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Better to use a TV tuner card or an HDTV display?

Last response: in Systems
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June 30, 2012 2:01:55 AM

Hi folks,

Is it better to include a TV tuner card in my build or just us a TV instead of a monitor?

What I need/want...

Not a gaming machine, building a productivity workhorse

No video card, just integrated graphics (i5-3750k) -- does that exclude the possibility of a tuner card?

Looking at displays in the 22-24 inch range

Not looking for HTPC or DVR functionality, just looking to add an extra TV location to the household.


My current (old) system has a Radeon All-In-Wonder 9000 and when I got it I had visions of a Tivo substitute. It disappointed me and I rarely used it. I don't think I'll do much, if any, DVR with the new machine, but I think I would at least like the capability of watching TV from the computer.
June 30, 2012 3:01:14 AM

TV's dont anti alias txt the way a monitor does so probably best avoided for a productivity situation .

Digital tuners are OK .
Hauppauge would be my first choice
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a b x TV
June 30, 2012 3:24:05 AM

Double edged sword here.

TV's have a scaling engine and allow it to look better with a variety of video resolutions. I find computer screens look better then TV's for use with a computer. so it is a tough call.

While computers will do this as well(TV's seem to do it a bit better), in general the analog to digital transition looses some quality(The result is compression artifacts). It is just not quite the same as looking at the video right on the TV. Hard to explain.

If you plan to have a cable box anyway, try for one with HDMI them you can use it and the computer with the same computer screen. Best of both worlds and NO software to mess with.

I am saying this as someone who uses a PC screen with TV quite a bit too(Not HD or anything like that). For me it works well, but I do notice that the TV handles lower resolutions better.

As a side note, Media Center does not support ALL HD steams without a bit of work.

I know you said you did not want to record, but most of the software tends to time shift(Buffer live TV and allow DVR functions) anyway.

The biggest issue with older PC DVR solutions was that many cards had been cpu dependent. Many newer cards(but not the USB stick style) have a encoder to do all the work for recording. This lets even an old computer do media center work. Now cpus are fast enough to do SoftPVR anyway, but i still avoid it as side to side motion is not as good on non hardware cards.
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June 30, 2012 1:34:50 PM

Thanks for the replies.

The TV source will be OTA antenna, and all the channels are HD. However, will will also be doing Netflix and other video streaming which may or may not be HD.
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Best solution

a b x TV
June 30, 2012 6:02:26 PM

If you have a good antenna OTA should actually be quite good with the TV cards(In HD too :)  ).

Since I have almost no OTA here, i rely on a cable box for TV.

Almost all the smaller TV's are going to be 720p/1080i. While a computer screen will be easy to find in 1080p at those sizes.

It may be worth looking at tv/monitor displays in the store to see what looks to be the best fit for you. With the TV, sometimes the screens have a better viewing angle then a cheap monitor because they are made to be viewed at more of an angle. So the resolution trade off may be worth it for you.

The biggest advantage and only real one I see for your use with the TV would be that with the computer off, you still get OTA and only need the computer for netflix ect and eliminate the need for an extra device for basic use.

If you wanted to game or use it as more of a computer first(web surfing and such), tv second, the monitors extra resolution would pay off for you. That is how I use it, when I want TV/DVD, I just fire up Media Center and PowerDVD for Bluray.

Also note that most bluray(if you plan to watch) moves are 1080P(not that they can not down scale to 720p)

It is hard to call a perfect solution.

Here are some images of upscaled SD tv. Note that the interlacing artifacts do not show like that when the video is playing. This depends on the quality of the signal you are getting. Mind is for the most part just ok, if i connect a DVD player to the TV card it looks much better. This is the area that I feel TV's can do better with a good one.
http://img694.imageshack.us/img694/6708/mediacenter.jpg
http://img502.imageshack.us/img502/436/mediacenter1.jpg
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June 30, 2012 6:21:45 PM

For monitors in the size I am looking for, I just see 1920x1080 anyway. Does that level the playing field regarding montiors usually having better resolution and therefore better for reading text?
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a b x TV
July 1, 2012 1:15:25 AM

sort of.

