In all my years of reading hardware articles, I have only stumbled upon a handful of TV Tuner Card reviews. Quite literally, I could count them on one hand! So when my local supplier Compuworld placed these cards on their price list, I jumped at the opportunity to own one. I had considered purchasing a TV set for my bedroom, but decided not to when I discovered how expensive they were. Could this card be just what the doctor ordered? let's find out!
Stuff of Importance
- First Impressions
The PlayTV Pro comes in a similar box to the GeForce2 MX by Prolink. In the "Deluxe" version, you not only receive a TV Tuner, but an FM Tuner, audio patch lead, FM antenna, video capture capability, composite input cable and an infrared remote control. Here is a picture of the board:
The major feature of the board is the Philips TV/FM Tuner module. A Conexant Fusion (formerly Brooktree BT878) encoder chip is present that facilitates video capture. Both composite and S-Video inputs are provided. This card has the potential to turn the back of your PC into a rat's nest of cables, having no fewer than 6 external connectors. They are: FM Antenna, TV Antenna, infrared sensor, audio out, S-Video input and composite input. Other "All-in-one" cards such as the Voodoo3 3500 and ATi's All-in-Wonder series use a breakout box for all the cables - but this setup isn't too bad. An internal connector provides capability to connect a Philips web cam. The card can receive TV inputs both from a standard antenna or a cable TV subscription.
The infrared connector is something rather unusual. An infrared "eye" is connected via a 1-metre cable to a 3.5mm stereo connector at the other end. The eye has double-sided tape attached, so you can stick it anywhere. I chose to mount it on the front of my AOpen HX-45 case, and thread the cable through my machine and out the back. This setup worked rather well, as the infrared connector moves with the PC. The infrared connector is a nice talking point at LANs as well! Here is a picture of the remote control:
A driver CD containing drivers for several Prolink products was included, along with a copy of Cyberlink's web cam software. Although Prolink states that a web cam can be connected via the composite input, I still don't feel that this software has a purpose on a tuner card. Some basic video capture software would be nice, but with a price this low a small home level video-editing suite shouldn't cost too much.