Ceton InfiniTV 4 PCIe - 4-channel Internal Cable TV Tuner Card for CableCARD
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- ** THIS MODEL HAS BEEN UPGRADED. PLEASE SEE INFINITV 6 PCIe FOR THE LATEST VERSION **
- Watch & record 4 HD cable TV channels simultaneously, including premium channels. Works with any U.S. cable TV provider.
- Brings cable TV services to the PC, enabling cable + DVR + Internet TV and more, all on one device.
- Low-profile PCIe card that also works in full-height PC cases.
- Eliminates costly set-top box lease fees and monthly DVR fees
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** THIS MODEL HAS BEEN UPGRADED. PLEASE SEE INFINITV 6 PCIe FOR THE LATEST VERSION **. The Ceton InfiniTV 4 PCIe was the world's first 4-tuner digital cable TV tuner for the PC. InfiniTV turns your PC into the ultimate set-top box and DVR. With InfiniTV on your PC, you can replace your cable set-top box and associated monthly lease and DVR fees and use Windows 7’s built-in Media Center functionality to watch and record 4 live cable TV channels at once, including HD and premium channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz! InfiniTV 4 PCIe is an internal device in the PCI Express (PCIe) form factor. If you’re looking for an external device with the same capabilities, check out the Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB model. When used with Windows Media Center Extenders like the Xbox 360, you can also stream live or recorded cable channels to other TVs in your home over your home network. Using only a single cable connection and single CableCARD from your cable operator, InfiniTV can deliver all your cable channels and full DVR capability on any TV set. Requires a compatible PC with Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate and an available PCIe slot. Requires a cable TV subscription and CableCARD from your cable operator. Windows Media Center Extender(s) required to access cable channels and recordings on secondary TV sets. IMPORTANT NOTE: Only Ceton products sold on Amazon that are listed as "Sold by Ceton" are covered by the Ceton Warranty and eligible for free support. Ceton products sold on Amazon by other sellers do not qualify.
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DVR v1.0 used an ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner. Since there are multiple people in my house, and the ATI tuner can handle only one channel at a time, the Ceton card was a welcome upgrade for DVR v2.0. The installation and configuration is straightforward and will take about 1 hour depending on your level of expertise. Here's a rough outline of the steps you'll need to follow.
1. Pickup a CableCard from your CableCo. (They may tell you a home visit is mandatory, violating an FCC directive. Read on below.)
2. Open up the PC and insert the Ceton InfiniTV card in an empty PCIx slot.
3. Insert the CableCard into the Ceton InfiniTV slot.
4. Visit the Ceton website to install the latest drivers and firmware.
5. Connect your coax cable and reboot.
6. Start Windows Media Center and follow the setup wizards. The first wizard certifies your PC as Cable Ready. The second establishes your channel lineup. Typical configuration time is about 30 minutes.
During your journey to build the perfect HTPC, there are three possible hurdles you may encounter, which are surmountable given some time, patience, and tenacity.
1. Faulty card
2. Poor signal strength
3. Reluctance from CableCo to support CableCard technology
I experienced two of these hurdles, which I'll share with you in the hopes it will bring you to a speedier resolution.
The first card I received from Ceton had a faulty OOB (Out of Band) tuner, which has been documented on several websites devoted to Windows HTPC enthusiasts. To make matters worse, when I initially explained the issue to their tech support department, they ignored my detailed analysis of the issue and sent a canned reply requesting that I jump though a bunch of time-consuming hoops that they would have realized were unnecessary had they actually read my email. After I became more assertive regarding the situation, they apologized, and overnighted a replacement card, which has been running without issue for a month. Since Ceton is a new company, I expect missteps such as these. In the end, they did the right thing and made me a happy customer. I can now record up to 4 programs simultaneously and stream those programs to any XBOX 360 in the house or any Windows 7 PC in the world. (Try doing that with the CableCo DVR!) The recorded programs look and sound great and so does live TV. The diagnostic software is useful and well organized.
