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It's 11PM and the parents have ensured their sweet and innocent children have gone to bed before that time, so they can watch Channel 5 for that inevitable soft-core porn movie to come on. Gone are those days of renting or buying such offensive movies from retail stores and flittered are the embarrassments that plague grown ups to do so. Now at their discretion, they may enjoy such perverted flicks in the comfort of their own home with no effort whatsoever all thanks to Channel 5.
Now the hero of our story, Tom (a 12 year old boy and whiz-kid at the ever intimidating and foreboding Personal Computer running that God forsaken - fruit of Bill Gates' loins - Windows operating system), creeps downstairs in his blue and white striped PJs and rubs his dark bowl-cut hair against the wall to avoid his shadow being cast into the living room. He peers around the corner of the wall into the living room and spies the TV on with the cheesy music that accompanies the apparent 'erotic scenes' and a smile slowly spreads across his face.
Suddenly a giant shadow looms over him and a sudden cold feeling sends shivers up Tom's spine.
"And what are you doing young man?"
The firm yet melodious voice of his Mother sends Tom into a panic as he turns around and stares into the eyes of the woman who bore him.
"Oh bollocks", said Tom.
Well needless to say Tom is a very mopey and angry child because he was denied the privileges of watching Channel 5 every single night for his favourite programme to come on. But one day, he asked his Father if he had a spare TV aerial that he could give to him.
"It's for a science experiment Dad! Some stuff to do with radio waves and battery powered motors, you know that sort of thing!"
Tom's Father looks at Tom with a hint of suspicion on face but replies, "Sure son I got one here but it's a bit old so I don't know if it's any good to you."
Tom stares at the aerial with a glimmer of enthusiasm, thanks his Father, then buggers off into his room to do his 'science experiment'.
A few days later, Tom's parents noticed that Tom's behaviour improved dramatically. He no longer throws his tantrums and is more obedient than he ever was. The parents believe it was their constant stubbornness that won him over, but we all know better than that don't we ladies and gentlemen?
But of course, young and innocent Tom installed a TV Card into his PC (being the computer whiz-kid he is) and borrowed the aerial from his Dad so that he could tune into the channels he so desires to watch. Now how does a child like him manage to get a TV Card with his sort of pocket money and get good quality for his money? Simple! He went and bought himself a Hauppauge WinTV Express card.
This card is an analogue type card (meaning that it isn't digital) that arrives in a rather large box unbefitting the contents that are contained within. You get merely the TV Card, audio cable to link the card to your sound card, manual and software CD. You can hear it rattling around inside the box as you shake it, the box blatantly wasting precious card with all that space. But although I mourn the trees' wasted timbre (ish), the card itself is a very high quality piece of equipment.
Unpacking the card was a cinch seeing as there wasn't much packaged in the first place. Installing it was easy as pie as well, requiring you to dismantle your PC and insert the card into a free PCI slot before reassembling the PC. Of course the ease of it depends on your competence with upgrading your PC, but in this day and age more or less anybody can do it (and you wonder why there are so many people aspiring to become PC Technicians that one can no longer make good money with that job title anymore). Even if you are not, the manual which is provided is very easy to follow and will show you the ways easily. After reassembling the PC you need to connect the audio cable to from the TV Card's Line Out to the sound cards Line In, and then connect a standard TV aerial to it.
The next step is the software and driver installation that is very easy to complete thanks to the step by step on-screen guides to move you along. And then comes the main application that you'll be using for the TV Card, WinTV2000. With this program you can tune in the channels with the card, access teletext, record programmes and capture video from external device (VCR, camcorder). WinTV2000 is surprisingly very easy to use despite the ghastly grey colour scheme of it's interface. The buttons are easy to see and access giving full functionality of the program at your fingertips (well really your index finger click).
Oh yes, the set up of this card was near effortless and getting it to do what it does is very easy indeed. If I want to record a programme I just hit record, if I want to use teletext i just hit the teletext button and away I go. Excellent software and hardware integration by Hauppauge indeedy! But of course there are the little annoying nittys that seem to hop out of it and into your face if you use it long enough.
Being an analogue TV Card means that the quality of the received channels depends on the aerial and the position it is in. A cheapo crap aerial placed in an area with immense interference is obviously going to have you tearing your hair out. Even with a good quality aerial, the hassle of having to find a good position to put it in can be very annoying. Another thing to note is that if you have a crap aerial, you may not be able to locate all the channels during the auto tuning.
No remote is provided with the package, which could of been a Godsend for most of us lazy bum - can't be arsed to get out of bed because I'm too comfy - people. There is a software remote that is accessible with a single click on a button and is very easy to use, but nothing beats a good old physical remote. Besides you can't take a software remote with you to the crash pad at the other end of the room.
Capturing movies is done by MPEG1 or DIVX format, but it seems that the highest resolution is 352 x 288, which of course records the programmes at lower quality and size than they actually are. It would have been great if we could change the size of the picture that is captured. For those not in the know, MPEG1 is the format used by Video CDs and files downloadable online with the .MPG on the end of them. DIVX is an internet video codec that is very popular, the ‘MP3' of the video world online.
Finally the sound that is captured is only available in mono. No nicam stereo or surround sound, only crappy mono sound. Don't get me wrong, the sound quality is excellent but it would have made the viewing experience much better if it was stereo at least.
Well you shouldn't really blame it for it's shortcomings since it is very cheap at £30. For that price it is a fantastic value for money product. This is something to buy your mate for XMAS if they don't already have a TV/video capture card in their PC. I like it for its ease of installation and set up. It is so easy to put in and so easy to use that you wonder why you didn’t spend a little more for that digital version at the end of the shelf. Ah well, analogue lovers rejoice at this excellent peripheral that can transform your PC into a very powerful TV and VCR.