More pixels in the same size means the pixels are smaller. Smaller pixels show less to the eye. This tends to matter more when you are close to the screen. This is something TV's are not intended for anyway.

So a 24 inch computer screen with

1920 x 1080 (1080P)

VS

1366 x 768 (What are called 720P even if they have slightly more then 720 pixels of height. Not sure why this ever happened, but this is the resolution of most 720p TVs).

This 768 height also means that the TV has to scale the video to fill those extra pixels(this may give some of that fuzzy text), but a computer on that screen should be able to make slightly better use of it(may need to add a custom resolution). You also have to watch out since in some cases, a TV may over scan the image, this can degrade image quality on desktop/laptop computing(while not effecting video much at all). I have not been playing with enough TV's to see how many do this.

It is not like my old 15 inch laptop with 1200 x 800 looks bad. On a screen of that size it looks just fine to me.

Most larger TVs are being made with 1920 x 1080 too, but larger computer screens can start to get even higher resolutions. With all this higher resolution, a computer can display more windows at once(Or game at higher resolutions) That extra space lets you also edit larger photos without having to zoom out as much or allows for more room to place the tools in your editing software. Most(all that i know of) video formats(Bluray and streaming services) currently do not take advantage of anything over 1920 x 1080.

At this point we are getting outside of the scope of this question, but in general a 24 inch computer monitor has more pixels then an 24 inch TV. This is not to say you can not get a higher resolution 24 inch tv to match that computer screen.
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July 1, 2012 2:24:22 PM

nukemaster said:
With all this higher resolution, a computer can display more windows at once(Or game at higher resolutions)


I think this statement is ultimately the decision maker. Being able to stick the TV feed in a window and stick that window in the corner while I work on other things will be what I will want to do. With a TV, it would be all or nothing -- I couldn't mix TV with computer work.

And, while I could probably find a 1080p TV in the same price range as a 1920x1080 monitor, I'm sure the quality and reliability would take a major hit.

Thanks for the discussion!
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a b x TV
July 1, 2012 2:38:23 PM

Very good point, I do that from time to time as well.

If you get a card with Windows Media Center support, I find it to be about the most easy option and the time shifting works well. I remember using Beyond TV back in the day, it worked, but it was much slower to start then Media Center even on the same hardware.
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July 1, 2012 5:54:29 PM

nukemaster said:
Very good point, I do that from time to time as well.

If you get a card with Windows Media Center support, I find it to be about the most easy option and the time shifting works well. I remember using Beyond TV back in the day, it worked, but it was much slower to start then Media Center even on the same hardware.


Yeah, my All-In-Wonder software took forever and was very buggy. What do I need to look out for when picking a card?
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a b x TV
July 1, 2012 7:47:26 PM

For me personally I just want the card to be hardware and not software based. WinTV has some cards with softPVR(It is software, but is one of the better setups for software) that may fit your needs fine.

Check the companies driver support to see if they have been good in the past for supporting new operating systems(just in case you upgrade later down the line).

PCI/PCI-e(pick what you have the slot for) cards tend to offer better quality(VS USB, but you can get some good usb cards for the right price), so I would look that route for sure.

My Hauppauge (WinTV PVR 250)card was actually very good(Hardware encoder), while the video was slightly worse then my ATI 650 USB(its hardware, newer but with no new drivers in forever. I can not recommend this card too much anymore). The Audio on the Hauppauge card was FAR better. If it was not for no 64 bit support for the old card, i would still use it today.

My WinTV card also ran for months on end without issues. My ATI card required some extra heatsinks(It did not get hotter then the other card, but I had heatsinks and it seemed to help) to get it close, but not quite perfect(card will go black very rarely now, but the WinTV card NEVER did it).
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July 8, 2012 10:58:13 AM

Best answer selected by whitenack.
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