Not very long ago you only needed an analogue TV Tuner card for your Home Theater PC to pick up an assortment of television channels.
With a simple analogue tv tuner card you could watch the local news, your favorite televisions shows on the broadcast networks; whatever you wanted. But those days are gone forever.
From analog to digital tuners
Now that all television broadcasting networks have switched to digital television signals those analogue tv tuner cards are just landfill material. Which is a pity on the one hand, because they were simple to install and use.
Yet, good news on the other hand because today’s digital tv tuner cards give you access to more data and better picture quality than analogue ever could.
The analogue tv tuner cards may have disappeared but the HTPC community has reacted, building on the ability of home theaters to make optimum use of the new digital signal with high definition monitors and stereo sound.
In fact, it has always been that way. As fast as the technology has evolved, HTPC as evolved right along with it. People who want to get the most from their HTPC have embraced high definition and digital signal as a huge leap beyond anything analogue ever offered.
From hybrids to dual tuners
Initially there were analogue only tv tuner cards. As some stations began releasing digital signals, the most tech savvy HTPC builders switched to hybrid tv tuner cards which allowed them to receive both analogue and digital television signals.
This was great for people who had no idea what sort of signal they were receiving, but only let them view one or the other, not both at the same time.
The next improvement came in the form of combo tv tuners which allowed HTPC users to watch analogue channels while they recorded digital signals. Or the other way around.
Nice, but of little use now that there are no analogue signals to view. As more and more digital signals came on line the HTPC market found itself with more and more options for making use of all that incoming information.
Dual tuners came first. With two separate digital tuners built right in, these tuners offered HTPC users a chance to watch one digital channel and record another. Now that everything is coming in a digital format the industry is trying to make the most of it and give HTPC users more options than ever before.
Comcast is now offering a four slot digital tuner which lets you record up to four different digital channels simultaneously.
Towards high performance DVRs
Coupled with a built-in DVD burner and a 5.1 surround sound Sound Card and your tuner card has turned your once defunct personal computer into a high performance DVR.
There are an assortment of tuner cards available just about anywhere. So no matter what type of signal you have coming in, or how many, you can hook them directly to your HTPC and start watching, recording and enjoying them all.
There limits of how much information can be transmitted digitally. Broadcast companies continue to find new ways of jamming even more information through the pipeline.
Having your HTPC system ready to handle this digital stream means you will be on the receiving end of everything the broadcast companies are sending.
So, which TV tuners are the best buy at the moment? Read more on our TV tuner comparison.