In This Article
What is TV Tuner Card?
A TV tuner card refers to a specific component just like a television tuner that helps the computer in receiving television signals and the transponder to receive data.
Technically, a TV tuner card is that which contains a tuner, an Analog to Digital Converter, and demodulation and PCI or PCIe interface logic that work together to display basic TV channels on the computer.
- A TV tuner card can work with only the monitor turned on and not the desktop Central Processing Unit or CPU.
- There are different types of TV tuner cards available in the market and some of them also come with automatic tuning facilities. You can use this feature with a single key from the remote.
Understanding TV Tuner Card
Your computer will not be able to show the TV stations even if you use your smart TV as the display of your monitor.
For that, you will need to use a TV tuner card.
This TV tuner card will allow you to connect the coaxial cable to your computer and it is only then the computer will be able to show the basic cable stations, digital and otherwise, on the computer monitor.
As said earlier, a TV tuner card that acts as a Digital Video Recorder will also allow you to record TV shows on your computer to view them later.
You will get these TV cards from different brands such as Hauppauge that may work with different types of computers and operating systems as well such as:
- Windows 7
- Windows XP
- Vista and more.
The TV tuners cards that are installed inside the desktop computers are usually plugged into the PCI slot or the PCI Express slot.
On the other hand, the external TV tuners are mainly used with the laptop computers but can also be used with the desktop computers.
There are also a few specific types of TV tuner cards that may come with remote control features to allow easy programming and access by the users.
However, it will all depend on the design, basic or advanced, as well as the price point.
The most common type of interface of the TV tuner cards is the Peripheral Component Interconnect or PCI bus expansion card.
However, there are also other types available such as:
- The newer and more modern PCI Express bus
- The PCMCIA or Personal Computer Memory Card International Association card
- The ExpressCard and even
- USB devices.
There are even a few specific types of video cards that may double as TV tuners such as the ATI All-In-Wonder series.
In these types of cards there is usually a tuner as well as an Analog to Digital Converter.
This is together known as the analog front end. These cards also come with interface demodulation logic.
There are also a few other types of lower-end cards that may not come with a processor onboard.
These cards typically depend on the Central Processing Unit of the system for demodulation.
Most of the TV tuners available today are restricted to video formats and radio frequencies of a specific country in which it is sold or used.
However, several TV tuners used in the computers also use a firmware upgrade which helps in changing the signals into the video format supported.
The modern TV tuner cards come with an adequate amount of flash memory in them to store these firmware sets.
This helps these tuner cards to be used in different countries following different video formats without needing to flash the firmware.
However, these cards may allow flashing it from one analog format to the other for the similarities in them but it may not allow doing so for one digital format to another because there may be differences in the necessary decode logic.
Types of TV Tuner Cards
There are different types of TV tuner cards available and some of them are described hereunder:
The analog television cards are most appropriate for real time viewing and they output an unrefined video stream.
However, if it is to be recorded, it will ideally need some kind of video compression.
There are few specific types of analog TV tuner cards that can also support analog input such as S-video and composite video and a few other types of cards that may also function as a radio tuner.
If you use some of the most advanced TV tuner cards, these will also be able to code the signal to Motion Joint Photographic Experts Group or JPEG or Moving Picture Experts Group or MPEG.
This specific feature of the cards relieves the CPU of the main system from this workload.
The digital TV tuners can be either hybrid or combo and both of these cards function in a different way to serve the same purpose.
In a hybrid TV tuner there is only one particular tuner that can be configured to perform like a digital tuner or an analog tuner.
Though it allows easy switching between the systems, it is not possible to make such switches immediately.
Till the time you reconfigure the card, it will continue to function as an analog tuner or a digital tuner.
On the other hand, the combo tuner, which is pretty much like a hybrid tuner but is not the same.
In these types of TV tuner cards, there are two distinct tuners.
This means that it will allow you to watch analog when recording digital and vice versa since these cards can perform like a digital or an analog tuner at the same time.
The two separate cards offer two significant benefits such as utilization of the expansion slots in the computer and its cost.
These digital cards are gaining more popularity all over the world with each passing day because people all over the world are converting analog signals to digital broadcasts.
