Testing of Quality
The PlayTV Pro was tested in a machine with the following components:
- 1GHz Intel Pentium III FC-PGA CPU
- AOpen AX3S Pro i815E Motherboard
- 256MB Kingmax PC-133 TinyBGA SDRAM
- 15.3GB Western Digital Caviar 153BA 7200RPM Hard Drive
- 6.4GB Quantum Fireball EX (Eclipse Plus) 5400RPM Hard Drive
- Creative SoundBlaster PCI 128 Digital
- Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition
The TV set used for comparison was an old Thorn model, circa 1976. Despite its age, it still displays a good picture.
I live in an area with generally good TV reception, as I am about 25km from the transmission towers with no major obstacles causing interference. Here are the screenshots from the various channels:
- Channel 2 - ABC (VHF)
Since the introduction of digital television services in my area, the power on the ABC analogue transmitter has been reduced. On a normal television the reception of the ABC is pretty fuzzy, and the TV Tuner also displays poor picture quality. If you look carefully you will see that the majority of the screen has vertical lines across it. These are highly distracting in real life, and the reference TV provides far superior quality.
- Channel 7 (VHF)
The picture quality is rather good on Channel 7, with only slight banding effects being present. The vertical bars have also disappeared. Almost identical to the reference TV set.
- Channel 9 (VHF)
Once again, reasonably good picture quality is evident, however this channel is more prone to sudden interference than others. For no reason, suddenly the picture would waver and display diagonal lines. This was not observed on other channels. The reference TV also suffered from the same problems, indicating the channel may be to blame.
- Channel 10 (VHF)
The quality on channel 10 is the best of the bunch, being comparable to the reference TV set. Vertical bars were not present at all, and there were very few rogue pixels interfering. One must keep in mind that the higher the channel on VHF, the stronger the signal, so this may have an impact here.
- Channel 28 - SBS (UHF)
Although the best of the UHF channels, the quality is quite poor when compared to the reference TV set. Diagonal lines and those annoying vertical bars combine to deliver a poor viewing experience. The reference TV set displays much better quality than this.
- Channel 31 - BRIZ 31 (UHF)
This is the local community station, unfortunately it operates at a substantially reduced power level, and it clearly shows in the rather pathetic screenshot shown above. The reference TV also displays this channel poorly.
- FM Testing
As stated above, the FM Tuner worked perfectly without a hitch. All stations were received with near perfect quality using the supplied aerial. The station preset buttons worked well on the remote control, and switching between TV and FM was easily achieved with a flick of a single button.
There are some other stations in my region, with transmitters about 100km away that the car stereo picks up easily. To test if the card could receive these, I connected the FM Antenna input to the external TV aerial. Sadly, it seems that the card is the limitation here, as no new stations were detected.
- Video Capture Testing
I used two methods to capture video, by using the included Pixelview Station application to capture TV channels, and Adobe Premiere 5.1RT to test the composite video-in port.
Using the 7200RPM hard disk drive in my system, no frames were dropped whatsoever, a most impressive performance. However, the older 5400RPM hard disk drive dropped about 15% of all frames supplied to it. I attribute this to not only the slower rotational speed, but also the 5400RPM drive has a mere 512KB of cache when compared to the 7200RPM model that has 2MB. Adobe Premiere had no troubles recognising the card, and no compatibility glitches were noticed.