New Tuner solution?


New member
I currently have an ATI HDTV Wonder. An older card but for the time I've had it, its been descent. Not amazing or great. But it does what's required more or less. It does tune OTA HDTV and cable analog signals. However, the ATI MMC software is unstable at best, fresh installs of windows (I do clean install ocassionally) following the exact procedure (I had it written down step by step since first install nightmare) and I would say it only works every other time. Otherwise there is some sort of problem. That might just be MMC or the card itself.
The tuner is fine although analog cable tunes seem to be kinda cruddy. I plugged a STB in same jack and connected via composite and the picture looked alot better.
I installed Vista to see how it would work and overall, liked Media Center alot more. Getting the ATI HDTV Wonder to work required a patch and some reg editing but it was able to recognize the analog and HDTV tuner as one.
Also, while tuning an OTA channel, while watching the signal occasionally drops to 0 then back to what it was. Not sure if that's the station or the card.

So I am wondering if I should get a new card. Most likely it will go into a windows vista system with a high end graphics card. I currently get digital TV and HDTV from my cable provider. I see there are more cards now that offer "Clear QAM." IIRC, cable providers have to provide local HD channels in the clear. Is that right?
Are there cards that can tune the digital stations as well or would the cable provider (Comcast) prevent that? How would channels 1-99 be tuned - digitally or analog? What about above 100? I'm also not sure the difference between a dual tuner and a hybrid tuner and the advantages of either.

Any help or advice if I should look at a new card or keep my current. Thanks!
Well, the biggest suggestion I can make is to check out what QAM channels you can get - with the Brighthouse service I have it's hardly worth the hassle of even thinking about... buying anything for it's QAM handling in my case would be a total waste of time & $.

Tuning QAM in Vista is more of a hassle than XP. Agustus posted quite a few threads with info about QAM tuning with the AverMedia cards & devices. Otherwise a lot of folks have gone with the Homerun boxes. *IF* Microsoft gets around to releasing their big update of Vista MC, it *might* include QAM - otherwise software is sort of hit or miss in Vista. Devices like the Homerun sort of use aliases to translate the QAM frequencies to the ATSC numbers Vista MC expects. GB-PVR OTOH uses the actual frequencies, and you assign channel names so you can easily find stuff.

As far as OTA goes, I found that at least where I live the ATSC tuners they have for PCs don't cut it. Part of the problem you're having with signal strength in Vista is common with an ATI card in Vista MC, but OTA digital signals are also pretty flaky - the broadcast waves work in a line-of-sight fashion, instead of the old analog signals that just bounce around everywhere.

The dvb converters they have out now (I've got the Zenith) use a much more active approach, searching & locking onto the signals - everything else being equal, the difference is more than night & day! While the nearly free boxes (with gov coupon) only output SD video [though with the Zenith it's better than digital cable], higher priced models I *think* will output HD rez, so if OTA is important to you, might want to check out that end of things?

RE: what your cable provider gives you...
With OTA HD & DVB, you might get several signals from quite far away - out of town actually. I can get twice as many channels OTA as I can get using QAM. The SD digital signals you get are pretty much untouchable other than analog recording of the signal - some few folks can still hook up a firewire cable to their stb & access the stream, but newer firmware has almost totally blocked that from what I've read. HD digital signals can carry a copy protection or no record flag, & most do - the DVRs Brighthouse has here won't even record HD internally, but 1st convert to SD rez. They do have high end cards/hardware that can cap at HD rez, but the only consumer device I'm aware of is the Hauppauge HD-PVR with a list of $249 that caps from the component outputs on your cable box to BD spec AVCHD.