Diamond PVR560 XtremeTV Tuner Card

Admin - 2007-06-03 17:43:56 in Digital Photography/Video
Category: Digital Photography/Video
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: June 11, 2007
Diamond Multimedia
Diamond Multimedia
Price: $57.99 USD

Introduction:

Have you seen any previews of TV shows coming up and got all excited, thinking this is something that you would really like to see? But when the day finally arrives, you are either busy or just plain forgot about it and then reality hits - you missed it! I know how frustrating and disappointing this can be, because I have done it many times myself. I need to find something that will take care of this problem for me. Perhaps this review of the Diamond PVR560 Xtreme TV tuner card will shed some light on a solution for me. This is a somewhat watered-down version as it does not come with the mini-firefly remote. Diamond Multimedia has made a product that just may be the solution to those missed shows and a whole lot more. Is it truly extreme? Let us find out.

With its corporate headquarters in Chatsworth, California, Diamond Multimedia has transformed over the recent years. The company has been making sound, communication, and graphics hardware for more than two decades. While many companies have to specialize in one or two areas to survive these days, Diamond has integrated all of their differing technologies under one brand, to give the user a complete experience.


Closer Look:

The box that this TV card came in is rather non-descript. It is a plain white box, much like you would get an OEM piece of hardware in. The only difference is the descriptive paper attached to the top of it.


Inside the box we have the TV card, instruction manual, software CD, an audio breakout cable, an RCA cable, an FM antenna, an S-Video cable and an adapter from RCA to S-Video. The TV card has a PCI interface.

 


The connections on the faceplate of the card will accept the cables that you will need to connect to make it all work. These connections are the coaxial for hooking up your TV source, a port to connect the FM antenna, an S-Video port which you can convert to an RCA port, and the audio-in port.

Installation:

Hardware Installation:

The hardware installation is very easy for this product. The first thing you need to do if you haven’t already done so, is to turn off your PC and disconnect the power to it. Then take off any panels that are keeping you from the inside of your case. It will be required that there be an open/available PCI slot on your motherboard, as this is where the TV tuner card plugs into. You may also have to remove any metallic slot cover plate from the rear of the PC case that lines up with the PCI slot. 

Now, just hold the TV tuner card over the PCI slot and lower it into place by gently rocking it into the slot. Try not to touch any of the electrical components on the card itself to avoid damaging anything. Once you are sure the gold contacts are firmly and evenly in place, secure the card in position by screwing it down to the computer frame. That’s it - the hardware installation is done. You can now replace the panel you removed from your case. Don’t power your PC up yet though, as there are a couple of things to do yet. You will want to have the cables connected to it, so that the software wizards can run and actually find the TV and radio source. We'll get into that below.

Software Installation:

Once the PC is powered back up, we can install the software that was provided by Diamond Multimedia. The software on the CD included a driver for Windows and the Beyond TV and Beyond Media programs. Once the CD spins up, you have an install window from which to choose which software you would like to install. The first thing to do is to install the driver for the card. Once that is done, then we can install the Snapstream software, which is the meat and potatoes of this package.


Beyond TV Installation:

Beyond TV is a software program made by SnapStream Media. This lets you record and watch TV on your PC, provided you have a tuner card installed. I had a little trouble with the initial install, as it didn’t finish properly and then could not get it uninstalled. I had to contact tech support and they helped me resolve the issue by editing the registry. Tech support was a fairly quick experience, no super-long waits. The second install went smoothly.

 

 


Beyond Media Installation:

Since I am using Windows XP SP2 and not Windows Media Center Edition, I chose to install Beyond Media, which gives me an interface that has menus for all of the media on my PC. It is a DVD player, photo browser and all-in-one media player. It even incorporates Beyond TV into its interface, so that I can access the live TV from here. The setup screen is a full-screen affair, something I am not fond of.

 

Configuration:

Setup Options:

There are four different options to choose from when deciding how you want to configure your installation and they will depend on what you intend to use this product for. The options are:

Since the monitor that I am using is a Westinghouse LVM-47w1, at 47 inches of LCD real-estate and a resolution of 1920 by 1080 (aka 1080i), I will use the second option in the list. I will have PVR capabilities to watch and record TV shows or videos and other tapes from the VCR. After recording a show, I can use video authoring software to burn the show onto a DVD that can be viewed on another TV or PC with a DVD player.

