Review: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1400 ExpressCard Digital TV Tuner
Hauppauge’s latest attempt to harness digital and analogue television for the PC comes under the gaze of Don Bradbury
|Product||WinTV-HVR-1400 ExpressCard Digital TV Tuner|
|We like||In comparison with the dual channel Hauppauge Nova-TD digital tuner we recently reviewed: much improved channel changing; big reduction in recording initialisation time; full screen command now works properly; good replay using the Hauppauge software.|
|We don't like||Some lockups while adjusting; lack of response to full screen command on occasions.|
|Requirements||Windows XP or Media Center Edition with SP2, and Vista.|
We recently looked at the twin-tuner digital USB version of Hauppauge's Nova-TD and thought it a commendable effort, though it showed several deficiencies. Among these were rather slow channel changing, protracted initialisation during preparation for recording, and some lock-ups during manipulation of the device's software.
Several of these problems have been attended to in version 6 of the otherwise essentially identical software, and the hardware format has been changed in that, rather than presenting a USB interface, a 54mm ExpressCard has been pressed into service. The actual business end of the device is 34mm, but such is the mass of electronics and attachments that a full 54mm slot is required for the device.
Using the nominally superior ExpressCard format makes good sense, but whether this entirely accounts for the improvements we are not certain. These include crucial factors such as a far quicker channel change, and a huge decrease in the previously lengthy initialisation period the software took to prepare for recording. This was now around an acceptable seven seconds on the test PC.
With this model there was no second TV tuner (though it addresses both analogue and digital TV reception) so you're limited to recording only the current channel, nor was there the rather unnecessary remote control in the apparently pre-release pack we received for review. Similarly, there was no install literature; it's all on the CD. But installation simply involved popping the ExpressCard into it's slot and then letting the drivers install automatically when the CD was placed in its drive.
The device format leaves space for a coax aerial lead, complete with a provided adapter interposed, plus a dedicated adapter with four flying leads to let you connect your AV devices - a thoughtful and useful addition. The card also bears a blue activation LED that glows reassuringly when the tuner is connected and actively receiving a channel.
An EPG provided access to future programs, and apart from the inevitable background intrusion of the downloads necessary to bring it up to date, it was welcome and worked nicely. It's layout is shown, in part, below.
Again we saw recorded files amounting to about 1-1.5GB per hour, and they replayed very well in Hauppauge's own software which was specifically designed for the job. These files did not, as they came, generally replay faultlessly in Windows Media Player, displaying lockups, dropping major parts of files, and giving some sound drop-outs on some clips. Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 was better, but even this occasionally failed to complete playing a video clip.
This problem is down to errors in the stream while you are recording them, which non-custom software may not handle correctly. We found the cure for these defects - if you insist on using other that the Hauppauge software for replay - was to download the 10.6MB video processing file from www.videoredo.com/Download.htm and process each video clip through this. It tidies up the video and makes them also replay well in the alternative software.
Having to process captured files so that they replay correctly in Media Player and other front-line software may seem like a pain, but we have to bear in mind that capturing TV reception to a computer file is fraught with difficulties. The fact that Hauppauge have found a way to make replay work correctly is to their credit, and it's another example of the fact that specialist software usually works better than add-ons to Operating Systems. For these, the presumption is always made that everything in the garden is lovely, whereas in the real world that may not be the case, nowhere more so than in TV capture.
This Hauppauge ExpressCard single channel analogue/digital TV Tuner is undoubtedly preferable to the more troublesome USB Nova-TD though at substantial extra cost. It's virtues included the facts that the program was easy to install, version 6 of the software ran much better than previous versions, full screen mode actually worked, and the device format did add the useful connectivity. Many recent laptops, bringing the new ExpressCard format to bear, should love this device.