July 4, 2010

Watching, Recording, and Enjoying Television on your computer or laptop!

I love using my Windows 7 computer a lot for watching and recording TV shows which is a nice break from YouTube, and other video sharing websites. A lot of the shows which I enjoy on TV are not found on YouTube, or get deleted too quickly because of Copyright claims from the TV production company. Plus, my Internet connection can be kind of slow, so it takes a long time for my computer to download/stream the entire video, so the video pauses a lot during playback.

It also saves me a lot of time compared to using a VCR since with a VCR. You have to rewind the tape to record over something and make sure there is enough tape to record your show. Plus, go out to buy tapes since they break after a while. But, recording shows to hard drive is simple since I have a lot of space, so I do not have to worry about running out of space and rewinding my tapes or making sure my tapes are not broken since recording stuff to a hard drive is so much easier. Plus, I don't have to search through piles of VHS tapes and DVDs to find the shows I want to watch. Hard drives are also very durable compared to VHS tapes which snap after many uses.

However, while television on my computer, all I have to do is open the TV playing software called WinTV 7 or Windows Media Center which comes free with Windows 7 Home Premium. I can enjoy my favorite TV shows anytime I want. If I do not have the time, I can record my show at a specific time like a VCR, or Digital Video Recorder (DVR). I can also record my shows while I am watching them like a VCR. The great part is I can set my TV shows to record while I'm busy or asleep, and I set my computer to shutdown or standby when my PC is done recording my shows, so I don't waste electricity after my shows are done recording. I can also cancel my recordings at anytime. The Best part of watching recorded TV shows on my
computer is I can skip over commercials very easily by pressing the fast forward button on my Media player or click on the status seek bar to go to a time in my video where there are no commercials. I save so much time and don't have to deal with annoying, and loud commercials. I can also click the rewind button on my Media player to re-watch my favorite scenes on a TV show or movie I recorded off TV to my PC.

The quality of my TV shows on my PC is decent for me for my Analog Cable TV subscription;however, when I use Antenna for watching TV. My picture quality is very bad since my house gets bad antenna reception. The video quality is better then most standard quailty online videos in full screen mode. But results may vary for your TV tuner depending on the quality and length of your TV cable, splitter quality(if you use a TV cable splitter) and TV connection type like Analog, Digital, Antenna, Over the Air HD, Satellite, or HDTV. If you have over the air HD antenna channels in your town, the quality should be very good.

If TV channels has a lot of static, you will need a COAX amplifier which might help at boosting your signal for your TV especially if you use a splitter, or your TV connection is weak.

I also find making sure my TV cables are not tangled and are firmly connected to the TV outlet and TV tuner also can improve the video quality a little bit. I notice sometimes when my picture quality is bad. I can just unplug everything, and reattach everything and the static on my TV or computer is gone. Cable ties might help at organizing your cables.

I been using the Hauppauge 1200 WinTV HVR-850 HDTV Tuner Stick which cost 55.99 at Amazon, and I have been very pleased with its performance and ease of use. I can watch TV when I'm bored on the computer, and it can also record TV when I'm too busy to watch TV.

Another good point about watching TV on a PC is I don't need a big screen to see the whole picture since you are just sitting 1-2 feet away from the screen in most cases. Plus, I can use headphones or ear buds on my PC or turn down the volume on my PC and still hear the sound from my TV shows I am watching on a PC.

Installing a USB TV Tuner and the TV watching software on  my computer was very simple. All I had to do is connect my Cable TV cable into the TV plug, and plug my TV tuner into an empty USB port on my Windows 7 computer. The HVR 850 also comes with a CD with all the software necessary to watch and record TV on your PC. It also came with a short USB cable, so the TV tuner does not take up too much space or block surrounding USB ports.

The software it came for watching and recording TV works pretty well, and the HVR 850 can also work with Windows Media Center for Windows 7. Although, I don't like how the scheduler uses 24 hour Military time instead of AM/PM Civilian time. But, it is no big deal since I can use an online time converter to convert civilian time to military time. When I'm done recording my TV shows, I can watch them with VLC, GOM, or Windows Media Center in Windows 7.

Watching TV on my slower computer with an 1.8 GHZ CPU, 1GB of RAM, and Intel onboard/integrated video adapter is very smooth. There is not any slow down while changing channels or watching TV while browsing the internet, or typing on a word processor. My TV tuner also works great on my HP laptop with 2 GB of RAM and a Mobile AMD CPU and Nvidia onboard graphics.

 I read in the manual my TV tuner can also be used to Watch TV on a modern Netbook with 1GB of RAM and 1 GHz CPU.

It would be great if I had a room for a second monitor on my desk and I have a dual display videocard, so I can use one Monitor for internet, and the other to watch full screen TV. But, I just resize my windows so both my TV watching program and my Web browser can be on the same Window.

For 55.99, it is a great value since it costs less then a Digital Video Recorder, and you can use your existing free hard drive space to record as many hours of TV as you want, and if you run out of space, you can just buy an external hard drive to store your TV shows you record to watch them when you have the time.

I also recommend getting an External hard drive to store and backup your TV show video files which you recorded since TV shows can take up a lot of hard drive space since they can be many hours long.

The HVR 850 also comes with a portable antenna, but if you use an Antenna signal to watch TV, I recommend also buying a better TV antenna or an outdoor one to get more channels, and better reception.

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