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The bargain of the CableCard TV tuner bunch, the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 costs just $149 (as of October 25, 2011)--half the price of the Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB and $100 less than the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC. What’s the catch? It offers just two tuners, versus four and three from its rivals, respectively. Still, you won't find a cheaper way to bring digital high-definition cable to your PC. And you know what else has a mere two tuners? Virtually every TiVo model ever made.
In other words, if you’re not a hard-core couch potato, two tuners might be enough. With the WinTV-DCR-2650, you can record a pair of shows simultaneously while watching a third, recorded show. All you need is Windows 7, a CableCard, and a USB port.
The adapter is about the size of a small paperback book, with large LEDs in the front indicating power, cable connectivity, and tuner activity. It’s an easy fit alongside any TV or squeezed into an entertainment center, though the ultrabright LEDs can be distracting in a dark room.
You wouldn’t know to look at it, but the WinTV-DCR-2650 is actually made by SiliconDust. This becomes evident the moment you install its software (supplied on CD), which has the SiliconDust name--not Hauppauge--all over it. In fact, the entire installation and configuration process is identical to that of the HDHomeRun Prime--namely, fast and fairly painless.
However, while Hauppauge’s instruction guide walks you through all the parts involving Windows Media Center, it doesn’t say anything about using SiliconDust’s setup utility, which requires a one-time configuration. The process isn't difficult, but novice users may find one or two of the steps confusing, such as the one where you select the 'source type' for the detected tuners. (Hint: It’s 'CableCARD'.)
In my tests with a Comcast multistream card and a midrange HP desktop, the WinTV-DCR-2650 worked perfectly. Both live and recorded shows looked great, and I had no trouble tuning in SD, HD, or premium channels. Just as important, my PC didn’t balk at reestablishing communications with the WinTV-DCR-2650 after waking from sleep mode (always a potential problem with USB devices).
Save for a couple very minor issues, the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 is a killer product. For about the price of a subscription-subsidized TiVo, it turns your PC into a dual-tuner DVR--without the subscription.
This story, "Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 Review: Affordable TV Tuner Adapter Is Simple to Use" was originally published by PCWorld.
For a price that’s hard to beat, the WinTV-DCR-2650 brings two digital HD tuners to your PC.
- Records up to two digital HD channels at once
- Driver CD included
- Less expensive than any other CableCard adapter
- Overly bright status LEDs
- Incomplete setup instructions
- Only two tuners; competitors offer three or four