If you’re considering building a Media Centre PC, either based on Windows Media Center or a third party interface, your TV tuner will be an important component. TV is the most popular medium in the home and if you’re going for digital terrestrial TV, popularised as Freeview, it will also include all your radio stations.
To make full use of what Windows MCE can offer, you need two TV tuners, so you can watch one channel, while you’re recording another. Until now, this has meant slotting two PCI-based TV tuner cards into expansion slots inside your PC’s case. This is fine for a PC based on an ATX system board, but may cause problems with Micro ATX or barebones systems, which often have only one available slot.
Several companies have been working on cards with twin tuners on board, but Terratec is the first to bring a retail product to market, with the Cinergy 2400i DT. This card can be used with Windows MCE or with the copy of PowerCinema 4, supplied in the box.
The card uses a pair of Thomson DVB-T tuners, which in our view are slightly more sensitive than the Philips devices often seen on tuner cards. This certainly showed when we scanned for channels under PowerCinema. The scan detected all Freeview TV and radio channels currently on offer
The Cinergy 2400i DT is a PCI Express x1 card, fitting the short, 36-contact slot found on some modern system boards. While we can see Terratec’s logic in choosing this format, likely to be the new high-performance internal interconnect, it currently restricts the card’s use in the very area where it should be best suited.
Small form factor (SSF) PCs, epitomised by Shuttle, are where twin tuner cards are most attractive. It’s in these compact cases that space is at a premium and there’s often only one spare expansion slot, other than for a graphics adapter. We did a quick straw pole, to find barebones systems which offer a PCI Xpress x1 slot and found less than ten, and those nearly all Intel-based.
Installation of the Cinergy 2400i DT could hardly be simpler. Install the support software from the supplied CD and plug in the card. There’s only one socket on the back panel, for a TV aerial, so there’s no scope for confusion. The signal is split on the card, to feed both tuners.