So we're past the pretty pictures and screen snaps of the software, now we need to get into the testing phase. Once again I'm in a bit of a sticky situation where there are no benchmarks, time demos or games you can test a TV card with. Therefore you'll have to rely on my experiences with the card to pass judgement.
Unfortunately I'm going to start on a bit of a low note. The test system I used with the card originally comprised of a 3Ghz Wolfdale Chip, Maximus Formula Motherboard, 4GB of DDR2 and a old 7800GT. Now the minimum system specs listed in the SpeedSetUp Guide provided stated that a 'Graphics card with 32mb of memory is recommended'. But on the 1920x1200 26" Samsung TV I tested with, watching live TV lagged to the point where it plain spoilt the enjoyment of whatever you were trying to watch. Now this could have been down to the monitor resolution, but the 7800GT is still a respectable card when compared to a lot of peoples on-board graphics processors, so this cast doubt on how well the card would perform in a Small HTPC relying on an igpu. Swapping out the 7800GT for a 4850X2 resolved the majority of the lag issues. However having de-interlacing turned on in the settings caused the picture to jerk around even with the more powerful card.
Obtaining a proper TV signal was also a point that I investigated. I was lucky enough to have a connection from my house TV aerial (seldom used these days as the main TV has freesat) to look for channels on. This picked up a good number of digital freeview channels and all the analogue channels available in my area. I tried the small, unboosted aerial that came with the card as well but that picked up absolutely nothing, feeling a little as if it was just a token put in there to bulk up the package, but if you live in an area with very, very good signal you may get some use from it.
This was an awful test, I can tell you. Having to sit in front of a screen watching TV programs for a few hours. After the aforementioned hardware issue, watching TV using the card was pretty much as you'd expect. The picture quality was quite acceptable, even with de-interlacing turned off. Turning it on did improve it a little but resulted in a little lag as I described before.
The software interface was quite user friendly. It was a little basic for use with a mouse, but moving the cursor to the edges of the screen brought out extra buttons. What I found most impressive however was how well the software interacted with the remote. I've used third party remotes with Windows before, and while they did the job, they felt rather clunky and tacked on. The remote supplied with the card felt like it was designed to work with the software, as it should.
After a few hours use, the playback started showing signs of lag again. This normally coincided with performing other tasks on the machine which you might not find such a surprise. But even the simplest of tasks such as opening a web browser caused the image to stutter. Any more intense activity and the audio faltered as well. This was seemingly random however. Some times you could have the TV playing away in the background with browsing the net or organising files and it would sit there smooth as butter. While others you can find yourself watching a film full screen and the picture would pixelate
due to interlacing or stall only to resume a few seconds later to find you've missed an important event. This also occurred while trying to record a program. While writing to the drive the image broke up, meaning the recording came out as un-watchable as the original.
It's a shame that the card has been weighed down with a seemingly random annoyance that spoils it's very purpose. We'll summarise on the next page in the conclusion...