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Which DVB card should I buy ?

DVB cards come in many shapes and colors. The first distinction you should make is that a DVB-card (Digital Video Broadcast) can be used for cable and satellite, although these are NOT the same cards !

The cable version for example cannot be hookup to a dish, and cannot be used for Internet.

This page is suitable for Satellite TV aswell as Internet by Satellite!

Internett by Satellite

A hint ...

A small note before we continue (since a lot of "smart" salesmen think to outsmart you):


No matter what they might say about the competition! (check out the Troubleshooting page).

Card category

DVB cards, like I said before, come in many shapes and colors;

1. Internet by Satellite only cards.

These cards are not suitable for watching TV. Using the DVB note on these cards is slightly misleading for the card buyer. Often these cards are cheaper.

Some examples: Harmonic Cyberstream SAT-1 and the Pentamedia Pent@NET.

2. Internet and TV receivers without a decoder.

These cards earn the DVB logo. They are suitable for TV reception and for Internet by Satellite. The TV station you can recieve are so called Free-to-Air stations and (on the Astra) are often german or french. Some of these cards have additional software for harddisk recording of video and Teletext (used a lot in Europe).

Some examples:
Pentamedia Pent@VISION (unfortunally without harddisk recording of video and without Teletext support), the Hauppauge DVB-s (also sold as the Hauppauge Nexus - with Teletext and harddisk recording) and similar cards. The Hauppauge is actually a TechnoTrend card, which is sold using the brands Techni-Sat, Galaxis and Siemens as well. These cards use the same software, with the exception of Siemens who developed their own software.

Note: some creative people on the Internet created an application called "MultiDec" which enables you to see pay-TV without additional hardware. This application is working with the Hauppauge/Technotrend cards!

3. Internet and Televisie receivers with decoder.

These are the same cards as the once in category 2, extended with a so called CI-module (Common Interface) which offers a PCMCIA-look-a-like slot for a decoder card. In this decoder-card you can put a smart-card for decoding pay-TV stations, for example Canal+.

Note: encryption of Canal+ (and other Pay-TV stations) can ONLY be done using a CI-module.

Note: the earlier mentioned software solution "MultiDec" does the same job ...

Other differences

Besides the functional differences, there is also the difference in connecting the cards to your PC. In the meanwhile two methods are available: PCI and USB. I have some trouble believing that USB can handle the full sat-speed, but hey, nowbody sends me an USB sample to test this.

Additional connectivity is als a point of interest.
Some DVB cards have an additional antenna connection for hooking-up an additional Satellite receiver (for example the TechnoTrend cards).
Other cards, like the Pentamedia Pent@VISION, have only one antenna connection.

Besides antenna, Audio/Video input (Pentamedia Pent@VISION) for special effects and Audio/Video output (all receivers in category 2 and 3) for connecting your TV or VCR.

Video-overlay, the way TV images are displayed on your PC monitor, cab also be done in multiple ways. This can be done using an external cable mixing both signals (like the Pentamedia Pent@VISION does) or by using the software on your PC which does not require extrenal cables.

Downside of the external cable is the loss of video-quality of your Windows desktop (upside: you can connect a second VGA monitor for TV imaging). Downside for the software solution is that it requires additional CPU power (upside: image quality remains perfect if your CPU can handle it).

So which card should I buy ?

The choice depends on a few factors:

- Does the Internet via Satellite demand a specific card ?
Most don't by the way.

- how much money are you willing to spend ?
Category 1 starts at $150, category 2 at $300,- and category 3 starts at about $500.

- what do you want to do with the DVB-card ?
Only Internet by Satellite ? Internet by Satelliet with TV ? Internet by Satelliet with TV and Teletext ? Internet by Satelliet with TV and decoder for Pay-TV stations ?

- what connectivity are you looking for ?
External Audio/Video connections ? or do you want Audio/Video input as well ?

- what TV image quality are you looking for ?
Using a less quality image (external signal mixing) or excellent quality (software)?

- how easy should installation be and what are you software demands ?
Personally I love the Pentamedia Pent@VISION software a lot better that the Hauppauge software. Unfortunally this does not support Teletext and harddisk-recording.

- should the card be Linux compatible?
For example; Pentamedia Pent@NET and Pent@VISION (drivers downloadable at Pentamedia), or Hauppauge DVB-s (GNU beta only)?

- should the card be Windows 2000 or Windows ME compatible?
Like the Pentamedia cards show us.

- what kind of service do you want from the manufacturer ?
Support of Hauppauge and Technotrend simply sucks. They do not seem to be interested in the customer, only their money. Harmonic and Pentamedia appear to realize that customers are the most important factor and they offer better support.

As you now see; many criteria are to be considered. Currently, I'd have to advise the Technotrend/Hauppauge cards since it's the most widely used card. Keep in mind though that their customer support is really bad!



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