Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 XP Deluxe
TV tuner cards have always served the general purpose of allowing the user to watch TV on his or her PC. For some, this removes the need for a separate TV set, thereby saving space. For others, a tuner card allows them to watch TV while using the computer for other things. Recently, however, with the advent of the TiVo and Home Theater PCs (HTPC) the tuner card has matured into something far more than a means to watch TV.
The Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 XP Deluxe comes with a list of features giving you the functionality of a TiVo for recording and time shifting, the ability to listen to FM radio and, with the included software, the ability to edit your video. The Deluxe model differs from the standard model in that it includes FM radio functionality, video editing software and a very handy remote.
The contents of the box are:
Installation of the card was as straightforward as any other PCI card except for a few hitches. When you start Windows for the first time with the card installed I recommend inserting the WinFast driver disk into your CD-ROM so that you can manually select the drivers on the CD when Windows auto-detects the card. There are four drivers installed with the card, Audio Capture, Crossbar, TVTuner and Video Capture. The first time I installed the card and software everything went without a hitch. When I moved the card to another computer and installed the software, Windows crashed and restarted the computer when installing the Crossbar drivers. I turned the computer back on and Windows redetected the card and tried to install the Crossbar drivers again, and again the computer hard reset. The next time the computer made it to Windows and started to detect the card I skipped the driver installation and attempted to install the drivers from the Setup software on the CD. This also proceeded to fail.
I decided this was a good time to call Leadtek tech support. I went to their website and found a form to submit for technical support but no phone number, I submitted the form and it ended up giving me a phone number. I called the tech support number and left a message, and surprisingly they called me back within 5 minutes. The tech dude was very helpful and knew exactly how to solve the problem, which boiled down to manually running some setup files on the CD that aren't connected to the auto-run installation utility. With that, installation was done and I was ready to begin using the card. Oh yes, as for the support form I submitted, Tech Support called me the next day offering help, I told them I had received help already though. Needless to say I was very impressed with Leadtek's tech support, they definitely know their products.
The various jacks on the back of the card are for the FM Antenna, TV Antenna/Cable, S-Video/RCA, Audio In, Audio Out and Remote receiver. The only connections that might be of confusion are the audio ones, while the picture below explains it nicely it should be said that you don't always need something connected to the audio in, most often your TV antenna or cable signal will provide audio in, in which case you will only have to connect the audio out to the audio in on your sound card.
The WinFast software is always running in the task bar in the form of the WinFast Wizard, waiting for the user to hit the power button on the remote. When the power button is hit WinFast PVR, the TV software, turns on and begins showing video. There is a control panel with all the necessary buttons, but frankly I find the remote easier touse because the buttons are labeled.
There are various settings for the video quality and the aspect ratio that you view or capture at. Standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9, which I can't picture being useful (unless it works natively with HDTV) because it just stretches the video.
This card comes with the ability to Time Shift video, or "pause live TV" like they used to say in commercials. Initially I had the impression that time shifting was sort of a constant buffer that allowed you to pause and fast forward TV, but with an inherent delay from the live feed. It is not that functional however, Time Shifting is merely the ability to record the TV while you get up to go do something, and then come back and watch what you missed, usually during a commercial. I was slightly disappointed by the whole idea in general when I learned what it actually was. In fact I found it rather useless, at least for me, because I tend to stave off bodily functions when something good is on TV anyways. However, if you are familiar with Time Shifting you will most likely feel right at home with the TV 2000 XP.
Despite my opinion of Time Shifting itself, the execution of the technology was performed flawlessly by the WinFast PVR software. When time shifted video is played back, the live feed can be displayed in a Picture in Picture (PIP) so you can monitor when commercials end and the show begins again. The PIP can also display the recorded video so you can watch both it and the live feed at the same time. The shift between PIP modes is done easily with the push of a button.
The TV 2000 XP is also able to record video like a normal VCR, and has the ability to create numerous scheduled record times either for reoccurring shows or for one time use. I tested the auto recording and it worked very well, it was not even necessary for the program to be open when the preset time occurred, WinFast PVR turned itself on and started recording. Make sure that you have enough space on your hard drive when you are recording video though, as movies can take up around 31MB per minute.
Another feature that the card features is the ability to take screen shots of the video feed. Here are some examples of the screen captures:
The picture quality is not particularly impressive, but it is a nice feature to have for whatever reasons you see fit. One annoying thing with the screen captures is that the file names of the captured pictures contain the time the picture was taken. This wouldn't be a problem except that if you take more than one capture a minute you write over previous captures. As a result of this problem I lost many good screen captures of the Miller Lite Girls.
I was unable to test the card's channel detection and surfing with antenna TV, as I only have cable TV. Users of this card will most likely have some form of cable TV or satellite TV though because TV fans rarely settle for local channels. It must be noted that with a cable or satellite TV you will need to change the channel with the receiver box's remote, the Leadtek remote will not work.
This brings us to the FM radio functionality of the card. While radio reception will largely depend on your geographic location, the included FM antenna worked very well in my suburban location, noticeably better than the reception in my car or by my other radios. The radio program interface looks very similar to the TV control panel, except that it has seek, scan and 10 preset station buttons. The receiver's frequency range is from 76 MHz up to 108 MHz in 50KHz increments, this makes it very easy to find the exact frequency that you receive best from a given station. The radio feed is also recordable.
I was most impressed by the remote because it works really really well. The receiver picks up the IR signal even when the remote is aimed directly away from it. This is very nice because there is nothing worse than a useless remote when you are sitting on your couch 10 feet from the TV. There are buttons on the remote for the usual things like channel, volume, play, pause, stop, record etc. The remote also includes other useful buttons like Full Screen, PIP, Time Shifting, Screenshot and a Boss key to instantly minimize the program in case your Boss walks up while you are watching TV in your cubicle. When hitting the power button on the remote the TV utility WinFast PVR always opens up, to switch to the Radio you only need to hit the TV/FM button.
The included software with this card is provided by the company ULEAD. The two programs are Video Studio 6 SE and Cool 3D SE. Rather than actual useful software suites, these programs are mere tastes of the real things, and unfortunately they are filled with Real Players and Quicktimes eagerly awaiting to be installed and take over your computer. Video Studio is a rudimentary video editing program where you can piece together video clips with transitions, add in still pictures and overlay new sound tracks. Cool 3D allows you to add 3D text effects and the like to your videos. Serious videophiles will likely pass over these programs in favor of something like Adobe Premiere.
As a whole I was quite impressed by the Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 XP tuner card. The package is very complete, including all requisite wires for audio, radio and remote. The WinFast software is complete with many quality settings and special features. Over all, the TV 2000 XP does exactly what it says it can, and does a good job at it. I have become quite attached to having TV on my desktop over the course of the review, surprising considering I never missed it before.
Additionally, I was impressed by Leadtek's tech support, they were thorough, knowledgeable and timely in their response. It must be said that I remained anonymous when I called for tech support (they didn't know I was a reviewer) so I feel that the service I received from Leadtek was indicative of the support anyone will receive.
To sum it all up, I am (to use the word a third time) impressed with Leadtek
as a company, they make a good product and they know how to help you get the
most out of it. I give the Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 XP a 9/10.
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