The Compro VideoMate E900F is a dual-tuner TV/FM card.
As PCs continue to make inroads into our living rooms, so grows the need for a good TV tuner card. This Compro VideoMate E900F isn't the most sophisticated or seamless you'll find, but its £80 price tag makes it an attractive introduction to the potential of a multimedia PC.
It's compact and can sit in either full or half-height slots of a regular or media-centric PC. The Compro VideoMate E900F is based around dual tuners, and the bundled software can handle digital-plus-analogue, dual-analogue or dual-digital. Each tuner needs its own aerial input, and if you want both tuners to connect to one aerial, you'll need to find your own two-into-one adaptor.
The Compro VideoMate E900F card also has an input for an FM tuner feed, and a 6-in-1 converter cable (included in the box) that offers S-video, component and composite video outputs.
A remote control handset is also included with the Compro VideoMate E900F, a somewhat chunky and ugly unit.
Software includes the DVD authoring package, Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5, but the main ingredient is the company's own ComproDTV 4.5 package. This is a serviceable if hardly breathtaking program that covers the gamut of digital/analogue viewing combinations, timeshifting, still-frame capture and, of course, watching live TV. It'll even let you view up to five pictures-in-picture.
While the ComproDTV software has improved over the years, we'd still prefer its interface to be slicker and more consistent. Meanwhile, if you don't get on with it, many of the Compro VideoMate E900F's functions work seamlessly in Windows' Media Center software, as found in Home Premium and upwards versions of Vista and Windows 7.
The Compro VideoMate E900F has a hardware MPEG-1, -2 and -4 encoder, as well as hardware noise reduction. It doesn't, though, have MHEG-5 support, so interactive Freeview services will be limited, despite the remote control's red button.
We found TV reception to be decent with the Compro VideoMate E900F, even if the default colours are a little weak. You'll need a fairly strong signal, as the digital picture tends to disappear rather quickly when reception drops off. Recording is of a good standard though.
Perhaps the Compro VideoMate E900F's most novel is its support for S5 Power Up Schedule Recording. This is designed to let your PC automatically power up, record a programme, and then power down again afterwards, thus saving energy and cutting down on system noise.
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