AVermedia Technology MTVHVMXSK TV Tuner Kit for Windows 7
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AVerTV Hybrid Volar Max - TV Tuner Kit for Windows Your Hybrid USB TV Tuner Starter Kit for Windows 7 Media Center Add this TV tuner to Windows 7 (Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate) to turn your
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ORIGINAL: (Parts of this review come from my earlier review of the Avertv Hybrid Volar Max unit, which is technically similar, but comes with AverTV's own software suite. At the time of this writing I use the Windows Media Center version only).
This unit is intended for use with the Windows Media Center that is packaged with some versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 - check before you buy - if "Windows Media Center" is not an option in your start menu, your Windows doesn't have it, although you can upgrade the operating system to get it. Under Windows Vista and Windows 7, a TV tuner is recognized by the operating system (that is part of the reason Microsoft has integrated the Windows Media Center in some versions of Windows), and handled as an integral part of your computer, it isn't an "alien" device, so to speak. Be aware that some versions of the Media Center under Windows Vista won't recognize digital (Clear QAM) channels - there is a workaround, but that generally requires a Microsoft update pack that is very hard to find, and no longer distributed by Microsoft. Even then, it is finicky, and I would recommend against it if you don't have what we call "Windows internals". The "other" Avermedia adapter Avertv Hybrid Volar Max has its own software for this, and should work right out of the box in this instance, costing $20 to $30 more.
Once the drivers are loaded the Avermedia device is recognized and the Media Center will offer to have it detect and program all available broadcast channels - analog TV and digital TV. If your computer is set up to display HD TV (which normally requires an HDMI connector, and an HD flat panel TV set up to display at a 1920x1280 resolution at 60 Hz - 30 will work too) you can watch and record HD TV "at full throttle", so to speak - please remember, many PCs do NOT provide that resolution natively, but need an external HD display for it! If connected via an HDMI cable, and with a Dolby decoder built into the TV, or connected through the TV, this unit will provide full spec HD. Pretty amazing.
The Avermedia tuner picked up all available cable channels flawlessly (it is capable of receiving from an indoor or outdoor TV antenna, digital or analog, as well) and Windows Media Center downloaded the entire programming schedule for it, once I had told it my location and cable system. This is, to me, the only way to use this tuner - the TV schedule Windows pulls down from the internet is free, you can see what is on, program detail, and you can check the schedule a week ahead of time and program anything you want to record. It is important that your PC is fast enough - recording HD television with Dolby 5.1 audio, both of which the tuner receives and makes available, requires a LOT of horsepower. Even more if you want to use the PC for other things while you have the TV running, which is perfectly possible. A 64 bit version of Windows helps, as does extra memory. 64 bit Windows can handle 8 GB of RAM or more, provided your motherboard and BIOS are capable of addressing that. Several of my laptops were, but the VAIO desktop I am now using can only address 4 GB of RAM. For HD TV, that is fairly marginal, due to the memory requirements of the graphics chipset. Remember as well that the USB port the unit is plugged into shares its bandwidth among all USB ports, and if you have a lot of active USB devices, the port performance can degrade, and make TV watching a hit-or-miss proposition.
But it is there, and if you want to play with TV, or if you want a cheap DVR/PVR, this unit is cheap, works very well, and gives you all the advantages of a cable company DVR. For recording, you will need to make sure you have a huuuuge hard disk in your PC (one one hour HD program will take some 4GB of disk space), or better still, an external drive to store recorded TV on. Remember that the Windows Media Center works like a DVR, meaning you can pause and review what you're watching, but for that to work it needs a good amount of disk space, as it continually saves what you're watching to a temporary file structure that can get quite large, and that you cannot turn off.
As long as you have Windows XP MCE, Vista, or 7 then this should work without having to install any drivers -- Just plug it in and it works. The setup guide was really easy to understand -- Just plug the dongle in and launch Windows Media Center. I was a little nervous because the box didn't mention anything about supporting digital TV, but it picked up all the digital channels in my area without any problems. Windows Media Center asked me for my zip code and it automatically downloaded all of the channel programs and guides, so you can see what shows are coming up on which channels.
Recording TV with this is really easy: Just click the red button in Media Center and it will start recording. Be careful though -- A single 30min TV show can run upwards of 3GB!
There's only one caveat: it doesn't come with any sort of antenna, and you won't be able to pick up any signals without one, so be sure to add a digital-ready antenna to your cart if you don't already have one lying around the house.
However, I recently upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Much to my chagrin, Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, decided to no longer provide Windows Media Center for Windows 10, which immediately fouled up my "watching TV from within my PC" capability.
I wrote Avermedia to see whether they had any solutions. No luck; I was informed by email that they're not supporting Windows 10 for this product. Fortunately, I finally found an alternative to Windows Media Center (after trying several different alternatives) called ArcSoft Total Media (http://arcsoft-totalmedia-tv.software.informer.com/). The setup after installation was just as easy as the setup had been using Windows Media Center. In 4 minutes, I was able to watch various cable news channels from my PC again under Windows 10.
Ordinarily, I'd give the AverTV product 5 stars; however, their email advising me of no support for Windows 10 merits them 3 stars.