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SageTV Media Center3.0

AVerMedia UltraTV 1500 MCE

By Terry Currier

I’m going to combined two product reviews here since they went together so well. I have to say I have reviewed two of the AVerMedia TV products in the past. Both of them I liked, but I had to return them after reviewing them (I know, bummer.) Well, I did like having a TV card in the computer. They are easier to program than a VCR, and convenient. So when I saw the Hauppauge WinTV-GO on sale for $20 after rebate I brought one. I have to tell ya I got what I paid for. I put it in my main computer (which of course I normally look at most of the time.) The interface is not bad, but not as good as AVerMedia’s. It is the picture quality that really lets me down though. I have a PNY (nVidia clone) video card in my main computer with 128Mb of RAM. I put the AVerMedia UlterTV 1500 MCE in my secondary computer. It has an Intel video on the motherboard with 56Mb of RAM, the TV picture looks better on my secondary computer.

With the Hauppauge card I can watch, or record shows I want. It uses what they call SoftPVR which uses your PCs processor to digitally record your videos to disk in MPEG or DivX® formats. It has the ability to record planned times I set for it very easily. With the DivX compression you can put up to an hour of video onto a VideoCD. You have to realize though with the compression there is some quality loss.

Frey Technologies is the developers of the SageTV software (SageTV). It interacts with the TV card to record shows from it, but much more. If it was just a recording program I would be saying so what. What is great about it is the information capabilities. When I installed SageTV it asked me my zip code and connected to the Adelphia Cable Company TV guide setup. Putting the cursor arrow over the show name it displays information about that show. Clicking on it I get even more then what I could get from the Adelphia site itself. The LiveTV Guide will list all the shows for up to the next 14 days. If you do not have cable or satellite it will also work with an antenna hook-up.

From the guide I can click to watch the show, record it, mark it as a favorite, set it as watched, or don’t like. The recording can be set to different levels, the default is ‘great’ which is DVD quality. If I mark it as a favorite I can have it record future shows, I can even have it look for only new episodes and ignore reruns. Clicking on Scheduled Recordings takes you to a menu choice of:

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Top is recording by AverMedia / Bottom is Hauppauge

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Channel setup (to list or not) view window upper corner

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Conflict Window giving the user choice of which channel to watch

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Watching a recorded show with time bar on bottom

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Show information along with choices to mark as favorite or record

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Schedule recording menu upcoming and favorites

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SageTV search menu and catagories

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LiveTV Guide from SageTV

Click on image in above table for a larger image to view

Even if you are just watching a show SageTV records it first to the hard drive. Compared to live TV there is about a short few seconds delay. Everything is recorded so you can timeshift while watching it. It allows you to pause, rewind, or fast forward. They use what they call Intelligent Recording, it deletes those unscheduled recordings of live TV when you exit the program. It keeps those programs you did schedule, are favorites, or you manually it told to record. If you try to record something else while another recording is scheduled, a conflict window pops up and ask if you want to cancel the other recording. When it does record a show, I like how it labels the show name and episode name. Compared that to just the channel number and date for the Hauppauge recording.

While you are watching TV if you click on the screen it will bring up the On-Screen Display (OSD). What you see at the top is information about the currently playing channel including the program information. The bar below shows where you are in the current recording - 23:45 into 1 hour of " Wickedly Perfect" on KCBS Channel 2. The white shows what you have watched, the red shows what section wasn't recorded, the blank is the section to be recorded. If you watch a previous recorded show there is a green part that shows what has been recorded and waiting to be watched.

SageTV lets you load up and watch all currently recorded shows. Currently recording shows are identified with a yellow border, Manual Recordings have a red border and Favorites have a white border. Program Information for each show is listed above and there are a number of different grouping and sorting options. I learned to save time by  marking a show for recording and start watching it later. Using the fast forward it allows me to skip through the 18 minutes of commercials.

If you have more than one TV card in your computer system you can utilize and record from each, even at the same time. If you only have one card you can still watch one of the previously recorded shows while recording another. There are parental controls if you choose to use them. After using SageTV with the AVerMedia card I also had to try it with the Hauppauge card. It worked, but not completely. It installed yet it never asked me for the license key. The LiveTV Guide worked okay, but it refused to record.

You can download a 14 day trial version from their website. If you have a TV card you really should try this. The SageTV Media Center software is available at www.sagetv.com for $79.95 Windows.  

SageTV Requirements Overview
Microsoft Windows 98SE, 2000 SP3 or higher, ME or XP
128MB RAM, recommended 256MB RAM
Intel Pentium III 600 MHz or AMD Athlon 600 MHz with additional requirements including TV Tuner Card, Video Card and additional software.

The AVerMedia UltraTV 1500 MCE uses V-Sharp Technology a deinterlace technology which removes interlace artifacts to enhance imageControl Panel for the UltraTV 1500 clarity and sharpness. The card will work as a Personal Video Recorder (PVR). It will record your favorite TV programs or videos in high-quality MPEG I/II formats. Up front you don’t need SageTV, I just think it works even better with it. It supports other input sources, such as a TV signal, a camcorder or other analog devices. You can also listen to FM Radio on your PC, then record and burn it to a CD (MP3 format), or download it to your MP3 Player. You can schedule the recording, so you never miss your favorite FM radio shows or music.

It does not record all the time like SageTV does, but the card does have a Time Shift Function. So you if you’re watching TV while cooking and you realize you're missing an ingredient, no problem. Just start recording and when you return, you can watch where you left AVerMedia 1500 16 channel preview screenoff, while it continues recording the rest of the program. With it you can Pause and Rewind live TV, or even do Instant Replays. Afterwards, simply fast forward to go back to the regular broadcast.

The coolest thing is the 16-Channel Preview feature. You can preview a series of 16 channels at a time. You will see a thumbnail image of each channel and once you've decided on the channel you want to watch, simply double-click the image (channel) and you'll be ready to watch.

I should add the TV window you are watching is fully resizable from one corner up to full screen. If you are going to look at TV tuner cards check this one out. The price is $79.99 at their website www.aver.com

Note: The screen captures were done with SnagIt. I used the guide manual from AverMedia for theirs – it was already nicely labeled.


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