Cable TV Connection:

In order to receive the TV broadcasts to your PC and the Xtreme TV tuner card, you need to connect your TV source to it. Your TV signal usually comes into the house via a coaxial cable. Just connect this cable to your Xtreme TV tuner card. The connections are threaded, so screw them together to hold them firmly in place.

 


FM Radio Connection:

To tune in FM radio stations, you will need to connect the FM radio antenna to the Xtreme TV tuner card by plugging the antenna into the provided FM port.


VCR Connection:

To connect a VCR to the Xtreme TV tuner, you have three options. Those are via coaxial, S-Video, or RCA cables. I used the RCA cable method, since the coaxial was used by the TV source and RCA is a better quality source than S-Video. There is an RCA to S-Video adapter included in the package to make this possible. Just connect the RCA cable to the “video out” port on the VCR and to the RCA connector on the adaptor, which is now connected to the S-Video port on the Xtreme TV tuner card. To get audio, I used an RCA cable with the left and right jacks connected to the VCR. The other ends of these cables connect to the audio breakout cable that is included with the Xtreme TV tuner. I then connected the remaining end of the breakout cable to the “audio in” port on the Xtreme TV tuner card.

 


Configuration:

Beyond TV Configuration:

Once it is installed, it will run a wizard the first time around which will set up your TV guide, create TV listings for your area, based on your SIP code, configure your audio and video settings, set up any external tuning devices, for example, an HDTV tuner and then test your configuration.

Once running, just click on the settings tab. Here you can choose your recording and playback settings. You can also click the “SnapStream.Net” tab and download the updated program guide. Under the “general settings” tab, you can set up the appearance of your guide, such as the number of rows and columns.

 

 


For the FM radio, just click the “seek” button and let it scan. Alternatively, you can set your stations manually by clicking the tools icon at the top of the player window.

Configuration:

Beyond Media Configuration:

During the installation, this program scanned my PC for available media to add to the various options I will be able to use it in. So if I had DVD movie files in my movie folder, they were found and added to the list of media on my PC. As I said earlier, it also added Beyond TV to the menu interface, so everything is available here without having to switch program interfaces. The setup options are quite extensive and include general, video, music, photo, DVD settings, a place to add or remove items from the Main Menu, adjust the display for correct location on your screen, adjust system volume and power (log off, shutdown, suspend and restart) your PC, setup a modem if installed for CallerID and finally your weather report for your area, based upon your zip code.

 

 

 

 

 

Specifications:



Features:



Beyond TV Features:


Beyond Media Features:

Testing:

The testing of this tuner card will be performed by seeing if it can indeed do all of the things that it claims it can do and how well it does them. There are quite a few options to be covered here. I will start with the program, Beyond TV.

I will use Beyond TV by first setting it up to provide me with a program guide for my area. Once I have a guide, I'll use that to setup a recording of an upcoming show and then view the playback of that show and try to skip the commercials in it. Again, this is being performed with my PC video card hooked into my 47 inch LCD. I will also compare this to using the S-Video out of the tuner card itself, going into a 20 inch CRT television. I will also compare the image quality of a live show with that of a CRT television and try to rewind the live TV show.

Next comes Beyond Media. This one is a lot more involved. This program will allow me to access my photos, music, videos, local weather, access movies on-demand, listen to FM radio broadcasts, watch DVDs and act as an explorer for my PC. I will try to touch on each of these things in the testing.

Testing Setup:

Testing Beyond TV:

Well, part of the testing was the software installation and setup. Except for a slight glitch in the beginning, it all went really smoothly. For further testing I browsed my media with the menus, launched a video on the VCR, watched live TV and setup a recording. I had no problems at all. It all worked great.


 


The Beyond TV program recorded my preselected movie and worked really well with the slight exception of the image quality in the recorded playback. The MPEG compression took a bit of the sharpness out of picture. The ‘rewind’ worked well and I was able to fast-forward through the commercials. Where there is motion in the recorded movie playback, it is not noticeable while viewing, but in a screenshot, you can see the blurring.

