Free HDTV on Your PC
HDTV (high definition television) is the wave of the future. Right now many television stations are transitioning to Hi Def, and if you are an avid TV watcher, then you'll want to make this transition as well. But if you don't have a fancy new HDTV, you can still get free HDTV on your PC. Here's how...
What is HDTV?
Although some TV stations are beginning to broadcast in High Definition, most TV signals are still Standard Definition, with a screen resolution of about 480x330 pixels. That's lower than the old VGA computer screens we tossed out 15 years ago. And that's why Standard Definition TV pictures look so grainy, especially on a large screen. HDTV broadcasts can be transmitted at up to 1920x1080 pixels, so the picture is astonishingly clear by comparison.
Oh, and don't make the mistake of confusing "Digital TV" with HDTV. Television broadcasts can be transmitted in either analog or digital form. An analog broadcast can be either Standard or HD. A digital broadcast can be either Standard or HD. Simply put, digital does NOT imply High Definition. And finally, you DON'T need to have cable or satellite service to get HDTV broadcasts. An HDTV signal can be broadcast over the public airwaves, either in analog or digital format.
The FCC has mandated that all U.S. television broadcasts must transition from analog to digital by February 2009, so at least one confusing factor will be removed by then. (See Goodbye to Analog TV for details on that.) But even in the all-digital television world of the near future, we'll still have both Standard and High Definition broadcasts.
HDTV Tuners For PC
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled topic: Free HDTV on your PC… One way that you can do this is to set up your PC to receive and play free over-the-air HDTV signals by installing an HDTV tuner.
An HDTV tuner is a digital TV signal receiver that is connected to your personal computer. These tuners range in price from about $50 to several hundred dollars, and can be connected via an internal adapter card or an external USB port. External tuners are the easiest to connect to your computer, however, they tend to not offer as many features as the internal tuners do.
When selecting an HDTV tuner you will want to examine four things: (1) its costs, (2) processor utilization, (3) what types of signals it is capable of receiving and decoding and (4) how the tuner deals with multi-path and weak signals.
Some of the top rated HDTV tuners include the Vbox Cat's Eye 150 ($80, Internal), the Fusion RT Gold ($160, Internal), OnAir HDTV GT ($180, USB) and the WinTV HVR-950 ($100, USB). This HDTV Tuner Chart is a good starting point to compare features and prices.
Before installing either an internal or an external HDTV tuner, you will want to make sure your computer is set up to handle the processing, picture, sound and memory requirements of running HDTV on your PC. Most HDTV tuners have relatively modest requirements, such as a Pentium (or compatible) processor running at 1.6 MHz or greater, at least 128 MB memory, and a 64 MB Graphics card. To ensure that your computer will be compatible with your tuner you should read the tuner's user guide and see what hardware is recommended.
Installing an External HDTV Tuner
If your computer is capable of handling an HDTV tuner, you're ready to install. For external HDTV tuners this will generally include installing the software provided, connecting your aerial antenna to the tuner and plugging your HDTV tuner into a USB 2.0 slot. If you want to record HDTV to a disc, then you will also need to install DVD recording and burning software, such as Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 or Nero 7 Ultra Edition. Oh, and a DVD-R drive is very helpful too. :-)
Installing an Internal HDTV Tuner
If you don't want to deal with external tuner clutter, you can install an internal tuner instead. Internal HDTV tuners are fairly easy to install. After cracking open the system unit, just plug it into an open PCI slot, connect a few cables and you're all set. Just be sure to read the instructions so you'll know the correct order of steps that you will need to take to install your HDTV tuner card, drivers and its supporting software.
Keep in mind that the tuner card is designed to only receive signals. If you want to record HDTV programs on your PC then you will also need DVD recording and burning software and a DVD-R drive.
Finding Free HDTV Signals
HDTV is becoming more prevalent (especially for sports), but it's still not what I'd call commonplace. Some stations have begun to broadcast in Hi-Def, at least for some of their programming. This is good news for you, because it means that you have a good chance of being able to receive free over-the-air HDTV signals from your local broadcasting stations. To learn which stations broadcast in HDTV, check your local television listings or go to websites that list HDTV stations like TitanTV.
To sum it up, if you want to watch free over-the-air HDTV programs on your PC then you will need to install an HDTV tuner. These tuners are fairly easy to install, however, it is important that you select a tuner that will work with your computer and your operating system. Finally, before trying to install your HDTV tuner, make sure you read the instructions that come along with the tuner and follow them closely. Do you have an HDTV tuner for your PC? Tell us about your experience by posting a comment below.
Posted by Bob Rankin on 27 Nov 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free HDTV on Your PC (Posted: 27 Nov 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved