on February 12, 2012
Overall Rating: Outstanding
Out of the box and playing TV in 50 minutes, 10 to install the card, 20 on the phone with Comcast, and 20 minutes installing and configuring the software with Windows Media Center(WMC). Once Activated it picked up my local Cable TV guide in minutes and was ready to go. I had no issue on my PC recording 4 shows at once, just picked them off the TV guide and said record.
The picture on both HD and Standard Definition is outstanding, same for the Audio, channel changing is blazingly fast compared to most cable boxes. This offers the ultimate "guy" channel surfing environment, you can pick up to 4 shows to flip between, and because they are all recording when you flip back to a show you can go back and catch what you missed while on another channel. The premium Channels take a little longer to sync up but still faster than the cable box.
I could not be happier, worked first time out of the box and the performance is great, I was also surprised that it is pretty easy on the PC. I replaced a WinTV board that needed the Cable box to work and used and IR blaster to change channels which is somewhat unreliable, one of the other highpoints is that this never makes a bad channel change.
I knew going in that it can't do Pay-Per-View(PPV) or any Interactive cable TV (ITV) content. So if you use your cable company PPV and other interactive content, then you will want to keep your cable box.
Complexity Ratings: (1=- What is a PC? 5 = Average User 10 = Super Geek... )
Hardware = 6 - Only because of the board install, it is easy but many folks have never installed hardware so I gave it a 6.
Software No Issues = 6 - Need the ability to be able download and install software from Ceton. (May need to update your video drivers as well.)
Software With Issues = 8-9 -- There is a lot in the mix, Video Card Drivers, Ceton Card Drivers, CableCard, your Cable Company, your PC, and WMC in the mix. This means no one place can or will take accountability for this to work, each will help, but only to ensure their thing works, not that they all work together. If things go wrong the average user will likely struggle a lot and may need someone to come to their house since it is hard linked to your cable service and must be activated from your cable in your house. Given all of this if things go wrong it will take a lot of time or well above average PC skills to fix or both. (I know, I have helped people fix theirs with other boards)
- 4 Cable-Ready Tuners, unscrambles your cable signal just like a cable box.
- Ability to share the tuner on multiple PC's and Media Extenders (Software for this is included)
- 100% reliable WMC channel changes (IR Blasters with external cable boxes can be very unreliable)
- No more IR Blasters getting the channel wrong on your cable box
- Faster channel change (twice as fast as my cable box, better for channel surfing)
- Great HD picture and sound
- Great Diag Tools (Makes activation with your cable company a lot easier, you can see when they activate your card properly)
- Total time from the box to recording 4 channels, including activation from Comcast, 50 minutes, 20 minutes was on the phone with ComCast, I got lucky and had a somewhat savvy person.
- WMC DVR, record 4 channels at once and watch any given show, or flip between them.
- While I have a pretty beefy PC I can see it is not really taxing the system at all, about 10% CPU recording 4 HD channels at once, the HD was going pretty good with 4 HD shows recording, about 70% of write capacity, 4% of read.
- Install Documentation (Detailed version) is very good, some of the best I have seen, available in PDF from their site.
- Integration with WMC is outstanding, totally transparent.
- No connection for an IR receiver, means you need to buy a WMC compatible IR Remote and receiver if you want TV like remote control (available here for about 20 bucks)
- No ability to get Pay-Per-View or any Interactive Cable Company content, just regular and premium channels.
- Note: This is not an issue with the Ceton, none of the TV cards I am aware of are Tru2Way and work with cable interactive content, this is by nature of the cable company menu's that they refuse to load into PC cards yet, only official cable boxes.
- Content management, recording off the back of a regular cable box allows you to record whatever you can see, with the cable card tuner, if the content provider does not want you to record the show they can secure it and WMC will not allow you to record it. So far I have not been blocked. You can see in WMC if the content record blocking is on for any show but only when you try to record it.
- Start-Up lag of up to a minute or two the first time you watch live tv after the PC has been shut-down, restarted, hibernated, and in sleep, make sure to set-it to fire up at least 2 minute prior to scheduled recording if that is the first recording since you started your PC.
