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Discussion Starter #1
I need a PVR solution!

I've found most of the answers I need to build a HTPC so far, except for a crucial one: which TV Tuner to use?

Here are my requirements:

1 - mainly needs to be able to record NTSC (Standard definition cable)
2 - costs need to stay low, ideally south of $600; MythTV is an appealing solution for this as the price is obviously hard to beat, but Tuner support appears very limited...
3 - digital is mostly an aftertought and not strictly required as Videotron doesn't carry any clear QAM - unless the card has dual entry: one for digital OTA and one for SD cable.
4 - Ideally, I'd rather have a PCIe card, unless someone confirms flawless recording/playback of NTSC (SD cable) through USB/PCI, with an AMD 4850e or similar cpu...

So far, I've read the Hauppage HVR-1250 is *not* supported for NTSC recording, the HVR-2250 is just not supported under Linux, and the HVR-1600 & 1800 have poor NTSC image quality. As for the ATI's 650, they don't seem to have Linux or MythTV support... (or NTSC, can't remember atm). I haven't head great things about the USB sticks either...

I'd rather stick with MythTV instead of wasting $150 for Vista Premium, but can't seem to find a TV Tuner that fits.

Does anyone have a TV Tuner to recommend? (working with MythTV + analog cable TV?)

Or is there another (cheap) PVR solution I haven't seen?

Thanks!
 

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Kort,

I was going to recommend the HVR 1600, as it has both NTSC and ATSC for OTA HDTV, but I see you have already discounted that card. In my setup, I have this card and haven't noticed any picture quality issues for the NTSC side when compared to my PVR 150. But I'm rarely using the SD input these days as I have switched over to OTA HDTV.

Sean
 

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I'll have to also mention the HVR-1800 even though you have discounted it.

PCIe, MPEG2 onboard encoding. And honestly, I can't see a problem with the analog encoding. It's far better than my VCR ;) and visibly better than my old Diamond DTV-2000 (Brooktree BT848 chip - technically unsupported in NT4/2000/XP) and ATI All-In-Wonder PCI and definitely better than my ATI All-In-Wonder USB dongle type tuner. Especially faster due to the onboard mpeg2 chip... the CPU takes much less of a hit.

Plus, the HVR-1800 if you buy the kit, comes with an MCE remote and IR blaster. Let me tell you, it's pretty neat. It can record from ATSC and NTSC tuners at the same time (or playback from either while the other records).

I am running mine on XP with GB-PVR (free-as-in-beer PVR software, extendable via plugins, and it works great), I haven't taken the plunge on MythTV yet... it's my next step.

Cheers.
 

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I use a Hauppauge PVR-250 (PCI card) in my MythTV, which is fed by S-Video from a Star Choice receiver. It works perfectly fine as the card is 100% supported in Linux. I have no complaints about the picture quality.

I think the PVR-150 (the newer, younger brother of the 250) goes around $100 and offers the same basic functionality.
 

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You seem to be implying that TV tuners give a better picture in Windows than in Linux. I don't think that is the case since most of these cards have hardware encoders so the MPEG file is being created by the card, not by software. Therefore, as long as a card is supported in Linux then why would the quality be any different?

I don't know how it works in Linux but I have had Hauppauge PVR-150 cards for years and they give a fine picture quality - as good as you will get with SD sources.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
@Wayne: I'm not implying picture quality is better in Windows than Linux. As you say "Therefore, as long as a card is supported in Linux [...]" and *that*, friend, is the root of the problem: all the recent tuners don't seem to have Linux support "out of the box" (whereas they do for Vista). I'm no linux guru and not very inclined to becoming one at the expense of countless hours and frustrations, just for the sake of saving the purchase price of Vista...

The PVR 150,250 can't be found anymore in stores...

The HVR-1800 is very appealing, and I don't recall where I saw the comments about the image quality - could be just one user. If only it worked "out of the box" for MythTV!!!!

mkmorris, if you ever try the MythTV route, post your results!

After reading about how ppl are getting the HVR-1800 working in Linux, I might just fork over the $150 for Vista..(laziness wins... wallet loses...) ugh, I might still try a little to get it to work in Linux ;)
Need to think some more about this!
 

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I have a lot of experience with MythTV, both digital and analog. My own preferred analog tuner card is the Hauppauge PVR-250, with remote control. My box has two of them in it, both found on eBay. They should be getting more and more common/cheap now that the USA is going DTV for OTA.

I also have an early model HVR-1600, but the analog quality isn't quite as good as the PVR-250 cards. Close, though.

At one point, I tried a PVR-500 dual-tuner (Samsung tuners) card, but it was just total crap for image quality.