As people here and elsewhere have pointed out, the CableCo's are very reluctant to support this technology, even though the FCC has directed them to. Since they will lose substantial income from your DVR rental cancellation, the sales staff will do everything in their power to talk you out of using a CableCard. Then the technician who visits your home will most likely not understand CableCard technology and know even less about Windows Media Center. In other words... they are going to make the whole process as frustrating as humanly possible and you're pretty much on your own. For example, Comcast/xFinity insisted that they had to send out a technician (even though the FCC rules say that they must allow customer self-installs). Once the technician arrived, he had no idea how to set anything up. And to add insult to injury, they wanted to charge me for the visit!
Bottom line is: Why am I paying for an untrained technician to make a home visit that according to the FCC shouldn't be necessary in the first place?
So if your CableCo tries to bully you into submission, ask to speak with a supervisor and refer the supervisor to the rules listed below:
* CableCARD fees have to be the same for everyone, no matter which package you have.
* If your cable company allows any self installs, they must allow CableCARD self-installs.
* Cable companies must support SDV for CableCARD users -- this was implied before, now it is black and white.
* By default, all new deployments must be M-Cards (unless you actually request a S-Card).
* Cable companies can include an IP interface in set-top-boxes lieu of a 1394 port.
* One way HD boxes without CableCARDs are no longer forbidden and they don't require IP interfaces.
The irony of course is that DVRs will be obsolete in 5-10 years thanks to advances in on-demand services (Internet TV in Windows Media Center, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, etc) combined with faster broadband and cellular data speeds. But for now, despite the hurdles I described, this is truly the best DVR option out there. Yes, it's a little pricey, but the money you save in DVR rental fees will pay for the card. If you can get past possible equipment failure and your CableCo's frustrating reluctance to support technology the FCC directed them to, it's all worth it in the end.
My HTPC Specs: goo.gl/dHBKr
I give the InfiniTV 4/5 since the first card was faulty and because the repair process wasn't as smooth as it could have been.
First a warning, your cable provider can really turn an install into a pain if they are imcompetent, not an unusual occurence.
I had no problem installing and getting my Ceton up and running within an hour of it being delivered. I had gone to my local Comcast store earlier in the day and picked up a cablecard. My Ceton was delivered around 2 PM. I had the tuner and cablecard paired up and activated by 3 PM, the big 82" in the living room was looking good.. Wasn't long before it was working in the bedroom on the plasma, then in my den on my work PC and finally the Notebook as well.
Comcast ufortunately managed to completely farkle my account setup details when I returned the original cablecard I had been using in my Tivo a few days later... The Tivo HD is a great device which the Ceton has sent to the showers by the way.
After returning my old cablecard to the Comcast store, the rep there had through total incompetence ended up disabling my cablecard in the Ceton at the house. Drove all the way home only to find that cable TV had stopped working properly. I had to to make another tirp back to the Comcast office again to straighten out the serial number issue. I had no idea what was going on but the phone techs at Comcast support were able to see her mistake but were not allowed/empowered to fix. So back I go to the Comcast store to argue with them for awhile before they would even consider they screwed up. Even after the billing mistake was correctd (wrong cablecard serial number, a typo by the rep supposedly, makes you wonder what is the point of using the bar code scanner to check them in and out). I drove back home thinking she had corrected the information but when I got home and reinstalled the cablecard it still would not work correctly.
This whole sequence of events was so suprising as everything had been fine just 30 mintues before I left the house yesterday to return the Tivo's old cablecard. Heck the Ceton had been running several days already. The tech I now spoke to assured me getting the serial numbers fixed on the account was all I needed to get my Ceton up and running again. I hate to beat a dead horse but the customer service rep that scanned the cards with a bar code scanner so it still eludes me how she could make a mistake on the serial numbers. The only thing I can figure is that it is Comcast I was dealing with after all.
