Since the first time I saw the pristine, sharp quality of HDTV, I’ve become enamored with the technology. Imagine better-than-DVD-quality picture! You’ve got to see it to believe it. The best part is the same exact same television programming you see on a regular TV is, likewise, freely available in HDTV format at the exact same time. Why watch Grey’s Anatomy on regular low-resolution TV when you can watch it in high quality picture! Chances are, free HDTV frequencies are just bouncing about you as you read. The problem is … the equipment to receive these signals is not exactly free.
Unfortunately, HDTV is not cheap. In fact, it is far from cheap. A decent HDTV should set you back a couple thousand dollars.
Cheaper Alternative Route
A while back, I saw a TechTV special (article | video) on HDTV. Many people don’t realize that computer monitors are HDTV ready. The main prerequisite for HDTV-quality media is that the video has to be at least 1080 lines (1080 pixels on one side). Most monitors are capable of displaying 1152 lines. So they are definitely capable.
Instead of paying (at the very least) $1000 for an HDTV, why not spend $50-$100 for an HDTV Tuner Card. You’ll even be able to record and burn those broadcasts on DVD!
So, I looked on eBay (blindly) for an HDTV Tuner Card. My budget was $50. I finally found one from Technisat. I should have done more research :(. It was an obscure card from an obscure manufacturer. The only applications that supported it were the ones directly from the company. Not cool.
So, I did some research and read a couple of reviews. These two looked promising.
- ATI HDTV Wonder – Every piece of HDTV software recognizes this. It is the de facto standard of HDTV
- Avermedia AVerTVHD MCE A180 – The cheapest tuner that was the most compatible with HDTV software.
I sold my Technisat and looked for these two tuners … But, I sort of ended up with the KWorld ATSC-110 in a last minute auction that I could not pass up.
It was a pretty decent for $60. It came with 2 tuners: one analog and one digital HDTV. That means, I can have PIP (Picture in Picture)!
My last hurdle was choosing HTPC Software, which stands for Home Theater PC Software. Think of it as TiVo, PVR, or DVR, where you just pay once and don’t subscribe to anything.
If the software that comes bundled with the card isn’t good, you can either buy another PVR application or download a free one. Personally, I like MythTV, Freevo, and GB-PVR the best. I hear that Beyond TV is good too (if you have some big bucks to spend!).
This eirkso.com provides a comprehensive list of all known HTPC software for Windows, Linux, and Macs.
A bigscreen HDTV may not be a reality for many of us. The good news is that the next best thing, HDTV on computer, is attainable.