Hauppauge Nova-T-500 review
Add a TV tuner and you can make the most of Media Center, which is bundled with Vista Home Premium and Ultimate
Review Date: 18 Jan 2007
Reviewed By: Jim Martin
Price when reviewed: (£65 inc VAT)
With Vista Home Premium and Ultimate including Media Center, a TV tuner is an obvious upgrade if you want to take advantage of Media Center's easy-to-use interface for watching and recording TV.
Here, we look at a range of options, from hybrid (both analog and digital) tuners to tuners with built-in FM radio and dual-digital offerings.
The latest PCI card from Hauppauge is the Nova-T-500. It's a low-profile card with a full-height bracket, but you can request a half-height bracket. The Nova-T-500 boasts twin digital tuners (requiring a single antenna connection) and you'll find a remote control and IR receiver in the box. Testing under Vista Ultimate, we found the Nova-T-500 worked flawlessly, recording two channels simultaneously without breaking a sweat. With the latest software, all the remote's buttons worked correctly in Media Center.
If you're not planning to use Media Center, Hauppauge's software is dated and has a clunky interface, but can at least record to PSP and iPod formats. And, a radically improved version of WinTV will be available for download (including a free seven-day EPG) from www.hauppauge.co.uk as soon as it's ready. At £55, it's a superb choice.
For £8 less, AVerMedia offers the AVerTV Hybrid+FM PCI. It has only one tuner, butyou can choose between analog anddigital reception. Plus, it has an FM tuner, and can capture from S-Video and composite sources. The bundled remote control isn't a patch on Hauppauge's - the layout isn't intuitive - and the software is frustrating to use. For example, there's no full-screen display when listening to FM or digital radio, so it's hard to select the station you want.
Fortunately, the tuner works in Media Center under Vista, which removes the software niggles, and is the obvious solution if you want to schedule recordings. But, you lose the ability to capture video and the remote doesn't work either, which is a shame.
For only £35, the Terratec Cinergy HT PCI is a much better choice. Italso has asingle hybrid tuner, but shuns AVerMedia's breakout cable, instead fitting mini-jack line-in, S-Video and composite connectors on the backplate itself. The remote is also superior, with a sensible layout and plenty of buttons.
The software is better too, although not perfect, since the EPG is farmed out to www.tvtv.co.uk - as also used by AVerMedia - and both companies only offer a trial subscription. But we like the advanced recording options that include recording the transport stream, and being able to force standby or sleep afterwards. Plus, there's a copy of Ulead DVD Movie Factory bundled. The Cinergy works well in Vista's Media Center too, as does the remote. Unless you need two tuners, it's a decent choice.
For £47, the Compro VideoMate T750 offers the most features here: it boasts dual digital tuners plus a single analog tuner (enabling you to watch analog and digital at the same time) and - unlike the Hauppauge - it also has S-Video and composite inputs for capturing analog sources (with audio), plus an FM tuner.
It's a full-height card and the software allows you to record transport streams, customise the order of channels and even record a TV programme straight to DVD. Cleverly, the card connects to the PC's power button, enabling it to wake up from S5 - System Shutdown state - to record a programme. It works with no issues in Media Center, but the remote isn't supported yet; Compro will release a new driver to fix this imminently.
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