TV Card advice

Farside

New member
I've been shopping for a TV card and have narrowed it down to 2 and would GREATLY appreciate any advice. :)

I'm currently using a USB stick for OTA, and am actually happy with it.
Or, at least, happy enough.
But for Analog and QAM cable I would like to pick up either Hauppauge's HVR-1600 or Leadtek's "WinFast HDTV Cinema" card.


Hauppauge's HVR-1600
I have no experience with hardware encoding TV cards but, from what I understand, they offer performance with little impact on the CPU.
But performance on my software encoding USB tuner hasn't been an issue.
(-) From what I understand, hardware encoding cards give off more heat.
(+) This card seems to have more (much more) 3rd party software support. And it looks like Hauppauge has a Media Center plug-in for QAM that is currently in beta.
(-) I haven't heard a single good word about the included software.

Leadtek's "WinFast HDTV Cinema"
My understanding is that software encoding allows for more options (file quality/size etc.)
(+) Less heat
(+) Included software isn't too bad. (for viewing/recording anyway, currently using same software with my USB stick... scheduling recordings leaves a lot to be desired)
(-) Almost no chance of this stick having QAM support in Media Center. (unless MS adds it I guess)
(-) Little documented support for 3rd party software.
(+) Apparently this card is a bit of a hybrid card in that there is no need to split the cable coax 'in' for analog & QAM. One tuner does OTA ATSC and the other does both analog and QAM cable and you can (supposedly easily) switch between the two in the included software. To me, this is only a minor plus. While handy, I know that the Hauppauge (for cable) can co-exist with my current USB stick (for OTA) but... then I would have to use Hauppauge's software. Even if this card wouldn't co-exist with my USB stick I could/would use its other tuner for OTA so, either card I go with, I will not be losing OTA. But I'm guessing this could present a problem with 3rd party software ever supporting it in QAM. (Media Center)


So, my biggest question is:
Hardware vs software, is there a difference in the quality of recorded shows? This is probably the most important to me.
The quality of my current software encoded shows has been pretty good but that is with OTA HD shows. I have no clue how QAM or analog recorded shows would look and whether HW/SW encoding would play into it.
I'm not really worried about watching a show while recording an other. Nice feature but not a deal breaker.

So if any of you have experience with either of these two cards (or Leadtek in general) I would love to hear from you.
Same with Hauppauge's software. How bad is it? Does it crash while recording? etc.
How is switching between OTA & Cable in Windows Media Center with Hauppauge cards? A pain?
Any other input?

Thanks!


quick specs:
Vista Premium 32
q6600 stock speed (2.4GHz)
8800gts 640mb
2gb of ram
Cable company that does broadcast ClearQAM channels
 

RickN

New member
FWIW, I can only provide a single datapoint that addresses a limited subset of your questions. I have used a HVR 1600 + Wintv software for about two years. It does an excellent job on recording clear QAM HD. Once set up, I have not had any failed recordings and no issues due to heat. VRD suite is a must have program though. I always need VRDS to trim the first 5 MB from the file and run QSF on clear QAM recordings. I either save the edited files on my computer hard drive or occasionally burn movies to two DVD's. Resulting DVD's are excellent quality with a high bit rate. My PC is five years old so I don't use it alot for this task (maybe 10 recordings a month). I purchased my HVR 1600 for $60 and have been very pleased with it. Third party software is the way to go if you plan on using the 1600 extensively. Gotta have VRDS for editing, a top notch program and well worth the investment.
 
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Farside

New member
I have used a HVR 1600 + Wintv software for about two years.

Once set up, I have not had any failed recordings and no issues due to heat.

I always need VRDS to trim the first 5 MB from the file and run QSF on clear QAM recordings.

Resulting DVD's are excellent quality with a high bit rate.
Thank you! Exactly why I asked here and not some hardware forum. I have and love VRDTVS so knowing that VRD works fine with WinTV is a big big plus.


It does an excellent job on recording clear QAM HD.
Great to hear. Have you tried analog?

Thanks again for your input!
 
I have a 1600 and two PVR250s. The analog tuner is fine as well as line input capture. You will have options on quality settings on analog because the mpeg hardware encoder is programmable. (resolution should be left at 720x480, there is no real reason to alter that but the bitrate will depend on the needs of the content)

The need to cut the first 5MB of a digital capture is because the WinTV application routinely leaves frames from the previous channel at the start of the recording. Third Party applications do not have that problem. QSF is commonly suggested because of the nature of HD files and the slow navigation that occurs when trying to edit them.
 
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