Unlike many of the external TV products currently available that hook up via a USB connection, the H900 is an internal PCI device. While USB devices are very convenient, I have yet to find one that gives the same picture quality as an internal one. This is due to the bandwidth differences in the technologies involved. USB 1.1 has a maximum bandwidth of 12 Mbit/sec and USB 2.0 increases this to 480Mbit/sec. While this is optimal for some devices, video signals generally have a very large footprint. The PCI bus gives you a bandwidth of 127MB/sec, or 1016 Mbit/sec. It is easy to see where the internal devices have a lot better signal quality.
Of course, this is general information. We'll cover the actual quality in a bit.
The default configuration of the H900 is as a full-height PCI card suitable for a normal PC system. Included in the packaging you will also find a half height bracket for those wanting to use the HTPC setup that is becoming more popular of late. The card itself has a pretty low profile, so should not cause any problems for any type of system it is installed into.
Moving to the business end of the card shows a minimal layout that still manages to provide ports necessary to use the all of the functions included with the H900. From left to right you see a standard cable input port, an FM antenna port, a small jack for the infrared device, and an S-Video port that allows you to port video in from a VCR, DVD or similar device. Overall we have a lot of possibilities with this little toy.
While this product has full TV playback capabilities, what do you do if you want to save off video or input A/V data from an external source? You have two choices in this situation, hardware or software encoding. The H900 features the Conexant hardware encoder built onto the board. It has the ability to encode incoming A/V data into MPEG2 format. The advantage to hardware encoding is that it doesn't suck the life out of your computer since it has its own processing power built in.
To help with the encoding chores, the folks at Compro have also included 32MB of DDR memory. This will come in handy when it comes to the encoding chores since it will cause even less of a drain on your own system resources.
One of the more important features of the H900 would have to be the TV tuner. This little gem allows you to use your PC as a television set, but it does a bit more as well. Not only can you watch TV in an adjustable size window, you can also make use of advanced features such as Picture In Picture, Picture Out of Picture, and channel surfing with multiple channels being displayed in one window. When you find a channel that interests you, just double click it and it comes to the front. Not too shabby at all for an add-on board.
Another feature that this card touts that isn't the norm is remote system startup. This goes beyond what you might expect from a TV card. The way it works is simple; you take the motherboard cable that generally hooks up to the power switch on the enclosure and you hook it up to the appropriate 2-pin port shown above. From there you simply use the included 2-pin cable and attach it to the motherboard header normally used for the start button. This now allows you to use the remote control to power up the computer.
Now that we've looked a bit at the features, lets take a look at how it comes together on your screen.
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