83. Watching TV on your computer
By Andrew D. Wright
Want to watch high resolution TV and don't want to spend a fortune on a
new set? You can turn your home computer into a TV for less than a hundred
It's been possible for several years to buy a TV tuner card that can be
added to any computer with a free PCI slot.
New models offer sophisticated image processing to clean up TV picture
quality, Digital Video Recorder functions such as pausing and rewinding
live broadcasts, timeshifting favorite programs and a remote control. Some
even include FM radio tuners and the ability to timeshift radio programs
for more convenient listening later.
For those people not comfortable with opening their computers and
installing a PCI card, TV tuners also come as external boxes about the
size of a Walkman that plug into a USB 2.0 jack. USB 2.0 is the higher
speed version of the Universal Serial Bus standard that has been in wide
use since 2002.
Computer monitors have a much sharper picture than a standard television
set is capable of offering. The sound cards in computers tend to be much
better than the built-in sound of a standard television set as well.
System requirements vary for different tuner cards but any computer built
within the last four years should be able to pass muster.
Having a faster computer with lots of memory and lots of free unfragmented
disk space will make higher quality video recording possible and reduce
stuttering, dropped frames and out-of-synch audio in recorded video. TV
tuner cards allow a wide range of recording formats and quality levels so
even computers with CPU speeds between 500 MHz and 1 GHz should be able to
record reasonable quality video. Check the system requirements for the TV
tuner card before you purchase it if you own an older computer with a CPU
speed under 1 GHz.
For those wanting to upgrade their video watching experience, premium
quality sound cards are built into the motherboard of most new computers
that are capable of supporting 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. Such sound cards
can be purchased separately for about $30 and high quality surround sound
speakers can be had for around $100.
Canadian video card manufacturer ATI is
one of the big names in TV tuner cards. At the top of the line their
All-In-Wonder brand has combined high quality 3-D rendering for gamers
with onboard TV tuner and video processing for years. ATI also sells
stand-alone TV tuner cards and USB 2.0 external tuners.
Hauppage is another big name in TV
tuner cards. Their product line runs from low priced TV tuner cards and
external tuners to premium quality cards incorporating Dolby Pro Logic
surround sound and other advanced features.
When selecting a TV tuner card it is good to look at what is included with
the card. Bundled software can include TV program guides, video editing
and video conferencing software and DVD player software for use with an
The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community
Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about
computing, email email@example.com. If we use your question in
a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.
Originally published 7 May 2006