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There are a number of ways to get your PC to play TV. Which way you go for depends on various things like how much you want to spend, whether you want digital tv included, how good a picture quality you want, whether you want to make your computer into a TIVO box, etc.
So let's have a look at a few solutions.
Firstly the software that says you can turn your PC into a TV without an additional card. Sounds too good to be true? well that's probably because most of the time it is. TV without a card usually uses one of two different methods. The first method is to sell you a similar service to RealPlayer. TV through the internet, this however has a number of problems. Firstly you have to pay a monthly subscription which is usually twice that what you pay for normal TV, secondly you use up a lot of your internet bandwidth so either other programs like file sharers will slow down or more commonly the video will jerk whilst playing, and thirdly your very limited to what you can watch, most of the time it's music videos or Big Brother.
The other method that some software tries is use a hole on your computer as an ariel, like an ethernet port, and try and receive the channels with that, then decode them all with a software decoder. This is open to many problems, the main one being interference, and the other being the amount of processing time it takes up. Software only TV reception is a poor solution and should be evaded.
So now we've covered the non-TV boards lets move onto the TV boards..
Getting a dedicated TV board is certainly the best option. From here on you need to be basing your decision on your requirements
Firstly in video card land for PC's there is one main manufacturer, Hauppauge, these are to video like what Creative are to soundcards. There are also a few other minor manufacturers as well.
One of the most important things to consider with TV cards is shielding. A good card should either be outside the computer case (USB) so it can be moved away from the electronic emissions in the PC or very well shielded, especially if you intend to take programs straight from RF (not through a satellite, cable or video), because if it's not very well shielded you wont get very much unless you move to the house next door to the transmitter. If you are using a video, satellite or cable box to plug into your PC for the best quality picture you will need to plug them in via an S-Video or RCA (Yellow phono) sockets. These are a lot less prone to interference than RF and produce a far better picture. If your satellite, cable or video box only has scart outputs you can easily get a cable to go scart to S-Video or RCA
After you've decided how your going to plug your box in you then have the fun choice of what you want it for.
If you want a card just to watch TV through RF, you should be fine with a very basic USB TV card, like Hauppauge's USB-TV:
If you want to just watch TV through a satellite, cable or VCR box then you could also go for the USB-Live solution, which doesn't have any RF tuner in it, but just receives straight from s-video or RCA.
If you want to watch digital TV through your card without an extra box, you can get a TV card with DVB-T (Terrestrial Digital, Freeview in the UK) or DVB-S (Satellite Digital) built in, like the WinTV NOVA
however as digital TV is really prone to interference and works on an all or nothing deal it most probably would work out better to get a separate digital box.
If you want to watch all your shows in surround sound, get an AV receiver, have all the sound from your computer and TV boxes going into that, and have the TV out going to a basic TV card using RCA sockets. Don't try WinTV Theatre, I've got one and it was my biggest waste of money. If you want to do TIVO features, ensure the card you buy has a hardware MPEG encoder, not software as this will enable you to record everything in real time, like the Hauppauge WinTV PVR series.
Also there is an important decision to be made regarding audio. Some TV cards out there say they are Mono and some say they are Stereo. This only really matters if you are connecting the TV up through RF and not RCA or S-Video. If you are connecting it up through RCA or S-Video you will also have two more phono cables (usually black & white, or red and black or red and white). To get stereo TV out of any card just get a phono to 3.5mm adapter (which will probably come with the TV-card anyway, if not there only about
TV viewing through your computer
Just a word of advice: If you connect to the internet via a cable modem do not attempt to split the incoming line to connect the TV tuner card to the cable since this will affect your PC connection by deteriorating the incoming signal as well as slowing down your speed. Instead, connect the tuner card to another cable jack and leave the cable modem on its own dedicated line. This advice was given to me by a senior TV cable technician in response to my efforts to connect both to the same incoming jack. Good luck.
Mine works fine
I disagree about not connecting your tuner card to the same cable as your cable modem. I have under my desk a cable modem, an ATI All In Wondera TV Tuner card, Toshiba VCR, and a Sharp 13" TV all connected. Everything works fine. Charter was out a few weeks ago to fix a bad leadin wire from the street and tested my signal at my computer and it was fine.
The key to this is to first split the signal in the attic with a 2/way splitter with one side going to the cable modem/computer/vcr/tv and the other side going to another splitter (4 way in my case) to other outlets in my house. Everything works fine.
TV via PC
1. Can this be done thru DSL or do I need cable?
2. Can you receive premium channels like HBO, SHO, TCM, etc.?
Decoding Satilite signal with a video card?
