Puget Systems print logo
Read this article at https://www.pugetsystems.com/guides/402
William George (Product Development)

TV Tuner Update - 2010

Written on January 7, 2010 by William George

It has been almost two years since I last wrote on the subject of TV tuners in computers, and a lot has changed since then.  Over-the-air TV signals have finally gone all-digital, and many cable providers have reduced or dropped their analog cable lineups as well.  These transitions, coupled with the release of Windows 7, mean that this year should be an exciting one for those of us with home-theater PCs.

As I alluded to above, Windows 7 has brought some very nice advancements to its included Media Center application.  This is now available in all major versions of Windows - Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate.  The improvements that affect HTPC use are threefold:

- The addition of support for CableCard-based tuners on a wider variety of hardware (previously they were restricted to only special BIOS-enabled motherboards)

- Support for tuning un-encrypted digital cable channels, also known as Clear-QAM

- Support for more tuners than previous editions of Media Center (up to four of each type now)

There aren't very many CableCard tuners on the market yet, so that advance won't be a big deal until more hardware vendors start shipping products - but it looks like a lot of stuff is being announced right now at CES, including a quad-channel tuner from Centon and a version of the HDHomeRun (which our company president, Jon, uses) that will use CableCard technology.

Clear-QAM is a much more tangible feature right now, and I am very much looking forward to making the switch myself from analog to digital cable.  I tried that last year with set-top boxes, but I found that the extra hassle in setup wasn't worth it at the time.  Please note, though, that what channels are available 'in the clear' will vary greatly between different regions and cable companies.  In many areas, though, the option of free over-the-air digital (ATSC) means you can get many channels for a one-time investment in a good tuner and antenna; that is the option which we at Puget are recommending to our customers with the Hauppauge HVR-2250 we will soon be carrying.

I hope to post again in the next couple of months when I switch over to either ATSC or Clear-QAM myself, or maybe even a CableCard setup, but until then please feel free to leave comments on your own TV-on-PC experiences!

"There aren’t very many CableCard tuners on the market yet, so that advance won’t be a big deal until more hardware vendors start shipping products"

The market has always been small for PC TV tuners, and it's only going to get smaller. Don't hold your breath!

Posted on 2010-01-08 00:20:58
Daniel Brown

TV Tuners are going away to be replaced by online video streaming. I recommend online video over tuning, right now. Netflix. Hulu. Youtube. NBC. UStream.

Posted on 2010-01-08 03:02:13

The Hauppauge 2250 is an excellent tuner. Free over-the-air channels come in crisp and clear (if you're in a metro area anyway). I love it & Puget installed it for me in my machine. It's amazing coupled with Windows 7 media center.

Posted on 2010-01-08 06:17:18

I agree that the market is small and will get smaller, but not quite yet. I'm with Daniel that online streaming is the way to go. But it works for me because I'm still running a crazy old TV. If I had a 1080P HD TV, I'd be looking for higher quality. With the advances Windows 7 makes in QAM tuning, I'm quite interested in the upcoming cable card tuners. I'd like to drop that monthly fee from Tivo! Tuning through Windows 7 carries no monthly fee (just your cable bill).

But for now, I'm happy with Hulu, Netflix, etc. What it doesn't get me is local news and the like, so I do run a tuner, and I'll just grab the free over-the-air channels that way. I'm actually tuning through Comcast cable right now, but as they encrypt more and more channels, its a losing battle (until those cable card tuners arrive). I'll just drop cable entirely until then. I don't like having to pay the cable company AND Tivo a monthly fee to get the flexibility I want in TV viewing.

Posted on 2010-01-08 18:48:13

The HD HomeRun has an advantage over the Hauppauge in the way it handles the ATSC and QAM inputs. The HD has separate RF inputs for each, so you can connect both an external antenna and a cable input without the need to have an A/B switch. That way they will both be accessible at the same time if I'm reading the tech info correctly. The Hauppauge only has one RF input, which has an internal splitter. In this configuration, you can only watch one type of signal at a time, either ATSC or QAM, although with two tuners for dual programming availability. For me, since I'm wanting to access/have available both external and cable at the same time, the HD is a better choice.

Posted on 2010-02-17 05:05:26

Hi I own a home theater company and I am often questioned about cable card tuners for computers, thanks for publishing this usueful info!

Posted on 2011-02-14 22:02:43