Windows Media Center with a TV tuner

My TV tuner arrived yesterday :)

Installation and Setup

Installation was straightforward - after putting the card in just pop the CD in and let Windows detect it as normal. It didn’t even have to restart (which is good because it installed drivers for about 6 different devices (audio tuner, digital TV tuner, analogue TV tuner, MPEG encoder etc.).

Then on to the MCE setup. Lots of questions, most of which had the correct default value so lots of clicking “yes”. The only sticking point is it asks you which transmitter you want to pick up if you choose to use the digital (Freeview) tuner. The first one I selected resulted it bad picture quality and a bunch of missing channels. I went through the setup again and chose a different one (I had a choice of three) and got much better results.

I say much better. Unfortunately a couple of the channels I especially wanted were still unwatchable, specifically abc1 and ft n. This isn’t really a problem with the card - the TV aerial going into my room goes through a large portion of the house first so signal strength and quality is an issue.

I decided not to bother trying to fix it since we’re about to order Sky+ with multiroom which will eliminate the problem.

Electronic Program Guide

It’s really cool at recording stuff :P The only other DVR system I’ve used is Sky+’s and I have to say MCE is a lot better. The best feature is it smartly looks for alternative showings in case of clashes. Which is cool since most programs are repeated at odd times on other channels (ITV and ITV2, Sky One and Sky Two etc.). It can also be set torecord new episodes only or new episodes and reruns.

Missing features

The most notable missing feature is the ability to properly handle two tuners. All the documentation says it will happily use two tuners allowing you to view one program while recording another or record two things at once. You can even get a TV card with two analogue tuners on board (Hauppauge PVR 500). Unfortunately for it to work both tuners need to have the same channel lineup. Which is a shame. If they sort out that ludicrous limitation (other PVR software I’ve seen doesn’t have that problem) then I’ll get a second TV tuner and have on connected to Sky and one connected to Freeview giving me an overlap on about 30 channels.

Missing review

Te one big thing that I haven’t been able to test is the IR blaster. The card comes with a cool box that transmits infrared signals to control set top boxes (like Sky). Once I get Sky I’ll let you know how it goes…