Several of the answers discuss recieving video signals from satalite. Isn't it necessary for that signal to first go through the prescribed tuner/decoder for that satalite company (Dish or Direct)? Is the "box" they are referring to the respective tuner?
watching tv on my pc
I dont know if it goes through my new nic card.
6/2/06 Possible ways to watch TV on your PC
I would like to ask about this site: http://www.medinalia.com, it offers channels pf programing from different countries. Is it a site to avoid or (even thought it has poor transmission quality) is it safe to use ?
Windows 2000 professional, Broadband connection, Dell Computer.
Other suggestions from our members
As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Invariably you do need some way of getting the TV signal into your computer; this takes hardware. Now there are some monitors that have both digital (for your PC) and analog (like TV, VCR, etc.) inputs.
So let's take a step back. First we need to consider what your computer configuration is like. I am presuming that you currently do not have a multi-media PC (they have built-in TV reception video cards. So almost invariably you will need to "install" either an internal TV card (into an available PCI slot) or an external USB TV card to an available USB port.
Next, your PC needs to have a certain amount of processing power; check the specifications of the video card before you buy it be sure your computer will support the card. In ballpark numbers, you will need about 700 MHz in your processor, at least 128 MB RAM (depending on the operating system) and a certain amount of hard disk space to install the software (video driver, etc.). If you also want to record the TV on your hard disk, you will need about 2 GBytes of space for each hour of video. You may want to get, if you don't already have one, a DVD writer for your PC - it saves a lot of hard disk space.
Then you need to connect your computer to your TV source. Besides the distance for running the cable, you should consider if you will need an additional tuner box (for cable, digital cable and satellite), and how long the run is if you need to install an extension cable for the signal.
After that, connect the dots and, as always
Submitted by: M. T.
While I don't know all the DL of getting TV on the PC, I can say that I seriously doubt, unless John bought a pretty high end machine, that he can watch actual TV with just software. There would need to be some sort of tuner apparatus and converter to translate the signal to enable the computer to use it. I have an older ATI Radion All-In-Wonder 7800 board that has served me well. I can grab frames from broadcasts, save clips and use my hard drive as a digital recorder. It also brought out 3-D rendering I never knew existed on a screensaver I bought!
The All-In-Wonders come with a remote and wireless receiver to allow you to control
the functions. I am also able to capture input signals from digital or analog (my old 8mm Sony Handicam) with their supplied dongle and record to dvd. It has RCA and Digital pin jacks.
The only hard part was figuring out how to externally rig the audio output on the TV card into my sound card mic input and go into my volume (sound) control program panel on XP to enable the right option.
Now my computer is rigged with an internal jumper from TV card to Sound card. Without doing that The support line for ATI is really helpful (they are in Canada) so, you won't be left out in the cold. (no pun intended). Hope this helps!
Submitted by: Taylor S.
I had the same desire and found it very easy to make it happen. You need a high speed Internet connection for satisfactory TV reception. In my case, I used a gold plated splitter and connector cables to share my Cox cable input. One cable link goes to your modem as before, and the other connects to the TV card you will need to purchase. Based on various write-ups on the Web, I purchased a relatively inexpensive WinPVR card. It fit right into an empty PCI slot on the mother board. As I am running Windows XP Professional as my operating system, it was a simple plug and play installation. However, you also need to run the CD that carries the software for the tuner interface. The CD software bundle is included with the WinPVR card. Viewing results are best with a cathode ray tube monitor, but a flat panel liquid crystal display will work fine if it has a response time/refresh rate comparable to a CRT monitor. You should have at least 512 MB of RAM and a Pentium 4/Athlon processor of 1 Gig or better. An AGP video card or onboard video with 256 MB of memory is also recommended. You can get by with less, but viewing quality may suffer. My setup uses an Athlon 2800 MHz processor and 1.5 Gigabytes of DDR RAM. The hardware and software installation was without problem. The whole thing took less than an hour, including cutting the Cox cable input and making the connections to the splitter. An added benefit of the WinPVR and most other TV cards, is that you can download and record a program to a DVD. Most of the software programs provide the means for setting the calendar and clock so that recording can be done even if you are not watching TV on your PC.
Submitted by: Franklyn S.
Regarding TV to PC, I've used two types of hardware:
AVERTV CARD BUS using a PCMCIA card into my laptop. It also has video in capability and an FM radio tuner. I bought if right after it came out from an Australian company. As a result it came with a European CATV plug but adapters are available at Radio Shack. You get an FM antenna but if you want to watch TV on a train or bus or in the park, you better have a rabbit ears antenna that can be moved around.
