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Which TV card?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by geeWcee, Feb 9, 2005.

  1. geeWcee

    geeWcee
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    Hi,

    I'm wanting to test out a new TV card in my normal PC before I go the whole hog and build a HTPC. I have an aerial socket in my new 'office' room and so I can plug in straight there.
    I would like the Freeview channels, and also be able to schedule it to record shows as I am not always in front of my machine.
    Can anyone recommend a card, I have no experience in this area at all. Price not a problem.

    Cheers.
     
  2. Leporello

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    I'd recommend the Nebula DigiTV PCI from Nebula at £116.00 inc. VAT.
    I've had mine for over a year and it's terrific. However, I live in North London where reception is quite good.
    I have mine plugged into a standard roof antenna and get all the channels I want and many more that I don't, all with excellent picture quality. I previously had a Hauppage Win TV which, was barely adequate.

    Type "Digitv review" into google and you should find a couple of very positive reviews.
     
  3. geeWcee

    geeWcee
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    Looks good. I presume every one else on here has the same board then? ;)
     
  4. Gerbil

    Gerbil
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    Yep, pretty much. :)

    The Nebula card has some quirks, but the software is being constantly updated and the picture quality is outstanding compared with analogue cards I've tried in the past.

    Scheduling it to record shows is no problem, it even has a web interface so you could in theory connect to it over the Internet and set timers for programmes to record.

    Despite the quirks its the best bit of kit I've ever bought for the PC and I wouldn't be without it.
     
  5. geeWcee

    geeWcee
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    Thanks guys. Looks like thats the one to go for.
    Cheers for the input.
     
  6. Neelix

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    Before this thread gets done and dusted I would like to add a further question. What tv card would be best to capture Sky Digital? I won't be using Freeview as Sky digital has all the channels, therefore what is the best capture card which allows PVR functions also. I am led to believe the Sweetspot card would be the best as it offers an RGB connection... is that all there is to it or am I missing something?
     
  7. Gerbil

    Gerbil
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    Hopefully a Sweetspot owner will be along shortly to give you a definitive answer, but I suspect most of them aren't used for PVR functionality. The Sweetspot is just a capture card. Where it differs from most capture cards is that it has an RGB input making it ideal for connecting to Sky boxes and then scaling/deinterlacing on the PC to output to Plasma screens etc.

    It doesn't have any in built hardware compression so if you want to then have PVR functionality you'll need a huge amount of hard disk space and a fast processor and even then I suspect you may be disappointed. Trying to capture full frame PAL TV and compress it on the fly is pretty demanding. Trying to have PVR functionality with a pause function for live TV is even worse since the PC is having to compress and decompress video at the same time

    If you want to capture Sky Digital at reasonable quality then you'd be looking at something like a Hauppauge PVR350 card which has a built in MPEG2 hardware compression. Even then you'd need to sort out some way of getting the computer to be able to change the channels on the Sky box unless you're happy to always be around to start recordings manually.

    I tried a couple of years ago using ShowShifter software combined with a capture card connected to a Grundig Sky box via S-Video and a USBUIRT infra-red transmitter so the PC could initiate channel changes. After a lot of playing around I came to the conclusion that the results weren't worth the effort.

    With the Nebula card it's easy. The tuner is on the card so the computer has straightforward control of channel changes. The data that its capturing is an already compressed MPEG2 transport stream so all the software has to do is dump the MPEG stream to disk with minimal processor intervention. The end result is that whether your pausing live TV or recording it the results are indistinguishable from watching it live. I suspect that nobody who's capturing Sky could claim that their results were indistinguishable from watching it live. Hopefully someone will be along to dispute this. I'd like to believe that things have moved on in two years.
     
  8. groovyclam

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    I own a SweetSpot and Gerbil is right in what he says.

    It is a great device for displaying a live signal of RGB/quality quality but if you want to capture it to harddrive then it has to encode via software which means either no compression which results in a massive filesize ( hundreds of Gig per hour ) or, if you use a compressor like DivX to get the filesize down then there are lots of dropped frames in the recording because a software encoder can't keep up the pace in realtime.

    It is frustrating that the SweetSpot people don't make a hardware MPEG encoder add-on for the SweetSpot to complete this card.

    Your alternatives are as Gerbil says - a FreeView card ( such as the Nebula or Black Gold ) or a capture card that has a hardware MPEG encoder - the problem with the current crop of these is they don't allow RGB or component inputs for best quality signal capture.

