Leadtek Winfast TV2000 XP Deluxe
Since the birth of the transistor, computers have grown to dominate most of our lives. Nowadays, computers can do just about anything, besides make us eggs and toast in the morning. Hopefully, breakfast-making technology is just over the horizon, but for now we’ll have to settle with making our own food.
So what other tasks can computers do? Well, they have already stolen the typewriter’s job, the Day-Runner’s job, part of the USPS’s job, and now they are in the process of stealing the console game system’s job. Yet they still haven’t scared off their biggest household competitor – the TV. Or have they?
The Next TV?
Many companies have already taken a stab at upgrading the computer to a household TV, but very few have succeeded. Leadtek, however, might be the first company to achieve this with its pinnacle performer, the WinFast TV2000 XP – Deluxe Edition.
Aside from packaging a card that boasts a solid performance, Leadtek provides an FM tuner, allowing the capability of recording either TV or radio. In addition, Leadtek doesn’t shy away from its software bundle. It bundles Ulead’s Video Studio 6 SE DVD and Cool 3D SE along with its TV-tuner application. Generally, the supplementary software set that Leadtek packages with its products is lacking, but this time it is more than adequate.
Leadtek also provides an S-Video and composite adapter for those who want to capture video from a camcorder or some other source. In addition, Leadtek includes an IR sensor to go along with a sleek remote. The only problem I encountered with this was finding a place to mount the IR sensor. Even though it’s small, it didn’t look too good dangling on the side of my desk, so I just put it next to my monitor.
Setting up the card was as easy as installing any other PCI card. I simply popped in the card, plugged in the necessary cables, and turned on my computer. There was no difficulty installing the drivers and software, and it was to my delight that the remote worked flawlessly, with no extra configurations to be set.
As a TV-tuner, the card’s quality rivaled that of ATI’s All-In-Wonder series. However, as a Personal Video Recorder (PVR), the card’s software let me down. Don’t get me wrong, the software is very fast and has basic functions that are easy to use. However, it can be difficult to record programs with. If you’re an expert at programming a normal VCR, recording won’t be a problem; you’ll just need to set the time and channel then walk away. But if you’ve previously owned a different TV-tuner card with software that uses program listings, or if you’re accustomed to using TiVo, programming the TV2000 XP will give you a headache, since there is no software for channel listings. Fortunately, Leadtek won’t leave you high and dry. It provides a direct link from its TV-tuner software to TitanTV.com, which provides many of the same services that TiVo does.
The tuner software compensates for its inadequacy by providing a wide spectrum of recording formats. Leadtek’s capture software pilots the future of PVRs by supporting numerous codec formats including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV, VCD, and DVD video and audio formats, which include MP3 and WMA. Most of these formats are standard on other PVR software, but Leadtek raises the bar by adding its support for MPEG-4 encoding and decoding – a practice only used among pioneering TV-tuner software.
Although some of the bigger names in TV-tuning don’t provide MPEG-4, they do provide better performance while encoding. Leadtek’s card suffered in performance due to its lack of an onboard encoder, which most high-end TV-tuners integrate. The TV2000 XP stole a staggering 44% of my CPU power while recording a video at the highest quality.
True Multimedia System
In time, computers will perform just about anything we need. In fact, Microsoft recently released its new Windows XP Media Center Edition, which caters to all the frills of a real TiVo bundled with a computer. This can definitely scare away some TVs in the house, but only at an extreme cost. Each PC with integrated MCE will cost around $2,000. However, there are many alternatives to this, one being Leadtek’s TV2000 XP, which runs for only $60. With Leadtek’s high quality and reliability, it’s hard to go wrong with this card. Leadtek bundles everything you need to make your computer a true multimedia system.