Diamond Xtreme TV PVR 550 Power Pack
Image Quality and Software
The software used to watch TV on this card is called "Beyond TV". The interface is functional and easy to navigate, and yes, the design is pretty spiffy. The FireFly remote is fully functional with it, so you can sit back and relax and forget your even using a computer. It's pretty much designed to be as keyboard free as possible, and it's a good thing as I'm sure some of you are thinking about building a Media PC for your home theater system right about now if you're reading this. Another TV comfort that crosses over onto the PC, is the SnapStream.net Channel Guide, which allows you to keep track of what's on. You're given a free 60-day trial, and after your time is up, you are required to pay for a subscription.
You may be wondering by now about Windows MCE support. The folks at Diamond Multimedia informed us of the following... "To use a PVR/TV Tuner device with Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE), the user needs an MCE-compatible codec to display the TV video on the screen. The codec is required and without it no video can be displayed. Diamond XtremeTV includes the MCE-compatible codec in every package, unlike several competitors that do not include the codec and require the user to locate and purchase one on their own."
What can we say? The image quality is excellent. At times things don't seem quite as clear as when seen on a standard TV tube, however it's still excellent and you can make out fine details fairly easily. The images you see are of standard cable, the Diamond Xtreme TV can also take Digital Cable, Antenna, and Satellite. Recording is done MPEG2 format, so the quality of what's recorded is extremely good, however that also means large file sizes. If you recall, it does mention that you should have 15GB of free hard drive space, and you'll certainly need that and more if you want to store lots of material. We recorded 45 minutes worth of TV, and the file came out to be 1.41GB... ouch.
As we promised, more about the FireFly remote. This thing makes the Diamond Xtreme TV much easier to use. It requires two AAA (Triple A) batteries, is light, and fits comfortably in your hand. The upper part of the remote is your standard setup TV Remote, the middle section is used to navigate through Beyond TV and also control your mouse. The large FireFly button, which we're sure you'll notice right off, brings up a menu of media options. The lower section is for recording and playing back your media (think DVD/VCR remote), while the bottom buttons allow quick access to your Music, Photos, DVD, TV, and Video. The range of the remote is excellent, so placement of the IR-Receiver isn't a problem but it's not nearly as convenient as the RF units found in ATi's Remote Wonder offering, which don't even require line-of-site interfacing obviously. Overall however, it's one of the most functional TV Tuner remote we've looked at so far.