TV Card: ATI TV Wonder HD 650 Combo PCI Express
The TV Wonder HD 650 is a PCI Express x1 device that boasts dual tuners able to receive:
- Over the air Digital TV/HDTV (the stuff you’d get from an antenna)
- Over the air/Cable Analog TV (stick with cable)
- Clear-QAM (unscrambled) Digital HD Cable with Windows Vista (the stuff you get from a cable connection without having to pay for a set-top box from your provider)
Past HTPC efforts have stuck me with single-tuner cards. If you’ve ever owned a single-tuner TiVo, than you know how frustrating that can be when a show is recording, yet you want to watch something else. A dual-tuner setup solves that issue by letting you record on one and flip channels on the other, so long as you’re recording digital and watching analog (or vice versa).
In addition to its tuning functionality, the TV Wonder adds hardware-based MPEG-2 compression, a motion adaptive 3D Comb filter, color control, gain control, noise reduction, and edge enhancement—all features designed to improve the picture quality of broadcast content, and included in many television sets.
Moreover, AMD’s hardware is complemented by the Catalyst Media Center software suite, including full PVR functionality, DVD playback software, DVD authoring software, and the Theater Video Converter. For our purpose, we won't be using that in-house software package, though.
Sound Card: MS-4140 Sound Card
If you were wondering why a nearly-outmoded 780G motherboard was priced close to $200, here’s your answer. MSI’s MS-4140 sound card interfaces with the Intersil D2Audio DAE-3 digital amplifier built onto the Media Live DIVA motherboard. The chip connects directly through the HD Audio bus and doesn’t necessitate any extra power input to the board.
From there, you actually have two connectivity options: the MS-4140 or the MS-4141 (not part of the Newegg bundle, but available separately). Since we’re not dealing with the latter, let’s discuss it first.
The MS-4141 is a seven-channel pre-amp card with a >110 dB SNR and <.01% THD at 1kHz. The board consists of a dual-connector PCI Express interface with three RCA connectors. To it you’d attach a daughter board with four more RCA connectors. By attaching the card to an amplifier, you’d get up to seven-channel output driven by the amp.
The MS-4140 is a five-channel amplified card with 100 W per channel rated at >105 dB SNR and <.01% THD at 1kHz.
Now, you’re likely asking, “Why five and seven channel? Wouldn’t six- and eight-channel be preferable for including LFE?” Indeed, that would be the case—and the Media Live DIVA board also gives you an RCA-style subwoofer pre-amp output that you’d run to a powered sub. We're using an SVS 25-31PCI in this configuration.