USB HDTV Tuners overview - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 49 Old 08-20-2006, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
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***Note: these prices are from 8/2006 and are likely to be inaccurate as prices change quickly.*** Posts down in the thread mention lower prices.

This is an overview of the USB HDTV tuners based on info I've gathered looking around websites and several threads on this forum while trying to decide which one to get. I might have made some mistakes so please follow-up if you notice anything like that. I'm sharing this info to make it easier for others who are considering getting a USB HDTV card, but you should verify all the details before you order.

I considered BeyondTV support in all of this because I might want to use it. Right now I think the best for me are the OnAir GT and the DVICO. Both seem to have a strong following, but the OnAir looks like it uses less system resources and pulls-in NTSC. The VBOX also gets a nod because of its support by SnapStream.

Some of the other products are starting to look appealing, and have good feature sets, but it looks like they're putting old technology in to make them so cheap. And the manufacturers don't seem trustworthy based on the games they seem to be playing with rebates.

Name: OnAir HDTV GT
Low Price: $174 (as of 8/06)
Minimum Processor: Pentium 3/800mhz
NTSC: includes tuner for analog TV viewing
BeyondTV: Compatible (HW mfr claims compatible, Snapstream doesn't support)
QAM: Capable (note SW like Beyond4 and MCE don't support QAM)
Notes: Manufacturer (as Sasem) made first USB2 HDTV tuner. MFR claims its device is USB-powered within USB- spec, and that other products are drawing power from USB beyond spec. Made with the LG 5th Gen chipset. Low processor requirements suggest that this will operate well even when other programs are running. There is a support thread for this card monitored by a member of the company.

Name: DVICO Fusion HDTV 5 USB
Low Price: $159 (as of 8/06)
Minimum Processor: depends on video card...
p3-800mhz Radeon DXVA cards
p3-1ghz NVIDIA DXVA cards
p4-1.6ghz all others
NTSC: included... "Watch Analog and Digital TV Programs on Your PC"
BeyondTV: supported by Snapstream
QAM: Capable (note SW like Beyond4 and MCE don't support QAM)
Notes: Manufacturer is a leading maker of HDTV cards, with a large user-base in this forum. Made with the LG 5th Gen Chipset. Low processor requirements suggest that this will operate well even when other programs are running. There is a thread comparing this and the VBOX.

Name: VBOX Cat's Eye 3560
Low Price: (as of 8/06)
$109 - MCE version which doesn't include a player
$155 - XP version which is bundled with BeyondTV
Minimum Processor: p4/1.6ghz
NTSC: not included ATSC DTV / HDTV only
BeyondTV: supported by Snapstream
Notes: This product relies on 3rd party player software. There is a thread comparing this to the DVICO.

Name: FujiPlus FD-USB728
Low Price: $99 (as of 8/06)
$81 refurb at mwave.com (as of 8/06)
Minimum Processor: p4/2ghz
NTSC: includes tuner for analog TV viewing
BeyondTV: User on Artec thread reported that Fujiplus does have BDA drivers, which suggests it ought to work with BeyondTV, but some have reported that it doesn't work with BeyondTV or Sage.
Notes: relatively unknown company & product. The company appears to have frustrated a lot of customers with long rebate delays on some of its LCD products, according to some discussion on another discussion board. Discussion about this product in the Arctec thread.


Name: Artec T14A Mini USB
Low Price: $59 on zipzoomfly (as of 8/06)
Minimum Processor:
p4/3ghz for HDTV
p3/1ghz for DTV
NTSC: not included ATSC DTV / HDTV only
BeyondTV: at least one user has reported success with BTV4 on another thread... but you need to download the drivers.
Notes: Take heed of the minimum processor speed requirements for HDTV. Availability of Non-HDTV DTV broadcast content may be limited. There is a thread for this card that also talks about the FujiPlus.

