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Some opinions on HDTV tuners

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Alright, so I'm working on this guide and I'm mostly done with it except for the part where I recommend TV tuner cards - obviously a pretty important part. I can't buy all of them to try out, so I'd like some opinions from users that have experience with them. Some of my own research has shown these as probably the best buys:

 

 

Dvico Fusion HDTV

 

MyHD MDP-130 (supposedly the best from what I gather)

 

Hauppage WinTV (any of them, presumably depending on your purposes)

 

Thoughts?

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Guest area51

After trying everything I could get my hands on I ended up going with a couple of ATI Theater 550 Pros.

 

Their main competition in image quality in my opinion was the Hauppage PVR 150. The dual tuner model from Hauppage (PVR 500 I think?) was cool but noticeably lower grade in the visuals dept.

 

Even though the PVR 150 looked good it suffered from a fairly weird flaw that all Hauppage cards had...they are very susceptible to em radiation...specifically from the PSU.

 

Talked for days with what passes as tech support at Hauppage and they confirmed that their cards could not be placed anywhere near the PSU as they were unshielded and it caused significant image distortion. This was a problem for me because at the time I was running a reverse ATX layout in a little micro cooler master case.

 

Bottom line is I really like the Theater Pro cards...looked great and no issues with where I could place them. I also liked that they sold pcix variants of the cards which allowed me to free up some room for an x-fi.

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I've also heard most dual-tuner cards tend to have poorer video quality, I'll be sure to mention that for sure. If the Hauppage cards suffer from EM radiation a lot that could be fairly critical in a 'typical' HTPC case, where the PSU and PCI cards won't be all that far away...

 

Oh, anybody heard anything (good or bad) about the Nvidia card?

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I can give opinions on what I have.

 

The pcHDTV HD-3000 now discontinued for the newer HD-5500. These are marketed as linux cards and only have drivers for Linux. I believe there are some alpha drivers for windows, but never played with them. As far as setup, the drivers are included in the newer linux kernels v2.6.12+ and all you need to do to get the cards up and running is install the firmware from there website to the proper folder. Picture quality is perfect, since all it does is take the OTA feeds and capture them to the hard disk. Does OTA 8VSB and Cable QAM64, QAM256

Might cost a little more, but you are supporting a company making products for the open source community.

 

Hauppauge PVR-150 and PVR-250

For me these were a pain in the butt getting running on linux. No linux driver support from hauppauge. The ivtv linux drivers are getting better by leaps and bounds lately, both picture quality and setup wise. They have the hardware encoder which is nice. The PVR-150 has an IR blaster which is great for controlling external devices like cable boxs. A note about the IR blaster is you can only control devices which Hauppauge supported into its drivers/firmware, you can't program in a new device/protocol. Once running I am happy with the picture and performance. I was happy with these from the start when using them in windows.

 

If your only looking for HD tuners then disclude the PVR-150 and PVR-250.

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Buying two tuners is like buying a 5.1 receiver. You can get a 5.1 receiver with the exact same power amps as the qualoty 2 channel amplifier, or you can get complete .-in-a-box that fries itself/goes into current limiting under a 3 ohm load. There are a lot more of the latter than the former, so it's probably best to go with the single.

 

I recommend the dvico. I had an ATI card and it was(in my opinion, since I know people will definitely disagree) absolutely god damn retarded. I couldn't record without playing video at the same time(how stupid is this? what if I want to play a game while it's recording TV), it was setup by default to compress on the fly to lower quality mpeg2(almost like having directv). It's made for idiots. I'm not a smart guy by any means, but I prefer software where options are right in front of me instead of hidden behind a bunch of useless features. I like simplicity.

 

The dvico is simple. It has time shifting, and all sorts of cool stuff, but it's right there, in a normal menu, not a menu made fancied up to impress people in the "ZOMG EASE OF USE AND LOOK HOW CUTE IT IS!" crowd. The options you want aren't buried in stupid bubble menus, and they also cost less. It's hard to explain unless I had the card again - I used it for a few days three months ago, so my memory of all its specific flaws and annoyingness aren't there. I remember it had an issue scanning channels as well, I'd have to reboot, scan, see no channels, reboot, scan, see no channels, reboot, scan, then see channels.. and I changed nothing upon each reboot. It drove me absolutely insane how bad the drivers were, as they have been for every ATI product I've used.

 

As far as tuner quality/getting channels in goes, the newer ATIs and dvicos I've used were 100% identical in receiving the signal.

 

As you can see from my picture here http://thasp.net:4000/pictures/computer/DSC06544.JPG the tuner sits right near the PSU(right now it's exactly under the PSU since I rearranged the desk), and there are no issues. This is the cheap "lite" version of the card, so shielding is definately not an issue fo the dvico.

 

Lastly, dvico's fusionhdtv cards have worked with linux. I myself have not had a chance to try this out though.

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I have a MCE PVR-150 and a HP/hauppauge PVR-250. I'll have to say I think the 250 has a slightly better picture. The 250 is in a reverse matx case and has no problems with being near an antec tpII 550w psu. I have been using GB-PVR to run both cards (two different computers - one server and one HTPC) I also have auto comskip/transcoding via the postprosseing.bat and stattik_transcode.bat. The 250 works great with Koppmyth too.... I haven't had the chance to us the 150 with anything but windows.

