[mythtv-users] TV tuner cards - low cost recommendations?

Bruce Markey bjm at lvcm.com
Sun Feb 25 21:13:19 UTC 2007

I'd like to offer another perspective so this thread doesn't
get too far off track.

Mitchell Gore wrote:
> IMHO if you are short on cash save up and get a hardware encoder.  Frame 
> grabbers are cheaper but you get what you pay for.  The quality is much 
> better with hardware, 

This is a common misconception that I rarely bother commenting
on but this is not true. Software encoding is capable of giving
better results than the wrapper around the dll for these aging
MPEG2 chips. It has to. You have more control over the features
of the capture chip through the bttv driver, you can apply any
software filters before compression and the compression can be
MPEG4 which is more efficient space-wise and has a better over
all texture after decoding.

> they are easier to install (mainly because of more support/scene support)

I don't think this is true either. The bttv driver is complete
and has been stable since April 21st, 2004. It's pretty much
plug and play. One issue that can trip people up is setting
ALSA for audio capture but after that it just works. Ivtv
has lots of gotchas which traditionally is why there is more
discussion per capita of how to overcome its problems. Ivtv
is a moving target and new issues continue to crop up.

Recently there have been different versions for each sub-revision
of the kernel, a change in input names that tripped up myth users,
a change in where firmware was stored, renaming the control tool
and changing it's args, modules that had been included in with the
driver software disappear and now need to be configured and built
with the kernel, multiple gotchas with VBI, and this month new
firmware and procedure for obtaining and installing. There have
always issues with ghosting and broken frames and now the
suggestion that you should only record at the maximum resolution.

OTOH bttv driver installation just works, same as it has for years,
for any of the bttv cards you might buy and bring home. Which leads
to the next issue...

> support/scene support)  I promise you wont ever regret the extra 30-40 
> you spend for a PVR-150.

Promises, promises =). This is actually the source of a lot of
heartache and regret these days. When you open up a box marked
PVR-150, the card inside may turn out to be marked HVR-1600.
Not only is this not supported by ivtv but the expectation is
that it will never be supported. These should be returned, of
course, but then how can you be sure a replacement PVR-150 box
will actually have a PVR-150 inside?

I'm not saying that people should not use ivtv cards but I do
want to keep some balance. I've had a PVR-250 since before
the ivtv driver project was started and I've used, developed
for and tested both bttv and ivtv cards all along. I've spent
a lot of time tweaking and experimenting and I know that I'm
happier with the MPEG4 recordings from my software encoders.

There are pros and cons for each kind of card and it's driver
and recording analog TV pales in comparison to receiving digital
data. However, for recording analog TV, there has never been
a day when I honestly believed that ivtv cards were a better
solution than recording with bttv cards.

--  bjm

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