Review: Pinnacle PCTVpro Tuner/Capture Card - Summary
So long as you've got a fast PC and are willing to put up with the pixelation and tearing on fast action/pan scenes, the system does work more or less as advertised.
Being able to hit record without having to hunt for a new VHS tape or find one that you can safely overwrite is a great bonus and the scheduling facility for recording is simple yet effective.
Likewise, the ability to record directly from the inbuilt FM stereo tuner to disk/MP3 probably makes the recording industry cringe just a little harder than they're cringing already.
Fortunately, thanks in main to the popularity of the card, there is a growing amount of 3rd-party software that can be used in place of the bundled applications.
The main one is the almost total lack of support from the manufacturer.
Although Pinnacle offers online support and a web-based help forum, reports indicate that requests for assistance through these mechanisms often produce little or no results.
It would have also been nice if the audio connection between the PCTVpro card and the PC's sound card could have been done internally rather than through the use of an external cable that effectively ties up the sound card's line-in connector. My old PCTV card provided a simple internal cable that connects to the TV-audio or Aux connector on the sound card itself.
As mentioned previously, I think it stinks that Pinnacle ships a "trial version" of its video editing package. This is an essential component and should not be something that people have to fork out extra money for. Tsk, tsk!
Fortunately there are plenty of free or low-cost video editing programs on the market and they'll be discussed later in the project.
Marks Out Of Ten?
The "Value" score will depend on whether the card and software installs without problems onto your own system. If all goes well you'll love it, if not then you'll likely curse at it.
So why are we using this card, in spite of its weak points?
Simple -- you only have to trawl the web to find out that virtually all of the TV tuner/capture cards on the market suffer from similar problems with drivers, support, etc. The PCTVPro may not be perfect -- but it's one of the best of a bad bunch!
The other card considered suitable for this project is the Hauppauge PVR-250 which addresses some of the problems involved in software-based realtime MPEG encoding, but introduces a few of its own.
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