So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Dvico Fusion HDTV DVB-T HOME
- Good tuning ability, half-height card
- Grainy picture quality, FusionCONVERTER software does not work with this tuner
Despite its grainy picture quality, the DViCo Fusion HDTV DVB-T HOME is a capable digital tuner that can be installed in a regular tower PC or a slim-line media centre.
Price$ 145.95 (AUD)
If you're in the market for a simple digital TV tuner device for your PC, the FusionHDTV DVB-T Home is a solid choice. It's a half-height PCI device, which means it can fit into a regular tower PC case or even a slim-line media centre, using the supplied half-height mounting bracket.
The Fusion can decode standard definition and high definition channels using your graphics card and it supports Microsoft's DirectX Video Acceleration (DxVA). Unfortunately though, its picture quality was a little more grainy (using DxVA-capable GeForce 7600-based graphics cards in our test systems) than many other tuners we've reviewed and colours were a tad pale.
We tested the tuner in two geographical areas and received strong reception results in both areas. In the first test area, which is located relatively close (about 2km) to many transmission towers in northern Sydney, the card performed splendidly. It scanned and found all the available channels in the area on its first attempt. Signal strength was strong throughout our testing (90-100 percent) and we didn't experience any noticeable signal breakups while viewing for extended periods of time.
From our second test location, which is roughly 15km away from the same transmission towers, we had to perform a couple of scans before the card picked up all the channels in our area. The signal strength was understandably a little lower from this area (65-80 percent), and we did notice a few stutters during lengthy viewing. Overall though, the performance of this tuner card suggests that it should give a very good viewing experience, even if you live a good distance away from, and not within line-of-site of, the transmission towers in your region.
The software interface of the tuner is DViCO's FusionHDTV, which has ample features and is quite easy to use. We tested the tuner with the supplied version (3.42). It supports scheduled recordings, manual recordings and can perform time-shifting, although you must first enable the time-shifting feature before you can start pausing live TV. We did experience some quirks while time-shifting. Sometimes it worked flawlessly and other times it stuttered as we went backwards and forwards through a time-shifted program.
Channel changes aren't instantaneous. It takes a couple of seconds to go to a new channel from the time you select your change. In addition, small pauses are noticeable when initiating and stopping recordings and manual recordings don't start when you click on the record button. Instead, a dialog box pops up, which allows you to select the length of the recording and also the format of the recording. FusionHDTV lets you record either the current channel you are watching in MPEG2 format (the native format of digital TV broadcasts), or the entire transport stream that the channel is broadcasting in TP format. If you record in TP format, you will only be able to play it back in FusionHDTV, unless you convert the streams contained in the TP file.
FusionCONVERTER is a program that lets you 'extract' the channels from the TP stream and convert them to a format of your choice: MPEG2, DivX or XviD. Frustratingly, while this program is installed by default at the same time as FusionHDTV software, it does not run with the FusionHDTV DVB-T Home tuner card (it can only be used with more expensive tuners, such as the FusionHDTV DVB-T Pro or the FusionHDTV DVB-T Dual Digital 2). This means if you want to view your recordings in a player other than FusionHDTV, you should ensure that 'Current subchannel only' is checked in the recording dialog box. This will record the channel you are watching in MPEG2 format.
For using the card in a media centre PC, DViCO supplies a programmable media centre-style remote control and an infrared receiver. A BDA (broadcast driver architecture) driver that is part of FusionHDTV allows the FusionHDTV DVB-T Home to be used with Windows XP Media Centre Edition.
Overall, the FusionHDTV DVB-T Home comes with a capable software interface and has good digital tuning abilities. Despite its image quality being a little grainy, it's a worthy choice for a standard PC or a media centre.
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