Published Date
01 - Sep - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Sep - 2005
It’s A PC… It’s A TV

Recently, after a three-year stay in the US, my best friend Samir returned to India. We soon caught up at our usual hangout and after the initial niceties, the topic immediately turned to our common passion-technology!

A techie and an avid gamer, Samir has an 02 XDA IIs, a Rio Karma MP3 player and the slimmest digital camera I have ever seen-the Sony DSC T7! Over the course of our conversation, he amazed me with stories of the US including his experiences with LAN gaming and the like. Well, what do you expect when two techies get together?

If you would like to capture live TV shows, you would be better off with an internal TV-Tuner card

Now that he was back, things weren't exactly to his liking. I suggested he rent some DVDs or watch TV to pass the time but this just opened up a can of worms! Samir's home (like most Indian homes) had fallen prey to the saas-bahu sagas and the poor guy had no say in the matter.

Time for Agent 001 to swing into action! Having dealt with this problem myself, I knew the anatomy of the problem and the solution  too! A TV-Tuner card is the best device to counter this problem and have your way! Accordingly, I suggested this to him and before I know it, I was in the thick of things and found myself searching for an ideal TV-Tuner device for his computer.

My first stop was at a decent enough shop in Vashi Plaza (Navi Mumbai). On inquiring about a TV-Tuner card, I was asked for two options-external and internal. What's the difference? In an internal card, one needs to install it in the CPU and then load the drivers-it's a lot of work!

With an external one, all one has to do is hook it up to a standard monitor and you're done.

Also, in an external box, since you are not required to switch 'On' the PC, it saves a lot of power, which is not an option with the 'internal' TV tuner card. But what about capturing Live TV programmes to view them later?

If you are interested in capturing live shows, you would be better off with an internal TV-Tuner card, I was told. There are some external boxes that hook up to your PC via the USB port, but then the connection becomes the bottleneck. It's advisable to go for an internal card if capturing is your game.

As for brands, the only two options I was presented with were Frontech and Intex. The external solutions from these brands are priced between Rs 1.2 K and Rs 1.5 K and offer maximum bang for your buck. Unfortunately, they lack the quality finish associated with good products.

To hunt for better options, I decided to make the journey to the Holy Grail-Lamington Road (LR). Unfortunately, the July 26 rains that inundated the whole of Mumbai did not spare LR either. Nonetheless, business was as usual. My decision to make the journey here was vindicated at the first stop itself where I was presented with a range of options to choose from. The prices started at Rs 1.2 K and went up to Rs 6 K.

Entry-level internal TV-tuner cards with basic 'capturing' capabilities from Frontech, Intex, Mercury, X-Teq started at Rs 1.2 K. If you are on a hunt for the cheapest solution and can compromise on the capturing front, don't look any further.

Pinnacle, Compro, AverMedia and Pixelview are the middle range options and offer internal TV-Tuner cards between Rs 2.2 K and Rs 3.5 K. Within this category, AverMedia and Pixelview are slightly cheaper options with respectable picture quality. Both, Pinnacle and Compro, have Gold or Pro versions of their cards and offer extra features including FM Tuner, Stereo sound and more. These versions, though, would set you back by around Rs 3.5 K.

Although you can also use these TV tuner cards for capturing content, you need to remember that these cards don't have the required decoding hardware and hence, good quality capture is not possible.

Cards such as Hauppauge have  an onboard hardware MPEG-2 decoder that makes good capturing possible. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't locate a dealer for these cards. Time to phone relatives abroad! Compro also has another solution wherein the tuner is integrated with the Graphics card. Cost: a good Rs 6 K.      

Finally, for Samir, I bought Pinnacle's PCTV that cost Rs 2,350-an ideal option for viewing and capturing content provided you have a good computer. 

Team DigitTeam Digit

All of us are better than one of us.