As a long time Windows Media Center user, the holy grail of TV viewing for me was the ability to watch and record digital cable signals. Many companies produce analog tuners and there are a few that can capture ClearQAM such as the Hauppauge HVR-2250 that I reviewed a few months ago. But, to really utilize the Media Center to its full potential, the ability to timeshift or capture all channels would be the ideal setup. While we had OEMs selling HTPCs with ATI Cable Card tuners, there wasn’t the ability to build your own HTPC from the parts you like and stick a cable card tuner in there for you to use. That is, until now.
That reality is finally here with the Ceton InfiniTV 4 card allowing me to use my Windows 7 Media Center setup that I built from various parts I had laying around to watch and capture all the cable channels I subscribed to. That means, any HD channel or premium channel was available for me to watch on my home built HTPC, something until recently wasn’t possible.
The InfiniTV 4 is a PCI-E card that fits into any PCI-E slot and accepts a multi-stream cable card. Up to four streams can be used at once with the InfiniTV 4 so this card should fill the needs of most households. My old setup contained two dual Hauppauge tuner cards to make sure I had enough available streams to watch or record without getting the dreaded all tuners are in use message. With the InifiniTV 4 card, you can utilize the maximum number of digital tuners that Windows 7 allows. In reality, you can up the tuner support to 8 for each kind with a software like Tuner Salad
, but for all normal purposes, 4 is the maximum you can use.
While most tuner cards have you plug the coaxial cable into the card itself, the InifiniTV 4 comes with an extension cable that plugs into the card and then you plug the coaxial cable into that. I, personally, like this setup more as I’ve had a card or two get loose plugs because of the stress that can be put on them. With this setup, if the coaxial cable somehow causes stress, it should pop out of the card minimizing the damage to it.
Installation was pretty easy for me but I’ve heard of some horror stories depending on your cable company. I get my cable through Wide Open West and they’ve been top notch in terms of support and overall customer service. I plugged the InfiniTV4 card into my brand new setup consisting of an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU with 4GB of ram and an older ECS NForce-2 based PN2 SLI+ motherboard. I made sure I plugged the multi-stream cable card provider by Wide Open West correctly as you can plug the card in either orientation so make sure you have it situated right before pushing the card into the pins of the InfiniTV 4. After some driver installations, I ran the setup portion of my Windows Media Center and got to the point where I had to call my cable provider to pair the card up by providing the IDs that were on the screen to them. A few minutes with the customer service rep and I was good to go. Like I said, pretty painless for me but your experience may vary depending on your cable provider.
After scanning through the channels, I was presented with a glorious amount of options to watch, many I never had available before with my HVR-2250 card in play. There was every single HD channel I subscribed to in the guide as well as some premium stations such as Starz and even digital radio stations that my cable company gives us. It was a beautiful sight and I can’t tell you how happy I was the first time I scrolled to the HD broadcast of ESPN, pressed OK on my remote, and saw it being displayed on my TV via my HTPC.
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