The hybrid and combo TV tuner cards, just like the analog cards, come with special chips in them that allow them to encode signals or leave for the CPU to do it.
Typically, the TV tuner cards that come with such hardware encoding features are considered to be of higher quality.
There are also a few specific types of USB tuner sticks available in the market that are small in size and are becoming quite popular among the users.
However, these cards do not come with any hardware encoding feature due to its small size and heat restrictions.
There are several tuner cards that may also work as FM radios.
This is possible because there are some similarities in the FM radio signals and television broadcast and several broadcast television systems all over the world use FM radio.
In fact, the FM radio band may not only be close to those used by the Very High Frequency or VHF global TV broadcasts but may be even inside it.
Therefore, when you listen to an FM radio station it simply resembles configuring the current hardware.
Mobile TV Adapter
This is an external TV tuner card that can be attached to a mobile phone handset to watch mobile TV through different TV stations with respect to the country of use.
In these specific types of TV tuners, there is a converter that allows watching different TV broadcasts and Wi-Fi streaming video.
Video Capture Cards
These are specific types of tuner cards that you can plug into the expansion slots directly in the computers and servers.
There are different models of these cards available from different manufacturers but all of them meet the terms of one of the most popular host bus standards that include:
- PCI Express and
- Accelerated Graphics Port or AGP bus interfaces.
The video capture cards may come with one or more software drivers.
These drivers help in using the features of the video cards by utilizing the different operating systems.
It also helps in using the different software applications to process the video further for specific purposes.
These video cards as a class can capture different types of video such as:
- Baseband analog composite video and
- RF or Radio Frequency modulated video in models equipped with such tuners.
There are also a few specific types of video capture cards that support digital video according to different digital video delivery standards such as:
- SDI or Serial Digital Interface and
- HDMI or High Definition Multimedia Interface.
These specific types of models usually support SD or Standard Definition as well as HD or High Definition varieties.
Usually, the PCI and PCI-Express capture devices are committed to that particular purpose but the AGP capture devices are typically incorporated with the graphics bespoke on the board as the all-in-one package.
The video capture cards, much unlike the video editing cards, usually do not come with dedicated hardware for handing out video beyond the A2D or Analog to Digital conversion.
Most of the video capture cards, but not all of them, may also support one or more audio channels.
And, the new technologies allow implementing PCI Express and HD-SDI or High Definition Serial Digital Interface on the video capture cards at a much lower cost than before.
A video capture card may have several applications such as:
- Converting a live analog source into a form of digital or an analog medium as it is done in a VHS tape to a DVD
- Video archiving
- Video editing
- Scheduled video recording such as in a DVR
- Television tuning and
- Video surveillance.
Add to that, the video capture cards may also be used for recording a video game Long Play or LP to allow the gamers to make a walkthrough gameplay video.
There can be different designs of these cards which may support each of these functions optimally.
Out of all functions performed by a video capture card, the most popular application is to capture audio and video live internet streaming.
It can also archive these live streams at the same time and format the video on demand.
However, these specific types of video capture cards are usually purchased, installed, and configured by the system integrators or the hobbyists in the host computer systems.
Also, some of these cards need to be installed in an appropriate host system for encoding video, especially for the HD applications.
This is because these applications and their capture performance depend heavily on the performance and the number of cores of the CPU as well as a few specific characteristics of the motherboard.
Steps to Find the TV Tuner
You may wonder whether or not your computer has a TV tuner installed in it. Well, these are the specific steps to follow for the same.
Check all of the external devices that are connected to your computer. Check their labels for their specific purpose. If there is an external TV tuner, it will have ‘TV Tuner’ written somewhere on it.
Open the Windows Device Manager by pressing Windows and R keys on the keyboard at the same time.
On the Run box type ‘devmgmt.msc’ and expand the ‘Sound, video and game controllers’ tab. If there is a TV tuner in your system, it will have ‘TV’ or ‘Tuner’ listed at some place in the title.
Check the back of the computer looking for any symbol of a TV tuner or any coaxial input that can be connected to the cable service or to an antenna.
If the TV tuner card also functions as a video capture device it will come with extra inputs such as composite RCA or S-video ports.
If none of the above steps are helpful, as a last resort, you will have to open your computer, if you know how to do it, in order to be sure whether or not your computer comes with a TV tuner.
