Peter Near reports that Hauppauge’s PVR-500 now actually supports dual set-top boxes:
The Hauppauge PVR-500 was one of, if not the first dual tuner card on the market for MCE 2005. Many people were quickly disappointed to find that it only offers dual tuning for those using analog cable. Anyone who wanted to connect dual set-top-boxes was out of luck.
They have now released a new daughtercard that allows you to now connect dual STBs to the PVR-500. The new card installs into a PCI slot next door to the tuner card and provides additional connectors for audio and video from a second STB.
As it happens, I have a WinTV-PVR-500MCE, and it will indeed accept a second set-top box. (For a list of all the pieces in my Media Center setup, click here.) The undocumented workaround is to connect the first tuner using the coax output from the first set-top box, and the second tuner using the S-video and stereo audio connectors. I had all sorts of hassles during initial setup although I eventually got it working and it’s been rock solid since those first few days; this odd cabling may be part of the problem. It was also extremely difficult to squeeze the Hauppauge card into the tight confines of the Shuttle small-form-factor case I’m using.
The Media Center PC works extremely well with two tuners. If you’re thinking of investing in a Media Center, this is the only way to go. The system is smart enough to switch effortlessly between them, as long as both are connected to identical signal sources (in other words, you can’t have a straight cable into one tuner and a single set-top box on the second one).
I’ve been seeing some picture degradation on my MCE recordings and I’ve been meaning to run some tests to see if there’s a difference between the two tuners. I think I’ll get one of these daughtercards and see if it makes a difference. Peter mentions the EVGA dual tuner card, which has dual S-Video inputs, but that’s gotten a thumbs-down in posts at The Green Button and at HTPCNews.com. I’d love to see ATI come out with a two-tuner version of the TV Wonder Elite. (But the real killer would be a CableCard-equipped HDTV-compatible dual-tuner card, which is, alas, science fiction at this point.
Thanks for the pointer, Peter!