iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail

Platform

Video

Multimedia

Mobile

Other

Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus Tuner Review

September 27, 2003





Compro Technology is hardly known on our market. Founded in 1989, the company  dealt mostly with OEM orders and worked with such companies as HP, Compaq and Visiontek. Their first independent solution was NVIDIA Personal Cinema developed together with the Californian IT grand and released in 2001. In 2002 Compro Technology launched a line of video cards based on NVIDIA's chips and TV tuners.

The company's biased towards innovative solutions in their products. You will see what comes out of it.

This review has an unusual story. Its first review was slashing because of a great number of problems in the Russian network. Even brand-name manufacturers sometimes simply give "objective" reasons or ignore Russian customers. The guys at Compro Technology didn't have a chance to test their products in our conditions and helped us to adapt their software. We couldn't reject such a praiseworthy initiative as well as let down our readers. That is why a month and a half later, when several software and drivers versions were changed, the engineers at Compro (Floyd, that was really pleasant to deal with you :-) ) and iXBT.com (i.e. me) come up with a bright product. So, let's start from the very beginning.

Accessory pack

The package and accessory pack are a good example of how such things should be made.




The box is a real eye catcher. Besides, the designers use hard high-quality cardboard with the words stamped out.

Inside

  • Tuner
  • Remote Control
  • External IR sensor of the remote control
  • Cable for sound card's line-in
  • AUX-in cable
  • Cable for mainboard power supply connector
  • Adapters for aerial connectors
  • FM aerial
  • 4 software CDs
  • Installation manual
  • Software manual

Design and specification

The black PCB, gold-plated connectors and a colorful sticker on the tuner look attractive.

Functions of the connectors are written on the back (a rare thing these days).

The designers are pretty attentive to details, for example, the software and drivers are recorded on CD-Rs, each having polygraphic pictures on top.

This is what differs hi-end products from mainstream ones, and it's especially pleasant if the price remains affordable.

TV and FM signals are received by the Philips FM1236 unit.




Video and audio signals are decoded with the 9pin Philips 7134HL ADC (we know it from the EZ-TV (TVP3XP)) with the PAL/SECAM D/K support (the countries with the NTSC standard get it with the 7133HL chip).




There's actually nothing to boast of, and we turn to the distinguishing features.

First of all, the tuner supports the Compro POWER UP SCHEDULING technology. A connector from the Power button of your PC case goes to the mainboard via the tuner allowing it to control turning on/off.

Secondly, the Picture Purifying Technology supported improves reception and image quality; it includes:

  • redesigned PCB
  • double voltage control for higher stability and noise reduction (besides, the control is placed as far from the receiver as possible)
  • proprietary software including deinterlacing, Noise Removal and Video Smoothing (software anti-aliasing in resolutions over 640x480).

The other functions are standard. Just note that it doesn't support video capture in MPEG4, though you can get it with alternative software.

Testbed configuration

  • Athlon 2800XP CPU (Barton)
  • Gigabyte 7VAX mainboard (KT400 chipset)
  • Inno3D GeForce FX 5900 video card
  • 512 MB PC3200 from Samsung
  • Creative Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 sound card
  • IBM DTLA 305020 hard drive
  • Windows XP Professional (SP1) ENG and Windows XP Professional (SP1) RUS

Installation

The installation  process is standard




but even in this case Compro goes its own way. The tuner has RCA connectors identical to those on home equipment

and the antennas are connected to them through adapters.

Such solution makes its installation into the PCI slot simpler but it's impossible to take out the tuner without removing the adapters, and they do not go out easily at that. Taking into account other connectors on the back that can take quite a lot of time.

Configuring

For operation under the DirectX 9.0b you should download the latest patch that corrects some mistakes in operation of the PAL/SECAM tuners. It can be downloaded from Microsoft's site for the English and Russian versions of the Windows XP.

When all the settings were made in the program menu (do not neglect the codecs of Windows Media Player 9)




we got the following devices:




The tuner uses its own software for operation.

CompoPVR for the TV mode




ComproFM for the FM receiver mode




and ComproDVD player




which actually is the PoverDVD 4.0 with additional audio features selling separately by Cyberlink. It should be noted that there's only NVIDIA among hardware makers which developed its own DVD player, that is why don't judge too strictly.