If there is any, there will be a metal box that will act as a shield to the actual tuner part of the TV tuner card. This is typically used as a protection against the interference usually generated by the TV tuner.
Can a TV Tuner Card be Added to a Laptop?
Yes, you can add a TV tuner to your laptop quite easily with the help of an External USB or Universal Serial Bus port.
The early computer-compatible TV tuners were designed simply as an expansion card and therefore needed a desktop computer to use them along with one open PCI slot.
However, over time, the design changed and with the advancement of technology now you get external TV tuners as USB devices that can be plugged into a laptop computer very easily.
However, there are a few specific requirements to make them useful.
One such primary requirement is the software that will make the USB TV tuner card work after you plug it physically to your laptop computer.
Typically, you will need these two particular things to make the device work properly:
- A driver which will help in communicating with the tuner and
- A software application which will allow watching and/or recording TV shows.
The good thing is that most of the USB TV tuners today come equipped with the necessary software as well as the driver that is very easy and needed to install before using the TV tuner.
Most importantly, you must make sure that your computer system meets all the requirements of the tuner, irrespective of the type you buy.
The design of these USB devices may vary from one manufacturer to another.
For example, few of these TV tuners may come with a coax cable connection on one end and look just like a simple converter.
At the other end of the TV tuner there is the necessary USB connector.
There are some external TV tuners that look just like a tuner box. These TV tuners will allow you to watch several channels at the same time.
How to Use a TV Card on a Computer?
Now that you know about the different types of TV tuners used in a computer and whether or not your computer has one in it, you may want to know how exactly you can put it to best use.
Well, provided you have everything that is necessary for it, the steps followed are pretty simple. But, first know about the requirements which are:
- A desktop and
- An external TV tuner card along with all the necessary cables.
Once you have them all in hand, here are the steps to follow to set up after unboxing the package and use the TV tuner card to watch the TV shows on your computer:
- Step 1 – Open the box packing and take out the TV tuner card, the cables and the remote
- Step 2 – Take the speaker plug out from the jack of the sound card which is normally found at the rear of the CPU cabinet
- Step 3 – Insert the cable into the jack of the sound card in place of the speaker plug
- Step 4 – Insert the other end of the cable into the ‘Sound out’ slot of the TV tuner card
- Step 5 – Plug in the speaker jack into the ‘Sound In’ slot of the TV tuner card
- Step 6 – Take out the monitor display cable from the rear of the CPU cabinet and insert it into the TV tuner card
- Step 7 – Plug one end of the cable that came with the TV tuner card into the monitor socket of the CPU cabinet
- Step 8 – Plug the other end of the same cable into the ‘VGA Out’ slot on the tuner card
- Step 9 – Plug in the power adapter supplied with the TV tuner card into the power source
- Step 10 – Plug in the output cable of the power adapter into the ‘Power In’ slot of the tuner card
- Step 11 – Put in the terrestrial antenna jack in the antenna socket of the TV tuner card
- Step 12 – Switch on the system after the set up is completed and you will probably hear a beeping sound at this point from the speakers
- Step 13 – Take the remote control supplied with the TV tuner card and check whether the batteries are inserted properly in it
- Step 14 – Press the power button of the remote at which the desktop monitor will show disturbed TV transmission and finally
- Step 15 – Tune the channels as you would do in a regular TV and watch the shows.
When you are done viewing, switch off the TV and continue working normally on your desktop computer.
Well, you may not be able to see all those channels that you can see on a regular TV on your computer when you use a TV tuner card.
Typically, the number of channels you would be able to see on your computer by using a TV tuner card will entirely depend on the signal and the way you get it.
Sometimes it may not work with a cable connection because most of the time the channels here will be encoded.
On the other hand, if you are using an antenna to get the signal, you may need to check out with the relevant sites first to find out the particular types of channels available in your area.
And, you should then check out the type of antenna that you will need to reach out that far.
The general rule of thumb is that you should get farther from the ground if the signal is farther away.
Does Windows 10 Have a TV Tuner?
Yes, there are a few universal TV receivers for Windows 10 which include clear QAM or Quadrature Amplitude Modulation digital cable TV Plus and ATSC or Advanced Television Systems Committee over-the-air TV.