Back home again and back on the phone again, the local Comcast tech support group could not fix the next issue, a duplicate Host ID problem, one that resulted from the mistake made on cablecard serial numbers in the Comcast store, a mistake supposedly fixed. I was about to lose it. My issue had to be escalated, the local office tried but they either did not know what they were doing or lacked the empowerment to make the necessary changes, they tried by gosh, they tried. Thank goodness I have a speakerphone.
Another team took over my case and resolved the problem the next day. Pure imcompetence on the part of the employee at the Comcast store led to all that touble, arghh! Anyway, after many phone calls, a lot of driving back and forth and a lot of standing in line at the Comcast Store I was nearly at my wits end. It is probably a good thing I am not writing a review of Comcast Customer Service as it would be scathing. There are two points I am making here, cable companies just don't seem to be able to do things right and when it comes to cablecards they are sort of deer in headlights and what is so simple in theory, can be a nighmare in practice. The Ceton is great! Good luck with that cable company of yours!
Anyway, assuming your cable company doesn't make your life completely miserable, the Ceton is a great solution, especially if you have the infrastructure to fully support it. It takes a good bit of equipment besides the PC it will reside in before the Ceton's 4 tuners are going to be taken full advantage of. Whole house video is what the Ceton really offers that is new. First you need a very good cable signal going to the Ceton otherwise the picture is going to pixelate and it will ramdomaly drop channels. Ceton provides tools for you to view your signal strenght and quality. I bought one of the Motorola Broadband Distribution Amps offered here on Amazon to bring my cable signal up to snuff. You can't run splitters willy nilly, and if you are doing it right the Ceton does the job of several boxes and you shouldn't need all those splitters reducing the signal to zero.
For reference, the same signal that made my Tivo happy was not sufficient for the Ceton with the latest firmware. Give the Ceton a top flight signal and it will lock to your cable provider's programming very well. Perhaps future firmware will allow the Ceton to work with weaker less clean signals, it really needs a good line, seriously! Tivo has had years to refine their firmware so it is not surpsing that what was good enough to make the Tivo happy is not good enough for the Ceton.
So now that you have gotten a cablecard paired up in the Ceton and solved your signal strength issues...
Okay, what do I mean by infrastructure?
Well 4 tuners is a lot, and unless you are recording every program on the dial you will probably want to share some of those tuners with either other Windows 7 PCs or with some Windows Media Extenders or maybe even a healthy mix of both. You will need to be going through HDMI to your displays big or small.
I used the Ceton Network Tuner Utility to reserve two tuners for my main HTPC, one for my main desktop pc and one for my main notebook. I also have an older HP Windows Media Extender plugged in for good measure. All of them are nicely playing any and all of the channels available though my Comcast service tier. I already had cat 5 ethernet running through my house . I also have a 1gb D-link router and plenty of 1gb switches. Gigabit (1000 mbps) is the only way to go if you are steaming lots of content around your network at the same time. That stuff is really cheap these days.
What does all this give me? I pretty much have HD cable TV in every room that matters with just a single cablecard running in the Ceton. No cable boxes, no eqipment rentals, in case you don't know the first cablecard is free. I hate paying the cable company to rent anything, I even own my cable mode, bought a Motorola right here on Amazon .. and who could ever justify putting HD Cable DVRs in every room?
With the Ceton it is not only possible to have HD Cable in every room,it is practical and if you have the infrastucture you can recoup the Ceton price in 2 years easily. I confess I had all the gear needed to make this work up and running for sometime as I had the local broadcast HD channels running into every room for a couple of years now. If it was not for Comcast, the Ceton install would have been a drop in, no muss, no fuss, cakewalk of an install for me.
Since we mentioned HD Cable boxes, let me also confess I can't stand them and that is why I have been using a Tivo HD for HD cable in my living room since 2007. The Windows Media Center Interface for DVR is much better than what is in any cable company box, better in a number of ways than even the Tivo and you can add more storage for recording whenever the fancy strikes you.
I have a very new Dell Notebook with the latest wireless technology from Intel in it. It is 802.11n but with triple streams, that means it delivers speeds up to 450mbs.. what that gives you is a notebook that handles HD Cable pretty darn well over wireless. I can be out on the patio watching HD cable TV without a network cord, if I ever get a router with the features to match the Intel Nic in the Dell,I could probably stream HD cable to more wireless devices, maybe even watch HD Cable TV streamed to my neighbor's house.