Others:
These seem to be popping up a lot, I don't know anything about them:
KWORLD VS-ATSC 310U - $69 after (questionable) rebate at outpost.com -see the thread ***see down in the thread for more detail about KWORLD 310U***
AITECH HDTV USB - $129 (lot of hits on froogle but none in the forum)
Elgato Systems TVM-02 (for Macintosh) - $191
Miglia TVMINI $215

Also, I didn't include info about the OnAir Creator, from the makers of the OnAir GT... it's more expensive than the GT with more features. The OnAir thread has a link to a comparison chart between these two.
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post #2 of 49 Old 08-21-2006, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
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The main differences between the OnAir GT and the Creator are that the creator seems more robust in terms of recording & timeshifting analog NTSC signal, and the creator relies on a power cable instead of USB bus power.
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post #3 of 49 Old 08-26-2006, 02:55 PM
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Briefly, a couple of notes that I can add... We added support for the KWorld ATSC-TV 310U USB in Beyond TV 4.4 which was released about a week ago. See the release notes: (can't post URL right now b/c my account is a new one... just google beyond tv release notes)

Also, as a general note, if an ATSC card supports Media Center Edition and/or has BDA (broadcast driver architecture) drivers, the chances are pretty good that it will work in Beyond TV.

Finally, if you want to see the DVICO USB device in action, read about the Godzilla PVR that Percy created: (google godzilla pvr)

Rakesh
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Personal blog: http://rake.sh
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post #4 of 49 Old 08-26-2006, 06:55 PM
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Kworld ATSC tuner model ATSC310U sells for around $100 with promotions
that push the price to around $60.

Feature set (more at kworldcomputer) -

USB 2.0

ATSC and NTSC receiver capable

Full screen 1920 x 1080i display

Video capture S-Video and composite

BDA drivers

Arcsoft Totalmedia 3 TV/Video/Picture application software

=========================================

Dimension of 310u is about 6 inches by 4 inches with an LED in front
and signal connectors in back. From the drivers installed the main chips
used in the device are eMPIA usb interface and Xceive silicon tuners.

No problem installing drivers or Arcsoft app on AMD64 XP SP2 system.
Arcsoft Totalmedia detects one internal tuner and the external 310u.

Philips silver sensor antenna is connected up with Kworld supplied RG59
cable and after signal detection of channels. lists five. This is less than
half available channels, so thicker RG6 is used for antenna connection
and now eleven channel are detected.

With antenna positioned in one direction, approx four of channels come
in clearly while the others require careful adjustments to acquire both
audio and video.

One NBC WX station screen capture is attached.

Overall quick assessment is combination of tuner and app software
for under $70 is good, but hope that an inexpensive antenna less
than $50 is available to complete a satisfactory budget system.
LL
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post #5 of 49 Old 08-30-2006, 11:25 PM - Thread Starter
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I found a real good price on the VBOX at PCAlchemy, so I ordered & just received that one. I think I might send it back.

The online installation guide says it needs P4-1.6ghz, but the quick install card says it needs 2.4ghz. Well, I am running a 2.4Ghz P4, and my processor seems to spike to 100% a lot when I run it. I do have a number of things running on the PC, but processor typically fluctuates between 0 and 10% with just that stuff and no tuner. Now I guess I'll try the DVICO or the OnAir GT, which seem to use the least processor power.

I wonder what kind of experiences people have had with reception on the OnAir GT vs. the DVICO USB. Right now I'm not able to get clear signals on two local stations, they're pulling in around 33% vs. 100% for everything else. Maybe I'm going to have to stick the antenna on the roof instead of in the attic, or go with a different antenna. But if one of these has much better sensitivity than the VBOX maybe I could leave it where it is.
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post #6 of 49 Old 08-31-2006, 10:37 PM
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If you have access to other decoders, you might want to try them before sending back the VBox. I have found that it makes a big difference. On one of my PCs the Cyberlink decoder is very jerky, but the Intervideo codec runs totally smooth.

Note that all tuner cards fundamentally record the same transport stream, and it is basically just the decoder that makes the difference in CPU utilization. I have heard that the Fusion comes with a decoder that is very efficient and therefore lets you get by with a less powerful CPU.
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post #7 of 49 Old 09-01-2006, 06:17 AM
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Is anyone using two or more USB ATSC tuners with MCE? I am wondering what the CPU hit is vs using PCI tuner cards. I just ordered the Artec T-14 to do some testing.

solder first, ask questions later...
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post #8 of 49 Old 09-01-2006, 07:52 AM
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I'm using an Artec and a Fusion5-USB alongside an Adaptec Dual-tuner-USB (NTSC) on a P4 3.2e and I have no problem recording 4 streams at once and watching one of them....