You can connect a cable or satellite box and even use them to digitize video from camcorders and VCRs or Videocassette Recorders and also watch, pause and record the ATSC and QAM HD TV on your Windows 10 computer system.
These specific TV signals use a TV antenna for reception and the receiver used for this purpose may offer some specific features such as:
- Over-the-air support
- Cable or satellite TV receiver support
- Easy connect with USB to a Windows 10 computer system and
- Latest applications for Windows 10.
You can watch TV on your Windows computer on full screen or in a window but there will be a few specific TV standards followed.
Also, the coax output of the satellite or cable TV box provided will be of the National Television Standards Committee or NTSC type of video standard.
Usually, these boxes will display TV programs on a specific channel.
The TV receivers for Windows 10 may also come with an additional A/V adapter cable. This adds composite as well as S-Video plus stereo audio.
And, most of the cable boxes offer red/yellow/white connectors for the TV receivers for Windows 10.
These connectors offer quite better image quality in comparison to the NTSC channel 3 but not as good as QAM HD TV or ATSC.
What is a USB TV Tuner?
A USB TV tuner is that device that typically performs like a middleman between the video and the computer.
The USB TV tuners may look just like any ordinary USB connector and may also fit in any USB plug but it is very important to understand that most of the new USB TV tuners come with USB 2.0 specification.
This enables them to be plugged into an older generation connector.
These may fit into and run in a newer socket as well but then the difference in speed will be quite dramatic. Also, a few specific functions that you may want to use it for may not work properly or work at all.
The USB TV tuner which allows the users to watch TV programs on their notebook or a desktop computer comes with specific types of input ports.
These ports connect to the outgoing ports on a TV or any other entertainment center receiver or that matter.
The analog or digital video signals move through the composite video cable and the coaxial cable respectively to the TV tuner card.
The card then translates the signals into the necessary format in order to allow the users to watch the TV shows on their computers.
Any available USB port on the computer system can be used to plug in the USB TV tuner which will manipulate the data in a number of different ways.
Each of these USB TV tuner cards come with their own characteristic software and hardware specs.
This means that all of these USB TV tuner cards may not offer the same picture quality, or be equal in terms of functionality and ease of use.
Typically, most of these USB TV tuner cards will allow live TV to be paused, fast-forwarded and rewound.
However, there may be a few specific models that may be equipped with different software tools that will help in burning incoming programs to a Digital Versatile Disk or DVD.
There may also be some more advanced features that will help the users in further editing such as pulling still images from a streaming TV and changing them into different types of graphic files.
They may also use these images as wallpapers for their desktop.
Another significant use of the USB TV tuners is that it can be used as a tool to convert any old videocassettes, even home video cassettes, into DVD. This will save space as well as make it much easier to archive the videos.
One of the most significant and probably the nicest features of the USB TV tuner cards is that you can use them just like a PVR or Personal Video Recorder and record shows automatically into a hard disk.
You can view the shows from there at a later point in time and then delete it or burn it into a DVD.
There are a few specific types of USB TV tuners that can even record two different programs at the same time.
Most importantly, the users can watch one particular program while the second is being recorded at the same time.
Every USB TV tuner typically has specific system requirements. The most significant ones are:
- More memory
- Fast computer and
- More hard disk space.
The higher all these three are, the better.
Some of the USB TV tuners available today may be backward compatible to the USB 1.1 standard but the necessary speed and the quality of the pictures may not be very high for a few particular operations.
That is why a 2.0 USB port is always the best choice.
The external USB TV tuners are quite handy because you can move it quickly between computers, or attach it to a USB multi-switch hub if you want to share accessibility.
The USB digital TV tuners actually work as an antenna for the monitor of your desktop or laptop computer and, for that, it simply needs to be plugged into the right port.
Ideally, the USB TV tuners will enhance your options to watch TV shows even if you do not have a cable service provider.
However, be informed that in most of the situations you will be able to watch the free channels and not the premium contents.
Therefore, with all that learnt from this article now you surely know how the modern TV tuners have added to the utility of a computer, which already has so many.
It will add to your entertainment and viewing option. Just choose the right type of TV tuner after careful research before using it on your computer.