Hauppauge WinTV PVR-350
There are many products made for PCs that arenít directed towards gamers at all. While we at Techgage focus primarily on gamers, we are tech heads to our very core. This calling that we follow can take us to so many places and allow us to tap the full potential of our computes. It is users, like you and I, that cannot be satisfied when our PCs run the latest games at ungodly resolutions with all the eye candy turned on provided by our dual GPU systems.
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I've got an ATI TV Wonder myself, and I can say, these cards add a good bit of functionality to your pc. I can enjoy the late night shows without bothering the others in the house. The native 1280x1024 resolution is a really nice addition to the card.
As far as the radio reception, computers put out a lot of electromagnetic interference. That may be a reason it doesn't pick up well. All the components within modern pc's can cause a good bit of static even on strong FM signals. I expect the reception would be better with an HTPC due to less internal wiring.
I've been using this card fairly heavily for about a year now so I thought I should jump in with a couple of my own observations.
1) While WinTv in an OK program and utilizes the functions of the card, I find you get a much better all around experience by using a real PVR application such as SageTV, Beyond TV, Windows MCE, MythTV, etc.
2) CPU usage will go down if you utilize the Hardware Decoder by connecting to a tv via Svideo instead of using local monitor playback. Using the decoder, my CPU usage sits at around 5% or so (which is essentially idle on my P4 2GHz system).
3) You can use this card on a much lowerend system than what it says on the box. I currently have this running under Linux (I wouldn't recommend it on this system in windows) on a P2 400MHz system with 320MB RAM. I can view it locally or on my tv (it's a little sluggish locally, but is great on my tv), and I have it streaming to another computer for playback in my livingroom.
4) I found at first that I had some issues with ghosting of the image that I resolved by disconnecting the FM antenna. It seemed to cause some distortion for me. And I don't really use it anyway because I haven't bothered to figure out how to get it running in Linux yet, and I have a stereo for that anyway.
5) There is also a port on the top of the card that you can connect an optional bracket to to increase the number of ports available to you if you want to connect more devices to it. It adds an additional svideo and composite set if I recall correctly.
6) For those that are considering recording demos of console games, you have to remember that this card buffers the input so there will be a delay of about 1sec between the action happening in the game any you seeing it on the screen. So you may think you're hitting your controller at the correct time, but you're actually 1 second behind.
7) The tuner doesn't really capture at 1280x1024. NTSC is 640x480. When you playback on your monitor, it gets scaled by your video card to whatever your screen resolution is. Granted video cards generally do a good job of this, but it isn't that way natively.
All in all, I really like this card because it barely takes up any system resources when used properly. I personally recommend using a different application than what comes with it, but the built in software certainly works well enough. Changing channels can be a tad slower than I'd like, but it's not really slow in my opinion.
If you are going to be using this card in one system and stream it to another system (like I'm currently doing) I'd recommend going with a PVR150 instead because it's a newer card than the PVR350 and is actually cheaper because it doesn't include the hardware decoder. Most current video cards will have atleast an Svideo port on them, and many even have component or DVI (most have DVI these days). Current video cards generally don't use much system resources to output this type of signal on a TV screen. HDTV can be a little more demanding to output, but basic SDTV is fairly light on the processor. If I had it to do over, I'd probably do it that way.
I've been very happy with it though.
Oh yeah, nice review. :)
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