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DVB (Freeview) card recommendations

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by lewiswlawrence, Apr 24, 2005.

  1. lewiswlawrence

    lewiswlawrence
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    Hello there,

    I am in the process of building a PC running Media Center 2005, and need some advice on a suitable DVB card for Freeview (I am in the UK), to replace the Panasonic set top box I currently use. I really like the channel preview functionality I have with the set top box, which allows browsing up and down the channels without switching, as well as showing now and next. It is also very responsive to the remote control, and these are all features I would like from the new card. I am mostly interested in an OEM type solution, as I have Media center so don’t need a remote control etc, so it needs to be Media Center certified. I plan to buy two cards to facilitate simultaneous play back and record.

    At the moment I only know of the sweetspot, blackgold and Hauppauge cards, but would like to hear any other suggestions or recommendations.

    Thanks and best regards,
    -----
    Lewis
     
  2. Bernard Barnett

    Bernard Barnett
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    Nebula gets a lot of recommendations here. I have the USB version for my laptop and can't fault it. Suggest you do a search.
     
  3. DaveP

    DaveP
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    I can fault it!

    It's not Media Centre Compatible so is ruled out by that.

    It's also not as sensitive as the Black Gold card (the one I had wasn't anyway).


    I believe that Black Gold have an offer on buying 2 cards. Mines behaved perfectly

    Dave
     
  4. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Lewis

    The SweetSpot MCE card is technically identical to the Black Gold - if you have a look at our banner ad we have an offer on at the moment for AVForums members which allows you to buy a single card at the 'twin pack' price.

    It works perfectly with the Windows Media Centre so that would be our recommendation..
     
  5. lewiswlawrence

    lewiswlawrence
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    I read the recommendations for the Nebula card, but as someone has already stated, it isn't yet Media Center compatable so I ruled it out.

    I forgot to mention one other feature I would like to maintain from the digibox is the ability to force a given aspect ratio irrespective of what is being broadcast. The output is being sent to a panel display that is 16:9, and the digibox had a setting to force output in this format, filling the screen for 4:3 broadcasts. I prefer this slightly distorted image to the black bars on either side. I think the screen offers the option to stretch the images anyway so this might be something I could work around.

    Does the Black Gold card allow the channel browsing using the up/down arrows, with the pop up window displaying channel information?
     
  6. Bernard Barnett

    Bernard Barnett
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    Ah well, sorry about that. Trying to salvage something, my recommendation to search these forums still holds - there's been a lot of discussion.
     
  7. lewiswlawrence

    lewiswlawrence
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    I have searched the forums, while there has been a lot informative and interesting discussion about TV cards generally, there hasn’t been as much about DVB cards, and no real mention of the functionality I am after. Similarly when reading reviews of the cards etc from other web sites, they are nearly always installed in a standard XP machine (therefore using proprietary software), not one running media center. I was hoping to hear from an end user with some experience in a setup similar to mine.
     
  8. lisag

    lisag
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    Hi,

    The actual card you buy will have an effect on picture quality and maybe sensitivity to picking up channels but as you will be using MCE 2005, it is that software that will provide the functionality and the features you are after.

    I use an Avermedia USB2 MCE Freeview box because I have no PCI slots in my HTPC, if I did have slots I would go for the special offer on the two Sweetspot MCE cards.

    So, with regard to functionality MCE does not automatically expand 4:3 signals to 16:9 but if you press the 'i' button on the remote you can cycle through three different zoom modes and it will rescale the image very well. Bit of a pain I suppose, although you get used to it, and most programmes are broadcast 16:9 anyway so I just leave mine in zoom mode 1. With regard to the previewing channels as you cycle through the different station, I am pretty sure you can do this from the tv guide, though can't remember exactly and am at work at the mo, I can check tonight if you like. You certainly can do it when you are setting up the channels as I remember previewing the stations in a thumbnail as I was setting up the channell listings and names.
     
  9. DaveP

    DaveP
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    If I remember I'll take a look at lunchtime and let you know about the now and next info.

    I am running MCE 2005 with a Black Gold card

    Dave
     
  10. hebawom

    hebawom
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    The Sweetspot MCE/BlackGold card is great. Good quality picture and sound - your questions about aspect ratio and channel information actually refer to media center rather than the card.

    Zoom option 3 in media center (using the "i" button) fills the whole screen no matter what the aspect ratio. Also, media center displays the current program when you go to a channel (wish it did now and next like sky - but I'm not complaining - too much!)
     
  11. DaveP

    DaveP
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    David

    I clicked on the banner but I was unable to find this offer. I found a single card at £73.97. Is that the offer price?

