Manufacturer:Compro UK price (as reviwed):£52.24 (inc. VAT) US price (as reviewed): Unknown
Digital TV has been around for a while now and it’s continuing to go from strength to strength. Free services such as Freeview and Freesat have done much to make the benefits of the new standard obvious, easy to install and available to all. Even my Mum has a Freeview box.
Up until now computer enthusiasts and HTPC (Home Theatre PC) owners have had to choose between receiving a DVB-T (Freeview) or DVB-S (Freesat) signal as there have been few (if any) dual-band cards on the market that receive both types of signal. This is something Compro is looking to rectify though, with its sub-£55 S800F tuner card.
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The S800F uses a 1x PCI-E connector which allows it to be happily seated in either a 1x, 4x, 8x or 16x PCI-E slot, meaning the card should be able to find a home in nearly every motherboard out there. Its also a bonus that the S800F is built on a half height PCB which, when combined with the half-height bracket bundled with the card, means the S800F is able to squeeze into even the smallest of HTPC cases.
Two silicon TV tuners are mounted on the board: one is a DVB-S tuner, and the other is a hybrid DVB-T/analogue tuner. This means that unless you have a Freesat dish, the card will essentially only provide a single DVB-T/analogue tuner as you wont be able to use the DVB-S tuner. This is an odd arrangement and drastically reduces the amount of people the S800F is likely to appeal to. Does anyone actually have both Freesat and Freeview?
An additional worry with this arrangement is what happens if you decide to use the card to its full and feed it with both a Freesat and Freeview signal. The fact that both the services have different channels means your EPG will get confused. You can watch something on Freeview while recording something on Freesat, for example, but your EPG won’t be able to tell you which channels come from which tuner.
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Confusingly, Compro advertises the card as a ‘quad-mode’ tuner. The rationale behind this is that the S800F can receive four types of signal (DVB-S, DVB-T, Analogue and FM Radio) rather than four separate signals simultaneously. Quad-mode does not mean quad-channel.
Given that the S800F is at the cheaper end of the market, it lacks some of the on-the-fly video compression and optimization features of other cards we’ve seen. This isn’t a massive problem on smaller or lower resolution screens, but on larger screens optimizations such as noise reduction can be useful. The card is supplied with a Microsoft-certified infrared remote and a copy of Ulead DVD Factory, so you still get plenty for your money.
Connection 1x PCI-E
TV tuner video standards NTSC, PAL, SECAM
Capture resolution Up to 720 x 480
Capture bit rate Not stated
Connections Single input DVB-S, DVB-T/Analogue/FM TV single input, IR micro jack, S-video, composite video, stereo audio, component.
Extra features Power Up, FM radio
Supplied software ComproDTV 4, Ulead DVD Factory, ComproFM 2