Questions about which DVR to get with what PVR software - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 10-25-2009, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
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For those who don't want to read a page of text, my questions boil down to this

1.What is the benefit of a CableCard?
2.What digital cable tuner/set top box/DVR should I get? I want to be able to use an M-Card CableCard 2.0, decode MPEG-4 and of course receive QAM and IPTV if at all possible (to be future proof)
3.Is it worth it putting together a Home Theater PC? what advantages do I get out of that that I don't get with a regular DVR? Can I get CableCard 2.0 with a multiband card for my Windows 7 Home Theater PC?

now for the massive page long post

so I have two entertainment systems set up in my house. Previously I was receiving terrestrial digital broadcast television via my ATSC tuner and an antenna in the attic. We've had this setup for awhile and the digital conversion didn't affect us as a result.

The cable companies really saw this as an opportunity to hook new customers though I guess, and so my Internet provider (comcast) offered us a basic cable package on top of our Internet for $5 LESS than we were already paying for the Internet, so we took it.

This means that we get a clear picture on stormy nights and we get the Discover channel on top of the regular local channels, so a win right? so We've had this for a few months; the problem is, neither of our entertainment systems have QAM tuners, so we are only getting the cable channels in standard definition, not high definition which were were already getting with the terrestrial broadcast. And it's not only not HD, it's the fact that we are getting the analog version, not the digital version, which means that we are getting worse than what is available via terrestrial broadcast, less channels, and a bit less clarity even on standard definition televisions.

I've had a bit of confusion on this matter, the Comcast guy at the mall says that even though I have the Basic Cable package, that I should still be able to receive the channels digitally, in HD even though I'm not signed up for one of the more expensive digital cable packages with 40+ or 100+ channels. A comcast guy on the phone said that I would have to upgrade my package to receive digital channels, I said I could receive digital channels with an antenna for free right now and that another comcast rep had said that they have to provide the basics that are available via broadcast and that was the point of the basic cable package.

Could anyone clear this up? Also I'm assuming for any video on demand I would have to buy a more expensive package or is there any free Video On Demand? I recently saw something on Comcasts website and in a microsoft keynote that seemed to indicate that shows like NCIS would appear on demand and be free of charge.


scroll down to "free on demand" to see what I mean.

So the solution is pretty simple, get some QAM tuners, and my personal preference is to get my own, rather than going to comcast to rent a cable box or set top box etc. I hate renting, and I like buying/owning.

Something like this looks good

it's a little pricy but has QAM and ATSC tuners, outputs to your tv via Component (Y-Pb-Pr), RGB, and HDMI HDTV outputs, and has settings for 1080i, 720p, 480p, etc.

really, that is the solution I'll probably go with as all I want, is all my channels, in good quality, with no rented equipment.

There is also this tuner for PCs

There are other things though that other people in the house enjoy, such as DVR functionality. I'm also slightly interested in setting up a home theater PC because I have never really fully done so before.

As I poked around the internet I heard about CableCard 2.0 and Muliti-Stream Cable cards. I've read a bit about them but I still don't clearly understand what they give you and what the benefit is?

Apparently you have to get the actual card itself via your cable provider, is this rented? bought? free service?

then there is the device that you plug the CableCard into.

I found a few Digital Cable /IPTV tuners, some with DVRs built in and was wondering if anyone with knowledge on the subject could explain the advantages of CableCards and what kind of device to get to use the CableCard with, and what Cable subscriptions you would have to have to make it worth your while.

here is a Cisco set top box

here is an Evolution Broadband set top box

here is a motorola set top box

then I read about how there are professional set top boxes called integrated receiver/decoders, you can read about them in the article below.

there really isn't a black and white line that makes something professional or not, usually it's just who makes it, where they sell it, and if it has commercial features that aren't in consumer models, AES/EBU Audio decoding being the one that attracts me the most.

