Whether you're looking to turn your PC into a DVR or simply want to watch TV on your desktop, the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 does the job at a reasonable price.
Hauppauge Computer Works' WinTV-PVR 150 is a good investment if you're looking to turn your desktop into a digital video recorder without breaking the bank. For $99, you get a basic TV tuner card, a remote control and set-top box IR blaster, and a generous serving of software for watching, recording, and archiving your favorite TV shows. The WinTV-PVR-150 contains a single standard-definition TV tuner and MPEG-2 encoder and features a TV coaxial port, S-Video and composite-video ports, an audio input, and an IR port. Audio and video cables are not included in the box, however. Some cards, such as the Diamond XtremeTV PVR55 and the ATI TV Wonder Elite, include cables. This card also lacks an FM tuner; you'll have to upgrade to Hauppauge's PVR-150/250 MCE or PVR-350 if you want radio capabilities, or the PVR-500 for dual tuners. The full-height PCI card is shorter in length than most standard PCI cards and should have no trouble fitting into a crowded minitower or desktop chassis, but the IR port is off to one side, making it difficult to access without loosening the card and shifting it slightly.
The WinTV-PVR-150 is compatible with systems running Windows XP Home, Professional, and Media Center editions, as well as with Windows 2000. The kit comes with a miniature IR receiver and transmitter, which let you control the included WinTV2000 PVR application and change channels on your satellite or cable set-top box, all with a single Hauppauge remote. A special Media Center version of the card, the WinTV-PVR-150 MCE, skips the remote, assuming you already have a Media Center one. (Some low-end Media Center PCs, such as the eMachines T6524, ship without a TV tuner.)
Included in the software suite are Hauppauge's WinTV Scheduler, Ulead's DVD MovieFactory 3 SE, and NanoCosmos's NanoPEG Editor. WinTV Scheduler is used for setting program recording times on a daily or weekly basis, and NanoPEG Editor lets you easily edit MPEG files by cutting and pasting selected clips. DVD MovieFactory is used for creating and editing movies in DVD, SVCD, and VCD formats; copying discs; and burning video directly to disc.
Installation of the WinTV-PVR-150 is fairly straightforward, but it's a somewhat lengthy process because there are so many applications to load. Once installed and set up, reception was clear on every channel we tested, though not as crisp as we found with the ATI TV Wonder Elite. The WinTV-PVR-150 produced an image with a trace of background blurriness and soft edges, problems we've come to expect from most TV tuners, due to the digital-to-analog nature of the current generation of TV tuner hardware. The ATI TV Wonder Elite produced a crisper image, but we were impressed by how quickly the WinTV-PVR-150 responded to channel changes, a serious problem for many cards. Programs recorded through the tuner card were nearly indistinguishable from the original live feed, while video from a direct signal supplied by a set-top DVD player was smooth and stutter-free, with no lag between the video and the audio.