    Why oh why isn't there a card for the UK that captures RGB SCART/component and does hardware MPEG encoding!? It's a device many are crying out for.
     
  9. Neelix

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    So if I just want to watch Sky Digital on my PC with the best possible picture then I should get a Sweetspot card which allows RGB connection and the use of Dscaler for 1:1 pixel mapping. If however I want a PVR function as well as capturing Sky then I should perhaps look at the Hauppauge cards like the WinTV-PVR-250MCE or WinTV-PVR-500MCE. I see no need for a freeview card such as the Nebula or Black Gold as Sky Digital has all the channels and obviously a few more. Gerbil, if I understand you correctly then you are saying there is no way to input Sky and control the channels using the computer. Does the MCE remote controller not allow this? This would also mean that while I could use the PVR function of the Hauppauge cards I couldn't set it to record with the EPG as it wouldn't be able to change the Sky channel :( Does the sweetspot card function with MCE2005, I assume that Sweetspot uses it's own software to display the tv signal. I agree with you groovyclam, there appears to be a gap in the market for a RGB capture card that has built in MPEG encoding :(
     
  10. Gerbil

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    Yep that's pretty much it.

    If you want the PC to be able to initiate channel changes on the Sky box then you'll need something like the USBUIRT. I've no idea what the Hauppauge software is like and whether it has any facilities to trigger external events, e.g. call Girder to get the USBUIRT to change Sky channels.

    The other alternative is to use ShowShifter to drive the Hauppauge card. You can certainly get Showshifter to change Sky channels using Girder and the USBUIRT, but expect to do a bit of playing. It also appears from the Showshifter forums that there's a few people experiencing issues with Showshifter compatability with the Hauppauge cards.
     
  11. St_ve

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    I can recomend the V-stream Xpert DTV-DVB-T PCI card picture quality is fantastic a lot better than telewest c*rap.
    One thing i find annoying is you are not able to reorder the channells you are stuck with the order they are tuned in .Recorded programes are as good as live. :)
     
  12. Neelix

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    St_ve, are you using this capture card purely for Freeview digital? I am more concerned about Sky Digital which I assume you could feed through this also but whether it has any control over the Sky Digibox I don't know.
     
  13. St_ve

    St_ve
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    Just freeview digital but the guy who installed the arial said if i got Telewest to move the output frequency on the telewest box i could get that as well.I don't know if the PC would be able to control your sky box with this card.
     
  14. geeWcee

    geeWcee
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    I ended up getting the Nebula. Thanks for the recommendation guys, it really is a nice bit of kit.
    Only quirk is I cant get any of the ITV channels on it. All the rest are fine.
     
  15. doink

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    WinTV Nova-T PCI here, cost me £60 from PC world and works perfectly with Showshifter and Media center 2005

    Waste of money spending more, just use a good Mpeg 2 decoder.
     
  16. DaveP

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    Is this card MCE 2005 compatible?

    Thanks

    Dave
     
  17. Branxx

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    Does anyone knows if any of the cheaper DVB-T PCI or USB cards are compatible with Nebula DigiTV software? Or, alternatively, can any other card send a transport stream over the local network in a way compatible with DigiTV software?
     
  18. cwick

    cwick
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    Branxx,

    Not 100%, but I'm pretty sure the Nebula stuff is, at least partly, proprietary. You can, for example, stream from the Nebula to VLC - but the control channel isn't any sort of standard protocol, so yoou can't change channels (more strictly you can't change transponder, but if you stream the entire mux then VLC can change channel on that mux). I'm sure it would only take a little work with a sniffer to figure it out though. Although that's kind of backwards from you're asking, I think you can apply the same logic the other way round, if you see what I mean.
     
  19. Branxx

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    I like Nebula software but the whole package is a bit pricey. I have two Nebula cards and TV streaming is working very well for me.

    Nebula is introducing multi-card support this year and that will open new possiblities, like having a whole-house TV server (with Gigabit AN) with very small chance of clients overloading the server or clashing with each other.
     
  20. DaveP

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    Seems no-one knows so I've ordered one. I'll let you know after I've installed it!
     
