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Compro VideoMate DVB-T300 Hybrid TV Tuner

A device with no significant drawbacks.

July 21, 2005



"Holy places never stand empty"

Popular wisdom


June 6, 2005. The radio frequency state committee has finally approved the 174-230 MHz and 470-862 MHz band for digital TV broadcasting, having officially declared that the trial operation of DVB-T transmitters (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial) in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhni Novgorod, started in 2000, was a success. Transition to the digital television in Russia is planned to be completed by 2015, so we are going to see peaceful coexistence of both systems in the nearest several years. However, those who live in cities, blessed with technical progress, can join the achievements of the digital age even now. However, installing two different devices is not always technically possible, to say nothing of higher costs. Of course, many manufacturers didn't leave this option to accident and offered 2-in-1 models. We have already met one of such solutions (see the review of Pinnacle Media Center 300i), it's now turn for the next contender. This time it's from Taiwanese Compro Technology that does not shun original technical solutions.

Peculiarities of the DVB-T standard are described in Twinhan VisionDTV USB-Ter VP-7041 review. Besides the above mentioned Pinnacle Media Center 300i review, this topic is covered in the following materials:

Package Contents

I have noted many times the good job of designers from Compro Technology and their product boxes. The DVB-T300 is not an exception. Excellent job.




We can even overlook the fact that the box is larger than necessary to accommodate the contents. The box contains:




  • Tuner
  • Infrared remote control
  • Extension IR-sensor for the remote control
  • A cable to the additional connector on a sound card
  • A cable to the motherboard power connector
  • CD with drivers and software
  • User manual

Additional software: DVD player ComproDVD 2




and Ulead Photo Explorer 8.0 SE, which filters are used by the standard ComproDTV.




Design and specification

VideoMate DVB-T300 is the first PCI tuner with a low-profile design from this manufacturer that appeared in our lab. This certainly influenced the length of this card (tuner dimensions: 64.4 x 167.6 mm).









The tuner incorporates a hybrid RF-unit Philips TD1316AL.




CODFM demodulator TDA10046HT is also manufactured by Philips Electronics.




So, considering this devotion to components from Philips, the 9-bit ADC SAA7134HL is not surprising.




According to the specifications:

  • The tuner operates in the 48.25 — 863.25 MHz band
  • Pass band (for DVB-T) — 6 (NTSC), 7/8 (PAL) MHz
  • MPEG2 is decoded on the software level
  • NICAM Stereo decoding is supported in analog mode

ComproDTV features are up to the modern standards. The program has the following features:

  • Timeshift
  • Multiple channel preview Channel surfing
  • Third-party codecs support for recording

We should also mention the proprietary Compro POWER UP SCHEDULING technology that allows the tuner to turn on/off a computer directly. It requires the Power button connector linked to the tuner and the corresponding connector on the tuner — to the motherboard.

Picture Purifying Technology is a firmware complex — it includes a series of measures from placing voltage regulators at the maximum distance from the RF module to noise reduction filters (remember Ulead Photo Explorer 8.0 SE).

Testbed configuration

DVB-T operations:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 4000+
  • Motherboard: ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe (NVIDIA nForce4 SLI)
  • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz
  • Video card: Leatek WinFast A400 GT (GeForce 6800 GT)
  • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA
  • Operating system: Windows XP Professional (SP2) ENG

Analog TV operation:

  • CPU: Athlon 64 3200+ (Socket 939)
  • Motherboard: Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra)
  • RAM: 1 GB (512 MB PC3200 from Samsung + 512 MB PC3200 from Kingston)
  • Video card: HIS RADEON X850 XT Platinum IceQ II
  • Sound card: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2ZS
  • HDD: 120 GB Maxtor Plus9-6Y120M0 7200rpm SATA150 8 MB
  • HDD: 120 GB Maxtor Plus9-6Y120M0 7200rpm SATA150 8 MB
  • DVD ROM 12x/48x Hitachi GD-7500BV
  • CD ReWriter TEAC 540E 40x12x48
  • DVD ReWriter NEC ND-3500A
  • AC power adapter: Thermaltake HPC-420-102 DF
  • Operating system: Windows XP Professional (SP2) ENG

Connections

The low-profile design did not have an effect on the number of connectors.




Functions of the on-board jumpers.




If there is not enough power to turn on a computer via the remote control, you should move the blue jumper from JX13 to JX12 and JX8 — from pin 1-2 to pin 2-3. JX9 allows to flash EEPROM.

List of TV channels used in the tests






We used the OCTODE, LLC transmitter as the DVB-T source, which broadcasts in test mode on the 34th TV channel. Antennas were installed on a 150m mast, located in the Horoshego — Mnevniki region in Moscow at the following address: Demian Bedniy Str., 24. The tests were carried out on General Glagolev Street (near "Oktiabrskoe Pole" metro station). We used the standard antenna from the Xpert DTV bundle (DVBT USB) to receive the signal.




Configuration

The installation menu is laconic.




After the installation is completed, the following device appears in your system.




There will appear new icons in the tray: scheduler and remote control.




We used Driver 1.3.1.22 and ComproDTV 2.6.0.9.

ComproDTV interface is designed to match the style of the other programs, which are used with tuners from this manufacturer. Note the signal strength indicator, when it works with DVB-T.




