TV Tuner Cards

Chipset

One of the key features to keep an eye out for when shopping around is the chipset used by the tuner. The chipset refers to the manufacturer of the decoder chip and can often be a good indicator of the quality of the image that you will get and the available software support. It's always best to go for a popular chipset if possible, as this will increase the number of compatible software packages that will work with the card. In particular, keep an eye out for cards with chipsets manufactured by Philips. The chipset is generally listed on the packaging, so do a little shopping around before committing to a purchase. If you're shopping at a larger store, ask the shop staff for a demo of the product in operation. This way, you can judge for yourself if the display quality is adequate.

Technically, there are two types of digital TV broadcasts: Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD). SD is broadcast at a resolution of 720x576 which is 576 lines of resolution, while HD supports up to a massive display resolution of 1920x1080 which is 1080 lines. Because HD is broadcasting much more information than SD, the decoding requirements are higher, but the broadcast image is astonishingly clear and crisp. Many channels offer separate analogue, SD and HD broadcasts simultaneously, but while HD is growing in popularity, it will still be a while before it takes over completely.

Availability

Though the rollout has been slower than many would like, digital TV is available across most of Australia. Standard definition is available in capitals and most regional centres (for a chart detailing what's available where, see DBA). All major channels are currently available in SD, so there's very little reason to opt for a regular analogue tuner these days.

If you live in a metropolitan centre, you may want to consider picking up a HD digital tuner. Keep in mind that not all your favourite shows are available in HD and there are periods of the day when no HD content is offered. It will be a couple of years before all the broadcasters make all their content available in HD, so check out the program availability before making the switch.

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