CAS had added to the confusion of what TV-Tuner to buy, Seeing as more and more people are TV enabling their PCs, our Agent does the Lamington Road rounds-and ends up putting off a purchase
A good friend recently moved to Mumbai. Being an IT guy, he'd brought along his PC. He isn't a gamer, so he gets his kicks elsewhere; now I'm not talking booze and discos… he's a TV buff who likes to spend his weekends glued to Star World.
One of his first purchases here in Mumbai was a TV set… no surprises. Problem is, he isn't at home most of the time, so he decided he needed a TV-Tuner card or box to record the serials he just couldn't miss. After having invested in a mammoth 500 GB hard drive (and the TV of course), he could only spend 3,000 for a TV-Tuner.
We met up at Vashi and boarded an early local to Grant Road station-with Lamington road in mind. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the commute time, and very few shops were open when we arrived. Well, even the best Agents trip up sometimes! A couple of Cokes later, the shutters began to open. The first shopkeeper greeted us with a toothy smile. Ah, the joy of being first customers…
We were shown an (analogue) Pinnacle PCTV 50e costing Rs 4,250. It's a rather bland-looking external TV-Tuner that can record directly to DivX. Also proffered was a Dazzle internal TV-Tuner at Rs 1,400. Its an analogue model. The box didn't have a specific model number-it just said "Dazzle PCI TV Tuner."
Dealer #2 showed us a couple of Leadtek models. One was an ultra-compact Winfast PalmTop TV, a cute orange analogue tuner box. The PalmTop TV has a host of powerful features including seamless playback for multiple video and audio files. It is priced at Rs 4,000. Next up was the Leadtek DTV 2000H. This PCI model is digital, and it, too, has a lot of features. The retail cost of the bundled software is more than that of the card itself! You can directly burn programmes to DVDs. At Rs 4,600, the DTV 2000H supports HD output as well.
Variety is the spice of life…so on to dealer number three. Before entering the shop, my friend told me he'd prefer an internal card (no desk space!) Next up was a Leadtek Winfast TV Dongle. It is digital, and ultra-compact-a little larger than a pen drive. The large feature set will be really appreciated, especially when you consider that it's so small. In fact, this miniature TV-Tuner isn't lacking in features when compared to much larger models. The remote, while feature-rich, looks bland; with its array of similar buttons, it looks like some sort of control panel. At Rs 4,200, the Leadtek Winfast TV Dongle will appeal to laptop users primarily because of its size. This guy told me he could arrange for a Hauppauge Win TV-PVR-150 for Rs 5,100. That card has all the features you'd want with a Media Center PC, and is digital.
I was impressed by the guy's resourcefulness; I remember wanting to buy a Hauppauge TV-Tuner myself a few months ago-I gave up because either people couldn't get it, or they were pricing it exorbitantly.
We also saw a Compro VideoMate Gold Plus M500 (analogue), which cost Rs 2,200. This is an older model from Compro; the bundle, while rich, contains older versions of software than what is currently available. The Compro VideoMate Gold was also on display at Rs 4,500. This is a full-size PCI card. Once again, it's a previous-generation product. It seems the latest Compro cards haven't gotten to Lamington Road yet.
Decision time for my friend… I had filled him in earlier on the CAS (Conditional Access System) issue doing the rounds. CAS will mean encrypted channels, which a regular satellite dish cannot receive. It will ultimately prevent exploitation of consumers by TV operators who have been hiking prices for no plausible reason. CAS will mean you'll have to invest in a set-top box and subscribe to individual channels (or a "package" of channels). Once conditional access comes into force, TV-Tuners without digital connectivity won't function properly because a set-top box uses a digital cable. Needless to say, your TV-Tuner remote also won't work-you'll control channels with the set-top box remote.
Considering that digital TV-Tuners are more expensive than their analogue counterparts, and that my friend wasn't willing to upsize his budget, we decided to wait a bit before buying a TV-Tuner. Yes, the digital ones won't really be affected by the CAS outcome, but my friend wasn't willing to splurge. We decided to sit this one out a bit till things become clearer.