    Thanks

    Dave
     
  12. lewiswlawrence

    lewiswlawrence
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    Thanks for all the good information, I understand about the zoom/aspect ratio and it sounds like I can set that to work like I want, that is good news.

    The “Now and next” functionality is somehow processed from the broadcast signal, so if that were on offer it would have to be handled by the receiver card and driver somehow as well as being supported by Media Center. It sounds like I might have to live without that though.
     
  13. hebawom

    hebawom
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    It takes the "now and next" from the guide it downloads - but it doesn't show the "next" bit, just the "now"!!
     
  14. Dunkwho

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    MCE is somewhat of a combo of functionality vs a freeview dvb-t box. with a regular box everything you're working with comes through the aerial - the picture, the now next, etc etc. with MCE only the picture\sound is taken from dvb, everything else is provided by MCE. there is no now&next, just a guide grabbed over the internet which opens full screen and shows the channel\recording you're watching in a small box bottom left ... sound keeps going. MCE doesn't include a video decoder as standard and the one you use can have an effect on the ratio handling. I (and many others) use nvidia's decoder - that handles 4:3 and 16:9 broadcasts just how I want it to - everything stays in its original intended ratio and with black bars being added to the sides of 4:3 pictures ... the TV\PJ\display stays in 16:9 mode.

    Cards - Blackgold did a dual card offer for a while, I couldn't find it when I went looking a few months back. I've ended up with a blackgold MCE and an original hauppage nova-t card (identified by RF input only, new cards have in&out) using technotrend's dvb-t drivers with the nova-t. If it helps ... pcworld have the usb2 nova-t online at 59.99 each. If you go usb make sure its either the usb2 nova-t or the card that lisa has, only these two are supported in MCE at the moment AFAIK.

    Duncan
     
  15. Scotty

    Scotty
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    "buy a single card at the 'twin pack' price."

    sorry is this one card for the price of two or two cards for the price of one?
     
  16. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    The discount code AVFORUMS gives 12.5% discount, regardless of the quantity of cards purchased - meaning that if you buy just 1 card then you are still getting the discount that you would get if you bought two..

    this probably hasnt made it any clearer at all has it..
     
  17. lewiswlawrence

    lewiswlawrence
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    Thanks for all the advice everyone, I purchased two sweetspot cards from: -
    http://www.pluggedin.tv/store/
    I only ordered them around lunch time, received the 12.5% discount available to forum members, and they arrived the very next day. I installed them last night and they work well. No issues with drivers etc in my Media Center box. Picture quality is good, and I have no hesitation in recommending a similar setup to anyone. Nice kit and fantastic service. :clap:
     
  18. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Lewis

    glad they arrived safe and sound. Your challenge now is trying to view material as fast as your PVR is recording it :)

    ( I have a Sky 250gb and an MCE system to keep up with!!)

    cheers
     
  19. Skunkpipe

    Skunkpipe
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    hey Mr Plugged in.
    Don't suppose there are any plans for a freeviewcard with a hardware MPEG2 encoder for the s-video in are there?
     
  20. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    nope.

    we think that our current range of cards covers pretty much everything that you want for set top boxes (SweetSpot and SweetSpot SDI) and Freeview/DVB-t (SweetSpot MCE)

    For us its all about the picture quality - so not really that keen on re-encoding stuff from Sky via svid.

    sorry!
     
  21. Skunkpipe

    Skunkpipe
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    OK Fair enough.
    So why have software encoded s-Video in?

    I'm not having a dig, but if something is advertised as MCE compatible and bits of it aren't then that can be construed as being misleading and can lead to issues - why not do the Hauppage thing and remove the s-video in? It may be that it works outside of MCE, but the thing is MCE is going to be the defacto std for HTPC's amongst the non-homecinema fanatical general public.
    It's an issue that prevents me adding freeview cards with s-video in to my machines because it's more trouble thatn it's worth to explain to customers that yes, there is s-video in, but no you can't use it :s

    Can you tell I'm a little frustrated in that no-one offers such a freeview card; and it's particulary difficult trying to explain to my customers who aren't that savvy technically that no; they can't have a freeview tuner PVR that will work with their current set-top box. You only have to look at the number of times the issue has come up here (and I'm a noob round these parts)
     
  22. Skunkpipe

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    blimey that came across as a bit of a rant :rolleyes:
     
  23. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    What you want is something like a nebula, with an additional rgb/component analogue input stage and hardware mpeg2 (or better) encoding.

    game over baby.
     
  24. Skunkpipe

    Skunkpipe
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    indeed - that's *exactly* what I want (dual tuner too).:thumbsup: :lease:

    The moon on a stick would also be nice:clap:
     

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