Here you can also find some programs that we saw in the review of the MSI-8918 Personal Cinema FX5200

Ulead DVD MovieFactory 2SE




and Ulead VideoStudio 7SE (updated version)




In the tray you can find icons for the ComproRemote and ComproPVR, but not for the ComproFM.




By the reasons above we use the latest driver versions for ComproPVR and ComproFM (2.3.0.9, ComproPVR 1571 and ComproFM 1290).

When the ComproPVR is started for the first time it offers for you to choose a country, TV standard, audio and video devices




then you get to the Channel tab of the Options menu which controls the frequency range and configures channels




The developers are going to include the forced auto scanning in the next versions but I think it's better to let users choose themselves, because it's simpler to tick off channels if you know the frequencies than to wait for the scanning to stop (though in my case it took only a minute) and disable undesirable channels. However, it's not that important and it can be even better for an inexperienced user. That was how the guys at Compro explained the forced auto scanning.

The sensitivity of the VideoMate TV Gold Plus is on the level of the previous record-breaker EZ-TV as it caught all the existent channels. The fine tuning




which can be enabled with the Fine Tune button wasn't actually needed. The empty channels couldn't be avoided, though it always was a side effect of good sensitivity.

Cyrillic names are well supported




On the next tab (Video/Audio )




you can change video parameters, aspect ratio (the Custom mode makes it arbitrarily changeable) and audio format (mono/stereo). The sleep mode can also be adjusted (this useful option is rarely supported in tuners).

The Recording tab deals with recording parameters.




What a surprise - all the stuff fit into a single tab. Remember that the ComproPVR supports only MPEG1 and MPEG2 formats.

On the Timeshifting tab you can change resolution, video and audio bitrates, buffer size and turn on/off Noise Removal and Video Smoothing




The last tab named System Devices allows changing audio and video devices, adjust the audio-in for recording and playing (note that the tuner can be connected to the card's AUX port)




Quality

The image quality is really good; but I can't say whether it was the tricks above that helped.

















Additional features

I can't but show you the picture from Compro's site that demonstrates how the Timeshifting works




No problems were revealed while we tried this function.




The Channel Surf









also reproduces sound for several seconds when going through the channels. It's really handy.

The Snapshot option doesn't make so good impression




as there's no gallery which is usually supported in alternative programs. Besides, it's possible to capture shots only at 640x480. Also, I wish the jpeg format were supported as well.

I was wrong saying in the EZ-TV review that there's nothing to add to the scheduler :-)




All the parameters also fit into one screen




Fortunately, there are Automatic logon and power off (on completion of recording) options. Before turning off the PC displays the warning




Besides scheduling recording you can also make the tuner turn on when a certain TV program starts (Reminder mode).

The Compro POWER UP SCHEDULING didn't work. It's possible that the problem is that our sample is designed for mainboards which give 5V at start and then cut it down to  0, while some other boards on the market make it vice versa. However, I was told that the problem is solved in the next revisions. But it also can be caused by some bugs or damage occurred during transportation. Still, I wasn't disappointed much because the Scheduler turned off the Hibernate mode flawlessly.

It's funny that the computer turns on 5 minutes before recording starts, and if you try to shut it down you will see the following warning




The stuff recorded can be then viewed in a special window that doesn't touch the main one.




and when deleting a task from the list you can also delete the file recorded




How many pleasantries the interface offers! And we are not through yet. It really deserves the respectful attitude.

FM Tuner

When the tuner is started for the first time, it offers to choose a country from the list (though tuners usually start automatic or manual scanning)




and then started auto scanning. The ComproFM  found unexpectedlya great deal of stations. When I began cleaning it up from the noise I found out that the number of frequencies increased twice. Dear Elitgroup Computer Systems, what can I do with 10 resets you offer if there are almost 20 stations waiting for my attention?

With the Fine Tune enabled the program tries tuning frequencies on the fly in case of unstable reception. Stations can be edited and deleted




or frequencies can be entered manually and saved.




What about recording?

Well, you can choose among *.wav, *.wma, *.mp3. What do they mean by Other Type ? Maybe it's reserved for future? :-) .