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St. Petersburg, FL
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post #9 of 49 Old 09-01-2006, 08:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

I'm using an Artec and a Fusion5-USB alongside an Adaptec Dual-tuner-USB (NTSC) on a P4 3.2e and I have no problem recording 4 streams at once and watching one of them....


Jim,
I thought the Artec didn't play well with other ATSC tuners in MCE. Did the new drivers fix that or was it just a rumor?

Russ
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post #10 of 49 Old 09-01-2006, 12:07 PM
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My experience was that the ATI HDTV Wonder didn't play well with the Artec. Others have said that the ATI card didn't play well with VBox either, so I am assuming the issue is with the ATI card not the Artec.

But I don't have any other ATSC cards to test with.
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post #11 of 49 Old 09-01-2006, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Brown View Post

If you have access to other decoders, you might want to try them before sending back the VBox. I have found that it makes a big difference. On one of my PCs the Cyberlink decoder is very jerky, but the Intervideo codec runs totally smooth.

Note that all tuner cards fundamentally record the same transport stream, and it is basically just the decoder that makes the difference in CPU utilization. I have heard that the Fusion comes with a decoder that is very efficient and therefore lets you get by with a less powerful CPU.

I did try WatchHDTV, and don't remember it seeming any better. I got the antenna on the roof yesterday but reception got worse. I realized I had it pointing in the wrong direction by about 60 degrees, so will try it again with a good signal.

Thanks for mentioning the processor requirements issue. I guess I thought the OnAir GT must be doing something in the hardware since the requirements are so much lower than most others (p3-800 vs. p4-2000). So it sounds like if I'm going to use BeyondTV, I'm going to see the same processor use no matter whether I use the VBOX or the Artec or the OnAir GT.. ?
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post #12 of 49 Old 09-02-2006, 02:13 PM
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Is anybody using any of these models with W2K or am I the last W2K holdout?

My old Sasem died after experiencing a blackout a few days ago so I'm looking for a replacement.
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post #13 of 49 Old 09-02-2006, 02:29 PM
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What type of problems did the Vbox have when an ATI HDTV Wonder was also installed?

I'm using Watch HDTV 1.9 (Nvidia video and audio decoders) and I can't timeshift or record at all (get error message that Watch HDTV has to close).

I've removed the ATI HDTV Wonder and still get the problem, but I haven't yet tried a fresh install of Windows without the HDTV Wonder physically in the system.

EDIT: Silent Record works and I can play back the files in Windows Media Player, but not WatchHDTVplay. ??
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post #14 of 49 Old 09-02-2006, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

I'm using an Artec and a Fusion5-USB alongside an Adaptec Dual-tuner-USB (NTSC) on a P4 3.2e and I have no problem recording 4 streams at once and watching one of them....


Thanks for the info Jim. I currently use two avermedia a180s (PCI) which consistently crash MCE when changing channels via the up/down button on the remote. I have to change channels from the guide screen to avoid MCE from locking up. I'm hoping the Artec tuner will behave differently!

solder first, ask questions later...
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post #15 of 49 Old 09-08-2006, 05:35 PM
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Go to ebay and look at item 230025990020. Sorry, they won't let me post the URL because I haven't posted enough.

$40, no rebates. Can get it cheaper from other vendors on ebay (I got one for as little as $11 on a seond chance offer) but only the $40 guy will give you the BDA drivers. He is the developer of the card and provides pretty good tech support for it. You can download the sdk which can be used with the non-bda drivers and windows scheduler to record your transport streams. virtually no load on the processor to do this. Of course I still have a hard time playing back full HD, so I just send it to my snazzio 1310 which plays it fine.
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post #16 of 49 Old 09-08-2006, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac The Knife View Post

Is anybody using any of these models with W2K or am I the last W2K holdout?

My old Sasem died after experiencing a blackout a few days ago so I'm looking for a replacement.


I actually got the one I mentioned above to work on a Windows 98 machine.
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post #17 of 49 Old 09-14-2006, 08:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlereddog View Post

Of course I still have a hard time playing back full HD, so I just send it to my snazzio 1310 which plays it fine.

