[…] above there are also cards that allow you to record High Definition programming on your computer. HDTV Tuner Cards are an entirely different mountain to conquer, so I have written an article that explains how to […]
If you spend a lot of your time at a computer like me, and want to watch HD programming from your cable / satellite service, or from over the air broadcasts on your computer, an HDTV Tuner Card for your computer is the perfect way to do that. These cards will also allow you to record programming on your computer similar to how Tivo works with your television.
Before we get started its important to understand that the cards I will be covering here are mid range cards that will be fine for the majority of people who want to watch HD television on their PC. These cards will work with an HDTV Antenna or Digital HD Cable box RF Coax cable, however they do not have an HDMI or Component Video in.
It is also important to note that you will most likely only be able to watch your local stations (NBC, ABC, CBS etc) in HD. Most, if not all of the other HD channels on your cable or satellite service are encrypted and HDTV Tuner Cards can only pick up unencrypted channels.
Choosing the Right Card
As with any computer hardware, HDTV Tuner Cards come in many different shapes and sizes. There are low end HDTV Tuner Cards, there are high end HDTV Tuner Cards, and then there are the cards in between. The card you choose will really depend on your TV viewing preferences, some cards will have many more options than others.
PCI HDTV Tuner Cards: These cards are installed by opening up your computer and connecting them to a free PCI or PCI-e slot on your motherboard. If you are not comfortable with opening up your computer or installing any new hardware, you will want to go with an external USB HDTV Card.
Good PCI HDTV Tuner Cards:
- WinTV-HVR-1850 PCIe for Vista White Box PCIe Atsc HD
- Hauppauge 1178 WinTV-HVR-1600 Internal Hybrid TV Tuner/Video Recorder
USB HDTV Tuner Cards: External HDTV Tuner Cards take up more space because they are not in your computer and add to the “clutter” on your desk. If you are looking for a quick and easy approach, this is probably the option for you. Also, if you have a laptop you probably can’t install an internal card, so this would be a good option for you as well.
Good USB “External” HDTV Tuner Cards:
- Hauppauge 1191 WinTV-HVR-950Q TV Tuner Stick/Personal Video Recorder with Clear QAM and Remote Control (Black)
- Hauppauge 1193 WinTV HVR-1500 Notebook Express Card HDTV Tuner/Video Recorder Media Center Kit
Once your card arrives, it should come with clear installation instructions. Obviously the external cards have an easier installation, and the internal cards will require a bit more work. It’s also important to install any software that comes with the card, because the software will include the video player that allows you to watch the programming on your PC. If your card came with a remote, the software also will contain drivers that you will need to install before the remote will work.
If your a big video buff like me then having a TV tuner card in your PC is a must. If not then this might not be the first thing on your to do list, but it sure is cool to show friends that come over how you can watch live TV right on your computer.
It used to be that a different tuner card was needed for terrestrial vs. satellite TV. With the advent of HD, can a card such as the Hauppauge HVR-2250 be used for either cable (specifically Comcast) or a service provider such as Dish or Direct TV, should I decide to switch?