AVerTV DVB-S Pro Freeview TV Tuner Card
This PCI card solution combines digital TV and radio reception via your PC, courtesy of the most widely used TV standard in the world, DVB-S.
This has the advantage of not requiring a TV aerial to be connected, avoiding the usual plight of PC based TV tuner cards – pants reception. It also means that you can’t access the usual array of Freeview broadcast digital telly, of the type you get by plugging said aerial into a set top box, but again that’s no big loss if reception is poor to start with (digital TV via a poor signal is pixellated hell).
Instead, the DVB-S Pro works with the subscription free satellite delivered FreeSat service. Which brings us to the first important point: you need a satellite dish pointing in the right direction, this plugs into the card and delivers the broadcasting content.
Which brings us to the second important point: you won’t get all the channels you might be expecting. There are two types of channel being broadcast via FreeSat, the BBC and ITV type which are transmitted in an unencrypted form known as free-to-air, and the Channel 4 and FIVE TV type which are transmitted encrypted and are known as big spoilsports.
Here comes important point three: Sky will charge you £150 to buy their FreeSat package which gives you the full range of channels, encrypted and all, but the AVerTV solution only costs a third of that.
Unfortunately, the AVerTV option isn’t upgradeable, there’s no viewing card slot to enable you to decrypt the locked channels. Which means that this is really only ideal for people in areas where Freeview reception is poor, and who are using their PC as a secondary rather than primary source of TV viewing.
Which kind of makes the fact that it’s fully compatible with Windows XP Media Center Edition pointless, unless you don’t mind missing out on numerous channels that is.
It is, though, very easy to use straight out of the box, thanks in no small part to the excellent auto-scanning and name recognition function which simply worked as it should.
Indeed, the AVerTV 6 software that is bundled with it, along with the obligatory if surprisingly colourful infra red remote, does a fine job all round.
As well as picture in picture (PiP) and picture on picture (PoP) viewing, PiP being where you have a smaller separate channel inset into the main one, PoP divides the screen into two same size channels for viewers with a split personality.
We rather liked the 16 channel preview screen which didn’t feature the jerky slow-down effect such displays can all so often suffer from, and is guaranteed to annoy your other half – especially if you maintain control of the remote.
This, and the sharpness of the picture in general, is largely down to the use of a dedicated video processing chip on the card that boosts the signal strength. There’s also the FreeSat Electronic Programming Guide of course.
All in all pretty impressive stuff considering this costs less than £50. It gets more impressive when you realise that you get basic PVR functionality, with the ability to both record programming to your hard drive in MPEG2 format and pause, play and rewind live broadcasts using a Sky + a-like time shifting function.