If you are in a guest bedroom with a cable TV outlet but no TV set, you can plug into the cable TV outlet and use the remote that comes with the package to change channels. The image can fill the screen and only plays regular TV.
SNAPSTREAM/VBOX UDB HDTV TUNER - I bought this before getting a real HDTV set for my cable service. The tuner is external and about the size of an external hard drive. You either get a digital TV signal or you don't. No "snow" like analog. So you must get enough signal which means line-of-sight is best. So when I set up a simple rabbit ears antenna on my terrace - which was completely surrounded by tall buildings - I never expected to get a signal. But..with some rotation and adjustments I received excellent HDTV signals from the local broadcast channels which I was able to record and playback with the
SnapStream BeyondTV4 software. When I show people some HDTV shows from my laptop they really go bonkers - - thinking I have a new HDTV DVD. Of course, digital HDTV files are HUUUUUUUUUGE.
http://www.vboxcomm.com/ and http://www.snapstream.com
Submitted by: Paul L.
I had some of the same questions you had for a few years until i decided that I was going to figure it out. Yes, you need a TV tuner card. I have tried three cards and finally have a working solution. First, I bought a card from ebay (not one of my better decisions) that cost $1. That card came from China and it had a strange translation from Chinese (I assume) of the slogan, "Easy TV, Easy your life." Well, that card worked for about a month and then just died. After that I still hadn't given up my quest for a TV tuner. I went to CompUSA and bought a Hauppauge TV tuner card that absolutely did not work. I brought it back for store credit and bought the ATI TV Wonder Pro, which works with a few bugs in it.
(1) Scheduling recording works about every other time.
(2) When I record TV it automatically saves as a .vcr file. When I play it back in the ATI file player, all it shows is fuzz. I can use the ATI Media Library program to convert it to mpeg-2 or mpeg-4, and after that the file will play.
(3) The ATI file player is almost worthless. It displays a frame about every 4 seconds, and the sound has huge gaps. I suggest VLC (Video Lan Client) which supports tons of codecs and plays my TV recordings most awesomely.
Most TV cards are PCI cards, so obviously you need an open PCI slot in your PC. I have seen some USB tv tuners in stores, but that's about it.
For my TV card, the system requirements are:
Want Free TV Over Internet?
Don't get sucked into the pay for programs that don't give anything more than what you can get without them!
This site lists 1000's of channels you can get just using your browser.
Expecting your usual channel lineup only available on cable, satelite, or local antenna? Forget about it!
You'll need a TV Tunner card! Expect to get HD channels over that analog card on cable? Forget about it!
Not available yet! Wait until the next line of cards coming out with Vista!
I have the ADS HDTV Tunner Card and yes I can get HD stations, but not the ones available on cable! Only the ones available using an HD Antenna! Even with the analog stations available on this card the quality is still sub par performance compared to your normal TV so just get yourself a small Tv to place near your monitor if you must watch TV while working on your computer! Same Price better quality until the next generation tunner cards come out! ;D
Not quite live, but...
I haven't read all the posts here, but the way I watch TV on my laptop (which I do very rarely, actually) is to record a program on my DVD recorder, then pop the DVD into the optical drive on my laptop. Personally, it seems like all the screwing around you have to do to be able to watch/record live TV on a PC just plain ain't worth it. It's a fun science project, but dedicated video devices sure work well and make more sense to me.
Use Pinnacle PCTV 60e
Hi, I just bought Pinnacle PCTV 60e to my laptop HP nx7010 and it really works superb. I connect the tuner (which is very small) to the USB and I installed a software (which is included on a CD), and then I had a TV! Included is, also, a remote control. I can also record the programs. I highly recommend Pinnacle PCTV 60e! It has no problems in finding channels and the broadcasting is bright and clear! It will find the channels in your area. It is really fantastic! I do not think that only a software will do it. You will need, also, a tuner like in this system."This system will produce an ordinary TV"!
Best Regards, Bjorn Lundahl, Gothenburg, Sweden
Troubles with Pinnacle
I have an older external Pinnacle PCTV unit that gave me problems from the start. When I initially bought the unit everything worked fine. Then as time went on the TV program became unstable and crashed regularly on me. Then the remote stopped controlling the tuner.
I'd stay away from Pinnacle from my own experiences.
Also, check to see what programs are out there. I tried to use my tuner with other independent tuning programs and found that no Pinnacle devices were supported.
