How does a Tv Tuner Work


Dec 8, 2012
I was wondering exactly how a tv tuner works, so I get about 100 channels in my room on my tv, but if i used a Tv Tuner so i can watch it on my computer, would i still get those chanells? Or would I only get a couple chanells. Please help!

Also, any suggestions for a good tv tuner thats not too expensive


What follows assumes you live in the USA and are attempting to connect a PC to a US cable TV provider.

A TV Tuner card should work exactly the same as the tuner inside your TV, but there is a catch. Since you state that you currently get about 100 channels, I'm guessing that you have a set top box from your cable/satellite company.

This means that the HDTVs TV Tuner is not being used at all. In fact, the set top box is doing all the tuning of channels, most of which are probably encrypted. This means that if you connected the cable from the wall socket directly to your HDTV, you'd only get a few channels.

So the first thing you need to do is verify what all equipment is included in your current set up. The second thing you need to do is provide a budget. Finally, you need to provide full computer system specifications, to include the motherboard model number and what expansion slots are available.

TV Tuner cards generally have a combination of the four main types of TV signals:
1) NTSC - This is the old and defunct analog signal for Free Over-The-Air (OTA) transmissions of your local channels.
2) ATSC - This is the new digital signal for Free OTA transmissions of your local channels.
3) ClearQAM - This is the signal your cable provider will utilize for subscribers to their Basic Cable subscription. None of the channels of this subscription level are encrypted and, assuming you have an HDTV that has a ClearQAM tuner (as most do), no cable set top box is required.
4) QAM - This is the signal your cable provider will utilize for subscribers of their higher level subscription tiers. This TV signal requires a cable company set top box* in order to not only tune the channels but also decode the encryption the cable company utilizes to prevent theft/piracy of their content.

The majority of all HDTVs on the market today include the first three tuners listed; NTSC, ATSC, and ClearQAM. The majority of TV Tuner Cards on the market today include some combination of the first three tuners listed. There are some TV Tuning devices for the PC that, with a cable company provided card, will tune the fourth (QAM) signal without the use of a set top box (your PC becomes the set top box).


For Free OTA/Basic Cable services:
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1250 Hybrid - $66 - Budget
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1850 - $95 - Mid-Range
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 - $115 - Gold Standard

For Cable Services above Basic cable, you're going to need a TV Tuning device and a cablecard from the cable company to replace your set top box:
Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 - $100 - Two Tuners
SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime - $140 - Three Tuners
Ceton InfiniTV4 PCI-E - $200 - Four Tuners (what I use)
Ceton InfiniTV4 USB - $200 - Four Tuners

In addition to being able to tune QAM channels, the four cablecard ready devices I listed have an additional feature. They are able to assign tuners to other devices on a computer network; another PC, an XBox 360, or another TV with a Ceton Echo attached. The Hauppauge and SiliconDust devices can do so dynamically. The Ceton devices are static in their assignment. Just for reference, I do this with the two systems listed in my signature block.

So if you could provide us with the requested information (configuration, budget, and PC system specs) we could make a distinct recommendation.

-Wolf sends