With set-top boxes, smart TVs and PVRs such as Virgin Media's Tivo products all the rage at the moment, it's easy to think that the PC TV tuner market's days are numbered. However, you only have to look at various forums online to see that they're still incredibly popular, especially for those that still have a soft spot for all things HTPC.
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In fact, live TV is one of Windows Media Centre's (WMC) strong points, with recording and pausing live TV as well as viewing program guides and scheduling recording all just as easy to accomplish as any fancy PVR.
Until recently, though, PC TV tuners have lagged behind when it came to viewing HD channels, with DVB-S2 compatibility taking a while to filter down to PC TV tuner cards. Not that the rest of the industry has had an easy time either - plenty have been left with set-top boxes that have been bricked or unable to access HD channels through firmware updates.
Thankfully, the dust appears to have settled and there's now a plethora of DVB-S2 PC TV tuner cards and today we'll be looking at the WinTV HVR-4400 from long-time PC TV tuner manufacturer Hauppauge.
It's a hybrid tuner, compatible with both DVB-S2 (and DVB-S) and DVB-T (Freesat and Freeview to those of us in the UK). While you can watch one standard and record the other, there's no dual-tuner capability here. That said, as most channels are available on either standard (with the exception of Dave and a couple of others), you do essentially have this ability.
That's if you have both Freeview and Freesat capability at home, which not many people do. However, if you're worried about moving home and seeing your PC TV tuner card made redundant as you come to switch between services, the WinTV HVR-4400 will solve that problem.
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At £118, it's not cheap though, and if you just plan on plugging it in and ignoring the bundled software to use WMC instead, then there are cheaper options, especially if you're not bothered about having a hybrid tuner.
It's quite a long card, with the PCB stretching back over 16cm across the motherboard, which was a problem on our test motherboard as this fouled several SATA ports. Thankfully 90 degree-angled SATA cables just about solved the issue. You'll need a free PCI-Express slot too - the WinTV HVR-4400 is a PCI-E 1x card but you can of course use a 4x or 16x slot as well. Sadly, despite the fact it's a half-height PCB, there's no half-height bracket included in the box - most other manufacturers such as Compro include these with their half-height cards to allow compatibility with half-height cases.
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Thankfully Hauppauge redeemed itself somewhat with the inclusion of an excellent remote control (along with an IR receiver that you plug in to the back of the card), which has all the usual functions for recording and channel navigation as well as the ability to launch WMC and find your way around there too.
Connection 1x PCI-E
TV tuner video standards DVB-S2, DVB-S, DVB-T, PAL/SECAM
Capture resolution Up to 1,920 x 1,080
Max capture bit rate Not stated
Connections Single input DVB-S/S2, DVB-T/Analogue/FM TV single input, IR micro jack, S-video, composite video