PCB that plugs into a computer's bus and enables NTSC and/or PAL television viewing on the computer. As the owner of one of these devices, I must say, they kick ass.

If you are looking for one of these devices, I have the Hauppauge WinTV PCI board that also has FM radio. It is well supported by Linux kernel 2.2 and higher (perhaps lower?) via modules bttv.o, tuner.o, and msp3400.o. You also might want Xawtv which you can find at freshmeat. The Hauppauge TV tuner cards are sold at my local Comp USA, and you can check out the manufacturer's webpage at www.hauppauge.com.

I have a Hauppauge WinTV card. It works very well and I would recommend it to anyone. As I understand it, in the early days of TV cards, the quality was poor, and there was a serious CPU hit. Fortunately, PC technology continues to improve at an almost frightening pace. My card has the following features:

The teletext support is terrific -you can click on a page number on the screen and it loads that page, like some kind of 1980s version of the world wide web. You can also write scripts to load a particular set of teletext pages for you to read at your leisure, save teletext pages, set your computer clock to the teletext clock; indeed, almost anything you could want from teletext software is implemented. On the other hand, you can't get away from the fact that it's, well, teletext.

For the remote control, you get a small button-sized sensor on a wire that plugs in to the card. I Blu-Tacked the sensor to my monitor, but you could put it wherever was convenient.

The full product range also includes cheaper cards that don't support stereo or teletext, and more expensive cards that provide radio support.

I bought my card when I was a student living in limited space - the computer monitor was already taking up space, so the TV card gave me a TV without taking up any more space. This was the main advantage over a normal televsion, although it was also significantly cheaper than a television with equivalent specification.

Sitting at a normal TV-watching distance, it looks just like a television. Sitting up close, with it in full-screen mode, it doesn't look perfect. However, this is because a high-resolution computer monitor is ridiculously over-qualified to display the relatively low resolution television signal - it's not so much a fault of the technology so much as an inherent flaw of the medium.

I've had no problems with mine at all. The card does everything you could possibly expect from it, and does it well. I should point out that this was under Windows; I believe Linux support is patchier. Update 2004-02-20: I now have the card working just fine under Linux in a MythTV box and it required almost no effort to get it working - just had to load the correct kernel module and away it went. I haven't tried the teletext though.

As a side note, an interesting side-effect of the card is that it eliminates overscan. On a normal television, a certain amount of the transmitted picture is lost, because the crude (compared to a PC) hardware maps the picture 'over the edge' of the visible screen a little. Watching TV on my TV card, I notice that all the (ghastly) station IDs look a few centimetres 'further in', because the digital card wrings every possible pixel out of the signal, thus displaying the 'whole picture' on screen.

An expansion card for a computer (usually a PCI card), which allows a computer to receive and process television and other video signals. Some TV tuner cards also allow for reception of FM radio.

Combined with the proper drivers and TV Tuner or VCR software, you can watch TV while you work on your computer. It can be run full screen, or in a small window to place in the corner of the screen.

VCR software (such as iuVCR or PowerVCR) allows the computer to be programmed to record television programs at specific times. This software also allows the video stream to be encoded to formats such as MPEG or DivX. These files can then be (usually illegally) re-distrubted over the Internet.

TV tuner cards have come a long way in the years since the previous writeups, mainly due to the arrival the Freeview terrestrial digital TV system.

TV tuner cards in the past were fairly complex cards, as they had to tune into the broadcast signal, decode the TV picture and then digitise it into a format for the computer to display. Hence they were usually PCI cards to get enough bandwidth, and enough physical space on the board for the electronics.

Now, things are different. As the Freeview signal is already an MPEG-2 signal, the card doesn't have to do any digitising itself. It still has to tune into the appropriate "channel" (more properly called a multiplex) and select the actual "channel" from within the multiplex (Freeview multiplexes typically contain about 6 TV channels). Once it has de-coded this channel - really no more than an MPEG-2 data stream - it then feeds it into the computer for displaying in the normal way.

This means that the TV tuner cards are much simpler devices. For example, you can now purchase a Hauppauge twin Freeview tuner on a USB stick that's only slightly bigger than a normal USB memory key, for about GBP 50. This has two tuners, so when running with the appropriate software, you can be watching one programme while recording something else altogether.

Furthermore, the software has improved as well. In the past, each card came with a dedicated piece of software to drive it - and some of these left a lot to be desired. However, most of the newer cards are fully supported by Windows Media Center which provides a superior interface to the channels on the card, full interaction with the Electronic Program Guide, DVR capabilities etc.

In short, the tuner cards of the past were best used as a "second tv", or to allow you to watch TV in a window while working. The modern cards, however, especially when coupled with Windows Media Center installed on a small and quiet PC, can take the place of a traditional TV tuner altogether.

Sources: my purchase of a Hauppauge Freeview tuner stick and the research done around it.

ascorbic suggested I mention that Freeview is the UK brand for DVB-T - free-to-air terrestrial digial television.

rootbeer277 asks "can you use this to use you monitor to play home console video games? And if so, is there a display delay to worry about?". I don't know of any console that outputs Freeview-type signals. All the older ones output composite (or other analog signals), and the newer ones (such as the Playstation 3) output HDMI. So I don't think the situation is ever likely to happen.

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