The Digital TV Settings button opens settings for scanning digital channels.




You can scan by Country/Region (use Germany in case of open Moscow digital channels), by band, and within a single bandwidth.




You can also specify channel parameters manually. VPID (Video Program Identification) and APID (Audio Program Identification) parameters are used to identify stations, as the DVB-T standard allows to broadcast several channels on the same frequency.




There are two spicy moments as far as scanning is concerned. Firstly, DVB-T channels wouldn't detect, until I accidentally switched the red jumper (see above). Representatives of the developers failed to explain the mystic connection, but still the fact remains. I can only blame my testbed configuration, and even then it's just an excuse. Secondly, one of the channels had to be added manually even though the signal strength was about 80% (!) and there were no complaints about the image quality.

Analog mode brought no surprises. The program detected all my channels.




The latest versions of ComproDTV (it also applies to ComproPVR) finally allow individual settings for each channel (Custom column). Perhaps, the only missing option is forced Mono/Stereo selection per channel, which may be useful sometimes.




A nice detail — such channels differ by a tick color that marks channels stored to memory.

Common settings for brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, and sharpness are in the Video/Audio section. In digital mode the Mono/Stereo/SAP setting allows to select an audio track (if there are several options).




ComproDTV allows to record Program Stream as well as Transport Stream, which contains additional service information. Audio stream can also be recorded.




Any codec installed in the system can be used for recording in analog mode.




Configuring image quality for Timeshift is allowed only for analog TV channels.




User Interface section allows to configure the size, color, and location of the screen menu, to choose a frame capture format (bmp or jpeg) and matrix size for Channel Surfing. I'd also like to mention Video Trimming and the option to control the fullscreen aspect ratio.




Besides individual channel settings, the latest versions of ComproDTV and ComproPVR can boast of transferring audio along the PCI bus. Note that audio is always transferred in this way in digital mode, the ADC acts just as a bridge.




In multichannel preview mode, the matrix displays a larger window in the center, which shows the current channel.




It goes without saying that the scheduler now allows to select digital channels.




Like ComproPVR, ComproDTV supports several interface languages, including the Russian.

Quality

The DVB-T standard allows to broadcast channels with DVD quality at maximum 9000 Kbit/s bitrate and more. OCTODE, LLC currently broadcasts channels with 3700-6000 Kbit/s bitrate, which has an effect on the image quality.


  

  

A 5-sec recorded video fragment is available here.

We noticed no video/audio asynchronization during our tests.

VideoMate DVB-T300 turned out the only DVB-T tuner that demonstrated MPEG artifacts, when the signal strength dropped to 60% (according to the indicator).




However, 80-85% instead of 60-65% detected by Kworld tuners speak of different approaches to calibration rather than of worse characteristics of the RF module.

MPEG1/2 encoding and decoding are carried out on the software level. To the credit of Compro Technology, the system requirements are described on the web site in detail. Recommended CPU clocks for the digital mode are 600 MHz for viewing, 866 MHz for recording and Timeshift. Analog mode — 400 MHz for viewing, 866 MHz for recording, and 1.7 GHz for MPEG2 encoding with DVD quality settings.

As we have already mentioned above, Philips TD1316AL successfully coped with receiving analog channels. Just the image quality on Channel 11 (215.25 MHz) with marginal reception turned out a tad worse than in tuners with modern receivers of the classic type. Thus, VideoMate DVB-T300 is superior to Pinnacle MC 300i in this parameter.

Picture Purifying Technology results are certainly up to the mark.


  

  

   

Problems with Timeshift and Creative Audigy sound cards, that still happen with tuners from some manufacturers, skirted the product of Compro Technology. Thanks to the company's specialists, of course.

Infrared remote control

Many users choose PCI tuners from Compro Technology because of the high-quality multifunction remote control. CyberLink Corp. technologies used in ComproDVD 2 automatically add support for any existing PowerDVD version. Besides, this tuner allows to power on your computer using the PVR/TV button.

Conclusions

Steady reception both in digital and in analog modes together with good image quality as well as Compro POWER UP SCHEDULING merit the Original Design award.




Pros

  • Good reception quality
  • Good audio and video quality
  • Stereo audio decode support (in analog mode)
  • Compro POWER UP SCHEDULING
  • Using the remote control to turn PC on
  • Capturing video from analog sources
  • Low-profile design
  • Picture Purifying Technology
  • Individual channel settings
  • Timeshift
  • Video Trimming
  • Fullscreen aspect ratio control
  • Interesting implementation of Channel Surf
  • Full third-party codecs support for recording (in analog mode)
  • Turn off/Go to sleep after recording is complete
  • Multi-functional remote control
  • Localized program interface

Cons

  • Possible problems with autosearching digital channels
  • Software MPEG2 decoding
  • Long card

Compro VideoMate DVB-T300 produces a nice impression of a well thought-out product. Fortunately, the developers heed the voice of Russian and Ukrainian users, hence the appearance of individual channel settings in the standard software. This model currently competes on the Russian market with Pinnacle Media Center 300i, which is inferior to VideoMate DVB-T300 by some parameters. We can only hope that the prices for this product will be competitive.





We express our thanks to Compro Technology
for the provided tuner


Alexei Samsonov aka AlS (als@ixbt.com)

July, 2005


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