FloppyDTV HDTV Receiver PC Card , Most up-to-date HDTV satellite receiver come with Ethernet or USB 2.0 interfaces that allow transferring recorded events to a PC for post editing and storing recording on a portable storage medium (DVD etc.). However, most of these receivers regard satellite reception as their prime business and thus do not put much effort into making interfaces very fast.
Have you ever looked at the size a movie length HDTV recording requires on the integrated hard disk of a tv satellite receiver? You might be surprised to findoutthat10 GB is about the norm. So wouldn’t it be convenient if recorded TV or radio events could be transferred to the PC in a fast and hassle-free way? And if you consider that most PCs are connected to high resolution LCD monitors while the TV sets in living rooms still have a long way to go before being 100% flatscreen it comes as no sur-prise that DVB Shop decided to add the FloppyDTV card/ FireDTV box to its product range. While all electronic components are fixed on to a single board in both prod-ucts, data transfer as such does not take place via PCI or PCI-e but via FireWire. With this, end users have the added benefit of being able to choose either an internal or external model of this product.The external version is called FireDTV and comes as a small box with all necessary ports being located on one side.The internal version bears the name FloppyDTV and can simply be plugged into an available PCI dss or compliance PCI -e slot.
What unites both models is their FireWire interface for data transfer. Some readers may ask FireWire? at this point. Well, contrary to USB 2.0, FireWire can maintain a specified minimum transfer rate, which is a particular bonus when it comes to high resolution video. While in theory, USB 2.0 can reach slightly higher transfer rates, most real-world scenarios prove that FireWire has the leading edge.
Apart from that, most modern PC systems these days come with a FireWire interface anyway, and even if you should find out your particular PC doesn’t, you can always add a FireWire interface and it won’t cost you a fortune.
As it turns out, DVBShop made a smart move with focusing on FireWire, even more so as this type of interface has been gaining ground in the home video segment for many years now anyway.
DVBShop sent us the internal model for our test the FloppyDTV. It can easily be slotted into any PCI dss compliance PCI e port and draws its power directly from the PC’s internal power supply. All you need to do is connect the supplied power cord to one of the 4-pin power sockets that are also used to power hard disks, DVD drives and so on.
The outward facing side of the card features the tuner connection as well as slightly below a CI slot that can take any standard module for conditional access systems like Irdeto, Seca,Viaccess, Conax, Cryptoworks, Nagravision and so on. The FireWire interface required for data transfer is located directly on the printed circuit board of the FloppyDTV and cannot be accessed from the outside.This means the card needs to be connected to one of the PC’s internal FireWire ports. In case such an internal port is not available,the FloppyDTV package includes a second slot sheet that can be used to guide the FireWire cable to the outside and then connect it to one of the regular FireWire ports of the PC.The manufacturer can even supply a suitable adapter kit to install the card into a 3.5 inch hard disk slot,but this device is not included as standard.
DVBShop ships three versions of the FloppyDTV card: DVB-S/2, DVB-C and DVB-T. It’s a pity that the card is not designed for swapping tuners because the tuner is permanently soldered onto the printed circuit board. A tuner that could easily be changed even by users with only moderate technical skills would provide some wonderful icing on the cake.
If you’re looking for an impressive demonstration of how Plug&Play is supposed to work you’ve come to the right place. Simply identify an available PCI dss or compliance PCI e slot and insert the card. Indentations for both slot types are provided or you may also choose to simply detach the bracket that is not required to make sure the card firmly sits in place. Usually you will also easily find an unused power connector and be able to con-nect the card to an internal FireWire port. And that’s it!
The manufacturer ships this product with a handy step-by-step installation guide.The minimum system requirements are Pentium IV 1.5 GHz or Athlon XP+ 200 for SDTV and Pentium IV 3.5 GHz or Athlon XP+ 3500 with a DXVA/H.264 compatible graphics board for HDTV. Both the Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems are supported, the latter with 32bit as well as 64bit.
Apart from the provided FireDTV Viewer you may also comuse the card in combination with the Windows Media Center (only with Windows Vista and Windows MCE 2005). As unfortunately the Windows Media Center does not support HDTV with H.264 we decided right at the start to use the in-house software solution provided by the manufacturer.
Installation was completed in a breeze, and we also did not encounter any difficulties installing all required drivers on our test PC which is equipped with Intel Core2Duo 1.8 GHz,2 GB RAM, Nvidia Geforce graphics board and Windows Vista. A few min-utes was all it took to get ready for HDTV on the PC.
Even at first sight the FireDTV Viewer impresses with its sleek, cleverly laid out and easy to use appearance.The manufacturer went at great lengths to avoid overpowering users with a main screen that is full of buttons, features and adjustment options. Thanks to this strategy even absolute beginners will not be overwhelmed by an endless variety of settings and thus should be able to use the software after only a short while.
