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Questions about CableCard and QAM tuners

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
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.

source: http://www.comcast.net/tv/on-demand/

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!

additional reading










post #2 of 7
Assuming you want cable, here's some info to think about:

Digital cable, both SD & HD, comes to your home in a modulated format called QAM. Most QAM channels are encrypted, so subscribers only get channels they pay for. A CableCARD host device with a cableco provided CableCARD will unencrypt the subscribed channels. In general, you have 4 options for cable HD:

1) Local HD only. Most all cableco's pass local HD in clear QAM, which means any QAM tuner will receive those channels. You can buy a QAM tuner in an external box (SetTopBox) or built into an HDTV. The PHD-205LE you linked to above is an example of a QAM STB, and is reasonably priced for such a STB; there are not a lot of less expensive units. See this topic for the current list: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=179095 (In some areas, a very few other digital cable channels are available, like your mention of Discovery.)

2) Local HD, digital tier HD, premium HD, HD PPV, HD On Demand, from a cableco STB. All cableco's offer both standard HD STB or HD DVR for rent. Monthly rental costs approximatly range from $5 per month for a HD STB to $15 for an HD DVR. Both typically have the same basic features; on screen guide, PPV, On Demand, and the ability to view all subscribed channels. The HD DVR adds the ability to record subscribed channels for future viewing, and do 'trick play' with live viewing (pause, rewind, slo-mo, etc.).

3) Local HD, digital tier HD, premium HD, from a retail purchased STB, that is a CableCARD host device. There are two options right now; TiVo HD & Moxi. For anything but local HD, you'll need to rent a CableCARD from your cableco; they usually run less than $5 per month. Primary differences between these units and a cableco supplied unit are: No PPV or On Demand, a unique (not cableco supplied) user interface, user installed increased storage, external storage, etc. See this link for the features and differences between the two: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showp...70&postcount=3

4) A PC preconfigured with CableCARD or make one yourself. See this forum for details: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forum...sprune=-1&f=26

Additional Info:
- The dual stream CableCARD allows a CableCARD host device (TiVo HD or Moxi) to view and/or record two channels at the same time. If you wanted to watch one channel and record another at the same time you either need a dual stream CableCARD or two single stream CableCARD's, in a CableCARD host device that has two QAM tuners.

- The next big thing for cable & CableCARD is called 'tru2way'. It still uses the same CableCARD as above, but will add PPV & On Demand to existing CableCARD host device capability. tru2way devices are overdue to hit the market, and there is no announced date for a tru2way STB to be available. If you live in Denver, Chicago, or Atlanta, and have Comcast as a provider, you could buy a specific Panasonic plasma HDTV that has tru2way capability, and have tru2way right now. There is no set dates for other cableco's to offer tru2way, or tru2way in other Comcast service areas, but the last word was 'before the end of 2009'. See this topic for details: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=893485

- All the other CableCARD devices you mention are only available from a cableco, and in any given area you can only use the STB's the cableco offers, except for the TiVo HD, Moxi, or a not yet available tru2way. Also, you could always buy one of the Panasonic HDTV's I mentioned above, and it will work as a standard CableCARD device until tru2way was available in your area; you still need to rent the CableCARD itself from the cableco.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thank you very much for all the information Ken.

I guess TiVo or Moxi it is. I might just wait it out till true2way devises hit the market though, especially if it is coming so soon.

Besides, all I really need right now is just a basic QAM tuner for local channels so that should hold me over for awhile.

Thanks again.
post #4 of 7
One warning about the Moxi - its future is uncertain - the company that built it (Digeo) sold out to another company (Arris) that has no plans to continue the Moxi product line in its current form. Reliability of support is unknown at this time if there are problems with it.

If all you want is clear QAM channels (HD or SD), you don't need a Tivo or Moxi - any modern TV can tune those, and an HTPC can be built with cheap QAM tuners for recording. I use a Myth box myself for just that purpose, and a Tivo for all the protected channels.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

One warning about the Moxi - its future is uncertain - the company that built it (Digeo) sold out to another company (Arris) that has no plans to continue the Moxi product line in its current form. Reliability of support is unknown at this time if there are problems with it.

If all you want is clear QAM channels (HD or SD), you don't need a Tivo or Moxi - any modern TV can tune those, and an HTPC can be built with cheap QAM tuners for recording. I use a Myth box myself for just that purpose, and a Tivo for all the protected channels.

yeah, I wouldn't get either unless I subscribe to more channels, otherwise I'll just pick up a QAM tuner.

As for Moxi's future being uncertain, it may be slightly, but read these links, it says the father company is going to continue business as usual with the moxi line



plus I like them more than TiVo, so the best way to keep the line afloat would be to support them.

"ARRIS will continue to develop and market the current line of Digeo Digital Video Recorder (DVR) products, including Digeo’s Moxi Cable DVR and consumer HD DVR with its Emmy® award winning user interface. Moxi customers will continue to enjoy uninterrupted service and updates."
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

One warning about the Moxi - its future is uncertain - the company that built it (Digeo) sold out to another company (Arris) that has no plans to continue the Moxi product line in its current form. Reliability of support is unknown at this time if there are problems with it.

check out the news today, not only are they continuing the brand but they are releasing new models.

Moxi is alive and kicking, all those who where holding out should really buy now and support the company!

post #7 of 7
I was wrong about new products but we'll see how it goes. I'm still not sold on Arris or anyone else wrt the Moxi, it's just a low-volume almost unheard-of product.

Although the new $500 price point for the Moxi 500GB dual-tuner is a much better deal than what Tivo wants, which is around $650 for a lifetime sub Tivo HD 160GB. Yes, the Moxi doesn't do OTA, but if you need a cablecard DVR it's now a contender.
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