Media Center Woes

I recently spotted the Hauppauge 2250 on Newegg.com and decided that it was time that I upgrade my media center with a tuner that was Clear QAM capable. If your unfamiliar with Clear QAM it is essentially unencrypted HD channels that are sent to every cable subscriber. If you have a TV with a QAM tuner (Alot of Sony’s do) then you can browse these channels without the use of a set-top box and the HD is just as beautiful. 

I picked up one of these tuners and started installing on my HP a1720n when I realized that I’d have to remove my graphics card in order to have a spot for it as the PC only comes equiped with one PCI Express slot. I’m alright with that though, I don’t have a problem using the onboard video or an older PCI based video card. So I remove the PCI Express video card,  put in the tuner card, and power the machine up…..Nothing….no video….what follows is an evening of swearing, moving and removing cards, and rebooting about 50 times!

As it turns out the motherboard of my media center doesn’t allow anything other than a graphics card in the PCI Express slot. It actually goes as far as deactivating the onboard and PCI based video options in the BIOS when you put anything in that slot. UGH…

My next thought is that I can either upgrade my motherboard or upgrade machines. I poked around online and decide that a QUAD core upgrade wouldn’t be a bad thing. So I ordered up a Quad Core Dell w/ 6GB of RAM from bestbuy.com and I went in and pick it up last night.

Within 3 hours of playing with this new machine I decided I didn’t like it and that it was going back for a few reasons:

  • Seemed to run slower than my Core 2 Duo
  • Video seemed laggy
  • Sounded like a lawn mower or weed-whacker as things spun up and down
So just a few short hours later I headed back to Best Buy and returned it. I have to give Best Buy some props here. They didn’t give me any troubles about returning this machine that didn’t actually have anything wrong with it. No restocking fee, no gift card only, etc..
The ease in which they returned the product prompted me to look at getting another tuner card while I was there. This time I choose one that wasn’t PCI Express but USB instead (PCTV HD PRO from Pinnacle) . At about 10pm last night I got that installed and configured and it seemed to be working pretty well. I haven’t been able to get the QAM configured inside of VMC (Vista Media Center) yet but I don’t think that will take much more configuration. 
I guess the moral of the story here is not to change a good thing. My sub $500 Core 2 Duo from over a year ago seems to be the perfect little Media Center and I’m not sure I’ll be trying to replace the little guy anytime soon.

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