Given the success of my “new” Media Center I thought it deserved a little more money spending on it to avoid the “Media Center would like to change channel to record xxxx” scenario. Prescribed: Dual tuners.
Dual tuners allow you to either watch one channel and record another or record two different channels at the same but, last time I looked, a dual tuner card cost a lot more than I was prepared to spend. Nowadays, USB tuners are commonplace (and cheap) and they even come in dual tuner flavours.
I opted for a KWorld 399U DualView DVB-T primarily because it was cheap as chips (£20 including postage on eBay – worth a gamble). It turned up this morning. I plugged it into a spare USB port on the Media Center (not that easy given it’s a “booksize” barebones system) and grabbed the drivers from the KWorld support site.
That seemed to go well so I headed off into Media Center settings, re-scanned for TV services and did the guide setup again (which had gone a bit wrong anyway – I think some extra channels must have been added recently) and hey presto!
I now have dual-tuners and reckon it took me no more than 10mins from start to finish. Here’s a picture of the beastie in his new home.
My limited testing so far has established that you can record “Diagnosis Murder” at the same time as watching “Dickinson’s Real Deal”. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
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You don't say which version of media centre you're running. Is it Vista or Win7? I'm interested to know as I can only get my dual tuner to work as a single tuner with Windows 7.
You can't tell from the picture? :-) I'm running Vista on the Media Center. I have Win7 on my NetBook. TBH I hadn't even considered Win7 on the MCE I was so glad just to get a Media Center that worked reliably. I'm tempted to try it but probably only as a test. I need to rebuild family confidence in the MCE so any pre-release software is a risk at this stage.
I tried a USB TV card from (a well-known TV tuner brand) a while back, and the quality and software was terrible. In addition, its composite and SVHS pickup were appalling to the point where it got sent back.
Picked myself up a KWorld PCI card and everything was just dandy. I can't understand why so many UK stores carry (well-known brand) if that's the difference between them.
What's the channel-changing speed like on your USB stick, Mike? One of the (many) reasons the other tuner got returned was that it took a good ten or fifteen seconds to change channels.
I'm still hunting for a decent USB TV tuner for my laptop, but it all depends on being able to channel hop, which I certainly wasn't able to do with the other device.
What has your experience been on that front?
I use the USB stick exclusively in Vista's Media Center - I've never tried it with the software supplied. I've just tested the channel change speed and I'd say there's little to choose between the USB stick and changing channels on the TV itself. Channel up/down takes 2s max for the new channel to appear.
The last time I tried a KWorld tuner it had a glorious setup program to hide the fact that the driver was not signed. When I found out that the driver was not signed I took it straight back. Hopefully things have improved since then.
Just because the driver wasn't signed, doesn't mean it was any kind of malware.
It does mean however that the driver would fail to load on Vista (and newer) x64 editions.
I use the KWorld DVD Maker 2, and it has signed drivers now, it runs fine on my 2008 "Server/Workstation"