Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 MCE
Hauppauge Computer Works manufactures a variety of TV tuner products, but the $169 WinTV-PVR-500 MCE is the company's only card to offer dual TV tuners and encoders, plus an FM radio receiver, all on a single PCI card. Hauppauge's top-of-the-line card offers an impressive array of connections for Media Center PC owners looking for the ability to record two shows simultaneously or watch one while recording another.
There's no shortage of A/V ports on the WinTV-PVR-500 MCE; the main card includes coaxial connections for TV and FM radio, S-Video and composite-video inputs, and stereo audio-in jacks, even if cables for these connections are not included. The card has an A/V header for attaching an additional A/V daughter card, which is included in the box. The daughter card uses an open slot bay (but not an actual PCI slot), providing the second input, either S-Video or composite video.
You can install the card in systems running Windows XP Home or Professional, but you'll need a third-party application, such as Beyond TV or SageTV, to provide a DVR front end. The entire installation took us less than 10 minutes, including getting to recognize the twin tuners, select our cable service, and download an EPG (electronic program guide).
Our first attempt to watch live TV resulted in a decoder error message. As it turns out, we had previously uninstalled our software decoder, Cyberlink's PowerDVD 5, and had to reinstall it to utilize the TV tuner. While every new Media Center system is bundled with a software decoder, do-it-yourself builders will need a third-party application, such as WinDVD or PowerDVD, as the WinTV-PVR-500 MCE does not include one.