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PC PVR vs. hardware PVR picture quality

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by treefrog911, Sep 10, 2003.

  1. treefrog911


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    Hi All,

    I've recently decommissioned my Tivo, and want to replace it with a PC based equivalent. I'm using a fresh copy of Win2000 and have installed the Nebula PCI Freeview card - so far so good.

    How are you guys using this card with regards to TV output? I'm using a G400 card. I have two options:

    1. Use Dualhead Cone to reproduce the windows desktop on my TV. This seems to give washed out colours and a sort of 'dream-like' quality to the video. Compared back-to-back with normal TV (e.g. the old Tivo) it appears very 'slow' - not anything like as fluid and smooth as the Tivo or normal (i.e. set-top box) TV.

    2. Use Dualhead DVDMax to sent TV output via the second monitor port to the TV. This produces more fluid motion with better quality colours. However, I'm cursed with a kind of stuttery / jittery motion that is really annoying. Also, none of the on-screen graphics are displayed - which kinda kills the whole PVR experience.

    If money was no object - what can be done? Would buying a digital projector help? Would buying a better TV output card help?

    I'd love to know what the root of these problems is - is PC based video just too difficult to 'translate' onto a standard PAL TV without making some compromise that doesn't have to be made using a Tivo or set-top box? Is anyone out there using a Nebula based PVR that gives as good picture quality as a hardware based PVR.

    Thanks for any ideas,

  2. MikeTV

    Well-known Member

    Feb 1, 2003
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    Ealing, London
    It sounds like some of your problems are typical of the results from tv-out cards. It's not that tv-out cards are bad, it's that the s-video/composite video signal, the tv itself, and the PAL interlaced format, are not designed for reproducing computer generated images at standard computer resolutions. A computer monitor (or compatible projector) should produce much better results (when using the VGA connection from your graphics card).

    I have a nebula card, and I too noticed jerky motion at first - but only on high motion scenes. However, now I have used it a while, I don't notice it any more. This could be because I am used to it, or because the software has been improved - I'm not sure which. And you could be more sensitive to stutter than me.

    On the whole, my impression of the nebula is that the picture quality (for definition at least, rather than motion) is far better than you could typically expect from a Tivo device, and I attribute this to the fact that it is a purely digital stream (standard Tivo's are converting from an analogue source), and a standard Tivo has a limited bandwidth for recording and playback. But then again, I would expect a digital tivo (ie. satellite decoder - DirectTivo?) would give similar results to the nebula, because it should be recording/playing a purely digital stream.

    That's unfortunate. Why is that happening?? Have you spoken to tech support?

    I'm not an expert on the various tv-card options, but I know of no reason why the Tivo should outperform a PC in this respect - because the technology is largely the same (a Tivo is just a PC under the covers - with a tv-out card).

    There are a lot of options for improving the TV output from a PC. Often the desktop resolution makes a difference (ie. 640x480 or 800x600, not 1024x768). Always use an "s-video" connection, in preference to a "composite video" signal. Not all cards will support s-video. The best approach is to use PAL RGB instead of s-video. Unfortunately tv-out cards don't support PAL RGB at all. For this you may need to get a specialist graphics card or convertor. There are various devices, like transcoders, image processors, and modified graphics cards, that can all help out here.

    Yes - using a rear projection TV (an HDTV, as it happens), connected via VGA. Similar results should be easy to acheive using any projector/plasma that supports VGA inputs.

    Lastly - if it's a question ease of use, functionality and stability of a standalone PVR that is important to you, a tivo wins hands down, in my opinion.

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