For *.wav all quality settings are available. If the system has all respective codecs all settings are supported for the wma format as well.




For *.mp3 it uses the standard codec from Windows with terrible 22 KHz 56 Kbit/s. Lame's codec installed in the system was ignored by the program.

There's not much difference between *.wma and *.mp3 in this case but it would be nice to let a user to choose especially because there's a great deal of free mp3 codecs.

Sound quality was pretty good both in the FM and in TV modes.

There is one more, last, bug. Probably, it will soon be removed. If the last channel before you leave the ComproPVR is not 01 or 03 (if it's actually over 05, but empty channels do not get added to the list, and we had only two in our frequency range), the ComproFM produces only noise. The remedy is clear, right? It also can be solved the following way: change the language to English in the Windows regional settings, start the ComproFM, and then change the language back, but I prefer to leave the channels mentioned when you quit the program. Anyway, I think it will be corrected.

Remote Control

 

High-quality plastic, conveniently arranged buttons, ergonomic design. The range of operation is typical of IR devices. The remote control gets power from two AAA batteries.

This is the handiest model I ever seen in the It industry. Even brand-name electronic companies rarely offer such things. The monster from X10 Wireless Technology, Inc. doesn't count as its advantage is its configurability. And this one just nicely fits in the hand. Perfect!

Besides, the remote control is multifunctional, i.e. it works with all applications from the suite (except Ulead Systems programs).

Conclusion

This is a rare case when I don't have to sum it up again, but I don't want to break the tradition.

Highs

  • Excellent build quality
  • Perfect audio and video quality
  • High sensitivity both in TV and FM modes
  • Good screening (no pickups and noise noticed)
  • Connection to the sound card's AUX-in
  • Deinterlacing
  • Noise Removal and Video Smoothing
  • Handy software
  • Compro POWER UP SCHEDULING (PC starts up for recording and turns off on its completion)
  • Channel Surf audio mode
  • Multifunctional remote control
  • Rich accessory pack
  • Quick support service

Lows

  • The "01 or 03 channel" problem
  • Snapshot is not that convenient in use
  • mp3 is not fully supported
  • no MPEG4 support (in case of the software supplied)
  • audio options in the ComproDVD are not available

So, the Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus is a very good competitor on the market of internal tuners thanks to its technical characteristics, serviceability and a great number of unique features. The build quality, exterior and accessory pack can even become  determining. I'd like to congratulate Compro Technology with such a successful solution and I hope the company will quickly enter our market.

P.S.: I also hope Compro Technology will respond to users' comments the way they did it before.

Alexey Samsonov AKA AëS (als@ixbt.com)


Write a comment below. No registration needed!


Article navigation:



blog comments powered by Disqus

  Most Popular Reviews More    RSS  

AMD Phenom II X4 955, Phenom II X4 960T, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Intel Pentium G2120, Core i3-3220, Core i5-3330 Processors

Comparing old, cheap solutions from AMD with new, budget offerings from Intel.
February 1, 2013 · Processor Roundups

Inno3D GeForce GTX 670 iChill, Inno3D GeForce GTX 660 Ti Graphics Cards

A couple of mid-range adapters with original cooling systems.
January 30, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1

An external X-Fi solution in tests.
September 9, 2008 · Sound Cards

AMD FX-8350 Processor

The first worthwhile Piledriver CPU.
September 11, 2012 · Processors: AMD

Consumed Power, Energy Consumption: Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge

Trying out the new method.
September 18, 2012 · Processors: Intel
  Latest Reviews More    RSS  

i3DSpeed, September 2013

Retested all graphics cards with the new drivers.
Oct 18, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, August 2013

Added new benchmarks: BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light.
Sep 06, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, July 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 and AMD Radeon HD 7730.
Aug 05, 2013 · 3Digests

Gainward GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Golden Sample Graphics Card

An excellent hybrid of GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GeForce GTX 660.
Jun 24, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

i3DSpeed, May 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770/780.
Jun 03, 2013 · 3Digests
  Latest News More    RSS  

Platform  ·  Video  ·  Multimedia  ·  Mobile  ·  Other  ||  About us & Privacy policy  ·  Twitter  ·  Facebook


Copyright © Byrds Research & Publishing, Ltd., 1997–2011. All rights reserved.