb little box that they plug in to the hard line so you can use it, then yes.

    HD/Tivo style box, no.
  3. I just bought a HVR-1800 for $45 on [H]ardForum, so let's see if that does the trick.
  4. Actually, I'm trying to determine what controls changing your channels. Do you use the television's tuner or the set top box from Comcast? If it's the television, you shouldn't run into any problems connecting the HVR-1800 and using that for recording/live TV.

    If you do normally use the set top box to change channels, it's possible you don't need it any longer (since you're just using it for basic television). I'm pretty sure the HVR-1800 has an ATSC (digital) tuner; in which case you'd just go from the wall outlet to the HVR-1800 input and from your graphics card to your HDTV/Monitor.

    You may lose some channels, depending on whether Comcast is encrypting any of the channels you do subscribe to. If this is the case, then you'll need to go from the wall outlet to the set top box. Then from the set top box to the HVR-1800. This was the problem I had until I got my Ceton card. The set top box only outputs whatever channel it's currently on.

    Personally (and depending on which version of W7 you have/get), I find that Windows 7 Media Center (7MC) is all I need for controlling the TV Tuner card. I believe 7MC is available on all versions of Windows 7 except Starter.

    -Wolf sends
  5. That information helps a lot.

    I may just not be understanding what you mean by set-top box. My cable runs from the wall to a small black box, to which the comcast guy gave us a remote so we can change channels (I'm guessing this is what you mean).

    I've heard that Comcast will generally just encrypt HD channels, and we don't have an HD subscription.
  6. Best answer
    The "Set Top Box" (STB) is pretty much any device that Comcast gives to you to get the signal from the wall outlet to the TV. The three main devices are:

    1) Digital Tuner Adapter (DTA) - This device simply takes the digital signal coming from Comcast and converts it to Analog for your older style TVs. I believe most of these are coming at channel changers as well.

    2) HD Set Top Box - This device is the same as the DTA, but does not (necessarily) do the Digital to Analog conversion. This box is also capable of decrypting any channels Comcast, in your area, decides to encrypt for copyright reasons.

    3) HD-DVR Set Top Box - This is the same as the HD STB, but with the added functionality of the digital video recording.

    It sounds like you just have the standard DTA (since you don't subscribe to any HD packages). Depending on what package you do subscribe to, you may be surprised at how many channels are encrypted. I've found that channels like MTV, ESPN, TNT, WGN and the like are encrypted (I have a digital preferred subscription).

    What I'd try is before installing your TV Tuner card, get a full line up of channels that you subscribe to. Then install your TV Tuner card without the STB in the chain (wall outlet --> TV Tuner Card --> TV) and scan for channels. Take note of any channels that are missing and see if you can live without them. If so, then I'd take the STB completely out of the picture (either use it in another room or give it back to Comcast). If not, then it starts getting ugly.

    First you'll need to reconnect the STB into the chain (Wall outlet --> STB --> TV Tuner Card --> TV) and have your HTPC rescan for channels. It may find all of them, it may only find channel 3. I don't recall.

    Now, let's say you want to record a show on ESPN. In order for that recording to occur, your HTPC needs to know what time to start/stop recording. Part of the Windows 7 Media Center set up includes downloading the current online guide, so setting up the schedule isn't a problem.

    However, since your STB only outputs one channel at a time (which ever channel it's currently turned to), your STB also need to be set up to automatically change channels to ESPN when the show is about to begin. If your STB doesn't have that functionality, then it needs to me manually set to ESPN and left on for your recording to work. Think of it like the old VCRs where your TV had to be set to Channel 3

    I hope this makes some kind of sense to you. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

    -Wolf sends
  7. Yeah, I definitely have the DTA out of those options.

    That makes a lot of sense. I don't have everything yet to get it up and running, but when I do, I'll walk through that procedure.

    Thanks for the help.
  8. Best answer selected by boiler1990.
  9. Just piggybacking on the thread because I have the same questions as you, basically what TV tuner card to use for my HTPC build:

    I do not have cable subscription only free to air channels, I have Comcast for phone and internet, but no TV!

    I have a AV receiver (Yamaha RX-V671) which pretty much is the hub for everything, meaning all my input HDMI cables run to the receiver and then the output from there to the TV! The TV co-ax cable is directly connected to the TV and we use the TV to switch channels!

    I was not planning on including a TV tuner card on my latest HTPC build (Specs given below), but now I'm rethinking that mainly for recording a few shows that we do watch on the Free to Air channels and also if I ever get a cable subscription at a good deal then I would want this to work with that as well. (but for now I am just focusing on my existing setup)!

    Also I would like to record shows from the inetrnet (youtube mainly) - would that be possible with a TV tuner card or do I need anything else for that!

    So if I get a TV Tuner card, should I go for a PCI-e one or a USB, are there any differences in performance or quality?

    Also would the cabling be - Wall - HTPC - AV Receiver- TV or should I connect the HTPC direct to the TV?

    Any recommendations on what TV tuner cards to use?

    Here is the rest of the build:

    Case Antec Fusion Remote Black
    PSU Corsair AX 430W ATX
    MB ECS A75-M2 Socket FM1 mATX
    APU AMD A6-3650 Llano 2.6 GHz
    RAM Corsair Vengance 8 GB
    ODD Samsung 12X BD ROM & DVD Writer
    OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
    SSD Patriot Pyro 60 GB SATA III (OS only)
    HDD 3TB Hitachi Deskstar 7200 RPM SATA III - 3 TB (Storage)
    Remote Logitech Harmony One (not planning to use the case remote)

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