Review Pinnacle PCTV Pro
Building A PC-Based Personal Digital Entertainment Centre
A project diary describing the process of building a PC-based home entertainment center based on regular off-the-shelf computer components and software.

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Review: Pinnacle PCTVpro Tuner/Capture Card
The heart of any personal digital video system has to be the card which allows you to get ahold of the video images you plan to record or display.
Other Tuner Cards
In recent years there has been quite a growth in the video capture and TV tuner market. As a result, there are now numerous cards competing for your dollars.

Unfortunately most cards are only as good as the software that comes with them, which is why it pays to opt for one that uses the BT848 or BT878 chipset.

Cards based on these chips have a growing amount of independent third-party software available for them and much of this code is far better than that which comes in the box.

There's even a good number of open-source and shareware programs available for BT848/878 chipset which further increases your software options.

For this project I chose the Pinnacle PCTVpro (Buy One), a card that comes with some impressive claims from the manufacturer.

As you browse through the page I've linked to (above) you might be tempted to think "hey, this does everything you'd want in a PVR or Tivo-like box" -- but you'd be wrong.

The PCTVpro hardware is very good and I've been using the cheaper PCTV version for several years on one of my other computers.

Visit the sponsor
If you'd like your own system, it is recommended that you purchase the parts, or a ready-configured version from the project's sponsor.

This older version came without all the fancy video capture and CD-burning functions so boldly touted in these newer products so I was optimistic that this might just be a complete solution in a box.

The installation process is fairly straight forward -- drop the card into a PCI slot, run software on the CD provided and Bob's your uncle. Well that's the theory, however there may be a few flies in the ointment, depending on what hardware you're using and what version of Windows you're running.

The first problem I encountered was that the PCTVpro card seems incapable of peacefully coexisting with the popular CMedia chipset used by many motherboard manufacturers to provide onboard audio. Although this problem is widely acknowledged on the Pinnacle support site, it is not mentioned anywhere in the sales fluff or the installation/setup material that comes with the board.

I dare say this has left more than a few people cursing and swearing!

In order to get around this incompatibiity, the PVR box was fitted with a Creative Labs Soundblaster Live 5.1 card (Buy One) which not only overcomes this compatibility problem but also adds Dolby Digital 5.1 audio to your DVD and game-playing experience along with MP3 acceleration and a raft of other features.

Next: Pinnacle PCTVpro Review, The Software

Published and © 2002 by Bruce Simpson and Aardvark Net Publishing. All rights reserved