Testing unfortunately required me to watch a large amount of television…
As the card has two inputs, one for digital and one for analogue, the provided splitter allows you to combine these two and just have one connection. This is useful for anyone who has a standard home aerial as it’s unlikely that you have one connection for DVB and another for terrestrial.
I first tested the FM reception of this card. It’s not the best, and my Sony Erricson W850 was able to pick up FM slightly better than the card, but if you put the provided FM cable in a suitable place then you’ll have no problems with it. The software allows you to record FM as well as listen to it, allowing you to use it with certain programs on the internet that search for known songs and record them for you which is technically legal.
Testing TV signals requires an extremely long set-up time. You have to click auto scan which searches the airwaves for channels. The card checks everyone and takes a couple of seconds on each which begins to mount up when there are hundreds of possible frequencies. After about 10 minutes the set-up was completed and won’t have to be done again, until another FreeView channel is launched. This process takes no human input which means that you can go off and do something else while it discovers channels.
Using the analogue TV tuner, the auto scan is much quicker and takes a fraction of the time. I doubt that many people will use the analogue feature as – at least in the UK – digital TV also contains all of the available analogue channels at much better quality. That said, you can do what I did and watch digital TV and playing on a console at the same time. My preferred gaming machine was the Dreamcast which is still going strong.
You can have two windows open at once which allows you to see both analogue and digital. Or of course you could record digital while happily flicking through analogue channels.
Recording is a simply process and when using the remote you just click the red ‘REC’ button which stops live TV for a few seconds, then begins to record which means that you can’t just click it and immediately be recording. Timeshifting is the same principle and requires a couple of seconds to get started. However rather than making a massive file of video, it deletes parts that aren’t needed anymore lower the amount of disc space required (default time is 10 minutes worth). Recording however doesn’t use efficient codecs unless you have them installed and tell the PC to use them. This obviously has a higher CPU overhead than just raw recording.
If you have a load of CD/DVD’s and you have the provided Ulead MovieFactory installed, you can use a nice little feature called ‘Straight-to-disc’ which records whatever you are watching well… straight to disc.
Another nice feature is pressing the space bar which immediately takes a screenshot of whatever channel you are watching. I used the function quite a lot to snap a picture of something that was funny or ridiculous and have it instantly saving in My Pictures. There isn’t a button for this on the remote however.