Want a Vista CableCARD Media Center? Not So Fast

Illustration for article titled Want a Vista CableCARD Media Center? Not So Fast

If you were a Media Center 2005 user like us, you were eagerly awaiting Windows Vista's arrival for its CableCARD HDTV compatibility and recording. Who needs a TiVo when you could build your own system for a couple hundred bucks that does just about as good a job? That is, until the Series 3 HD recorders came out.

But January 30 has come and gone, but where are the cheap Vista DVRs? Nowhere, that's where. Microsoft's told us that there are no Vista Media Centers shipping as of right now with CableCARD support.

If you want to buy one—and that's your only choice if you want CableCARD support for HDTV on a PC—then you've got only two options.

1) Pay thousands of dollars for a high end system and hope they upgrade your system afterwards. Both Niveus and Okoro have announced uber-expensive Vista systems with CableCARD support "coming sometime in the future". These have ATSC tuners for OTA tuning for now, but that was possible back on Windows XP Media Center.

2) Wait a few months for Dell, Sony, Gateway, and other cheap manufacturers to put CableCARD certified tuners in pre-built systems. This is what we recommend, actually, since Dell had some pretty cheap and relatively functional Media Center 2005 machines for sale.


So all this CableCARD Vista Media Center talk is still a bit premature, thanks to the fact that none are available yet. We'll check back in a few months and let you know where to grab one of your own.






If you must go the PCI route, the Hauppauge HVR-1600 is good. It's a true dual tuner for simultaneous ATSC and analog cable recording in MCE.

I'd wait for the HVR-1500MCE to come out: It ditches the useless non-MCE remote but adds FM tuning.

However, when I replaced my craptacular ATI HDTV Wonder, I got the Hauppauge HVR-950. It's a tiny USB stick that works on my PC or laptop, comes with a little magnetic-mount antenna that actually picks up local OTA when stuck to my laptop's lid, and holds the signal far better than the ATI card ever did.

Take your pick. Any one of these go for $100, last time I looked.