I am a big fan of digital television. What is actually broadcast on it is an entirely different matter, but as far as technology goes it is a major step forward for the TV viewing world. Poor picture quality and scratchy sound are consigned to history or to those poor mites still squinting in front of analogue signals. Digital TV also creates the opportunity for far more channels than its wilting predecessor could ever have hoped for, and while most are not worth wasting a minute of your life on, the key word here is “choice”. So with the same wilful enthusiasm, I was keen to take a look at Chaintech’s digital TV tuner card.
At its most basic level, the DTT-1000 is Freeview in a PCI slot. It receives digital free to air television channels and radio signals through an aerial. On top of this it has time shifting capabilities, an electronic program guide (EPG) which works in the UK unlike a lot of other cards, a snapshot option, video capture in MPEG 1 and 2 and Teletext. This is a good feature set, but if you want to display this digital image on your TV you’ll need to use the TV out from your graphics card, if it has that feature.
Installation is as easy as it gets. Push the card into a free PCI slot, plug in your aerial, switch on the computer, insert the driver CD and sit back. Once finished, plug in the USB infrared remote cable, insert the supplied batteries (always a winner with me) and you’re up and running, or almost. The reason I say almost is because the software setup is not really as simple as it should be. For a start there is no wizard to run you through the various settings so beginners may find that they have to fumble around the buttons to get up and running. Compensating for this is a good manual with clear instructions and illustrations at every step. I have a deep hatred for the half hearted attempts that the majority of manufacturers produce to describe their products. It leaves inexperienced users at their wit’s end, so credit must be given to Chaintech for producing a detailed booklet that’s not constructed from the usual entertaining, but ultimately unhelpful Taiwanese broken English.
Venture into the configuration screen - a spanner icon that looks like a dog bone - and you’ll find the channel set up. Channels can be scanned by country or frequency and like most of the better TV tuners out today the process takes no more than a couple of minutes. Because the channels are digital they come down named and the configuration screen orders them alphabetically. There are no parental controls on the DTT-1000 but if you wish you can add or remove individual channels from listings and save the different line ups to file.
When you watch each of the channels it makes you realise what a blessing digital television is. The colours are bright and constant because the entire concept of interference is null and void. Swap to full screen mode and you may as well be watching a real television and a rather good one at that. Radio stations are also a pleasure to listen to as you reap the benefits of DAB. You do need a roof aerial to get the best out of the DTT-1000 however, because even in London a standalone aerial results in clear but ultimately jerky pictures and broken sound.