Five plus years ago, there weren't many "must have extras" to include on your do-it-yourself list of desired PC components, minus that relatively expensive Sound Blaster and a pricey, yet affordable, 3D Graphics card. In fact there weren't too many extras to consider in a configuration other than perhaps an optical drive of some sort, or maybe a SCSI controller for a Jaz drive or Plextor burner. Fast forward a few years and the whole scene has changed. We've got a lot of new technology now, and a larger selection of it, to provide solutions for a new breed of digital multimedia technology; MP3 players, PDAs, TV tuners, DVD recorders, Wireless Mice, and Wireless Keyboards to name a few.
With all of these new enhancements most computer users, even those not so familiar with the latest and greatest technology, know enough to be willing to dip slightly into their budget for a that faster GPU or CPU, in an effort to make room for a TV tuner. This goes doubly for the TV and movie aficionado. A TV tuner is still by definition an "extra," in our book, but who doesn't want a digital copy of their favorite TV episodes or better yet, TV in a window while you work? Then there are those living in limited quarters like dorms rooms and small apartments. A TV tuner on a computer doesn't completely replace the true blue TV-tube unless you have a large monitor but it sure does save a lot of space.
Let's look at just such a solution, as we get into ATI's TV Wonder Elite and explain some of the core technology used in TV tuners, in general.
|Features and Specifications
|What You Get
TV Wonder Elite
Internal PCI card with two analog cable f-connector (1 x TV and 1 x FM) and A/V output breakout box connector, A/V out breakout box, S-video cable, RCA video cable, and Remote Wonder Plus
Setup and Installation:
1 - Installation and Setup Guide
1 - Multimedia Center User Guide (on CD)
1 - ATI Driver and Utility CD
Intel Pentium 4, Celeron, AMD Athlon or Semperon (or compatible)
128MB of system memory (256MB recommended)
Available PCI slot
Installation software requires CD-ROM drive
Sound card and speakers
Cable TV signal or amplified antenna
Windows XP Professional, Home, MCE 2005
- ATI THEATER™ 550 PRO video processor - Delivers sharper images, truer colors, and more symphonic sound than any other PC-based TV solution. 12-bit analog-to-digital conversion optimizes analog video reception from TV channels or external video sources. Advanced motion-adaptive 3D comb filter delivers true color and fine picture detail from cable and antenna TV broadcasts, VCRs, and other video sources.
- Hardware MPEG-2 Encoder - Performs artifact-free MPEG2 encoding in real time enabling more video content to be recorded to a single DVD-R/DVD-RW disk or hard drive while achieving home theater quality.
- Fully digital audio - Simplified installation and setup with the highest audio fidelity and without sound card connections.
- REMOTE WONDER™ PLUS – New and improved radio frequency (RF) wireless remote control allows easy access to record and watch TV broadcasts. Also offers complete control over any computer application.
TV Wonder Elite is compatible with graphics sub-systems supporting Microsoft DirectX overlay, including products from the following manufacturers: ATI, NVIDIA and S3
An ATI Radeon 9600 or newer graphics card is recommended for optimal output quality
Pricing and Availability:
Suggested retail price of $149 USD. It will be available from shop@ATI.com as well as major retailers world-wide in September 2004
3 year limited warrant
We need to make a slight disclaimer - This article is partially a crash course in TV tuners and relative quality. So, if you end up unhappy with your current config in your entertainment room or personal video recorder (aka PVR) card after this, don't say we didn't warn you.