Hauppauges line up for this spring tops with its high end model WinTV-HVR-4000. This is Hauppauges first step in DVB-S2 world, and in the beginning we must say that it’s a big success. As we all know, multifunction and all-in-one devices often come with sacrifices – they never have the same performance level as standalone products. Hauppauge has managed to overcome all the difficulties and present us a multifunction device without sacrifices.
What can this card do for you
The list of the cards capabilities is a bit long, and here is what Hauppauge says about the card (with our comments):
Quad-mode TV tuner for your PC. Watch and record:
– DVB-S2 hi-definition digital Satellite TV
– DVB-S digital Satellite TV
– Freeview digital Terrestrial TV
– Analogue cable TV
CyberLink PowerCinema application for full screen TV or TV-in-a-window on your PC. You can schedule your TV recordings on a daily, weekly or once only schedule. Free EPG for analogue and digital TV too. It includes Hauppauge remote control.
Hi-Definition DVB-S2 features:
Satellite DVB-S2 TV receiver, for free-to-air hi-definition programmes.
Record DVB-S2 programmes to disk in the original hi-definition H.264 format.
DiSEqC 1.0 supported
Freeview DVB-T features:
Freeview terrestrial DVB-T receiver
Record Freeview programmes to disk in the original high quality MPEG-2 format.
Supports teletext and DVB radio.
Satellite DVB-S features:
Free-to-air digital satellite receiver.
Record DVB-S prgrammes to disk in the original high quality MPEG-2 format.
DiSEqC 1.0 supported.
Analogue cable TV features:
Record and pause analogue cable TV to disk using "Good, Better or Best" MPEG-2 compression. Teletext and Nicam stereo audio for analogue TV, too.
Listen to FM radio with the built-in FM radio receiver.
Auxiliary audio/video input for analogue video sources such as camcorders or VCRs.
What we say about this? Well, everithing they said is true. Everithing works as advertised, no dumb restrictions. Recording channels is easy, and painless. The remote control is not perfect and we had some issues with EPG in PowerCinema. We think that a remote control without backlight is a thing of the past. When it comes to EPG, the one in PowerCinema is inferior to MCEs EPG. FM radio is not perfect, we encountered problems with RDS, but we don't know is it the cards problem, or PowerCinemas.
One man army
As you can see, the bracket is loaded with connectors. FM radio antenna, TV, satellite, S-Video IN, Audio In, and IR for the remote control (looking from left to right). There is enough space to connect all the cables.
As you can see on the picture, this is a full height PCI card.
When you compared to the press edition, our card is lacking the heat sink on the Conexant chip. Is it a big deal? Maybe, because after a few hours of DVB-S reproduction the card was really hot.
We have tried the analogue part of the card for just a few seconds, just to be sure it's working. The rest of the time we were trying out the DVB-s and DVB-S2 functionality of the card. That is what the card is all about.
Watching TV at 1920*1088 is a whole new experience, there is so much more detail, you just have to see it, we cannot explain it with words, and with DVB-S2 kicking into higher gears, HD will no longer be something special. Watching and recording these high res programms is a piece of cake. Under Windows XP everything went smooth, even with a dual screen system.
The picture has so much more detail - we will never even watch National Geographic in lower resolution.
DVB-S was also running smoothly, no problems whatsoever. Recording, EPG, time shifting, all works well and it is easy. There is really not much to add, everything is working as it should under Windows XP.
Maybe we are blind, but there is no such option that can filter DVB-S2 channels from the regular DVB-S in the menus of PowerCinema.
Scanning through channels via PowerCinema is very easy, and with good signal strength you won't miss a channel. We are comparing the "loss" ratio to our old receiver which sometimes didn't see some programs. The only thing you have to know is what satellite you need to choose.
Chances of missing a program during the channel scan are low, but if you are still missing one, you can enter its parameters manually. Unfortunately, you cannot enter groups of programs (scanning a range).
People have been complaining that HD playback and recording is "eating" too much of processor time. We never encountered a situation where the processor occupancy went over 20% (Vista), and our dual core AMD64 is relatively slow – only 2GHz. The magic ingredient was the 8800GTX, so if you have a card capable of H.264 decoding you are well of. The only time we saw "hiccups" was while changing from non HD to HD satellite channels. A few times the card needed more than a second to start playing a HD channel.
Problems in heaven
The honeymoon has ended, and you have installed the card. All the cables can be connected easily, there is no way that something can go wrong during the hardware part of installation. When it comes to the using the software part of the system, we didn't enjoy much.
Remote control is the greatest disappointment in the whole set. The bugs that plague this piece of hardware / software are seen only at lowest low end TV cards. First of all, try to turn the TV on with the power button (logical). We did a little survey with 8 people that have PCs and TV cards (none Hauppauges). All of them pressed the power button to turn it on.
The remote control is big, and has enough buttons (with a logical layout), but there is no back light. Are we asking too much? [Yes, as most of the TVs including the LCDs don't have that EDI. ]
First you have to press the go button, then after PowerCinema launches (it takes about 3 seconds) you can press the TV button, wait 3-5 seconds and then choose a program. If you sum up the "latencies" you will end up waiting 6-10 seconds till you get any picture. We would say that this looks and is too complicated for the average user.
EPG in PowerCinema
Vista has been around for some time, and a lot of applications have major problems with it. Unfortunately, we can add PowerCinema to the list of "problematic" software.
Performance while scrolling through the menus is below acceptable. Clicking on the programs icon is just "asking for trouble". Just try to scroll a bit faster through menus – the menu will become white, and will cover the surrounding area with white color. Cool down time of five seconds doesn't sound good, but at least we don't have to restart the app.
The menu where you will start watching TV. Everything looks very simple (this is positive).
If you cherish your nerves and are a Vista user, then don't interrupt PowerCinema while it is scanning through satellite channels. By interrupting we mean no screensavers, no games. We tried playing Stalker, leaving PoewerCinema in the background. This is the easiest way to jam the app. Trying to work with EPG? Most of the time you will be watching a polar bear fight in a snow storm. Scrolling with any speed faster than one line per second will cause all the fonts to crash and paint the whole screen in white.
This may be somehow connected with Vistas Aero, because launching the app forces Aero to go to basic mode. Under WindowsXP, PoewerCinema acts like it's supposed to. Browsing through menus, EPG, everything works without screen artifacts and with less processor occupancy. PowerCinema acts like a car brake that cannot be "turned off".
In the box you will also find the IR receiver and a short S-video to composite converter
Great card with baggage
If you are looking only at the card, than we must say that it will give you a lot. Most of its functions work as declared, which is really good news. Unfortunately, we have to add PowerCinema to the equation. Hauppage is testing a new revision of PowerCinema, and it should be released soon. Most of the Vista related bugs should be solved. For all of you asking for a CAM reader, Hauppauge will release it as standalone product in a few months.
Will we moan about the price? No. You are getting a quality product capable of a lot of things. OK, it won't do your laundry, but when it comes to watching TV, HVR-4000 is a great tool. We haven't tried DiSEqC capabilities of the card, but from what we have read on the Hauppauge forums, this function works great.
Buy it or not?
If you are looking forward to see DVB-S2 programs, then we give this card a go, but if you are not interested in DVB-S2 then we would rather recommend the HVR-3000 model, as it is much cheaper.