CableCARD Compatible Tuners for PCs Introduced at CES

People wanting to build or install a home theater PC system have many options for analog cable or off-air digital TV reception, but there have been few options available, other than remotely controlling a set-top box for reception of encrypted digital cable programming. At CES2007, several companies showed PC tuners that were able to accept CableCARDs, allowing reception of encrypted digital cable programming.

ATI showed an external USB 2.0 "TV Wonder" receiver that accepts a CableCARD. Though when compared with off-air DTV, functionality is limited. The ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner only works with new computers equipped with Windows Vista Media Center, and it isn't possible to burn recorded programs onto a DVD or even copy them to a portable media player.

Consumers looking for a packaged solution have a new option--the Sony Vaio XL3. It includes an ATSC tuner for off-air DTV reception and CableCARD functionality for viewing encrypted digital cable programming. The Vaio XL3 can play back Blue-Ray discs.

While neither the Sony or ATI products support interactive digital cable functions, LG Electronics' 42-inch OpenCable plasma HDTV set features built in digital cable technology, to allow viewing of video-on-demand and pay-per-view programming without the use of a set-top box. The set, which has received CableLabs certification, supports the multistream CableCARD (M-Card) system. Choon Lee, LG Electronics vice president and head of the LG DTV Laboratory said, "We now have advanced devices capable of receiving and displaying advanced cable services such as program guides and video-on-demand without requiring separate cable STBs. In parallel with on-going inter-industry standardization efforts, we will continue working with the cable industry to commercialize this platform."

Hauppauge showed its WinTV-HVR-1500, a 54 mm ExpressCard TV tuner supporting analog and HDTV reception. The HVR-1500 provides a way to watch TV on a laptop without an external USB device. Hauppauge had two products with dual NTSC and ATSC tuners. The dual tuners allow watching an analog channel while recording a digital one. The HVR-1600 comes on a single full-height PCI board, while the HVR-1800 uses a half-height PCI Express board. These products are designed to work with Windows Vista Media Center.