I began shopping for a TV tuner card for two reasons. My work in architecture requires many hours on the computer writing and drawing, and I wanted to be able to watch TV occasionally while I worked. I also was interested in having the capability of converting TV/Movies into a format I could email or save for later viewing.
I selected the Hauppauge Win-TV theater card for this upgrade. The cost of the card is about $150, which is a little more expensive than the average TV Card, but it also has a few extra options which made it worth the money for me. The Hauppauge card plugs into an empty PCI slot in your motherboard, and comes with a remote control and a bevy of cables. It supports Dolby 5.1 if you have a stereo/receiver that supports it. The card also has speaker outputs for 5 channel surround sound if you don’t have a Dolby receiver. The other plugs on the back of the card support video out (to VCR) and SVIDEO in (for watching DVD from a separate player).
The Hauppauge Tuner connects to your monitor via a pass-thru cable, which means you plug your existing video card and monitor into this new card. The advantage of this type of interface is that the Tuner card uses a direct “write” to your monitor without engaging your video card or (much) of your processor. The end result is that you can watch TV without your computer slowing down as you do other work/games.
The software that comes with the card is fairly simple and installation was smooth. The program puts an icon on your desktop and in your Systray. The software supports both TV and FM radio reception through the card, and has easy to use buttons for taking a snapshot or making a small movie, which we’ll address later. On the back of the Tuner are two antennae connectors of the standard TV/cable type. The TV card is made to receive its signal from “bunny ear”, cable, or SVideo. Although a basic antennae wire is included in the box I bought a simple UHF/VHF antennae from the local Wal-Mart due to poor reception in the area in which I reside.
Startup takes a little bit of time as you need to allow the software to run through and auto-find the channels. For my setup I had to also go into the fine-tuning interface to get good reception on a couple of channels. I assume a household with Cable would not have to go through this.
The color and saturation are what have really impressed me with this card. The maximum resolution of the TV image is 640×480, but can be scaled to either take up the entire screen, or be a small box in one corner of the screen while you work. Because the Dot pitch of the standard computer monitor is so much more precise than TVs, the overall picture seems extremely crisp at any size.
Once you are watching TV or a movie on your monitor, you can choose to take a quick snapshot or make a movie recording of whatever you are watching. The snapshot interface is simple and allows you to choose what resolution and what kind of image file will be made (such as bitmap or JPEG). Although TV reception resolution is maxed out at 640×480, images up to 1024×762 came out nicely from DVD and paused movies. The movie recording option allows you to select resolution and color sampling type all the way from RGB to NTSC standards. One bit of warning, the result is not a compressed format, such as MPEG, and requires a LOT of drive space until compressed. You will also need a high speed computer (400 MHz+) to record at high resolutions (320×160 or higher).
All in all, the card is a little pricey but the images are very clear & rich and the added features like an IR remote are a nice touch. Those interested in adding a Tuner card also need to make sure that their computer has adequate cooling fans and power available for the extra resource.
Submitted by: Joshua