Dvico Fusion HDTV dual digital 4
- Can record two programs simultaneously; recording scheduler has PC wakeup function
- PIP is cumbersome to use for dual tuners
It's a neat piece of hardware, but the dual tuner capabilities of this card are let down by the FusionHDTV software package.
Price$ 275.00 (AUD)
This digital TV tuner from DViCO contains dual tuner capabilities and is a very neat piece of hardware. It's a PCI card and it only requires one antenna input for both of its tuners. This means there are aren't any messy pass-through cables or splitters required to use both tuners. Likewise, only one set of drivers is required to install it, unlike DViCO's previous dual tuner solution, which required a second driver and also that the second tuner on the card be connected to the PC via a USB cable.
While the hardware is neat, the software solution is not ideal. DViCO's FusionHDTV software (we used the latest version at the time of writing - 3.50.02) can not use both tuners transparently. If you are recording one program you can't change channels on the other, nor can you toggle from the main window to the PIP window..That means if you want to watch one program and record another, you must have the program you want to watch on the correct channel in the main window, and the program you want to record in the PIP window.
Furthermore, you can only use the second tuner if the picture-in-picture (PIP) function is enabled. Even then, actually watching a program using the second tuner in a PIP box is not enjoyable, nor intuitive, as the functions in the right-click menu of the PIP box are barely functional. We noticed that we could not change channels by right-clicking, nor could we toggle between the main screen and the PIP window. Instead we had to use the main program interface to change channels and to toggle between the windows.
Where the second tuner worked like a charm was when we used the recording scheduler. We were able to record programs from two different channels at the same time. If your favourite programs ever clash, you will be easily able to set the recording scheduler to record them both. One thing to note with the recording scheduler is that it will not work properly if your Windows regional settings are not set to 'English (Australia)' as the date format will produce an error. The scheduler runs in the background and can start your scheduled recordings even if FusionHDTV is closed. When the scheduler kicks in, it stays in the background, so as not to interfere with your current work.
The card also has the capability to boot up your PC in order to start a scheduled recording. It can do this one of two ways. You can connect it to the motherboard where the power switch usually goes and then connect the power switch from your case to the card, or, you can enable 'PME'. PME stands for power management event and will only work if it is featured and enabled in your BIOS. In our BIOS, using a Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI motherboard, this option is listed as 'PME Event Wake Up'. This feature worked in our tests, but there is a caveat: you will have to ensure your system is set to automatically log in to Windows. If you have a password, the scheduler will not be able to log in.
We found the picture quality of the Dual Digital 4 to be very good, without too much blotchiness, and the sensitivity of the tuner was very good. It picked up all of the available digital TV stations in our two test locations (the first location being 2km away from transmission towers, the second location being up to 15km away from those same transmission towers). The signal strength from both test locations was consistently above 90 percent, but we did notice a fair bit of stuttering in both areas.
As for channel changes, it takes a couple of seconds to go from one channel to another. If you want to pause live TV, then you must enable time-shifting first. Just like recording, when time-shifting, we found that we could not toggle between the main channel and the PIP channel. Otherwise the time-shift function worked without problems during our tests. We were able to skip to different parts of a time-shifted program without any stuttering or picture problems.
FusionHDTV will let you record either the current channel you are watching, in MPEG2 mode, or the entire transport stream (tp), which includes all the sub-channels that a network broadcasts. If you record in tp mode, then you can use the supplied FusionCONVERTER software to convert any of the streams into MPEG2, DivX or XviD formats. Depending on the length of the show you want to convert, the power of your CPU and the settings you choose, this conversion can take a long time.
If you use Windows XP Media Centre Edition, then this card will work as it comes with BDA (broadcast driver architecture) drivers. DViCO also supplies a remote control and an infrared receiver that plugs into a USB port.
All up, while this card did almost everything that we asked of it, we're not overly impressed by the way the FusionHDTV software handles dual tuners. We wish FusionHDTV could use both tuners transparently.
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