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A few months ago I bought a plasma television and upgraded my satellite receiver so that I could watch the high-def channels. We have another television purchased previously which also has a high-def receiver. When I compare the two, the one attached to my Windows Media Center machine seems to be poorer quality. The computer is fairly old anyway, so I was planning to upgrade it and thinking I need to upgrade to a better tuner card at the same time. I'm currently using an ATI Theater 550 Pro.

In my attempts at research, everything is about over-the-air HD, Clear QAM, etc. I just want to watch my satellite TV (Starchoice). I am getting the impression that the newer HDTV tuner cards will treat my satellite receiver as an analog signal. Is this correct? Can anybody recommend a tuner card that will meet my needs? I am intending to use Windows 7 Ultimate RC for the operating system.

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See [this article] posted on a forum:

Short answer: there is no "tuner" that will work with StarChoice.

Long answer: a "tuner" is a device that translates RF signals from and antenna or cable line into electronic signals. Terrestrial, satellite, and cable signals are all different.[...]

You can buy a satellite "tuner" that will receive the DVB-S (I think) signals from the StarChoice satellites. It will accept the RF signals collected by your dish and translate them into binary data that the computer can see. This is probably illegal in Canada. The data you get is encrypted [...], so no one has bothered breaking it. [...]

The only real option you have right now for recording HD video from your StarChoice box is the Hauppauge HD PVR. This exploits the analog hole and allows you to record the HD signals from the component video output of your set top box. This is not a tuner because it does not receive RF frequencies. It is a video capture box and a serious kludge. It even comes with a WebTV era "IR Blaster" that pretends to be a remote control and changes the channels for you.

Can you plug the satellite reciever that is supplied to you by StarChoice into your computer using RF (a coaxial cabe) into just a regular digital tuner card? If you can then you may be able to use that and Windows Media Center should be able to record that just fine, although I am not sure if you would be able to change channels in Media Center, or if you would need to change them on your satellite reciever.

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I currently have a coaxial cable running from the satellite receiver to a PCI capture card. Media Center changes channels on the satellite receiver through the IR blaster. All the "digital" or HD capture cards that I've seen refer to over-the-air HD and/or ClearQAM. I get the impression that my satellite receiver would still be treated as analog. – Scott Jul 21 '09 at 18:57

You have a couple of choices (and one may not work):

  1. Use your satellite box as the tuner and capture analog output. If you can output component, you can capture hidef with the Haupauge HD-PVR. You'll have to teach your computer to change the channels on your satellite box with an IR Blaster.
  2. You try and capture using a DVB card for your computer. I don't know anything about Starchoice, if all the channels are encrypted, you won't be able to capture anything. There are several DVB capture devices, I use the QAM version of the HD HomeRun, and really like it.
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The channels are indeed encrypted; I will continue to use the receiver which has an IR blaster attached to it to change the channels. I'm not sure that HD-PVR is the right solution for me; I want to use Windows Media Center. – Scott Jun 4 '09 at 2:49
The HD-PVR is a USB capture device that outputs H.264. The advantage is it captures from a component source and therefore can capture higher resolution. It takes the place of a PCI or other internal capture card like the ATI you have. In the past Windows Media Center didn't support it, but I believe as of Feb '09 it does. – kbyrd Jun 4 '09 at 3:05
A third option, if your receiver and computer supports it, is to use a firewire/ieee1394 cable to capture video from your receiver. Check your receiver's owners manual. Firewire wasn't designed with encryption in mind so the receiver is forced to send the video unencrypted to the PC. It is still a digital signal so its theoretically superior to component video. – Kenneth Cochran Jul 31 '09 at 3:04

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