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TV Tuners

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I dont see much in this catagory about actual Media Center type questions so here is mine:

As far as getting an ATSC tuner for Comcast in the U.S. which would be my best option to go with?

I have seen WinTV-HD and WinTV-D though they are hard to come by currently, I have also heard of others, but which will actually do a decent job of replacing my illegal monstrocity that Comcast calls a tuner while still giving me both encoding and decoding capabilities such as with the WinTV-PVR-350?

While I am on asking questions about a media center, and although I will have my copy of MCE 2005 soon, I cant seem to find this answered anywhere:

Will it be compatible with a hardware decoder such as the 350?

I know it supports the 250, but that is only hardware encoding, I want decoding as well. Unfortunately M$ site is of no help as the only place I can even find anything of the sort is on the developers portion of the site where they mention that the small list of compenants which are currently listed as having passed the driver compatibility checks thus far. Since I have upgrade my video card anyways, (MCE 2005 requires a DirectX 9 video card and the original I got was only a DirectX 8 card,) I was going to go ahead and replace the Maui tuner as well and need to know before I make a purchase if a hardware decoder will work with 2005 or not before I make the plunge.

I've always only used either a NVidia Personal Cinema or an ATI AIW so I am clueless as to which of the seperated tuners will be the best to use, other than the vast majority seem to be using a Hauppage I haven't been able to find much in way of a head to head tv tuner review to see what the best for my needs would be. Hopefully before thanksgiving someone will do one which includes ATSC capable tuners, if there are even such a creature available as of yet.

*edit and clairifications*

I have since found out that the ATSC tuner, WinTV-D is a hardware encoder/decoder, which is what I am looking for, my new question about it would be if it was compatible with Comcast digital cable or not and is it compatible with MCE 2005?

I would have to stress now since people are hard set on what is cheap, to me a tv tuner which costs between $100-$200 U.S. IS cheap! Anything cheaper than that isn't worth my looking into, unless there is something spetacular about it such as it does ATSC with dual tuners and/or has the quality and capabilities of the WinTV-PVR-350. Although I would happily pay only $50 U.S. for a tv tuner instead of $200 U.S., I am more interested in thier being supported by Windows MCE 2005 and the U.S. Comcast Market, than what it costs! Don't get me wrong, I am not willing to even consider a card which costs as much as the best gaming cards, but as I said, a card which is less than $250 U.S. is about what I would consider for a tv tuner card.

If your not in the U.S., then feel free to post comments but remember I am looking for information for the U.S. market when making your post. I am not looking for information from the peanut gallery about what they think about the MCE 2005, nor do I care about 3rd. party utilities to do the duties of the MCE 2005 and their problems, all I care about is what will work with the MCE 2005 as far as passing it's quality control requirements.

Yes, I have looked into several models, and I know that the majority use the Hauppage or Avermedia cards, for analog, but my main concern is what are the ones which do ATSC that are compatible with both Comcast Digital Cable and MCE 2005. If there aren't any that are compatible, then I guess I will have my answer, but please if you have a problem with the hardware or software of 3rd party utilities, don't use this thread to vent your flames, I am not looking for that sort of information. I already have what I want besides the tuner, which was why I asked my questions to begin with. I am more interested in compatibility with it, than I am in what is cheap or what your impressions of some other software, which I will not even be using, are. Please start your own thread or website to express your flames, as I have no need for that information here.

I already know what the quality of the major cards are, I have seen them in action already, my questions are about the compatibility with MCE 2005. I wont even consider a card which doesn't do hardware decoding on board, unless I have to for compatibility with MCE 2005, then I already know which one I will go with. If the MCE 2005 works with the WinTV-PVR-350 then I know I will go with that if I cannot find a compatible ATSC tuner for it and Comcast.

I should also mention I am looking for ATSC tuners in specific, not HDTV tuners, as I'm not really interested in HDTV at the moment, but Digital signals specifically. HDTV is a format of a digital signal, it's the digital stations in particular that I am interested in pulling in, not the HDTV format of them. I am paying for the digital signals so I have no problems with the ability of getting them, I just want to be able to recieve them on my computer, instead of that illegal monstrocity that comcast calls a tuner, which I shouldn't need with my computer. I am also paying for the HDTV cable as well, but I don't care about being able to use that with the computer as long as I can pull in the rest of my channels, since there is only about 5 HDTV channels compared to about 150 channels of digital service which is what I'm more interested in receiving.