The main window displays the selected TV channel in presentation mode (full screen) or any desired size. Only when the mouse cursor is moved to the outer right section of the window does a channel list pop up. This way no valuable space is wasted by a permanent channel list display.
The control bar is located at the lowest end of the FireDTV Viewer and can be used to control the viewer. Altogether it boasts eleven buttons, which are (from left to right): play/pause, record, timer, previous channel, search, one chan-nel down, one channel up, volume, mute, teletext and EPG. Above the control bar a second bar indicates the cur-rent position during playback. It can also be used to move to another position thanks to time shifting during playback and recording. There are no dedicated buttons for fast forward and fast rewind, but thanks to the time shift bar this is no real loss.
Once the installation process is finished the software is ready to perform its first channel scan. The FireDTV Viewer comes with a pre-stored list of 153 European, Asian and American satellite positions which is quite up-to-date and well sorted. Any required LOF can be used which means that the good old C band is supported just as well as signals from the exotic S band.
DiSEqC 1.0, 1.2 and 1.3 are available if your set-up includes more than one LNB and make the software compatible with small dual-feed antennas as well as motorised dishes. Only those relying on DiSEqC 1.1 (frequently used in combination with multifocus antennas) are left standing in the rain, as the software currently is unable to work with such systems. In the end, however, the manufacturer would be able to rectify this glitch with a simple software update.
The pre-stored transponder list allows performing a channel scan either across the full frequency range of a satellite or for a restricted range. Alternatively,a single transponder can be chosen for a scan as well. Each scan result is saved separately with an individual time stamp by the software and it is even possible to decide whether the result should be added to an existing list or stored separately. In case you don’t use a conditional access module it is of course perfectly possible to restrict any search to free-to-air channels only. We tested the software with HOTBIRD 13° East with its 100+ transponders and were surprised it took only 4:20 minutes to findmorethan 1500 TV and radio channels, which is quite an achievement.
Now that the channel list is Broadband fill edit is worth while looking at the settings menu:Here you can choose your favourite OSD language (German,English and Italian are currently available),the directory for recordings and the time shift buffer, you can define whether recordings exceeding a certain size should be divided into several files and select the used hardware components. Even a dedicated codec can be selected manually for each supported output format, unless you decide to let the FireDTV Viewer take care of this by activating the ‘auto’ mode.
Whenever you tune into a new channel the software displays an info bar in the lower screen area. It shows EPG information relating to the current event if the channel provides this data. Switching channels takes approximately one second, which is fairly impressive for a PCI dss compliance solution.
The channel list that pops up in the right screen area can easily be sorted, edited and adjusted to personal preferences. You can sort and display channels alphabetically,according to providers,frequency or satellite and you can blank out either TV, radio or encrypted channels.
Channels you never watch can be deleted while channels you watch on a regular basis can be moved into a favourites list. Another feature we really appreciated is the search mode which you can use to find even channels that are hidden way down the channel list.
Simply press the EPG button in the status bar to open the cleverly laid out EPG that displays information for up to a week in advance, if provided for the selected channel. Naturally you can mark EPG entries for record-ing with a simple touch of a button we would not have expected anything less for a premium product anyway.
In case no EPG data are available for certain channels it is of course just as well possible to create manual timer entries or edit existing entries through a dedicated timer menu. The integrated teletext decoder rounds off the fine overall impression of the FireDTV Viewer. Like all other features, it performed flawlessly during our test.
TELE-satellite tests the reception capabilities of all receivers that make it to our lab, and the FireDTV was no exception. It performed well and was able to also pull in weaker signals from NILESAT 7° West or EXPRESS AM1 40° East with ease. The tuner also did a good job with SCPC signals and created a steady signal with symbol rates of 2 MS/s and above. Only when the symbol rate was just 1 MS/s from EUTELSAT SESAT 36° East did the FloppyDTV not pass the test.
H.264 HDTV reception was not a problem with our test PC and we were able to run other applications next to the TV window without notice-able limitations. But what about older systems?
We stumbled across an old Pentium IV PC in our base-ment and revived it to check how the FloppyDTV works with less state of-the-art PC hardware.The result was far better than what we had anticipated:While it came as no surprise that SDTV reception worked brilliantly, we found that even HDTV reception was possible,albeit with some frozen frames every once in a while and no way of working with other applications simultaneously as the processor was really pushed to the limits with HDTV viewing.
This proved once more that HDTV for PCs require an enormous amount of processing power as well as an equally capable graphics board. Thanks to decreasing prices for hardware components and technological progress, however,most modern home PCs can be expected to meet these requirements and should be a perfect match for the FloppyDTV HDTV Receiver PC Card.