The PVR-150 is probably a good second choice after the PVR-250 -- essentially the same thing, so long as you avoid the versions that had the same crappy Samsung tuners as the PVR-500 fiasco.

Dunno about other cards; those are the ones I have experience with here. Most of our recordings are digital now (OTA), but we still nab a few from the analog channels.

A big consideration for MythTV is getting a compatible remote control, and then figuring out how to get it configured. The PVR-250 remote control port is really easy to get going, and the HVR-1600 is about the same once the kernel is patched for it (I have patches).

Avoid LIRC if at all possible for this -- Hauppauge remote controls already have native X-keyboard support, and setting them up that way is far simpler than the chewing gum and string method of LIRC.

For CATV, you may also require a "cable mouse", or IR-transmitter, to control your cable box (if any). I know nothing about those, other than that the HVR-1600 interface for that isn't working for more than about two people on this planet. :) Better is to buy a $12 transmitter off the web and plug it into a standard serial port.

Cheers
 

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You seem to be implying that TV tuners give a better picture in Windows than in Linux.
Totally untrue. Image quality in Linux/MythTV is identical to that on other platforms. And one has full control over it, too -- a simple GUI slider control for the encoder bitrate, and another screen where the resolution can be configured (tip: always use 720x480 for that!).
 

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PVR-150 cards seem readily available on eBay. And I've seen them in stores from time to time over the past few months too (old stock, but hey!).

Edit: Dell Online stocks them, as do many stores here in Canada (try the shopbot.ca site for a quick price search). You want the "MCE" edition with remote control.
 

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Kort said:
The HVR-1800 is very appealing, and I don't recall where I saw the comments about the image quality - could be just one user. If only it worked "out of the box" for MythTV!!!!
Dunno about the image quality (never used one of those), but this card should work "out of the box" in MythTV already. Just use a modern distro (eg. Mythbuntu or Mythdora) from late 2008, or upgrade the Linux kernel on older distros to the latest 2.6.28 stable kernel release.

http://www.linuxtv.org/wiki/index.php/Hauppauge_WinTV-HVR-1800

Looks like full support has been there for quite some time.

Cheers
 

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Not only is the PVR-150 available in abundance on eBay it is also available at Canadian online retailer ncix. And as mlord has shown above - almost all of the Hauppauge cards do have drivers for Linux.
 

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Not only is the PVR-150 available in abundance on eBay it is also available at Canadian online retailer ncix. And as mlord has shown above - almost all of the Hauppauge cards do have drivers for Linux.
Of course I was wise enough to do the due diligence prior to posting my suggestion for the PVR-150/250...
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Interesting - I just might go ahead and get a PVR-250 from eBay! I would have liked to try out DTV OTA tho...

The 250 is supported 'out-of-the-box' in Linux, so it should be a breeze to get it working with MythTV, and the only source I have is SD/analog cable - Videotron (in Montreal, QC) doesn't carry any clear QAM...

About the HVR-1800: can anyone confirm that the analog cable image quality is as good as the PVR-250's ? Has anyone got one running in MythTV?

There seems to be contradictory information about the analog support for the 1800: some pages show it supported, some others give instructions how to build and install everything needed to get it working - a task I am sure to fail! (i no speak *nix much... i r *nix rtard/impaired...)

mlord, did you have to go through hoops and all to get the 1600 working in MythTV?

Thanks all for the feedback and information - it's helping allot to narrow down the tuner selection!
 

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The 250 is supported 'out-of-the-box' in Linux, so it should be a breeze to get it working with MythTV, and the only source I have is SD/analog cable - Videotron (in Montreal, QC) doesn't carry any clear QAM...
Don't forget that you have *excellent* DTV available for free, with a modest antenna.

There seems to be contradictory information about the analog support for the 1800: some pages show it supported, some others give instructions how to build and install everything
Just look at the posting dates. All of the chatter stopped in spring/summer 2008, after support for the card became mainstream.

mlord, did you have to go through hoops and all to get the 1600 working in MythTV?
I plugged it in, and it worked. The remote control was a different story, but I've fixed that now too with a kernel patch I wrote.

Cheers
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Just bought the HVR-1800

I just saw the HVR-1800 for $128 at Amazon.ca, with FREE Delivery!

note: that was the '1121' Canadian MC Kit w. remote, not the oem box, and they only had a few - but the '1128' MC kit w. remote goes for $138, still cheap imho...

I couldn't resist and bought one, totaled $145 w. tax - now I gotta buy the rest of the rig... ;)

Thanks to everyone for their advice!
 

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Getting it to work in linux is not the same as getting it to work in Ubuntu. You will have better success using a distro with an up-to-date kernel.
 
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