LifeView FlyTV Express X1

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LifeView FlyTV Express X1
  • LifeView FlyTV Express X1
  • LifeView FlyTV Express X1
  • LifeView FlyTV Express X1

Pros

  • Four simultaneous inputs, TV video capture and radio inputs available, PCI Express, Picture-On-Picture

Cons

  • PCI Express channel switching is no faster than normal PCI or USB as we'd hoped.

Bottom Line

The beauty of this device is that it covers a few bases. It will capture video, play TV or radio and it will do several of these tasks all at the same time. Although we would have liked to see faster channel switching with the greater PCI express bandwidth this device offers, overall it is an impressive unit.

Would you buy this?

If you're after a digital (DVB-T) TV-Tuner, an analogue TV-tuner, an FM radio tuner, a video capture device, or just something to fill that tiny PCI Express 1x slot, the LifeView FlyTV Express X1 T2A2 will satisfy all of your needs.

The LifeView FlyTV Express X1 is the first PCI Express TV-tuner card we've had the opportunity to look at, and so far we're impressed by the concept. The card offers two TV inputs which each support both digital and analogue signals. It also has inputs for an FM radio tuner, as well as composite and S-Video (the last two being available via a single port and adapter).

With two TV inputs connected it's possible to watch one channel and record another, or pause one channel while watching another. With the other video inputs it's also possible to watch footage from two other external sources, or capture from one source while watching another.

LifeView claims the card is capable of handling four simultaneous inputs at any given time, so that's exactly what we put to the test. We hooked up a Sony HDR-HC7E camcorder via the AV inputs, a Dell XPS M1710 (7950) notebook to the S-Video input and two TV cables to each of the TV inputs, and started recording one of the TV channels. Not only did all streams come through clearly, but the recorded TV file had no noticeable audio synchronisation problems or image issues during playback.

The LifeView software is straight forward to use. The product is Windows Vista certified, and we had no problems using the drivers downloaded from LifeView, or the drivers Windows Vista automatically found upon detecting the hardware. When opening the LifeView application for the first time it prompts the user to decide which sources will be used. For example, a digital TV signal and an analogue TV signal, or as we did for our tests, two digital TV signals, one composite AV input from the camcorder and one S-Video input from the notebook.

The inputs appear as tabs across the top of the software and each can be selected separately. All four streams can also be shown with a three-in-one picture-in-picture setup. What's especially cool about the picture-in-picture is the simple fact that each window can be resized and positioned anywhere within the software's screen. A tiled format can also be selected, splitting the screen up into the various inputs. TV channels are listed down the right hand side of the software giving quick access to any station.

Changing channels with any PC TV tuner is a slow affair by comparison to using a real TV. We hoped the increased bandwidth of PCI Express over PCI (almost double) might remedy this constant flaw, but we still noticed about a one-second delay when switching channels. Still, the LifeView FlyTV Express X1 is no worse in this regard than the best TV tuners we've tested.

Video files are recorded in the ubiquitous MPEG2 format, while FM radio is recorded into WAV format. However, the card does not support Transport Stream (TS), a feature which records multiple channels from any given station (such as ABC2, ABC-HD and ABC Digital) within the one TS file, so they can all be viewed at a later stage. This is a feature commonly found in TV-tuners and something we were disappointed to see missing from the LifeView. Recorded files can be easily played back within the software by selecting the correct tab at the top of the screen. Overall, recording, playback and display selection settings are easy to navigate and intuitive to learn.

The beauty of this device is that it covers a few bases. It will capture video, play TV or radio and it will do several of these tasks all at the same time. Although we would have liked to see faster channel switching with the greater PCI express bandwidth this device offers, overall it is an impressive unit.

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