- Created on 13 January 2009
If you are building a HTPC you are invariably at some point going to need a way of receiving TV through the PC. This opens up the potential for using the PC as a hard disk recorder/DVD recorder for storing shows or films and also generally will allow the use of Picture-in-Picture functionality with any TV linked to the system.
Up until now most decoder cards have been designed for use with standard definition. Recently however Teratec have released the Cinergy S2 PCI HD card to fill this gap in the market and allow use of free to air HD satellite channels. In the UK at the moment there is really only one free to air HD channel worth watching - BBC HD, although it is expected that as we get closer to the swap over from analogue to digital TV in 2012 more HD channels will become available, and Channel 4 and ITV are both planning to launch their free to air HD channels in the early part of 2009.
The card itself is unable to decrypt scrambled channels as there is no smartcard slot (there is a package, the Terratec Cinergy S2 PCI HD CI, that does include an additional smart card reader). It is also important to note that at this time this device is not compatible with Windows Media Center which doesn't currently support any DVB-S broadcasts and therefore any of the available HD compatible cards.
Installation of the PCI card was simple, although we did note that there was no low-profile card bracket for installation in low-profile HTPC cases. Included in the package is also an IR receiver which plugs into the card and also a fully functional remote (and batteries). The software included is simple to install and provides "Terratec Home Cinema" and MAGIX "Movies on CD & DVD Edition".
The Home cinema software was very simple to use with a comprehensive menu system for setup. The initial setup required a scan of available channels (~900 were found in our area including subscription services) and the desired channels were then added into our favourites list for easy navigation of the channels. As expected the BBC HD channel gave excellent quality video, better than other currently available free to air HD services mainly found in the rest of the EU.
Once setup the system was very easy to use with either the supplied remote, which covers all controls from simple channel navigation and volume control to recording and programming in a similar fashion to a standard HD box.
At the moment it is very difficult to take full advantage of the card, although all SD channels can be viewed, due to the limited number of free to air HD channels currently being broadcast. However, as more channels become available and the DVB-S2 standard becomes more widely integrated the Terratec Cinergy S2 PCI HD card will undoubtably be an excellent addition to any HTPC system.
Amazon: Terratec Cinergy S2 PCI HD Internal PCI for TV on a PC