 


As for as how the live TV went, it was actually very good. It compared very well to the coaxial cable feed going right into my CRT television and I could rewind the show by putting the mouse on the slider bar and dragging it back. When I connected the S-Video cord to the tuner output and the CRT TV input, I could see no difference from the live TV on the LCD. I could not get a screenshot of live TV because this picture below was always the end result. You get the window and menus, but no TV show.

Next I tried out the FM tuner. I began by disconnecting the included antenna from the card, as I could not pick up any stations this way. I then hooked up my own antenna to the card and let it scan for channels. The scanning did not pick up very much. I had to manually move to the station I wanted and then it picked up the music well. I set it up to play some of my favorite channels. I could then set up presets so that the stations were easy to get back to. Once the music was playing, it was fairly clear and clean sounding.

 


Testing:

Testing Beyond Media:

I tested this by first using it to explore the hard drive of my PC. You can begin at the "Start Menu". Everything was available to me, just as if I was in Windows Explorer. If you have ever used Windows Media Center Edition, you may see a resemblance. 


 


 


Accessing the photos on my PC was as simple as clicking on the Photos option in the main menu and all of my photo folders showed up on-screen. Clicking on a folder opened it to show the individual pictures within. If you wanted to start slide show of your pictures, it was a simple matter of clicking on the forward direction arrow at the top of the screen and you will see the photos one-by-one in a large window.

 


My music was easy to access. Your music is sorted by Album, Artist, or Genre and will also show your playlists. Playing music was a simple matter of clicking the file.

 


Of course, there is also a video section. Just double-click to play a video and the video player will open automatically and play your file. As with the live TV, a screenshot cannot be taken as you just get a blank screen. The video playback was of good quality and very watchable from across the room on my large monitor.

 


I tried to play a movie-on-demand with the Spotlight feature, but all I could find were pay-per-view movies, although there were quite a few to choose from. You can search for a movie by title, artist, or actor.

 

 


How do I test the weather report feature of this? Even the TV weatherman gets it wrong! Even so, it did seem to correspond fairly well with the weather I was experiencing in my area at the time. I tuned in the weather channel on live TV and recorded it for a screenshot and then at the same time took a screenshot of the weather report from Beyond Media to compare the two. They seemed to compare very well to each other.

 


I could not test the DVD playback feature of this, because it requires a purchase upgrade for support of DVD with Dolby Digital sound. Since this package did not come with it, I chose to test it as is, because this is what the end user is going to get. So, no DVD playback in Beyond Media in this package.

Conclusion:

Testing this was just an awful experience, I mean who in the world wants to sit back and enjoy all of the media they have collected and watch TV? Just kidding - this was a great experience. I never knew how nice it would be to have a setup such as this. The picture quality was not as good as the digital signal that was going to my 1080i LCD, but it was not bad by any means. It was very comparable to putting my coaxial cord straight into a CRT television I have here. I could not get a snapshot of the TV show running as all that would output is the software window and menus, but no TV show. The next best thing I could do is capture a frame or two with the video player as I played it back. The quality of the show when played back was not bad at all - the shots with no movement in them are pretty good, but if there is movement, it is blurry. This is not the fault of the compression software. I can tell this, because the still shots are quite clear.

Media browsing was a breeze. Your music, videos and photos were there at your fingertips for easy enjoyment. It was super-easy to setup your photos in a slide show type presentation. That would be great for family gatherings.

The FM reception was pretty good once I manually tuned in the stations, but the seek function did not seem to do well at all. I even tried to let it seek as I moved the antenna in all sorts of different directions trying to find a sweet spot.

As far as putting video into the card, the only way in is through the S-Video port. Since my VCR had only RCA jacks on it for output, I wonder if the picture quality is being diminished by using the RCA to S-Video adapter that they provide. Then again, RCA stepping up to S-Video is an improvement in interfaces, so while it may not have had an effect, I still wonder, since there is an interface change none-the-less. Also, I never have seen another tuner card in operation to compare this to and I would also like to see an HD capable tuner before I make any sort of a recommendation.


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