I’m a big fan of Microsoft’s Media Center and have been using it since the Windows XP Media Center days. Back with XP Media Center, I had setup the Hauppauge tuners and with the help of some registry edits, I was able to setup a nice recording server of TV programs. HD programming has become bigger and bigger lately but to be able to record those digital stations that are encrypted, you had to use the cable companies’ set top box or buy a pre-built Media Center computer with a cable card tuner.
Recently, that restriction has been lifted where you can purchase your own cable card tuner and build your own HTPC now. I think it’s long overdue but I’m glad to see that anyone can pick one up now without having to go through an OEM for a pre-built machine. One of my TVs actually has a slot for a cable card and I’ve been using it along with my set top box so I could watch one digital or HD channel while recording two others. Right now, I have my Windows 7 Media Center with two Hauppauge tuners that allows me to record up to four analog streams or two clear QAM digital streams and two analog streams. My dream though is to have my Windows 7 Media Center machine be able to record any digital or HD station from my cable company and server it around my house through extenders or Orb.
Ceton is a brand new company that’s looking to make a big, big splash in the multimedia realm with their Digital Cable Quad-Tuner
card. Paired with a multi-stream cable card from your local cable company, you’ll be able to watch and record up to four different streams of television goodness. Yes, this is the product that’s going to fulfill my dreams of having one nice Media Center server that I can tie into from various parts of the house.
The Digital Cable Quad-Tuner takes up one PCI-e slot and has to be paired up with an HDCP capable video card along with a variant of Windows 7 operation system. Other minimum requirements are 3GB of ram along with a 2.0GHz or faster dual core CPU. All the video processing and DRM encoding is done onboard so it alleviates some of the CPU usage. Once installed and setup, you should be able to grab the best quality video from the various digital stations you have access to through your local cable company.
My one hesitation is that is you’ll need Windows 7 to use this product. I know those that use other programs such as MythTV, SageTV, or LinuxMCE will be out of luck for now and I don’t know if there are any plans to support any other OS besides Windows 7 now and in the near future. While my case calls for Windows 7 as the OS of choice for support, I hope that other options became available in the future as well.
The card was shown at CES 2010 and while I didn’t get a chance to speak with anyone about it at the show, you can see the video from Channel 9 below for more information. Availability is looking like sometime before the end of March 2010 so let’s hope Ceton keeps that time frame. I know I’ll be in line to pick one up as soon as it’s available as well as offer a review on the product.