By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Dec - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2006
Imagine your PC having the additional functionality of FM, television, and a Web server that broadcasts TV on your LAN. Well, all this is possible with the help of TV-Tuners. Most TV-Tuners also function as video capture cards, allowing them to record television programmes onto a hard drive. And a TV-Tuner provides even more functionalities than we've mentioned here!
Questions To Ask

What are the different types of TV-Tuner cards?

Going by design, there are two types- internal PCI/PCI-E cards and external set-top boxes. Some vendors also have a PCMCIA-based cards for laptops. From a technology point of view, TV-Tuners can be classified as analogue and digital. Most TV-Tuners available in India are analogue; digital broadcasting has only just begun in India-trial runs have been made, but digital going mainstream will take some time. 

What are the essential features of a TV-Tuner card?
The most obvious feature one has to look for is the quality of tuner used-it directly affects picture quality. Do some research-ask friends, read reviews on the Internet and in Digit, ask people who have used the make you're looking at. Secondly, look at the software bundle; it should come with some sort of PVR software. If you intend to record, then go for a TV-Tuner with an onboard MPEG 2 decoder.

Will a card with FM radio have interference problems?
In most cases, no. A new breed of TV-Tuners have integrated FM radio, and generally, care is taken to ensure minimum interference. Also, at a time, only the TV or the radio feature is used, so the possibility of interference is remote.  

What are the minimum hardware requirements for a TV-Tuner to run?
TV tuners will run on most machines for TV-they don't require high-end hardware. However, it is the capturing feature of the TV-Tuner that demands hardware resources. If you intend to use the card for capturing video content, you need at least a 2 GHz processor, 512 MB memory on Windows XP, and naturally, lots of hard disk space (depending on how much video you intend to store). Some older VIA chipset based motherboards with onboard video tend to have compatibility issues; check for this before you buy.

Should I buy an external or internal TV-Tuner?
Prefer an internal card when you intend to use it for capturing video content from devices such as a DVD player or handycam. Since the card is plugged directly into the respective bus, it runs at the speed of the bus.

Opt for an external box when you want to use it only for TV. It's more convenient. There are two types of external TV-Tuners-those that act as set top boxes, and those than run off the USB port. The former is what you should be looking at if you plan to use it as a simple TV. A PCMCIA- or USB-based external box is a good option for laptops.

Usage Tips
Make a regular check at the manufacturer's Web site for updating your TV-Tuner's drivers; these updates help fix bugs.

Install all third-party codecs such as DivX, because videos in this format offer good quality in smaller file sizes than formats such as MPEG 1 and 2.

For PCs with lower configurations, make sure you close all applications at the time of recording, especially your anti-virus software.
Reduce the number of joints in the co-axial cable from where the input signal is delivered to your TV-Tuner card. Each joint causes a drop in the magnitude of the signal, causing a deterioration in the quality of reception.

Make use of the features available in the PVR (Personal Video Recorder) software; better-quality reception is not solely dependant on the signal. It requires a lot of tuning, such as selecting the proper TV system in the software.

Third-party PVR software is useful for better functionality of the TV-Tuner. If you find that the bundled software is too limiting, read up and buy the best package you can afford.

  What To Look For
·  A good-quality tuner unit; go with a reputed name
·  Check the full-screen display quality before buying
·  Look for a fully-functional remote. The remote sensor should have a wire length of at least 3 feet
·  Look for one that supports video capture at 25-30 fps
·  Look for full TV frequency range for CATV/VHF/UHF.
·  Driver support for different OSes is important.
·  Opt for a TV-Tuner with bundled PVR software
·  If it's an external TV-Tuner you're going with, make sure it's USB 2.0

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