I had a Digital TV card (lets you watch/record digital TV on your PC) before but the software was pants so I decided to buy a new card. I decided on the AVerMedia Hybrid TV + FM card because I had previously played with someone else's card and liked the look of the software. I bought it online for £58.74 but should be a lot less now.
Installation was very easy and would be the same for anyone confident with computer hardware. Software is the usual insert CD and click the install button. It's so easy to set up I didn't need to use the printed Quick Start Guide provided. An FM radio antenna is included but not a TV antenna, so you need to buy your own if you don't have one for the card. I would have liked for one to be included so that people whom do not have a spare one could get started right away without having to buy one. I bought a 2 way booster previously to use with my TV set antenna.
SOFTWARE & PICTURE QUALITY
I get total of 54 channels listed including the ones I cannot watch. Freeview does not have the license to let you view or even purchase access to channels such as Television X (D'oh!), Cartoon Network (I wanted to watch that), Discovery, etc. The channels are listed but you need to buy a separate Sky / Cable / Digital box since there's no way to even pay for them on this card. Channel numbers, names, etc can be edited quite easily. The colour scheme of the channel list is light grey over a darker grey and I don't really like this as it's not the easiest of colour combinations to read. You can even create your own channel lists so that you can select a different list to filter out what you want to watch. i.e. just news channels.
I love the clear TV picture quality. There are no interferences or ghosts of other channels over the channel you're watching like you get on analogue TV's and TV cards when reception isn't good. There are times when the picture skips for a second but this is determined by reception strength. Sometimes happens if you're moving around the room but a signal booster helps. Capture quality is as good as the source and is also excellent. I think this is so much better than an analogue TV card that I had before and cannot fault the picture quality that this card produces.
You can record programmes by simply pressing the 'Record' button in the software or on the remote. You can also schedule TV (or radio) recordings (but PC must be switched on, obviously). You can schedule daily, weekly or one time recordings. You do not need to know a channel number as you select it from a list and you do not need to work out the dates since you can select a day from a calendar that pops up, or you can type in a date if you prefer. You can even choose how big to limit the files it creates and other options like where to save the files before starting a new file for a recording. Not only that, you can use the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) facility to schedule recordings. It's like a TV Guide. At first, not many channels were listed for me, but after I installed a software update, I got more comprehensive lists of programmes (accompanied by descriptions) so all is good. From those, I can select the channel and a day of the week and then choose the ones I want to schedule to record. It can also display an overview of all channels and what programmes are on or are going to be on. EPG is a terrific feature that's also very easy to use.
Recordings are recorded as MPEGII files and can get quite so you do need a fair bit of hard drive space. I find the scheduling very easy to set even without reading the instructions and it did record 'My Name is Earl' as I'd set it to but when watching it, the video froze half way and I was only left with audio for the second half of the program so I missed the second half (or at least with no picture). It seemed to be an isolated incident, as my other programmes recorded flawlessly. Quality is excellent as well.
The card also lets you listen to FM or Digital Radio. I don't really use these but Digital Radio is very clear. Analogue TV is also available but quality doesn't compare to digital and there's no point in using it. It can also playback files and it seems to be able to play most of the popular video formats such as MPG, AVI, WMV and can even deal with subtitle files that accompany AVI files, as well as being able to play MP3 and other audio files once I switch it to 'Audio Mode'. Overall, the AVerTV software is excellent and scores highly in my book.
I'm currently running the card on Windows XP Professional but it's also compatible with Windows 2000, Windows Media Centre Edition and I've also managed to use it on Windows Vista Ultimate by downloading drivers from the AVerMedia website. It works brilliantly in Vista with the Media Centre built into Vista (Home Premium and Ultimate only).
The main issue I've had with the card is with the software. When recording more than the norm (i.e. 4GB+ files about 4 hours of programmes without stopping), the software seems to freeze. It's okay with shorter recordings but this issue with long recordings is a bit annoying to say to least. I would want to make such recordings if there were lots of programmes that I want to watch on in a row on a Saturday night when I'm out.
One downside with this card is that it only has one tuner. Some cards on the market have two, which lets you record up to two channels at a time or lets you watch one and record another one. This AVerMedia card's limited on tuner means you can only watch one and you would have the watch the one that you are recording. Not a problem if you're only looking to record one channel or record the channel you're currently watching.
The software does not include any video editing features, which I would have liked for cutting out commercial breaks from in between programmes that I want to keep. There are also no burning programmes to let you put the stuff you have recorded onto DVD. I've seen burning facilities with most other TV cards I've used so I thought this was unusual but usually, people with DVD Re-Writers would have burning software already so it is just a minor detail.
The remote is not the flat and cheap type like you normally get with computing products that come with remote controls. The build quality is really good and looks very much like a nice full sized and curved remote control for a TV or DVD player. Buttons are clearly labelled with text and icons for some. Some buttons are also coloured.
The infrared receiver connects to the All-in-one cable included and you stick the receiver somewhere that you can point the remote at. It's a small thing that's attached to the end of a metre long cable. A round double-sided sticker is included so you can stick this somewhere. The red 'Power' button loads up or closes the AVerMedia software. It has useful buttons like Snap Shot to take a picture of what you are watching as well as the usual buttons. Other useful inclusions include a Channel Return button to flick back and forward between to the channel you were previously watching. Basic functions like Play/Pause, Stop, Power also work with Windows Media Player but not Next, Previous, etc but they work in the AVerMedia software which is what it is meant for. It is very responsive.
Drivers and software can be downloaded from the AVerMedia website although I've found the website a bit on the slow side at times. No problems otherwise. I bought the card before Vista was released. They do seem to be updating the drivers every so often so they are supporting this card. Not had to contact AVerMedia for anything though.
- Excellent picture quality.
- Easy to use software.
- Lets you watch and Record Digital Terrestrial TV on your PC
- Good support
- Excellent quality remote control.
- Uses an All-in-one cable so fewer things to connect directly to the card.
- Lets you record TV programmes.
- Lets you capture audio/video from other sources i.e. VCR, camcorders, etc.
- High quality software
- Windows Media Centre Edition / Vista compatible
- PCI version so you need to open up your PC to install it.
- Does not come with its own TV antenna.
- Lacks video editing features.
- PC must be left on to record schedule recordings.
- Can't pay for some of the listed channels
- Seems to have problems with long recordings (i.e. 4 hours +)
- Only one tuner
The card may be fairly expensive but being able to record TV programmes with your PC means you wouldn't need to buy a HDD/DVD recorder, and there's no need for a Freeview box, so that's a saving. The software is easy to use and looks very smart with some smooth special effects and handy features. Even the remote is brilliant quality, which makes a change.
Overall, I can recommend this card despite the gripe with the long recording issue and the problem doesn't occur if using the card with the Windows Media Centre software. However, if you expect to need to record more than one channel at the same time or need to be able to watch one channel whilst recording another, then this would not be the card for you. However, you could always watch one channel using a FreeView box and then record another channel on the PC with the AVerMedia card.
Thanks for reading!