Asus My Cinema-PHC3-100/NAQ/FM/AV/RC TV Tuner ReviewPropane -
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No review would be complete without the hardware and software going through some tests to see how it actually preforms. No amount of pictures can tell you much about the product except for how it looks and I'm sure you are more interested in other aspects of it. However, testing something like a TV Tuner can be difficult, as its success or failure is mostly measured in the mind of the observer, instead of the hard numbers that video cards and CPUs produce. This means that you will have to take my opinion on the features listed below. I will be testing the My Cinema tuner on several key features: ease of use, functionality of the included software, and picture quality. I will also take a short look at the CPU usage of the tuner, though this measure will be unique to my system, and to my source of input to the tuner card, so be aware that your results might be vastly different than mine with respect to the system resources test.
- Processor: Intel Q9450 Core 2 Quad 333x8
- Motherboard: Gigabyte X48-DQ6
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 Redline 8000 2 x 2GB 5-5-5-12
- Video Card(s): MSI 9800GT
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 750GB SATA
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate
Ease of Use:
Unfortunately, the main software package that was included didn't really work, so I have almost no idea how easy it is to use. One thing that I did notice is that the software package didn't work quite like it should, by making the task bar not auto-hide correctly. Additionally, the Video Security program had an adverse effect on picture quality. There was some hope though, as the sidebar gadget worked perfectly and the card had no issues in Windows Media Center.
While this is very similar to ease of use, it is also different in its own regard. The main software package had no functionality with the TV tuner, and Video Security adversely effected the tuner's performance. It was nice to use the sidebar gadget though, as I was able to watch TV while preforming other tasks easily and at low resolutions. The channel changing was a little slow, but it was not a very large deal. Also, all features of the card I was able to test given my cable package and location worked nicely in Windows Media Center.
To test the picture quality from the Asus My Cinema tuner, I will use Windows Media Center and tune into a program on my standard cable TV package from Time Warner. I don't have a digital or HD package, so the only video I will be able to test is an SD analog signal. From what I can tell, and from tuner cards I have seen before, the picture quality from the Asus is very high. There isn't much noise and there is no tearing of the picture that I can notice. You can see the picture for yourself in the screenshots below. All in all, I was very pleased.
One thing to keep in mind when you have a TV tuner is that it will take up some system resources. For my signal that I am using and the hardware I am running, my CPU usage hovered around 5% but varied from 2% to 9%.