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AccessDTV Digital Media Receiver review: AccessDTV Digital Media Receiver

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The Good Lets you watch and record digital TV on your PC; detailed, attractive program guide.

The Bad Documentation needs to be a little more user-friendly; no remote control.

The Bottom Line Add this card to your PC and you'll have a high-definition (HD) TV decoder and an HD digital video recorder.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall

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AccessDTV chose the perfect moment to release its Digital Media Receiver, a PCI expansion card that turns a Windows PC into a high-definition-TV decoder. With it, you can watch ordinary or digital HDTV either on your computer monitor or a separate HD-ready TV. Better still, you can record digital broadcasts onto your PC's hard drive. While there's no shortage of HDTV set-top decoders, there are currently no consumer HD VCRs on the market. So if you're anxious to record HDTV, AccessDTV may offer just what you've been waiting for. AccessDTV chose the perfect moment to release its Digital Media Receiver, a PCI expansion card that turns a Windows PC into a high-definition-TV decoder. With it, you can watch ordinary or digital HDTV either on your computer monitor or a separate HD-ready TV. Better still, you can record digital broadcasts onto your PC's hard drive. While there's no shortage of HDTV set-top decoders, there are currently no consumer HD VCRs on the market. So if you're anxious to record HDTV, AccessDTV may offer just what you've been waiting for.

Two ways to watch
Our review unit contained the AccessDTV card, an installation CD-ROM with drivers and software (plus the entire manual as HTML files), and cable to connect your current graphics card into the Digital Media Receiver card. If you want to watch digital TV (or regular analog or cable broadcasts) on your PC monitor, you connect your graphics card to the AccessDTV card using the cable, then connect the Digital Media Receiver card to your monitor. We chose not to use the cable and instead hooked up a Princeton Graphics AF3.0HD HDTV monitor for dual-mode viewing.

The AccessDTV card offers a true plug-and-play installation and requires only a 350MHz Pentium II PC running Windows 98 SE, 2000, or Me. Anyone who knows what an empty PCI slot looks like should be able to install the card using the brief quick-start manual. We opened the case of our Pentium III 866MHz Windows 98 SE PC and inserted the card in an available PCI slot. When we restarted the computer, we were prompted to insert the CD-ROM, and the necessary drivers were installed. We also had to make a change to the settings on our PC's hard drive to keep it from crashing while recording DTV programs. It was tricky finding the necessary information on the CD-ROM manual (there is no printed manual and the CD-ROM's menus aren't perfectly organized). A call to AccessDTV revealed that the installation guide is being edited to provide more accurate information.

After installing everything, we rebooted the computer and launched the AccessDTV icon. This brought up a 16x9 video window and an interface that looks like a remote control, which you operate with a mouse or keyboard shortcuts. The Setup button on the virtual remote gives you access to a wide range of settings. You can choose either RGB or Y, Pr, Pb video output from the card's standard VGA connector, as well as select between 480p, 720p, and 1,080i output resolutions.

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