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PC World

Get digital TV on your PC

October 20, 1999
Web posted at: 11:53 a.m. EDT (1553 GMT)

by Cameron Crouch image

(IDG) -- Buying an expensive high-definition TV is not a practical way to check out the handful of digital broadcasts available today. For a few hundred dollars you can tune into digital TV right on your PC.

Hauppauge Digital announced on Monday a digital TV receiver board, WinTV-D. Available at BestBuy for $299, the WinTV-D tuner board enables PCs to receive the full range of television broadcasts, including digital and analog television, as well as high-speed data transmissions.

"The WinTV-D is similar to our existing tuner cards," says Ken Plotkin, chief executive officer of Hauppauge Digital. "The main difference is that we've added a digital TV receiver in addition to the analog receiver."

Resembling the back of a TV set, the tuner has two coaxial connectors for antennas -- one for cable TV and the other for a digital TV antenna. The WinTV-D will receive any cable channel except pay-per-view. The tuner offers Dolby Prologic surround sound from five speakers on the back.

Although the WinTV-D board has no real memory requirements, you do need a system with a 90-MHz or faster Intel Pentium, a sound card, a VGA monitor and VGA card, a cable television connection, and a digital TV antenna.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee digital TV formats are broadcast over airwaves, Plotkin says. "You can either use a rooftop satellite antenna or a bow-tie antenna."

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Background TV while you compute

While you watch TV, the CPU isn't involved in the process, Plotkin says. You can resize the image so you can check your e-mail while watching TV, or expand it to full size for TV-like viewing.

When the WinTV board receives a digital image, it manipulates the format and sends it at a rate of 30 times per second over a PCI bus into VGA memory for display on your monitor. Most VGA monitors are inherently high definition, Plotkin adds.

WinTV-D also requires a Microsoft Direct Draw driver. It works with any graphics card that supports Direct Draw, Plotkin says.

Hauppauge is not alone in the TV tuner card space. Besides other standalone tuner cards, graphics cards like the ATI All-in-Wonder and Matrox's Marvel G200-TV include a TV tuner. You replace your existing VGA card in order to use them.

Currently, about 78 digital television stations operate in the United States either as network or PBS affiliates. With the FCC-mandated transition from analog to digital transmission (in major cities), Hauppauge expects digital television and other types of broadcast to rise.

The other benefit of high-definition broadcasts is that the digital transmission can be used to send data to consumers, "bringing TV and data together in the same transmission," Plotkin adds.

For now, WinTV-D may enable your PC to give you a taste of high-definition TV. And if you like it, you may want to consider a high-definition television or, at least, a bigger monitor.

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