I received my external ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner from Velocity Micro yesterday and installed it without a CableCARD in my Velocity Micro S85 (Core Duo E6600, 2048MB XMS2 DDR2-800, 640MB eVGA GeForce 8800GTS, 2x750GB Seagate 7200rpm SATA RAID 1, Vista Ultimate 32-bit with Digital Cable Support, Dell 2407FP monitor). I am using Grande Communications for my digital cable.
The initial installation went very smoothly. I was up and running on the analog channels (2 through 99) with absolutely no problems. I can watch and record TV while doing several other things on my computer, and everything works well.
I then tried to follow the instructions in the Digital Cable Tuner User's Guide for "Settling up a Digital Cable TV Signal without a CableCARD" in order to get clear QAM channels in addition to the analog channels. I followed the instructions to "Scan for More Services" and it found 70 additional frequencies. However, then I started having problems. The instructions are definitely not complete. They state that you have to manually match channel listings in the Guide to discovered frequencies", but they don't say how to do so. I called Velocity Micro for help, and the technician was not able to help me - he had never configured a Digital Cable Tuner without a CableCARD for clear QAM. This was late yesterday evening. He did offer to have an expert call me the next day - today - to help me.
Today, I received a phone call from Chris Morley himself to help me with the configuration. He helped me find the right place to set up the clear QAM channels, and I was able to set them all up. Once they are all set up, it works fine on these channels, but setting them up requires manually looking at each frequency, determining what channel it contains, and then telling Media Center what channel is on each frequency. This has to be done separately for each channel.
I was initially very pleased when Media Center told me I had 70 additional channels, but I really didn't get that many. The 70 additions clear QAM channels that Media Center found on Grande Communications contained the following:
- Local HD broadcast channels - 5 channels
- Discovery Home - 1 channel
- Wealth TV - 1 channel
- Pay for View and Sports Preview Channels - 2 channels
- URGE Radio music channels - 54 channels
- Channels with no signal - 7 channels
After completing the configuration (matching each channel manually), I can now watch and record these channels just like the others. I also played back a recording of an HD program on another computer (using Media Player on XP) to verify the lack of DRM).
If anyone else needs help in setting up clear QAM, please contact me. I can provide more detailed instructions if needed about how it actually works.
I will probably be purchasing a second Digital Cable Tuner - configuring one with a CableCARD for the premium channels and one without for clear QAM. I have noticed with my cable company DVR that whenever I need to record two programs at the same time one of them is on a broadcast channel. This is especially true since most of the premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) repeat their programs several times, so I can find one without a conflict. This will also provide recording of the broadcast channels (including the clear QAM HD channels) without DRM protection.
My next step is to contact Grande Communications for the CableCARD installation. I have already found a manager to call directly to set up the appointment, since the people who answer the phone do not understand CableCARD.
Summary - The Good:
- Ease of basic installation of the Digital Cable Tuner
- Ease of use of Media Center
- Picture quality - especially on the HD channels
- Velocity Micro technical support - although the first technician could not help me, he had the person who could call me the next day
- Ease of use of clear QAM - after it is configured
- My local HD channels without an antenna or DRM
- My Velocity Micro S85 - able to display HD in a window while running several other programs with no problems
Summary - The Bad:
- Complexity of configuration of clear QAM channels
- Lack of clear QAM channels from Grande Communications (except local broadcast and music channels)
I will provide an update later on how the CableCARD installation goes. It may be a while, since I have not scheduled it yet.