Saturday, February 09, 2008

HD on the PC

So I love TV. I don't revolve my life around it like I used to, but I love a good show and relish a good movie.

When we finally took the plunge into the high definition television universe about a year ago we had a slight adjustment to how we watched TV. We had been so used to our ReplayTVs, we rarely ever watched TV shows at their regularly scheduled times.

We didn't get an HD DVR from the cable company right away. We got an HD cable box and tried recording the S-video output to the ReplayTV. It was ok, but HD shows were more like DVD shows. Naturally, an S-video connection is surely sub-par when it comes to anything above VHS quality. So we watched HD shows like Lost, Ugly Betty and American Idol live at their original airing times. With commercials.

When we switched to Verizon FiOS we decided to try their HomeMedia DVR and have been using it ever since. However, as nice as the mid-2007 media guide upgrade has been, it's no ReplayTV and it's surely not as slick as the Tivo interface.

So the alternative to the cable company's DVR, besides the expensive HD Tivo and its service fee, is a PC DVR like Windows Media Center or Snapstream. Fine and dandy, except when you want to record HD content.

Over the air HD tuners are readily available for new and custom build PCs. However, there currently is no easy way to get cable TV-based HD content on a PC. (QAM is supported on some cards, but FiOS doesn't appear to support that very well.)

New PCs with video cards that support the CableCard standard have been trickling out from companies like Dell. However, you need to buy a PC with the special video card already installed--they aren't readily available on the aftermarket.

So what's a person who already has a decent PC but doesn't want to spend $2000 on a new box to do?

Check this out: the new Hauppauge HD PVR that can record HD content from component outputs.

I am excited to see how this develops.