by Greg King on May 2, 2006 in Graphics & Displays
If you are looking to build or upgrade your HTPC case, how could you exclude a TV card? The WinTV PVR-350 allows you to record live TV, pause it, and even burn it to a CD or DVD. It appears that this may be a true all-in-one solution, so let’s check it out to see if that’s the case.
As it stands, I am a history nerd. The only TV I really ever watch is the History Channel, and ESPN to catch up on my beloved Indianapolis Colts, the Pacers and the St. Louis Cardinals. The majority of my time however is taken up by the History Channel. I also catch up on the news as much as I can but usually, time just doesn’t allow me to watch the TV that I sometimes would.
Above you can see the starting screen for WinTV32. This is the program that you will use to watch TV, record TV and pause TV as you see fit. You can also snap screen shots with this program as well. Below are a few screen shots that I took using this program and are at a native resolution of 1280×1024.
While these aren’t high def at all, they do look great when in motion on your monitor screen at full screen size.
Now we are going to take a look at the radio interface.
There isn’t a whole lot to this program. You start it via the start button or with the remote. This brings up the pictured box where you can tune into any FM signal your normal radio picks up. This was nice but the reception was not what I would like to have had. My normal radio on my stereo does a much better job with reception but then again, it was designed for that specifically, the 350 was not built with FM in mind so this, to me, isn’t a huge deal.
Recording is done in much the same way as the TV is done. You connect your VCR or DVD, and record it. It really is as simple as that. What was more impressive was the CPU usage in my tests. When I recorded a home movie from VCR to my hard drive, the CPU usage never went above 20% but once, when it peaked at 22%. This is something that I can certainly live with. I will update this review when I have a dual core system to compare it to but do note that this was conducted with a single core CPU. With overhead that low, I am able to continue to surf the Internet, play music or whatever else I would like to do and to me, that is nice. It allows me to increase my productivity and not force me to stop using my PC when it is encoding.
The follow picture was taken while I was recording a TV episode.
As you can see, the CPU usage level is at a respectable level and only spiked when I opened the program, started recording and did a screen capture. Other than those times, while it was sitting there recording, the average CPU usage was just under 20%. Not bad in my own honest opinion.
All in all, I am more than happy with this unit. I would like to eventually place this in my HTPC but that project is still underway so until then, it’s living in my everyday gaming/work PC. This sits well with me considering that I use this PC all the time. I can sit down, browse the internet and keep up with all that is going on in the sports world and on my favorite channels.
- Low CPU usage
- Good Bundled software
- Nice Remote layout
- Remote works up to approx. 30 feet away
- Hardware MPEG encoder/decoder
- Runs a bit warm
- PCI interface
All in all folks, you cannot go wrong with this unit. If you are working on a HTPC, as I am, this will compliment your PC nicely. Even if you are not building such a PC, this will work well with any PC, providing you have an open PCI slot. The only gripe I have had with this card is fact that it’s only a PCI card but this isn’t a huge deal because the main focus of this product will be, in my opinion, HTPC users who don’t have a lot of other cards to take up space. The price is on the high side but you pay for what you get. This card is worth every penny when you take into consideration all that you are getting for what you are paying for.
I have no reservations in giving the Hauppauge WinTV-350PVR a solid 9 out of 10 as well as a coveted Editor’s Choice. This is a card that I am looking forward to using for a long time to come. Go out and buy this card! TV on your PC FTW!
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