Happauge are well known for their range of TV tuners - their huge variety of products means that they have something for almost everyone. Well, they're back with this hybrid digital and analogue product that provides upgradeability and versatility in one simple package. Previously we've seen single analogue and digital products, as well as dual analogue tuners on a single board. This is one of the first digital and analogue hybrids, however.
The HVR 1100 sports both an analogue and digital tuner on the same PCI board. Designed for the UK market, the digital tuner is DVB-T, allowing you to receive the full complement of Freeview channels. It also has an FM radio receiver. The premise of the product is that you may not be able to get Freeview now in your area of the country, but you'll be able to upgrade in the future without having to buy another tuner card.
Included in the package is the WinTV software, which allows you to watch TV over either of the tuners, and also record straight to your hard disk. You can also use the software to schedule recordings in advance. You can pause live TV a la Tivo and also grab video from camcorders or video recorders using the auxilary input. The package also includes an infra-red remote that operates in conjunction with the WinTV software.
One of the interesting things about this product is that it highlights the differences in system power needed for digital and analogue TV. TV is recorded in MPEG2 format on the HVR 1100, the same format used by Windows Media Center. Freeview channels are transmitted in MPEG2, meaning that the HVR 1100 only has to save the stream to the hard disk - meaning a minimum processor requirement of just 1.5GHz. However, with analogue TV, the stream has to be encoded on the fly - this requires a 2.8GHz processor, according to Haupagge. Each hour of recording takes 1.5GB of disk space, so you'll want a fairly chunky hard drive if you plan on keeping much of a store.
Talking of Media Center, this card is compatible with Microsoft's system - to a degree. You can use one tuner or the other with the software, but not both at the same time. This is because WMC requires that each tuner has an identical channel list, which won't be the case with two different signals.
This card comes in at £75 , which is fairly hefty as far as tuners go. The consequence is that you really have to want to have the dual tuners functioning from a non-MCE Windows environment to justify the price.
Verdict: If you have Media Center, you're better off with two separate digital tuners if you have room in your box. As it is, this is a nifty piece of engineering which you will either see the need for, or won't.