Ceton InfiniTV 4 Delivers the Ultimate Media-Center Experience
At a Glance
Ceton InfiniTV 4
Four-tuner HD recording add-in card turns your PC into a home theater monster.
For longtime fans of Windows Media Center, the InfiniTV 4 is the answer to a prayer. It's a low-profile PCI card that accommodates a single CableCARD from your cable-TV provider. Once installed, it bestows four digital tuners, each able to show and/or record high-definition and premium channels. As one of those longtime fans, I'm happy to report it works--and it's awesome.
I popped the $399 InfiniTV 4 (price as of 10/5/2010) into an HP Pavilion S5360f I purchased expressly for media-center duty. The card requires Windows 7 (any version but Basic), an open PCIe expansion slot, a video card with an HDMI-out port, and a multistream CableCARD. Comcast insisted on sending an installer to help with the setup, but some cable companies will let you go it alone.
Either way, the only tricky part of the setup--most of which happens inside Windows Media Center--is "pairing" the CableCARD with your cable account. That means getting on the phone with a customer-service person and reading a bunch of numbers displayed on a WMC setup page. My installer handled that part, and in a matter of minutes my PC was pulling down HBO, The Discovery Channel, Comedy Central, and other digital HD channels.
Ah, but could it really record four shows at once while letting me watch a fifth, already-recorded show? On my Pavilion, a reasonably powerful quad-core system, this five-fecta worked without a hitch. I noticed no hiccups in any of the recordings. And after living with the InfiniTV 4 for a couple of weeks, the only real problem I encountered was an occasional "no signal" error message before a scheduled recording--which then recorded properly anyway.
I have just two complaints to note. First, it takes a couple of seconds to switch channels--but that was true with my Comcast DVR box as well. Second, due to the one-way nature of current CableCARDs, the InfiniTV 4 can't access pay-per-view or on-demand programming. That's not a deal-breaker for me, but it might be for some.
The InfiniTV 4 isn't cheap, but at least you don't have to pay a monthly subscription charge (I'm looking at you, TiVo, and your two measly tuners) on top of what you're already paying for cable. Indeed, this single accessory breathes new life into Windows Media Center, and turns nearly any PC into the ultimate DVR.