Turns out my problem playing HD was just a codec problem. The $40 guy provides a cd with the card that includes a codec pack that plays everything fine. I think it is cinepak or something like that.
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post #18 of 49 Old 09-15-2006, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TPeterson View Post

N.B.: Data in red are inaccurate. The price is, of course, a moving target and is already $10 below what you quote on the Digital Connection website. However, more significantly, the FusionHDTV products all tune NTSC and actually do a pretty good job (using the DVICO-bundled software) of capturing it to MPEG. So you may want to update your post #1 above.

I am thinking about getting a DVICO Fusion HDTV 5 USB from DC since I just swapped my LCD projector out for a CRT and need something that can put the old LCD to use I was thinking of using that on my old laptop Presario 2597US laptop. When not in portable use I understand it will work pretty well in my other computers with the MDP-130/100 and the AVS forum member software for DVR.

Any comment from anyone out there on whether or not my laptop is underpowered for the DVICO? Laptop is rated at 2.4 pentium and 512 memory with some shared for the onboard radeon video

Is one of the other USB HD tuners clearly superior for an older laptop use?
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post #19 of 49 Old 09-15-2006, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RalphArch View Post

Any comment from anyone out there on whether or not my laptop is underpowered .... Laptop is rated at 2.4 pentium and 512 memory with some shared for the onboard radeon video .... Is one of the other USB HD tuners clearly superior for an older laptop use?

As all the USB HD tuners are, in terms of their digital functionality, "software" decoding devices, the playing field is (for all intent purposes) level between them in regards to your concern about, um, your laptop's oomph

However, while the hardware is all on equal footing for this concern (resource utilization of your system), the same can not be said of the software side. Differences can arise given the choice of software you use in conjunction with the hardware....specifically -- (a) your viewing application's ability to take advantage of your graphic adapter's video decoding acceleration capabilities and (b) the efficency of the different decoders available for use with that viewing app.
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post #20 of 49 Old 09-16-2006, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CityK View Post

As all the USB HD tuners are, in terms of their digital functionality, "software" decoding devices, the playing field is (for all intent purposes) level between them in regards to your concern about, um, your laptop's oomph

However, while the hardware is all on equal footing for this concern (resource utilization of your system).

Actually, I'm going to retract a bit of this comment.

Some of the devices are going to use different USB bridges. Different bridges seem to have different levels of efficiency of interaction with certain (system) chipsets. For example, assuming two devices are composed of two different usb bridges, device A might require, say, 5% more system resources (cpu) then device B does on your laptop (which uses chipset Z) to transfer the data across the [us]bus. However, try those same devices on someone else's laptop (which yet uses chipset Y), and perhaps it is device B that is more of the resource hog, or maybe no descernible difference will be observed....(it would be a monumental task to discover the performance relationship between bridges and all system chipsets .... and even then, the results would be affected by the quality of the drivers)

But anyway, these low level hardware concerns aside, the main differences that you are going to see are still dependent upon the software side of the equation.
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post #21 of 49 Old 09-16-2006, 09:57 AM
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Thanks I have been looking at the OnAir GT as well. Downloaded and installed their trial program and got it working on the laptop in dxva ode with their clip and with some ts files I had.

Seemed pretty jittery in that mode so maybe my on board Radeon IGP 345 m isn't up to dxva capability (but it did play and did smooth out on the ts file)

Out of dxva dropped a lot of frames.
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post #22 of 49 Old 09-17-2006, 09:09 PM
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I've added a Vbox Cat's Eye USB ATSC tuner to my HP Media Center and it's not working too well. I get very jerky HD input through it. I've tried it both direct and through a powered USB hub but it still produced jerky video. I've had similar issues when playing back regular DVDs so I suspect a decoder problem. The PC has an ATI x370se video card and a poor MPEG-2 decoder that came with some cheap player software. I've downloaded an nVidia MPEG-2 decoder and that did help the problem out some, but it's still a bit jerky. Unfortunately, due to the HP DEC form factor, I can't easily upgrade from the ATI to a GeForce card, so I'm stuck with the ATI for now.

