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Computer Accessories

Hauppauge WinTV NOVA-HD-S2: Free HD via satellite

Do you have a satellite dish on your house that isn't gainfully employed? It's probably bored to tears, the poor thing, but this satellite PC card could put your dish to good use again

If you have a satellite dish on your house that's unused and unloved, then might we suggest that you consider the WinTV HD-S2? It's a PC card that allows you to watch and record high-definition satellite channels seems like an excellent way of keeping your dish gainfully employed.

The best bit about this card is what should be happening next year. The BBC and ITV have a plan to provide HD channels via the Astra satellites, as an extra-terrestrial alternative to Freeview. This will solve the problem of large chunks of the country being unserviceable via digital terrestrial.

When this happens, we could see all the Freeview channels appear free-to-air on satellite, as well as HD channels from the major broadcasters too. This card should be able to cope with these, but we can't guarantee it at this stage. Click through for more pics and specs.

The card itself is nothing out of the ordinary. You'll need a fairly powerful PC to make use of it though, ideally something faster than 3.2GHz and preferably a dual-core processor. You'll also need at least 512MB RAM, but surely every PC built in the last three years has that anyway.

You'll also need a 128MB AGP or PCI E graphics card and some sort of soundcard. Once you've got it installed, you can hook it up to a satellite dish pointing at the right bit of the sky. Both Eutelsat and Astra have free HD channels knocking about -- we can't promise there's much quality programming to watch, but you will get BBC HD on Astra.

Hauppauge also sells a CI module that allows you to buy a subscription to pay TV channels, but don't get too excited -- this won't work for Sky, because it flat-out refuses to allow this sort of thing. Feel free to write to Ofcom to complain about its annoying restrictions.

You also get a remote control and IR receiver in the pack, which should make this ideal if you're planning to install the card in a media centre PC. It's all quite simple to use too, and if you're prepared to mess around, it's possible to use the remote to control other windows applications too.

The WinTV NOVA-HD-S2 costs around £99. You get Hauppauge's WinTV application and Cyberlink PowerCinema in the box, which picks up this card and allows you to watch TV channels via its media centre-style interface.