Hauppauge – WinTV PVR review

TV tuner and FM radio card with digital recorder
Photo of Hauppauge – WinTV PVR
£234

TV tuner cards have always had a mixed reception (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the UK. While many can see the advantages of a PC – particularly a home PC – that can double as an extra TV, there’s the hassle of wiring up a second room with an aerial feed and the temptation of watching the box when you should be working.

Hauppauge is probably the best known supplier of TV cards and the WinTV PVR includes a range of extra features which should swing the balance in its favour. The product is available as a PCI expansion card or as a free-standing external device, connecting through a USB port. The PCI version is reviewed here.

The package comprises the card itself, an FM radio aerial and an infra-red remote control. There’s also a CD containing Hauppauge’s own control utilities. Installation is a matter of inserting the card into a spare PCI slot and installing the drivers. There are sockets on the card’s back panel for TV and FM aerials, S-Video and Composite signals and separate audio feed. There is also a line out jack and a socket for the infra-red receiver for the remote.

PVR stands for Personal Video Recorder and this facility is similar to what stand-alone Tivo units offer in the way of digital recording. From a single, friendly-looking control screen you can pause a live TV programme by recording the content digitally to your hard drive.

An extension of this is the ability to record complete programs for later viewing. Although it takes around 2GB per hour, with today’s hard drives running to 60GB or more you can potentially record a good selection of programmes before having to delete any to re-use the space. The Hauppauge software contains a timer facility, too, so you can record programmes while you’re out – assuming you’re happy to leave your PC switched on.

Once created, the files can be copied to a CD-R or CD-RW disc with the standard recording software supplied with the drives, though with a CD’s current capacity of around 700MB, you’ll only get about 20 minutes of TV on each. Fortunately, recordable DVD is on the way.

The quality of the TV picture and FM reception will depend on the signal strength in your area and the quality of the aerial feed. Under test, we had no problems with either and would happily watch TV on any monitor capable of SVGA resolutions. The card’s not cheap, but it extends the usefulness of almost any home PC considerably.

Company: Hauppauge

Contact: 020 7378 1997


Verdict
If you're considering adding TV reception to the things your home PC can do, it's well worth checking out this card. As long as you have a few gigabytes of hard drive space spare, you can pause your favourite TV programmes to make a drink or cook a meal and record not-to-be-missed shows while you're out.