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ADS Tech InstantHDTV PCI

By Terry Currier

I really like being able to watch TV on the PC. It’s easy convenient, and saves me time when I  record the shows and zip through the commercials. The TV cards include software that acts like a TiVo and allows me to not have to pay the monthly TiVo fees. Now I have another reason, High Definition (HD.) I’ve look at the units and thought they really look great but they are expensive. Plus, I’m already paying over $100 to the cable company, and I certainly don’t want to pay more for HD.

I know you’re thinking the same thing I was “How can I get HDTV for free?” According to ADS “Today 95% of all households in the U.S. can receive HDTVAll the free HD TV stations I could pick up from at least one network broadcaster. And more than 85% can receive an HDTV signal from three or more network broadcasters.” Jon Peddie’s Tech Watch said “Ninety-one percent of the more than 100 million households in the U.S. are in markets with five or more broadcasters airing HDTV. More than 71% of households are in markets with eight or more HDTV broadcasting stations.”

The next obvious question is “How good is it?” Of course, you have to wonder how good can HDTV over the air be. I was really impress. I could see the better quality right away. Standard televisions have 480 lines of vertical resolution, HDTV offers resolution of 720 lines or 1080 lines, depending on the programming feed. The “p” and “I” behind the numbers represent the scanning method used. The p is progressive scan which scans every line of the screen once, the i is for interlaced where alternate lines are scanned on each frame. With progressive format, the full picture updates every sixtieth of a second. In interlaced format, half of the picture updates every sixtieth of a second. Analogue television uses the interlaced scan format. In standard broadcast TV the aspect ratio is 4:3 (4 across 3 down). With HDTV the aspect ratio is 16:9.

Installing it I had no problems, other than one thing. I had no antenna to hook it up. I had cable to get the standard channels, but that would not help for the HDTV. They tell you to go to to see what is needed. I looked at what they recommended, which the best cost $49 at Radio Shack. I instead tried the cheaper route and brought a antenna at Home Depot (they have more at Wal-Mart) for $21. It was an RCA antenna which said HDTV on the box. It did connect and I was getting HDTV – yippee. But, something was not quite right. It was choppy in the video with the audio still going on. When I defragged the drive it would work better but for only a short while. I checked the ADS website and got a couple answers. The best answer I got from a support request - get a good antenna. So I looked around and found on the recommended antenna for $23. Dang, should have looked there first. It totaled $34.16 with taxes and shipping.

Beyond TV seach screenADS includes Beyond TV Express from SnapStream. It makes it easy to see what is on TV, because it goes in and downloads the program guidefrom the cable provider in your area. With that done I could see what is on TV, or schedule to record the shows I want. I can look ahead and schedule to record shows up to three days in advance. I can also setup to do a manual recording of a certain channel at a specific time. Beyond TV Express is very easy to setup and work with. With it looking at a recorded show I can pause, fast forward, and rewind. It also lets the user searchthe Electronic Program Guide for shows by title or keyword. I can also watch a previously recorded show while it is recording another. But, I have to say I like SageTV more, because I tell it which are my favorite shows and it will automatically record them without my having to program it.

After setting up the RCA antenna I told it to start looking for HDTV stations. It does a scan for such broadcast over the air. Really cool how it does a scan over and over again until you tell it to stop. The reason for that is it shows you the signal strength. If the stations that you want are coming in weak, you then can turn the antenna in another direction to improve the signal. That way you can find the best possible positioning of the antenna.

After doing the scan I was able to find all of the major networks broadcasting HDTV and more. In fact I found up to 23 HDTV stationsSnapStream's Beyond TV scanning for HD signal broadcasting over the air free. Not all of them I wanted to keep on the program guide (I can choose what to keep.) A couple of them were just weather, one infocommercials, a few Spanish, and a number of public TV stations. 

ADS Tech includes NeroVision Express to edit the videos recorded. The HDTV recordings have an extension of .tp, and one hour of recording can take 10GB of space. The NeroVision is not the easiest to use. To load in a recording I have to tell it to look at *.*, since it will not find it otherwise, but it will work. I read about the new Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus which will edit HD video. If you really want to edit high-definition video, spending a little extra for the more advanced program would probably be a good idea. It includes Smart Proxy that will automatically convert HD video to smaller proxy files for faster editing. Beyond TV Express records non-HDTV shows in wmv format. They mention in the help file the ability to change to mpeg format, but I could not. It probably requires an upgrade. I can however change the quality of the recording.

ADS even includes a IR sensor and remote control. Kind of weird using a remote control when you’re sitting right in front of the computer and can just use a mouse, but it comes in handy.

PC Requirements:

Cost you more than an standard TV card, but that is not standard. If you got all the PC requirements I think you would be very happy with this, I know I am.
By the way if you want one of to compare it to, you can look at Happauage, at only $299. I took samples of recording from both standard TV and the HDTV to three different computer user groups and each could see the better quality from the ADS card.

The ADS Tech InstantHDTV PCI is $129

HD antennaBeyond TV program guide

Yes it's a indoor antenna
I put it on top of my speaker
which is on top of my desk.



                          On the right is the
                          Beyond TV
                          Program Guide  




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