I've also never liked the idea of the TiVo because it is rented but apparently you can pay a ridiculous amount of money up front and never have to pay again for that device.

here is the flagship TiVo

then there are devises that interact with PCs and HTPCs

here is a Niveus Digital Cable Box

and that gets me into the discussion of Home Theater PCs

Before I do though, in this day and age you don't have to have a dedicated HTPC just to have content on your TV, this is nothing new but it's easier than ever before, Wester Digital have made several products that you can plug into your TV and either play media from it's internal memory, play content from the internet, or from your home network

here is the WD TV Live

now on to Home Theater PCs.

I am out of the loop, which is mainly what this thread is about, I'm trying to get up to speed on what these devises can do for you, what the latest and greatest is, etc.

there are PCs made to be good for being a media server or home theater PC such as

HP Home Servers

the Mythic TV Dragon

Microsoft suggests machines from several top of the line manufacturers such as Acer, HP, Lenovo, Velocity Micro, Niveus, etc.

now it's not really necessary (a lot of this stuff isn't) but there are several big pieces of software designed for use with HTPCs.

Windows Media Center just got a refresh with Windows 7 and has some cool features that I won't go into right here

of course there is MythTV which I have read about but never used.

what else is out there? SageTV? TotalMedia 3.5?

what are advantages and disadvantages?

is there a benefit to having two machines for the front and and backend? is there any disadvantage to having both in one PC?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Old 10-26-2009, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by panzeroceania View Post

For those who don't want to read a page of text, my questions boil down to this

1.What is the benefit of a CableCard?

CableCARD, with an appropriate device (TiVo HD, Moxi CableCARD box, certain now-older CableCARD-equipped TVs, certain HTPCs and soon retail-available add-in boards), allows you to receive all digital linear channels (which you subscribe to, of course) from your cable provider, and for the relevant devices, to record such programs for later playback. Without one, most digital cable content is transmitted in an encrypted form and thus can't be watched or recorded without the cableco box. SDV can also be supported on many devices (TiVo HD, Moxi, and most HTPCs with CableCARD UDCR tuners) with the appropriate software support (available with Windows 7, but requires firmware update to many UDCR tuner boards, the ones for the ATI DCRs have been delayed).

Originally Posted by panzeroceania View Post

2.What digital cable tuner/set top box/DVR should I get? I want to be able to use an M-Card CableCard 2.0, decode MPEG-4 and of course receive QAM and IPTV if at all possible (to be future proof)

Nothing currently available does all of these. The TiVo HD does support M-Cards, but "CableCARD 2.0", as has been discussed at length elsewhere, isn't a physical card spec so much as what's come to be called "tru2way". No retail-available DVR currently supports it, and exactly when that will happen is still up in the air. The Moxi also uses M-Cards (requires them, in fact, for both tuners to work); PC support for M-Card is coming with the new Ceton tuner boards (and possibly boards from Hauppauge as well).

The TiVo HD's video decoder chip already supports both H.264 (aka MPEG-4 part 10/MPEG-4 AVC) and SMPTE VC-1 codecs, and can be field-upgraded to support decoding video sourced from cable when such content actually starts appearing. I believe the Moxi box uses a similar platform (I think a newer Broadcom SoC design with an integrated MPEG-2/H.264/VC-1 decoding engine), and of course PCs will handle it as well.

QAM is supported on all of these options, but IPTV is still up in the air.

Originally Posted by panzeroceania View Post

3.Is it worth it putting together a Home Theater PC? what advantages do I get out of that that I don't get with a regular DVR? Can I get CableCard 2.0 with a multiband card for my Windows 7 Home Theater PC?

You would currently still need the BIOS hack for ATI DCRs, as (a) the promised new firmware has been delayed, and (b) the other options haven't yet hit the retail space (Ceton's 2- and 4-tuner cards are supposed to be coming to retail early in 2010). The ATI DCRs don't support M-Mode and only have circuitry for one tuner apiece, so you'd still need 2 to watch/record more than one channel at a time. Again, "CableCARD 2.0" aka tru2way isn't currently supported, and you'll probably need new tuner hardware when it does (due to mandates in CHILA, transmission hardware in UDCR reception equipment is strictly not permitted). There's nothing you can do about this, and it's not known if/when tru2way will actually come to the PC; tru2way requires Java support, and due to Microsoft's past run-ins with Sun over Java, I expect they'll be reticent to try getting involved again unless they absolutely must.
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