|ASUS MY-CINEMA PHC3-150 TV-Tuner Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Accessories|
|Written by Dan Ferguson|
|Tuesday, 23 February 2010|
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ASUS MY-CINEMA PHC3-150 Detailed Features
Hooking everything up - analog RF, satellite and cable connect to the top port labeled CATV while a digital antenna should be connected to the second coaxial port labeled ATSC. The black S-VID connection is for S-Video and will also accept composite via the supplied adapter. Finally RCA stereo inputs are provided for an alternate audio source.
While many software suites exist for using a TV tuner card, this review will only cover the software supplied with the card.
Installation was straight forward. Applications can be installed one at a time or all at once using the 'Smart install wizard'. The smart install will install all applications pertinent to the operating system. As my testbed uses Windows XP I did not test the ASUS GadgeTV component. This is a widget that allows the TV to be incorporated into a sidebar. Other users have favorably reported on this utility. For my first installation attempt I tried to install the driver alone. The installation froze and I had to restart the CD. On my second try I used the smart install without any problems.
The ASUS Video Security program was already covered in a Benchmark Reviews article for the ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100. The My Cinema PHC3-150 hybrid card allows two simultaneous video signals and can work simultaneously with the other bundled programs. Additionally, each security screen can be independently opened in a separate window, re-sized, and dragged onto different screens for monitoring. I had a few hiccups while trying to use the program. When starting the program an "unspecified error" occurs and the detection regions cannot be used. This program is a great feature for those who still rely on analog security systems. A security camera signal can be fed via composite, s-video or RF , recorded digitally, and monitored for unusual motion events.
Other ASUS cards have shipped with Cyberlink PowerCinema, but the PHC3-150 came with ArcSoft TotalMedia. As with most PVR applications TotalMedia has a typical "Media Center" style. All menu controls can be accessed using keyboard and mouse as well as the included remote. The menu options are relatively straight forward and the remote bar at the bottom of the screen is easy to read. One great advantage of a dual tuner card is the ability to work with two channels at once. This means two viewing, one view and one record, or two recording. The catch is that one of the channels comes from the analog port. To work around this, digital content from a second box (satellite, cable, converter, etc.) can be routed through the analog port and be viewed or recorded at 480i. When watching live TV, the default page includes a reception meter showing how well a signal is being received. This can be critical for digital broadcasts since, unlike analog, reception is either 100% or 0%. This could be important to make sure you don't miss a critical part of your favorite show because someone walked in front of an antenna during the recording.
TotalMedia includes an application for analog video capture. Output can be captured and saved from any composite, s-video or RF source. This could be a camcorder, VCR, DVD player, or even a computer. My kids have collected a library of their favorite VHS movies. The PHC3-150 makes it easy to copy a cassette into mpeg format and burn straight to a DVD. I had a few hiccups when trying this method. First, while the NXP decoder chip reports automatic VCR tuning capability, when I connected my VCR to the coaxial port, the signal popped in and out periodically. Everything worked fine when switching to the composite port. Second, I wanted to burn a video onto a CD, but TotalMedia will only recognize DVDs. Third, there is no option to convert already recorded videos into another format. Sometimes it is nice to scale a video down and put on PDA or media player to take on a flight or on the bus, but another application will be required for that purpose. Finally, when trying to record some analog streams I got an annoying message indicating the recording was disabled due to copyright constraints. But I was trying to record a homemade movie, so the detection was faulty.
TotalMedia may not include a video converter, but it does include an insitu video editor. Any compatible video can quickly be opened up for timeline editing. The editor allows commercials or other segments to be clipped from the stream, and a thumbnail to be chosen for the video preview. This is a nice feature not included in most of the PVR applications I've used.
The last component of the PHC3-150 kit merely makes the homemade PVR experience more convenient. In most applications, the tuner card gets installed as an intermediary between the user and their existing entertainment setup. The MCE compatible remote and accessories help make the interposition more seamless. The 40 button MCE remote is light, stylish, and puts the most frequently used functions under thumb. Its signals are received by a USB receiver that worked very well. The kit also includes an "IR Sensor Cable". I have to assume this meant the extra cable with two-lead stereo jack. This extra cable did not function for receiving a signal, so I believe it to be an IR emitter. If so, the emitter/blaster plugs into one of the two IR ports on the transceiver and attaches to an external device using sticky film. This would allow PVR software to change channels on the external device for viewing or recording. Sadly, the TotalMedia installation did not provide this capability so it could not be tested.