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ATI cable tuner, what's your deal?

New digital TV tuner from AT

How does it connect to your PC?

We're not exactly sure what the whole story is with ATI's newly announced TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner. We do know that it's a digital cable TV tuner and that it will support the PC CableCard standard, bringing digital cable, analog cable, and over-the-air high-definition content to your Windows Vista-equipped laptop or desktop. It sounds like it will come only bundled with new PCs (starting January 30), which makes sense, given that we learned last year that you won't be able to build your own CableCard PC from scratch.

What we don't get is how it connects to your PC. From the picture, it looks like an external device, so we wonder if that means that there's a proprietary interface added to the guts of the system you purchase it with. If not, what's to stop you from adding it to any other system? We're scheduled to meet with AMD tomorrow, so hopefully we'll come away with a better idea of how this thing works.

Update: Our meeting with AMD this afternoon helped us wrap our brains around the TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner a little better. It will be available from most major desktop and laptop vendors, including Dell, Toshiba, Sony, HP, Gateway, Alienware, NiveusMedia, and Velocity Micro. Pricing will vary by vendor, but AMD estimated about a $200-to-$250 premium. It will come in both internal and external models (and the external one has a removable stand), and both connect to your PC via USB 2.0.

We also found out that in case you're thinking about buying PC with the tuner in order to use it on another system, you'll find CableLabs standing in your way. In order to get permission to sell the a PC with the TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner, each PC vendor must submit a letter to CableLabs requesting certification. In exchange, CableLabs provides custom BIOS software, which closes the encryption loop. Without that custom BIOS, you're out of luck.