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.

Back to the Project's Main Page

Review: Pinnacle PCTVpro Tuner/Capture Card - Software (2)
Other aspects of the Pinnacle software are also less than impressive.

Video Formats
MPEG video compression is one of the most popular standards in the digital world and both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats (in the form of VCD, SVCD or DVD disks) can be played on most modern DVD players.

MPEG-1 is the format used for Video CDs (VCDs) and suffers from limited performance in terms of its ability to deal with fast motion and rapid scene changes. While some vendors claim that MPEG-1 offers "VHS-level" picture quality this is not really true.

MPEG-2 is a newer standard that can provide a superior image quality for the same amount of storage or bandwidth. Super VCD (SVCD) and DVD recordings use MPEG-2 compression to achieve a far superior result.

DivX is a relatively new digital video compression and storage format that offers even greater performance than MPEG-2 and is very well suited to use on the PC platform.

Here's a short list of what I've found so far:

  • No easy editing. When you record a movie or other program and decide you want to burn it to a CDR for archiving, there's no way to edit out the ads. Unlike a regular VCR, the Pinnacle software doesn't even offer a way to pause the recording during ad breaks so that the final recording is ad-free.
    I should note that a trial version of Pinnacle's Studio 7 video editing software is provided but continued use past the trial period involves forking out more cash and its use is significantly more complex than simply hitting pause and resume during a recording session.
    Another down-side of this is that if a programme runs for just over an hour (ads included) you'll actually need two CDRs to record it in VCD format -- even though the second disk might only contain a minute or two of recording.

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.

  • Only 650MB CDR/RW media supported. Don't be fooled by the little menu that offers the choice of media size -- this seems to do absolutely nothing when you select 700MB -- still requiring you to use two CDRs if you're just an ad-break over the capacity of a 650MB disk.
  • Inflexible video formats. Although the program offers a choice of several other video compression options, none of them are particularly useful and two of the most useful codecs are not included: DivX and Huffyuv. DivX is the most efficient video storage format available today -- allowing a full movie to be stored in near-DVD quality on a single 700MB CDR so its absence is a real shame.

Several other major beefs with this system relate to the infra-red remote control system.

Unfortunately the remote that came with my Sony VCR and TV causes the Pinnacle IR remote software to do some funny things. When I change the volume on the TV, suddenly the Pinnacle software will think I've pressed the "channel-scan" button on its remote and jumps into mosaic mode.

The remote also fails to operate as advertised due to a number of errors and omissions in the configuration file. Fortunately these are easily fixed and the Sony remote conflict can also be addressed at the same time.

Before I rewrote the remote-control configuration file, a few presses of the wrong buttons at the wrong time also ran the risk of locking up the whole system rock-solid -- requiring a hard reset of the Windows XP box.

Next: Pinnacle PCTVpro Review, Summary

Back to The main project page

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