Edited by DisabledTrucker

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Tuners for OTA HDTV don't need hw encoding, they record the incoming stream as is, it's not doing analog capture. As for decoding, the more expensive cards do it, but most video cards today are pretty powerful, so i don't know if you'd really want to shell out the extra $ for that. As for card recommendations, I'm sorry but I can't really make any recommendations, as there are no such broadcasts here... Also, they won't work as a TV Tuner in MCE, so good bye to the integration of everything. Also, you can have problems with broadcast flags. And if you intend to plug to your tv by the means of a component dongle, in many cases the signal will only be 480p - not HD (thanks to macrovision). I've seen reviews about many cards that said they were not very good for certain modulations even though they said they worked with it...

I got a HTPC, and I'm p***ed off by things like this. You'd think by now there would be ways to record digitally your stuff (PVR it, anyways) and play it back, HD or not. But rather, they're all working on "features" like multi analog tuners and such - just in case you have rabbit ears along with your analog cable (which all are mostly aimed at).

I don't know about you, but everybody I know either has satellite or digital cable. Not rabit ears anymore, the 70's are over. You'd think microsoft is big and powerful enough that they could convince satellite companies of using dvb cards with media center, and making it use a normal smartcard/cam to capture digitally the channels one suscribes to (even if it means heavy DRM), but instead, it seems we're trapped in this old analog captuing 480i stone age. Satellite and cable companies already have HDTV PVRs that record as is, with no recompression/capturing, and their integration (tv guide, menus and such) is good too. They're still light-years ahead of MCE and similar products with regards to that.

You can keep dreaming about that nice HTPC that will do all that nice stuff, but it just won't happen...

About your original Q (which card to get - if you still want to bother with it), the best I could say is read on avsforum's HTPC section...

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Personally I have purchased several (new and refurbsihed) Avermedia m150 tuners from NewEgg, they're cheap and work very good.


I've used them flawlessly in MCE2002/2004/2005. I've heard the quality is indistinguishable from the Hauppauge PVR-250MCE, and I just noticed they now have a PVR-150MCE which is probably the same thing without a remote. The fact is the Avermedia and Hauppauge use the same chipsets, so the quality should be about the same.

Some good sites to learn more about the stuff is:



[EDIT] btw this is the case I used, a nice small micro-ATX Mini-Tower/Desktop. PROs: Cheap, Very Good Quality, Nice apperance, includes power supply, absolutely silent - the stupid 60mm fans. :) which I modded to 80mm fans.


Product Homepage (better pictures): http://www.athenatech.us/a100bb.htm

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The AVerMedia M150 is just another TV tuner, of course it works seamlessly... It's not a ATSC tuner at all. It's not what he wants at all. There's tons of analog capture cards for that 480i stuff, it's definately not an issue finding one of those.

I'm glad I'm not doing those analog captures of 480i stuff anymore... Once you try something else, you never want to go back to it.

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Oh, I think it'll be more than that. I'd settle for digitally captured 480p (like I've already been doing for a couple years) but with like a MCE interface - but I can't even see that happen in 2 years - let alone HD :( I guess we can get all this buy buying a expensive and fancy HD PVR - which is probably what I'll end up doing soon as it'll still be the only option. Sometimes you just can't win :(

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Ok, I re-read the whole post :)

Just a couple remarks, no actual anwer...

-I've never seen a ATSC card for cable. All of them (that I've seen) were only for the OTA HDTV stuff. In fact, comcast is the first time I even hear about a cable company using ATSC (256 QAM in this case) And after searching on google and avsforum, I didn't find a single person who mentionned doing something similar to that. Also, even if there was such a card (which I does not exist I believe), it would also have to support that one modulation type (which could be hard to find - even if you meant to use it for the OTA stuff...) Also, there are very good chances that - the signal is encrypted over the cable, so no card could work anyways...

-As far as ATSC tuners go, they do not need hardware encoding assist as they capture the digital transportstream. Some have decoding as you gotta play the stuff, and since all of them (that I've seen, anyways) were meant for HD purposes, most PC can use the help...

-As for the MCE 2005 compatibility, unless something has changed a lot and that I didn't hear about it, no, it won't support any of those cards. MCE only supports crappy analog TV tuners (those things that capture a analog signal and recompress

it) - not ATSC cards or such devices. You'd be stuck using some 3rd party apps.

Sorry, I think you're stuck with your PVR 350 and the old crappy analog 480i stuff for another while.