The question is... Since the nVidia MPEG-2 decoder only has enhanced processing code for the GeForce GPU's, is there a better MPEG-2 decoder that will take direct advantage of the ATI card's GPU? The nVidia decoder is only a 30 day trial, so I'd like to try another option before this one expires. Any suggestions? It seems I can't download the actual ATI decoder as it's only available with the HDTV wonder cards.

Any other suggestions for reducing jerkiness from the Vbox device?
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post #23 of 49 Old 09-18-2006, 03:22 PM
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What tuner and demodulator chip does the FujiPlus FD-USB728 use? Are there device drivers for BSD/OS X/Linux?
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post #24 of 49 Old 09-18-2006, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
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I updated the DVICO NTSC message and put notes in about the prices no longer being accurate.
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post #25 of 49 Old 09-18-2006, 07:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Konrad2 View Post

What tuner and demodulator chip does the FujiPlus FD-USB728 use?

Partial answer

Quote:


Are there device drivers for BSD/OS X/Linux?

No.
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post #26 of 49 Old 10-16-2006, 05:32 PM
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I think this one just came out on the market. Has anyone tried it yet? I think it could be a viable contender. (My first post so no links allowed, sorry)

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 Hybrid Video Recorder, USB
You can find it at CompUSA's website product# 339302 for $99.99

Physical size can be compared to the Atec tuner and the System Requirements are lower. Also, Hauppauge has been making TV tuners for a long time and that makes it even more attractive to me.
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post #27 of 49 Old 10-16-2006, 05:41 PM
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On the HVR-950, we haven't done longevity testing with it yet to see how well it works over a long period of time, but our initial tests show that it works pretty well with Beyond TV. We haven't encountered any driver issues, at least not at this point.

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post #28 of 49 Old 10-17-2006, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mb011b View Post

The main differences between the OnAir GT and the Creator are that the creator seems more robust in terms of recording & timeshifting analog NTSC signal, and the creator relies on a power cable instead of USB bus power.

mb011b,
You are correct. However, it may be helpful to mention that the reason it is 'better' in Analog tuning is that it has a Hardware MPEG-2 encoder on board.

Thanks,
- Ryan Pertusio

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OnAir Solution North America
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post #29 of 49 Old 12-02-2006, 11:42 AM
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Do the USB HD tuners have as good of PQ as the internal models they compare to? Which si the best option of these ones.

http://www.microcenter.com/single_pr...uct_id=0243668
http://www.microcenter.com/single_pr...uct_id=0235197
http://www.microcenter.com/single_pr...uct_id=0239364
http://www.microcenter.com/single_pr...uct_id=0247135
http://www.microcenter.com/single_pr...uct_id=0235196


Or any others from that site. And the first one made by sigmacom, is that a fusion? There is another PCI based one by sigmacom, they appear to be fusions, but they don't say it in the model name
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post #30 of 49 Old 12-02-2006, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike208 View Post

Do the USB HD tuners have as good of PQ as the internal models they compare to?

With DTV, PQ is not affected by the receiver. Short answer ...Long answer (or something to that affect)

Quote:
Which si the best option of these ones.

There is no best. What works for one person will by no means be the cats meow for the next guy...too many varialbes....too many opinions.

Just in case you weren't aware, tke noitce that you have the VBox model listed twice -- once sold as a bundle with some PVR software and the other for just the device

Quote:
Or any others from that site.

Umm I wouldn't expect people to do your shopping for you
Quote:
And the first one made by sigmacom, is that a fusion?

No. Sigmacom was producing the original Sasem/OnAir device at one point. It might be a reasonable guess that they still have a business relationship. Which in that case, would probably make the OnAir GT a strong contender for sharing the same internal board. But then again, the GT also bears a resemblence to the Savitmicro/Anysee device. In any regard, the OnAir GT and Dvico's Fusion 5 USB are identical in terms of IC componentry. I wouldn't in the least doubt that the Sigmacom also uses the same hardware components

Quote:
There is another PCI based one by sigmacom, they appear to be fusions, but they don't say it in the model name

Answer is no again. ... the Penta is indeed very similar to the original Dvico FusionHDTV 5 Gold model -- they use the same ICs -- but the boards are different. Another example of same components but different board is with pcHDTV's HD-5500
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