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I think your best bet would just be to head over to avsforum.com and get the top 5 from over there, which I'm thinking you might have already done, but meh you never know.

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I think your best bet would just be to head over to avsforum.com and get the top 5 from over there, which I'm thinking you might have already done, but meh you never know.

 

Yeah, I've done some reading there....but a lot of those guys are worse 'fanboys' than the AMD guys still claiming Conroe sucks.

 

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of information there, but there's a couple users that repeatedly just bash 'x' product over and over again, while other guys defend it as being superb. Kinda similar to the 'Expert' board fiasco where a bunch of douchebags continued to claim it killed cpus - just because they had a bad experience means the product itself is a total piece of crap.

 

Makes it difficult to sort through the BS. :(

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I've had good success with Compro products (I own both a VideoMate TV Gold Plus and a VideoMate P300). Some of their desktop cards even allow them to power up the PC (even when fully shut down) and shut down afterwards. Their divers/software are easy to use and interfaces with the titantv EPG.

 

A lot of tuners have lousy software (especially PCMCIA laptop models) and even worse schedulers.

 

My Compro tuners have excellent Audio/Video quality.

The only downside is that they are hard to find here in the US.

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Yeah, I've done some reading there....but a lot of those guys are worse 'fanboys' than the AMD guys still claiming Conroe sucks.

 

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of information there, but there's a couple users that repeatedly just bash 'x' product over and over again, while other guys defend it as being superb. Kinda similar to the 'Expert' board fiasco where a bunch of douchebags continued to claim it killed cpus - just because they had a bad experience means the product itself is a total piece of crap.

 

Makes it difficult to sort through the BS. :(

 

Find the top 5 sellers? Could always find a place with a good return policy and order a huge pile.

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ive used both the sapphire theatrix 550 pro (same as the ati theater 550 pro) and the new ati tv wonder 650 pro. i was quite happy with my 550. the only reason i upgraded is because the 650 also receives HD signals.

 

as far as the hardware aspect is concerned, they both are great cards. the 550 pro picked up the signals nice and clearly. the hardware mpeg2 encoding was quite fast. the picture quality of the 650 pro was even better than the 550. i dont remember all of the technical jargon, but it uses different 3d combs and filters to clean up the image.

 

encoding on the new 650 pro is even better using ati's AVIVO converter. AVIVO is amazing! it is very fast and you can convert media files do several different file types.

 

however, these cards do have their downside. the software is HORRIBLE. ati catalyst media center stinks. it is slow and buggy and crashes all of the time. i would recommend using beyondTV. switching to beyondTV solved all of my problems that i was having with catalyst media center. or, if you dont want to pay $70+ dollars for beyondTV, GBPVR is a relatively decent free software app. it isnt anything amazing, but it works better than the catalyst software. hope this helps!

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Alright, so I'm working on this guide and I'm mostly done with it except for the part where I recommend TV tuner cards - obviously a pretty important part. I can't buy all of them to try out, so I'd like some opinions from users that have experience with them. Some of my own research has shown these as probably the best buys:

 

 

Dvico Fusion HDTV

 

MyHD MDP-130 (supposedly the best from what I gather)

 

Hauppage WinTV (any of them, presumably depending on your purposes)

 

Thoughts?

I've used the ATI Theatre Pro 550 & 650, Happauge PVR-350 & 500MCE and the MTI MyHD MDP-130 with daughtercard, and of those 5, the MTI card is far and away the superior product, at least in picture quality and performance.

 

While not a true dual-tuner card, it can tune both analog and digital sources, and has the ability to connect two antennae at the same time - a great feature. As well, the card comes standard with an analog port supporting VGA, composite, s-video and component out of the box. DVI is also supported using the optional MDP-130DVI daughtercard. It also supports both optical and coax S/PDIF with full band Dolby/DTS digital pass-through.

 

The card can tune FTA DTV and QAM broadcasts, and when paired with appropriate software, has all the functionality of a standard PVR, including timeshifting, ROD, etc.

 

The standard software interface that the MyHD ships with is fully functional, but lacks the polish of other off-the-shelf programs I've used. If you're going to be using this with Sage, Beyond or MCE though, this won't matter, and the card is fully compatible with all the above programs.

 

Depending on your relative skills, this card could either be a workhorse or a PITA. Analog recording occurs through the VFW socket, meaning you can use pretty much any CODEC you want to encode the analog signal. On the downside, this is a lot more in-depth than just choosing a specific quality setting. This also means that in some cases, you will need the increased horsepower of a fast CPU to encode via software codecs.

 

Having not tried the Compro or DVIco products, it's hard to give a complete reccomendation, but personally, for 99% of users out there, I'd get the ATI Theatre 650 Pro. The analog performance is every bit as good as the MyHD, and while the DTV processing isn't quite as clean, it's still much cheaper, and comes with a better interface.

 

I've never been a big fan of the Happauge product - I used the PVR-350/500MCE for awhile in my HTPC with reasonable success, but moved to ATI (despite buggy drivers) because the picture quality was better.

 

Cheerio

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