- If you want Pay-Per-View and other interactive content you need to keep your cable box, so no cost save (still worth as the cable card is only $1.50/Mo)
HP Pavillion HPE PC, Intel i7 Extreme (6 Core, 3.46GHz), 16GB RAM, GeForce GT 440 (3GB), 2TB dedicated SATA disk, 2 HP 2310e WLED WS/HD monitors (DVI & HDMI), AirSyncHD Wireless HDMI, HDMI Auto-Switch, Win7 Ultimate 64-bit, Logitech Wireless keyboard/mouse, WMC IR Remote control, ComCast (Digital HD package), M-Card CableCard from ComCast.
Pre-Requisites: (Doing these will make the install as smooth as possible, but only Step 3 absolutely required upfront)
1. Back-Up your system, ideally a full system back-up that you know you can restore (just a good precaution given how much is done in this process)
2. Open WMC and go to Extra's Gallery and make sure you have the "Digital Cable Advisor", if your PC shipped with a TV card installed the vendor may have removed this. If it is not there then you can download it at: (For Win7)
32-bit* - [...]
64-bit* - [...]
* -- Win7 will not let you install the wrong one
You need to run it directly from the link, don't pick "Save" and try to run it locally it will not work.
You will not be able to use the TV if you don't run the Digital Cable Advisor. This information is in the Detailed Instructions.
3. Get the CableCard from your cable provider. I got mine from ComCast in and it was a breeze, was in and out of the office in 15 minutes. I did follow the advice of the Comcast sales guy to be there when the doors open, they have a limited supply and it is first come, first serve, I lucked out, they had one. The rep knew exactly what I was talking about. (Bring your last bill, it speeds things up a lot, they told me that also before I had gone in.)
4. Make sure your video drivers are up to date, if you have a Nvidia GeForce you may need to go D/L the latest beta set, there is a known bug in some of the drivers. See the Ceton Support page for more information: [...]
5 Cable that reaches to the back of your PC
6. The Ceton Install package (you can get this mid-process but it is less distracting to just get it up front), it is here [...]
7. An open PCIe slot in your PC and room to install the card, good idea to take a look first. Chances are you may have cables in the way, if that is the case move the cables/wires prior to attempting to install the card, take care in moving any cable in your PC that it does not become unplugged on either end.)
Hardware Installation: (make sure to unplug your PC, it is not enough just to turn it off)
Very straightforward, just find an open PCIe slot and plug it in, the detailed instructions are pretty good. If you have an existing digital tuner you should remove it, even if you have another slot for this one. WMC can only support 4 digital tuners at once, if you want to keep your existing tuner then can disable one of the tuners on this card and it might work but I did not try it. I removed the WinTV card and put this one in its slot. I put the CableCard in at the same time, it slides into the Ceton board and finbally attached the cable. That was it for the card install.
1. Follow the instructions to the web site and download the install package. (if you have it already then just run it)
2. Disable 3rd party firewalls (Norton/McAfee/etc) -- you will need to give it some permissions later.
3. Run the installation software.
4. Run the Digital Cable Advisor. -- This is 100% required, it will not work until you run this.
5. Follow the install instructions for WMC, this part can take some time, when it is detecting things it can take a minute or two, so give it time.
That is it for the software.
This was the part I was most worried about, as I mentioned I have Comcast and I can't say all of my customer service experiences have been great and after reading the horror stories here I was braced for a rough ride. Comcast must have polished up their act on these DIY installations, I called the number I got from Ceton
and the Comcast rep knew what I was talking about. I also ran the Ceton Diagnostic program, that lets you see the status of the card while you are talking to them, this is something I would suggest everyone do. You pick the CableCard tab and it shows you each step of the process of activation and even tells you what to tell then to do, like I needed to tell them to send another CCV signal, and it gave an English version of that, it meant that the Activation Verification signal had not been received yet, so send it again.
These do not always take the first time and that is not a Ceton issue, same happens with cable boxes, in my case it was 3rd time the charm, they CCV'ed it 3 times and all the the check marks turned green. I then hit the TV guide in WMC and hit USAHD, and pop it was there, I tested HBO Premium, Extended Cable, HD and Standard, and the basic channels, all worked perfectly.
The final test is to record on all 4 tuners, until you do that you can't be sure all 4 are configured right or activated. So just pick 4 channels in a row from the TV guide and record, if they all fire up then you are all set and you can let the cable folks go. That is it.