Lastly, there are a few HD tuners out there, but they're more expensive and I'm not sure if they support anything more than broadcast HD-TV (ie. you won't be able to access all the channels that you can on your Cable box).
Pinnacle Card Tuner
I've been using a Pinnacle in-Pc tuner for a couple of years and haven't had any problems. I love it. I also have a Mercury tuner installed and am not as enthused about it. They both have their good points. One thing I like about the Pinnacle is the ability to step ahead through the commercials. One thing I haven't seen mentioned about using a tuner is something I've been doing for years with my regular TV: I run the signal through a VCR so I can also record on it at the same time that I record directly to the hard drive. Usually separate programs but sometimes the same program program in case the PCTV messes up. It has saved my bacon more than once.
Watching TV on PC (another alternative)
If you spend a couple dollars more than just the hardware card and get Sage TV, you can watch live TV on your PC and tons more. You can record your favorite shows and watch them when you want (making your PC into a DVR (digital video recorder) and it has the capability of place shifting which is being able to install a small program on any remote computer and watch your recorded shows (or live TV) from any remote PC. If you want to watch your favorites or live TV while on the road, this is the perfect solution. If you have a son or daughter far away at college, they can watch their home teams play. I bought the software and my wife is even blown away by all it can do!
HDTV broadcast reception
I've been using ATI's HDTV Wonder card and antenna for about a year now to pick up the HDTV signals that my local stations are broadcasting. For example, my local public TV station has 5 channels that they broadcast in HDTV (compared to the 1 conventional channel that they broadcast). Most of the networks have an HDTV broadcast channel, too.
I don't pay any subscription fee because these signals are broadcast from their towers the way conventional signals are. A little antenna came in the box with the card, and it is adequate, but I found that I got better reception with an amplified antenna that I had been using for my TV. Apparently, FCC is requiring that all stations switch over to HDTV signal in a year or two because it takes up less bandwidth than a conventional signal.
So, the HDTV Wonder card is installed in the PC. (I had to get a newer video card to match the specifications of the HDTV Wonder card.) The antenna is attached to the HDTV Wonder card. The HDTV signal comes in over the air, gets picked up by the antenna, gets decoded by the software, and the program displays on my monitor in crystal clear digital form. The software also lets me record a program to my hard drive, or schedule the recorder to come on at a set time. I can then save the program to a DVD to play in my DVD player later.
If I'm trying to watch a station with a weak signal, I don't get "fuzz" or "snow" or "static". Since its a digital signal, a weak signal might cause the screen to go black for an instant and then come back, or make it go silent for an instant and then come back.
HDTV on your PC
Thanks, this is all I need it to know.
Ditto with the Alll-In wonder
Cheap, simple, no problmes in a year
So why all the usenet complaints ?
I've been reading posts for years about the
AIW cards and their problems. The biggie is
the AIW video card with TV tuner will not
play games without stuttering in the game.
The TV tuner kills it. The very same card
without the tuner, is an excellent game card.
More on your subject of TV on the PC
I checked on several TV on your PC offers which require downloaded software but no hardware. I even subscribed to one service. It was a big disappointment. Many stations are available but almost nothing that a person wants to see. I look for NBA and NFL or othe sporting events. The offer a lot of soccer from Europe but almost nothing of prime USA sports.
Then I heard from a friend about SLINGBOX from www.slingmedia.com. You can hook it up to your cable TV modem, then to the slingbox WHICH SENDS YOUR TV TO THE INTERNET and you can watch anything that is on your cable system ANYWHERE IN YOUR HOUSE, at work, CITY, STATE, OR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. You can even remotely change channels, volume, etc.
Slingbox is supposed to be pretty cool
I heard about slingbox also. I don't know how much it costs but you can watch your own television anywhere in the world like the previous poster said. I think this would be a cool way to watch TV because you could do it anywhere in the world and your watching your television.
Another Approach To TV On Your PC Not Mentioned So Far
Some of the posts approached the system I use. Since my PC is in my home office which is in half of the large room that is also our bedroom I did the following:
I have a Plextor video to USB external adapter that has both S-Video and regular A/V inputs (software switchable)at my PC. Accross the room is our bedroom TV installation which includes a Direct TV Tivo box, a separate DVD player and a VCR all available to both the TV set (which I can easily see from the PC location) and the Plextor adapter. The Tivo and DVD have S-Vido feeds for the Plextor and the VCR has a A/V feed for the Plextor.