  21. Stellavision

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    GeeWcee, how are you getting on with the Nebula?
    Good results capturing Sky?
    I bought a Hauppauge PVR250 a few months ago for capturing sky from my sky+ hard drive, and while the live image displayed crystal clear on the pc screen, the captured images I found very poor quality.
    I ended up selling the Hauppauge.
    Ideally I would like a good capture card, but at the minute it seems the best method to suit my needs would be to by a stand-alone dvd recorder and drag the burned dvd movie files ontp my pc to edit.
    If the Nebula is good it could save my a bit of hassle (and money)!
     
  22. Rob.Screene

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    Hi Barrie,
    I've read the s-video input on the nebula pci isn't that great, as it's mainly a freeview tuner card, which does bbc1-4 itv1-3, cbeebies, etc but won't do the encrypted sky channels yet, such as ukgold, sky one, etc.

    cheers,
    Rob.
    p.s. the svs is still very much enjoyed!
     
  23. Branxx

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    Nebula is pure Freeview, and very good at that.

    It is not as yet MCE2005 compatible (they need to update the drivers for that).

    There are number of posts in the specialised forums as to how can you pair Nebula card with the card-reader and (if you have a valid TopUpTV viewing card) watch subscription channels.

    Recorded TV programs are of the same quality as what is coming of the air.
     
  24. Stellavision

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    Cheers guys.
    Rob, I'm glad to hear you are still enjoying your SVS. :smashin:
    I'm on my third subwoofer since selling it, but I think I'm settled now! :D
     
  25. geeWcee

    geeWcee
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    hi Stella, I dont think the DigiTV can capture sky, it is a Freeview card.
    I've had it a few days now and its running great now. I get all channels at top notch quality and the captured stuff is just the same as broadcast quality.
    The PVR function is easy to use. I already have loads of hours of TV to catch up on because of it.... ;)
     
  26. milanlad

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    Would the Sweetspot card be any good for me in the following applications?

    1. I want to RIP my DVD's onto the hard drive. I want to playback the films from the PC'S hard drive back onto the TV which has RGB / Scart inputs? If it's just a standard CRT TV do I still need to have the picture scaled before playback?

    2. I want to record programmes from my SKY+ hard drive into my PC in RGB quality. After progammes are recorded, I would want to playback from my PC back out to a normal CRT TV, again via RGB/Scart connection.

    Any thoughts?
     
  27. John21

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    I can't find that on pcworld's website.
     
  28. groovyclam

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    You wouldn't use a SweetSpot for ripping from a DVD disk - you rip it direct from the DVDdrive with other software.

    SweetSpot is not used for playback of files at all. SweetSpot is for getting TV signals into a PC, not for sending them to a TV. SweetSpot is not a graphics card.

    The scaling and output of the signal to your TV is all done by your graphics card and Windows desktop/PowerStrip software.

    As I have said futher up this thread SweetSpot does allow the best quality RGB component input but can not capture to hard drive with sufficient speed and compression. It can display a *live* signal of an RGB input scaled beautifully. Maybe if you built an expensive multiprocessor setup capture via SweetSpot with software encoding would be possible.

    There appears to be no card yet for hardware encoding of RGB input. The best compromise so far is a TV card with hardware MPEG2 encoding with a S-Video input.

    Somebody please make an RGB component input card with MPEG2 hardware encoding. It would sell like hotcakes. It's a no-brainer.
     
  29. milanlad

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    Okay thanks for that.

    Assuming that I have already Ripped my DVD's onto the hard drive. Is my only option then to playback the movies to a standard TV via a graphics card? And if so, is S-Video output the best picture quality I can currently get?

    Any suggestions for good graphics cards to do this?

    Also, currently, is the best quality to capture video with hardware encoding available only via S-Video input?

    (Sorry if I'm getting this wrong or missing the point!!)
     
  30. groovyclam

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    No -> you can get RGB-SCART out to the TV from certain Radeon graphics card's VGA-out. Search for the "VGA to SCART" thread in this forum - it is all in there.

    If your TV has a DVI input there are totally digital methods of getting the signal in that way.

    Until 5 minutes ago I thought what you just said was true but I have just found this card: http://www.darvision.com/mpegator4/index.shtml

    Component input with hardware MPEG2 and hardware MPEG4 encoding of PAL or NTSC. A HTPC builder's wet dream card. Unfortunately I have just got a price quote from the UK distributor of over £700 !!!

    Back to s-video I think. I haven't used the s-video input MPEG2 hardware encoding TV card ( I think it's a Hauppage brand ) so can't comment on the quality of capture/encoding.
     

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