Electronic Design

TV Adapter: Hauppauge Computer Works WinTV-PVR-350

Personal video recorders (PVR) were popularized by companies like Tivo, but you don’t have to sign up for an expensive service to get these time-shifting features. You can just plug in Hauppauge’s WinTV-PVR-350 instead. It provides the same power of the typical PVR, including the ability pause a show, rewind and restart for personal instant replay.

The WinTV-PVR-350 packs an FM tuner with a TV tuner. You can play or record to multimedia formats for subsequent playback. The video side can handle cable, antennas, and direct video inputs. A hardware MPEG-2 encoder reduces the load on the host processor although our dual-core Athlon has cycles to burn. The result is no lag even when recording and playing games.

The unit comes with an infrared remote control and receiver. The latter plugs into the card. The remote works with the accompanying scheduling and playback software. The bundled software also includes ULeads’ DVD Movie Factory CD and DVD authoring support plus video editing software. I found Hauppauge’s software to be fast, responsive, and easy to use. You don’t have to be a geek to use this stuff.

Need more? Then check out the WinTV-PVR-500 with dual tuners. Now you can watch while recording a different channel. If you are driving a TV then you can record two channels while watching a third. NTSC and PAL board versions are available.

The WinTV-PVR-350 (and 500) uses a single PCI slot and it works in most PCs. It comes with Windows software, but the boards are very popular with developers so it is supported by a host of third-party and open-source software such as Linux-based MythTV.

Finally, for households with a host of TVs, check out Hauppauge’s MediaMVP (see “Making More Of Your PC’s Video”). This little box plugs into the network and TV. It can remotely program a WinTV-PVR for distributed PVR features. By the way, the MediaMVP runs Linux.

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