Normally only the Tivo is connected to the Plextor. The others are only hooked up occasionaly for dubbing to the DVD burner in the PC. When I want to copy a live program to DVD I record it on the Tivo and burn the DVD later, I could do it live in real time but why bother since I'd have to be present to do it.
The ConvertX software that came with the Plextor is excellent by the way for copying DVDs, creating simple or complex DVDs and simply watching TV, both full and small window on the PC.
Since the Direct TV signal is digital (not HDTV) and recorded that way to the Tivo hard drive, the playback quality vis the S-Video cable is excellent. A nice bonus is that copying a DVD via the Plextor seems to pretty much bypass most copy protection schemes (but don't tell anyone that).
Yet another way to watch TV
Question was to watch TV while on PC. I purchased an LCD monitor with a built in tuner. This allows me to multi-task my monitor and not worry about what the requirements on the PC are. I have a Dazzler device if I want to record TV or other Video onto the PC. And as a bonus, I can watch the output of the Dazzler on the same monitor.
ATI TV Wonder
I have an old ATI TV Wonder PCI card that worked great on my Win 98 machine. Moved it to new XP machine. ATI does not support this old card on XP, but the tuner card works (except for video capture). Only issue is that Windows XP Media Center Edition cannot recognize the card. I have to use the ATI software. Cheap solution for basic viewing. New TV Tuner cards run for $25 - $150. Anyone have comments/experience on the cheaper cards?
It is not ready yet
I have the Hauppauge PVR 350. It sort of works.
Problem is there is always a sync delay between
sound and video that is really annoying. On top
of that, the video quality is not great. It tends
to be blurry, and the colors are off. I've been
using Hauppauge cards for 10 years, and I have
never seen one that did not have these problems.
There are 10,000 highly jargonized settings you
can fiddle with, and none of them will improve
the quality of reception. My PC is probably one
of the best systems in the entire nation, and I'm
a tech !!!! Wait on this. Vista is coming out, and
there is going to be a surge of new ( and better )
cards coming in. Many of them will be pci-e x1
cards with much improved bandwidth, and digital
TV ready. They will have 64 bit drivers and the X1
cards should be able to do very high speed software
decoding and generate DVD quality TV in real time.
Another thing .. you are not going to do any of
this on a poor PC with a cheap video card. Right
now, I'm watching the PV-986 card. The Linux guys
are playing with it .. and so far, there are no
USA dealers. It is an X1, and has both digital
and analog capability. It will be an interesting
toy. As for Hauppauge, I emailed them about a year
ago regards their sync problems. They know all about
it ... caused by dropped video frames, so the audio
gets tied to the wrong frames, and the sync problem
gets worse and worse as you watch a show. Only
solution is to restart WinTV2K, which re-syncs the
audio and video. That is the state of the art right
now, and Hauppauge is not going to do anything about
it. Vista .. and the X1 cards .. just might solve it,
and Hauppauge will play "catchup" when the time comes,
and I think their software is better .. esp WinTV2K.
Brings up a good point - if you're after quality TV viewing, get a TV (haha). But really, there are two distinct classes of "not a video card" video cards, and we've only been talking about plain-jane TV Tuners thus far.
The cheap direct-connect-to-cable cards don't do anything to "clean up" a crummy cable signal. The pro is that they require no processing time (either on the card or the CPU of your PC).
Video capture and editing probably indicate a better type of device - something that can really clean up and process a signal, rather than just pass it to your monitor. If you plan to just WATCH (and your attention will waver often, since you're also working) almost anything would do. But if you plan on DOING something WITH that video, you'd be better off with a device that can process/encode/decode the video in various ways.
I've actually browsed around in TigerDirect's store. I found an HD Internal TV Tuner. I dont remember any of the details, but it retailed at around $70. I'd just like to make it known that HDTV Tuners are available.
Yes there ARE HD TV cards!
I stand corrected! I hadn't realized there were HD tv tuner cards when I originally wrote my response last week, but you're absolutely right.
ATI is selling the HDTV Wonder for around $120, and Tiger is selling the AVerMedia AVerTVHD A180 HDTV PCI Card.
Both of these are "over the air" cards meaning they pull HD from the BROADCAST signal, not from a high-def cable signal.
Why can't I watch my cable feed?
This is probably a stupid question but if my TV lets me watch all the HD programming I subscribe to by hooking up component or HDMI cables, why can't a tuner card do the same?
06/2/06 Possible ways to watch TV on your PC
I have read that these tuner cards can only give you access to the lower channels (1-100) and not the higher "digital" channels. Is there any card or box that can provide access to these higher channels????
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