The first tuner from Leadtek that I tested was Leadtek WinFast Cinema, and it left a very pleasant impression. That is why when I got Leadtek's latest solution WinFast TV 2000 Expert I anticipated getting pleased with it as well. Let's see if the expectations come true.
The box is noticeably lower than usual
The box contains the stuff traditional for Leadtek:
Beside Leadtek's WinFast PVR and WinFast FM the CDs contain:
Ulead DVD MovieFactory 2SE
for creation of your own VCD, SVCD or DVD
Ulead VideoStudio 7SE
for video capture and editing
and Ulead Cool 3D 3.0 editor
which seems to be a strange supplement for a TV tuner. Well, never too much of a good thing.
I didn't expect to find the 3.1 version of the WinFast DVD here.
While we blame the companies for using pre-latest versions, Leadtek supplies a very outdated one, which is deprived of even such functions as DVD playback from hard drive. :(
Design and specification
Now it's clear why the box is so narrow - the card has a low-profile design!
This is not just a step toward manufacturers of such PC cases; such approach has some technical advantages, in particular, components generating electrical noise are distant from the radio unit. But because of the low-profile design the tuner has only one 9-pin connector with a respective audio/video adapter. A similar solution was used in the Leadtek WinFast Cinema, but that time the reason was different. The line-in is removed, and it's possible to get the audio signal only through sound card's AUX-in. On one hand, having such possibility one would hardly use the line-in connection, but on the other hand users are deprived of choice.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information about the radio unit, but I think that it's based on a good circuit design from Philips like in other company's products.
Instead of the dated Conexant Fusion 878A the TV 2000 Expert tuner is built on Conexant's latest solution - CX23881 10-bit ADC.
Here's a brief comparison table
For more detailed information see the description in pdf.
Just note that the Macrovision is unfortunately supported.
That's good that the developers keep up to date, but SECAM was always a weak point of Conexant's chips compared to Philips' solutions (in this case they are 9-bit Philips 7134 chips also used in ECS EZ-TV and Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus).
The specs are standard. Let's look at the distinguishing features.
First of all, it is a consistent operation of Leadtek's software with MPEG4, though it's not mentioned anywhere. Secondly, the NetMeeting allows remote users watch TV (in case of good connection).
The connection is not standard,
but is more convenient as there's only one connector beside the antenna-ins.
There's no mini-jack, that is why you may need a mini-jack-2 RCA adapter. On the other hand, in case of the standard layout (minijack) you will need an adapter much more as RCA connectors are much wider used on home consumer equipment.
The configuration menu is a bit complicated at first sight
because the driver for internal tuners is installed together with programs and in the Winfast Entertainment Center section. The logic is interesting.
You will be offered to install Microsoft's MPEG4 codecs, which are far from the DivX but can be used as a substitute for beginners for a while.
Here's the list of devices after the installation
and here's how the WinFast Wizard icon for fast access to all programs in the tray
The WinFast PVR and WinFast FM were discussed in the Leadtek WinFast Cinema review, and we will only check them for interesting features.
We scanned the frequency range with the WinFast PVR having selected Russia (SECAM) (I wonder what is Russia (PAL)), - several channels were lacking and those which were found got numbers +1, i.e. 2 instead of 1, 4 instead of 3 etc.
The Adaptive Channel Scanning didn't help. When we started it we got the following warning:
Like in the MSI-8918 I selected POLAND (SECAM), and the problem was solved.
The engineers at Leadtek seem to have problems with our TV network.
All the stations were found, that is why the tuner has good sensitivity.
Let's see what the new heart is capable of
The visual quality is good and superior to the Fusion 878A, the replacement of the chip is justified. But I personally prefer the image on the Philips 7134 based tuners.
Look at the default brightness and hue
Isn't it curious?
Besides, in the full-screen mode you can notice that the image is grainy (Philips has no signs of it).
But most users won't notice such subtle nuances.
Unfortunately, the sound doesn't have high frequencies. It's not the fault of my sound card or AUX-in as the Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus had excellent quality. We didn't get highs in the FM mode either.
Capture and additional features
Timeshifting, the peculiar way of realization of Picture-In-Picture and capture profile editing were discussed last time. I'd like to thank Leadtek once again for the support of codecs including all types of DivX in the WinFast PVR. Microsoft's MPEG4 codec is also included into the pack.
Also, I couldn't find any signs of the Channel Surf function. One more fly in the ointment.
Together with scheduled recording you are offered scheduled playback, you can set this function both for TV programs and external sources.
When you capture frames you'd better set the audio stream as master, otherwise it can result in audio/video mistiming.
After recording you can get only to the Standby mode, which doesn't look pleasing, especially after the Compro tuner.
One of the pleasantries is a notice displayed right before the task is initiated
One more advantage is the support of tuner's signal translation on the Netmeeting network
Since the Leadtek WinFast Cinema review the interface and features of the WinFast FM didn't get any changes.
Well, the WinFast FM was almost an ideal solution for a tuner in the FM mode.
Besides, all necessary functions are available from the basic interface that reveals developers' smartness considering the control panel size. The one who can find "Open files" button can be considered a very observant person :-) .
The channel scanning is different. Thus, the channels found coincided best of all at Sensitivity equal to 2.
Sensitivity can be broadly changed.
If it's still not enough, you can enter a channel frequency manually.
MP3 encoding is carried out with a standard codec at 22 KHz, 56 Kbit/s like in the Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus.
You can schedule both recording and playback
Apart from displaying the task parameters
before proceeding to the Standby mode you can cancel it (like in the scheduler in the TV mode)
The same remote control was supplied with the Leadtek WinFast Cinema.
The only thing I should draw your attention to is the Power button that turns on/off PC and which is lacking on the Compro's remote control. According to your letters I underestimated this function.
The RC is multifunctional though if you take the WinFast DVD version... well, we talked about it already.
This solution has both weak and strong points, and I don't know what outweighs. It's for you to decide, see the highs and lows.
In closing I should say that the heart transplantation carried out by the
guys at Leadtek was successful. The tuner has no operational problems on
our local area, unlike Conexant CX23881 based tuners from other companies.
Taking into account the company's reputation, I do not doubt that it won't
have problems in funding buyers for the Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 Expert.
Alexey Samsonov AKA AŽS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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