Your individual results using wireless are hard to predict, every house is different and wireless routers vary in quality immensely as do wireless nics. The newest latest Netgear top of the line router, has the hardware to fully support the speed you can get with triple steams, that new technology provides for uninterrupted rock solid HD streaming in most normal environments. But, in your house and with your existing equipment, succes in streaming HD can be stated this way, in some homes with the existing wireless gear, streaming HD works just fine, in others using even fairly new gear will only drive you crazy.
So again your mileage will vary and no promises when it comes to HD TV over wireless.
Wireless HD did not work in my house before the new Dell it worked but it needs to be close to perfect or it is really annoying. I have other notebooks with older nics, I won't even bother with them for HD wireless streaming. The Intel nic in my new Dell notebook is the latest and probably the best PC notebook wireless nic in existence today. It is only now that wirless routers are starting to catch up and support the full wireless speed and bandwith of this amazing Intel Nic. So wireless HD cable can definitely be done if you have the enviroment and your gear is good enough.
The Ceton is not cheap, but nothing else will allow me to watch HD cable in a Media Center Window in one corner of the PC's monitor I am using it to type this review on. This is happening while at the very same time my wfie is watching HD Cable in the master bedroom on the plasma. Not enough HD Cable, the HTPC is also playing a basketball game on the big set in the living room. Someone else could be watching another channel on the patio with the Dell notebook and if I had another Media Center extender (I will shortly) someone else could be sinulataneouwly watching TV in yet another bedroom all from a single Ceton InfiniTV 4 installed in my HTPC.
The Ceton is also coexisting nicely with my HD Homerun dual ATSC tuner grabbing free HDTV from the rooftop antenna. Actually the two tuners (Ceton and HD Homerun) complement each other and the integration is seamless in the Media Center Guide. If the same program is available via OTA I will always watch it from the rooftop antenna, the picture is frankly better. Now that is not due to some limitation of the Ceton. It is just because the cable companies compress the signal to run more channels over the wire, they sacrifice piture quality to do this. Theorectically, there could be six different HDTV shows in action at my houese at the same time using the Ceton and HD Homerun dual ATSC tuners I have on tap. I actually have another HD Homerun sitting on the table over here. I just don't need that many tuners going at the same time.
So if you have the PCs, have the network wiring in place, verified the cable signal strength and maybe even have some Media Center Extender(s) then you can do with the Ceton what has been a practical impossiblity until now, which is HD cable TV viewed throughout your house with just a free cablecard and no cableboxes, sure you still have a cable bill but no rentals and no sluggish hot piles of iron sitting on top of your TV to curse at. Bigger houses with more rooms and more TVs, just add more Cetons and more Win 7 PCs and or Win Media Center Extenders, one Windows Media Center PC supports a bunch of Media Cetner Extenders, I think the number is like 10 extenders for each Win 7 PC. Most people are using Xbox 360s as their Media Center Extenders, the new slim ones are nice and word is the price is going to drop shortly.
If you don't want to use the Ceton at full capacity, you could choose to use the Ceton to watch and record shows for only one TV/display. But to me that is like somebody commuting all by himself to work in a big yellow school bus.
Reading the reviews is a crap shoot. Some people love it, some people hate it. Seeing how this would save me tons of money by returning the cable tv box/dvr, I ordered it and have to say I love it. Everything was installed and running within 45 minutes. My experience with Time Warner and pairing the card was very easy and smooth. Both tv's and my computer display fantastic HD programming. I also purchased a dedicated 1TB HD for DVR purposes. Hundreds of hours of tv can be recorded from either one of the tv's plus you can pause live tv, fast forward and rewind just like the cable box. It's Awesome!
If your a current cable subscriber and meet the requirements of this tuner card it's a no brainer to drop the cable box and start saving money the day you have this installed.