There are certain areas of convergence where it is difficult to see what will replace what. For example, will the mobile phone slowly incorporate the PDA or will the PDA swallow up the mobile phone? Will the television, with the help of digital satellite technology, eventually integrate the home PC or will the home PC subsume the television? Most definitely there are products that already cross these boundaries such as smart phones and Media PCs, not to mention the explosion in digital broadcasting and its available keyboard and game controller add-ons. But perhaps one of the first available products to blur these lines was the humble PC TV tuner Card.
When they first arrived in the late 1990s TV cards proved to be a great hit with students cramped in small dorm rooms or anyone who found space at home to be at a premium. But since then there has not been quite the explosion in this market that was perhaps expected, and a lot of the world’s largest manufacturers have steered clear of producing their own variants. Fighting this trend, the existing players such as Hauppauge, Pinnacle and ADS have added significant functionality to their cards to increase their appeal and the Leadtek WinFast PVR2000 that was sent to our labs is a good example of a value add product.
The PVR2000 is Leadtek’s latest PC TV tuner card and it is a real bundle of tricks. As well as the compulsory antenna or cable transmitted programmes and Teletext, the PVR2000 also has a built-in hardware MPEG2 Encoder which takes significant strain off the CPU and can capture in MPEG1, MPEG2, VCD and DVD formats, as well as burning directly to a DVD. There is also the ability to pause, rewind and record live TV just like Sky+ and a picture in picture display format. FM radio support with stereo audio and auto tuning is also thrown in for good measure and can also be recorded and saved to MP3 and WMA formats.
Straight out of the box, the PVR2000 further proves that it is a comprehensive package. Included along with the card itself are FM and audio cables, a remote control and IR sensor plug, the WinFast drivers and player software and three Ulead programs: VideoStudio 7SE DVD for video editing, MovieFactory 3SE for DVD authoring and disc burning and Cool3D for creating titles for your video creations. I was also pleased to see that Leadtek had the common sense to include a couple of AAA batteries for the remote which is sometimes overlooked by other manufacturers.
Installing the card is a breeze due to clearly discernable FM, TV Cable, Remote Control, Audio In and S-Video In ports on the back of the card and an intuitive, but mercifully short software installation process. The Ulead software is not a compulsory part of the setup but obviously if you want to get the best out of your video and audio captures, they form an expansive part of Leadtek’s offering.
Once installed, it is simply a matter of letting the PVR2000 detect its TV and radio signals – I was very impressed with the speed of its scan. In the past TV Cards have taken upwards of 15 minutes to complete their channel searches but the PVR2000 was finished in less than two. Because it was feeding off an analogue signal, none of the channels were named but it hardly takes very long to type in channels one to five and – depending on your configuration – a Sky channel and/or DVD and VCR channels.