Media Centres

The TV tuner

TV tuner

Nearly all media centre PCs will have a TV tuner installed in them. Having a TV tuner card allows the PC to act as a personal video recorder, much like the DVD/HDD combination recorders that are available as stand-alone units. TV shows can be recorded to the PC's hard disk and watched at will, or archived.

A TV tuner card will also allow time-shifting; that is, pausing and rewinding "live" TV. If you press pause while watching TV, the PC will buffer the show on the hard disk, allowing you to leave for that coffee or toilet break and come back and pick up exactly where you left off.

There are considerable differences in TV tuners. Some are internal PCI expansion cards; others are external USB 2.0 or FireWire boxes. Internal or external doesn't have much of qualitative difference (unless the external device is USB 1.1, which should be avoided).

Almost all TV tuners these days will have the ability to receive high definition broadcasts (HDTV). The biggest choice is deciding whether or not to get a card with dual tuners. Depending on the software that the card ships with, these types of cards will allow you to record one channel whilst watching another, or use picture-in-picture functionality. The other option is an analogue/digital hybrid card, which is able to receive either digital or analogue broadcasts. Currently, however, analogue broadcasts in Australia are scheduled to be switched off sometime between 2010 and 2012, so you won't be able to pick up analogue signals after the switch-off date.

One very important note: if you plan to use Windows Media Centre Edition (MCE), you cannot just stick any old card into the PC and expect it to work. MCE requires specific drivers, called BDA (broadcast driver architecture) drivers, and you need to make sure that your TV tuner has the required driver support. If your card doesn't have BDA drivers, it won't work with MCE.

Some TV tuners also support radio tuning, which allows you to listen to FM (and sometimes AM) broadcast radio on your PC. You can decide whether or not this matters to you. It's also worth looking at whether a card has an RCA input, which allows you to capture analogue signals from video recorders and cameras. RCA cables are analogue, so any video transferred through them will suffer from analogue interference - but they can be very useful to have.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

GoodGearGuide Staff

Good Gear Guide
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?