Other than the usual crappy analog tv tuners, here's what it does support

Media Center Edition 2005 also supports HDTV via broadcast (OTA) and unencrypted QAM. This is accomplished via BDA (Broadcasting Driver Architecture) compatible drivers. As of this writing, the following tuner cards are confirmed compatible with MCE 2005:

• Vbox DTA 151

• DVICO Fusion-HDTV3-T

• ATI HDTV Wonder

So, I guess, you ARE stuck with your PVR 350 now. Sorry. Now feel free to vent like we are, now that you realized that you're stuck in the same boat :lol: I don't really care for recording HD actually (even though I sometimes do) but I want digital recordings as well (which I'm already doing) but thru a PVR software or MCE, and like I said before - that's expecting too much, it's not gonna happen. So you can either have the nice MCE and such software along with crappy analog capturing (which you seem to prefer) or 100% quality, digital captures (no reencoding, smaller files, etc) with lesser software (in terms of integration, anyways) Sucks eh? (even if technotrend makes BDA drivers, we're not gonna see DVB-S working on MCE anytime soon either - which is the ONLY thing I'd care for, anything else is completely irrelevant to me)

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sorry I don't know much about your situation in regards to tv. Last bit I can share is to contact the companies that make tuners esp hauppague, avermedia, ati, nvidia and try to convince them why they should make what you want. good luck.

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Ok, from a lot of exhaustive research, I have found most of my answers. Here is what I have found out so far:

The WinTV-PVR-350 will work with the MCE 2005, the problem is that under MCE 2005 you wont have the support of the video out and hardware decoding. Basically whatever M$ doesn't support that the card does, wont work, unless you use the software which comes with the card, and you cant use both at the same time in MCE 2005. When using the WinTV-PVR-350, Happauge recommends you go to their site and download the updated drivers and use them with MCE instead of what is on their disks, what they told me when I called them.

The Happauge Digital products are discontinued, (and have been for over a year,) though in Q1-2 2005 (March-April timeframe,) they are going to release a newer version which will be 1000% better than the WinTV-HDTV and WinTV-D. They wouldn't infer if it will have CableCard technology or not, but one could assume that would be part of the "secret, new, and improved features" they wouldn't discuss in detail but mentioned in my conversation. That in of itself may be worth the wait to upgrade, for some who are interested.

The only decent card which will work with the MCE 2005 as a digital tuner is the DVICO Fusion-HDTV3-T, (better known from DVico's site as the DVICO Fusion-HDTV3-ATSC (For U.S.). There are some problems with it's drivers, but it does work and works well, though you cannot get all the channels from say Comcast on it, only the non-scrambled channels. Also, you have to have an analog tuner installed before your digital card will work, (within MCE 2005,) and they cannot be the same card, as M$ doesn't support it in MCE. On the other hand, in MCE you don't have to use the MC interface, so it will work with the software which comes with the card.

As far as using a DirectX9 video card goes, if you wanted to use the ATI AIW's your S.O.L. untill ATI fixes their busted drivers. NVidia Personal Cinema 5700 will work just fine, but ATI's cards are better by a small marjin. When it comes down to using a non-AIW type card, either the NVidia FX5700 and newer or the ATI AIW 9600 and newer cards are going to work just fine. The problems you will see people reporting about are with cards without full DirectX9c compatiblity as it's required with MCE 2005, not as much as with cards which do DirectX9c as an option. People have been able to get ATI 9000&9200's, and earlier versions of NVidia's GeForce FX series, but to work with it but they upgraded from MCE 2004, and/or had to either obtain newer drivers from the web, or had to use hacked drivers to do it. Then support and stability wasn't nearly 100% favorable. Any of the PCI-Express cards will work just fine, as will the newer AGP versions from either ATI or NVidia, such as the FX-6000 series and the XT series. The XT series having already passed M$ hardware tests, but keep in mind M$ built the MCE with help from NVidia, so all NVidia cards with DirectX9c compatibility should have passed the tests and work. I have yet to see an NVTV card released yet, so I can't find anything about their cards to this point, and I don't expect to untill closer to christmas here in the U.S. (For those who don't celebrate the season in other parts of the world, the season starts the day after thanksgiving here in the U.S., which this year is on, November 25th, I believe. And Christmas day is December 25th. So it would have to be sometime around that.)

As I tried to explain earlier, ATSC refers to the digital format, (here in the U.S. anyways,) and NTSC and QAM is a method of delivery of the digital format. HDTV on the other hand is a format of the digital signal it can reside on the ATSC or other signal and has to do with the way it's processed to produce a higher quality picture.

So for my use, right now, it would behoove me to wait until next year still, to gain digital tuner capability, and go with the WinTV-PVR-350, though doing so will force me to have to purchase a card which wont allow for digital recording, which MCE 2005 wont do anyways. I'd have to do it from within the included software of the digital card, if I purchase one now, as later that wont even be possible. Hopefully soon they will overwrite that part of the legislation and allow it for PVR use, but untill we can get the blessed MPAA/RIAA out of the houses of Congress here, that's not likely going to happen in the U.S., or possibly anywhere else for that matter.

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