[newbie question] HDTV on the PC - Some beginner questions



After hearing all about the wonders of HDTV, I finally decided that I want to try it out. I want to do this on my computer, because I don’t have a TV in my room and, quite frankly, I use my computer a whole heck of a lot more than I do TVs (it also doesn’t help that the HDTV tuners seem to cost in excess of $200 USD here in the States).

I plan to use this to do some light TV watching (not a whole lot; mostly just PBS documentaries because the analog PBS signal that we get isn’t very good), and every now and then, I’ll use it to capture video for transfer to DVD or re-encode to MPEG4.

Question 1:

So, after reading up a little, this is what I think the general procedure should be. Is this procedure correct? Am I missing any important steps or including steps that are not necessary?
1: Buy a HDTV tuner PCI card.
2: Buy a HDTV antenna.
3: Plug it in, install any drivers and software that come with the PCI card, and that’s it.

Sounds almost too simple, so I just want to check that I’m not missing something important.

Question 2:

I heard that there are hefty system requirements. ATI says 1.3 GHz. One source (can’t remember what it was) says 2 GHz. There’s a post by Kenny where he mentions a 4 GHz system. :eek: How accurate are these estimates? Would this system setup do?

  • 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 520J (Prescott) (HT-enabled)
  • ATI X300 SE (with 128 MB onboard memory; this is NOT the HM model)
  • 1.5 GB DDR2-533 memory
  • XP SP2

My monitor resolution is only 1024x768 (I don’t like to squint :p), so I will not be watching at full resolution (would that help with the system req?)

Question 3:

Newegg only lists three different cards, and I’m looking at two options:

Newegg only lists two HDTV antennas within my budget:

The ATI card is nice in that it comes with its own antenna.

Do I need these special HDTV antennae? Would regular antennae do the trick? And which card should I get? And which antenna should I get (assuming that I don’t get the ATI card and/or I don’t use the ATI antenna). (Oh, and I already have a signal amplifier that I use with my analog rabbit-ear antenna; can I use that here instead of getting that over-priced amplified version of the antenna?)

The no-name card coupled with the $25 antenna is the cheapest option for me, but not that much cheaper. It also seems to have more features. I guess the ATI card has the brand name, but how important is that brand name in this business? There are a lot of industries where the brand name premium is nothing more than marketing, but there are industries where brand name really means something. What kind of industry is the HDTV PCI card industry?

Thanks in advance for your input!


Q1: Cannot say anything about that. I live in Europe… We have here DVB-S (sat), DVB-T (terrestric), DVB-C (cable) and more to come like DVB-H (handy) etc…

Q2: These specs are good enough to receive & record HDTV (DVB-S). I’m not sure if they are good enough for DVB-S 2 (mpeg4/AVC/H.264). But you wanna receive it via terrestric.

Q3: Both cards look OK to me. Cannot say much about the antennas. I have only DVB-S.


I cannot believe that no one of the gurus here has anything to or can anything add?!?!?!?!


@chef, looks like not many here are from US. Europe seems to be a bit behind on HDTV broadcast service.

Just to add…

Q2. Myself having only tried HDTV with a DVB-S (same as chef) on a Celeron 2.2GHz and it worked fine, even recording. The reason for a higher spec is because I believe most HDTV cards at the moment don’t have any hardware MPEG2 decoders and actually are software based, i.e. uses a MPEG2 driver & with your PC for decoding. It’s fine for viewing, but for recording (which includes simultaneously viewing), requires a good PC in order that it won’t start to drop frames.

The premium in some brands usually means that it has hardware decoding chip, so that it can relieve the PC of decoding, so you shouldn’t lose frames (unless you’re using some ancient PC :bigsmile: ). But not all brands, some r cheeky and use that just for marketing. Best way is to check the specs to see whether hardware decoder chip is mentioned.


Thanks for the feedback. I ended up ordering the ATi card a few days ago (since the other card didn’t have much in the way of tech support, either officially on their website or unofficially via Google), so I guess I’ll be finding out more about this stuff first-hand. :wink:


Yeah, that seems to be the case.
BTW, how is actually the state in the US regarding switching from mpeg2 HDTV to mpeg4/H.264/AVC HDTV?? Is there some progress?


They were planning a switch? (I think that answers your question :p)


Oh well. They probably want to get as much as they can subscriptions to delay the mpeg2>mpeg4 switch…
October this year two (german) FTA channels starting here in europe via ASTRA 19.2 degrees East in mpeg4/H.264 HDTV. They are ProSieben HD and Sat.1 HD. A few days later Premeire (german PAY TV) launches it’s Premeire HD called package (only 3 channels for now), also in mpeg4 HDTV. Later this year SKY (PAY TV) in the UK will launch a bigger package with HDTV channels, also in mpeg4.

Euro1080 with it’s current programs HD1 and HD2/HD5 will start transmissions in Simulcast which is announced to be end in 2010 or ealier. Huh.

SIMULCAST, that’s probably also used by some HDTV content providers “overseas”. Eg. UPN.