December 17, 2004
Review: AverMedia UltraTV 1500MCE
Competition is a great thing for consumers and good example of this is the battle being waged in the video capture card market. Both Hauppauge and AverMedia have released sub-$100 MPEG2 Encoder cards to the market this year, and at a $70 street price, the Hauppauge 150MCE and the AverMedia UltraTV 1500MCE both give the consumer a lot of bang for their buck. I had a chance to try the AverMedia UltraTV 1500MCE, and I found it to be a great value.
One thing every builder of a DVR system should look for in capture cards these days is MPEG2 encoding built directly on the board, reducing the CPU processing necessary to record a video stream. With the introduction of entry level MPEG 2 encoder cards, it's definitely worth the price differential to purchase a card with MPEG2 encoding. The AverMedia 1500MCE and the Hauppauge PVR150MCE are both worthy of consideration.
The AverMedia UltraTV 1500MCE comes with both video capture as well as FM radio. Inputs on the card include both a NTSC connector, a FM receiver connector, S-Video, and right and left stereo inputs. The 1500MCE does not include a component Video-in, so you'll end up buying an adaptor cable if this is needed for your setup. Neither the PVR150MCE nor the 1500MCE include a remote control as part of their entry level offerings.
Installing the AverMedia UltraTV 1500MCE was straightforward and uneventful, always a good thing for hardware installation. It is compatible with both Microsoft's Media Center Edition 2005 as well as the standard Windows XP operating system. The 1500MCE integrated seamlessly with MCE 2005 without any additional configuration, and as soon as the drivers were installed, MCE recognized the card and worked flawlessly. Unlike the PVR150MCE, AverMedia adds some bundled software for Windows XP called UltraTV to view and timeshift live television.
I did have problems using both the AverMedia and Hauppauge cards on the same system, the result of which was somewhat mysterious to me. They worked fine when both were installed under MCE 2005, making our MCE 2005 test system a nice low cost, 2 tuner DVR. However under Windows XP Home, the two cards refused to work together using the same computer, PCI slots, and installing them in the same sequence in the two configuratios. If a multiple tuner DVR is what you desire, I would consider sticking with the same brand (caveat: I didn't have two identical cards to try so this is an assumption) rather than mixing and matching.
The UltraTV software is functional for viewing television from a computer, but not on the order of other DVR systems like SageTV or BeyondTV. The electronic program guide is simply a link to TitanTV and scheduling requires manually typing in each show. For watching television, including pausing live television, it does a good enough job, but you'll soon start looking for better software if you want a true DVR solution.
From what I gather via Google, both SageTV and Microsoft MCE 2005 both support the AverMedia 1500MCE card, and I'm sure other software DVR products will likely either announce compatibility or add it in the near future. I would check with your favorite DVR package before purchase, but other AverMedia products are well supported so this one can't be far behind.
The quality of this card is quite good. It includes some de-interlace technology called V-Sharp that appears to do a good job of rendering and capturing interlaced video. Here's a head to head comparison between the AverMedia 1500MCE vs. the Hauppauge PVR150MCE and both cards do an admirable job of capturing video:
Aver Media UltraTV 1500MCE
Overall, I found the AverMedia 1500MCE a good value for the money. I give a lot of kudos to Avermedia for lowering the cost of building a DVR system by introducing a $70 card that does a good job of capturing video. The AverMedia 1500MCE is a solid performer with a lot to like, and with the its low price, it is pretty hard to beat.
Posted on December 17, 2004
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