Author Topic: Hauppauge DEC2000-t  (Read 2335 times)

Offline Chandler

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Hauppauge DEC2000-t
« on: Aug 01, 2004, 03:50 AM »
Hauppauge DEC2000-t


Click here for full image

Digital Terrestrial TV, the alternative to Satellite and Cable.  The UK has had Digital TV (DTV hereafter) for a number of years now, spearheaded by ONdigital (later ITV Digital) who in early 2002 ceased pay-TV operations due to financial problems.  Shortly after, Freeview appeared, which now offers around 50 TV and Radio channels, absolutely for free.  All you need is a digital decoder and a decent aerial.

There are many set-top boxes around which plug into your regular television set, but when it comes to PCs the choices are slightly more limited.  Hauppauge were the first to launch a DTV box, the Nova-t range which is solely for PCs and is available in PCI card and USB variants.  Now, we have two new boxes, the DEC1000-t and the DEC2000-t.  The former is a regular set-top box and has no special connection for use with a PC.  For an extra ?20 or so, you get the very cool looking DEC2000-t.  The beauty of this box is that it combines the features of the Nova-t USB and the DEC1000-t to give an all-in-one box which works either with a TV or PC.
What's in the box?

  • Hauppauge DEC2000-t unit
  • Remote control
  • USB A-B cable
  • Coaxial cable
  • 21-pin SCART cable
  • Software CD - includes InterVideo WinDVD 4 OEM
  • 12V AC-DC power adapter
  • 2x AA batteries
For once a peripheral in a big box which actually fills it!  The box is also pretty heavy, but most of the weight comes from the power adapter and SCART cable; the DEC2000-t is very light indeed.  Despite this, build quality is very good and it feels like it can endure the occasional knock, although the silver paint will probably rub off!

Offline Chandler

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Hauppauge DEC2000-t
« Reply #1 on: Aug 01, 2004, 03:50 AM »
From this point in the review, I will comment on the TV side as one section and the PC side as another, since they are totally unrelated in most aspects.

PC Mode

In PC mode, you simply connect an A-B USB cable from the DEC to a free USB port on your PC.  A USB cable is supplied, but it is ridiculously short, limiting you to having the device close to your computer.  Of course, you can always purchase a longer cable if you want, any good quality USB cable should suffice.  The use of standard cables also means that if you damage a cable, it shouldn't cost too much to replace them.

You will need a pretty powerful computer to get the most out of this product, the minimum requirements of 500MHz are in my opinion too low.  My Pentium III 650MHz works fine, but if you do anything else with the computer, the sound and picture will break up, this includes simply scrolling through the channel list.  Any processor over 1GHz should have more than enough power though.

Software Installation

The software CD (version 2.15A in the test unit) contains drivers for the entire Hauppauge Digital TV range (DEC2000/3000, Nova and Nexxus) along with a 2-channel OEM version of InterVideo WinDVD 4.0.  WinDVD is used to decode the video and audio, since when the DEC is connected to a PC, MPEG2 decoding is done in software; the DEC2000-t sends the actual MPEG-2 stream to the computer, without interfering with it in any way!  It does have a hardware MPEG2 decoder built into the box, which is used only when connected to a television.

There are many reasons why it's best to let the PC do the decoding, even though it does use up CPU cycles.  One is related USB bandwidth; the MPEG2 stream broadcast over the air is already compressed (to around 4-6Mbit/sec) which fits nicely down the 12Mbit/sec bandwidth of USB 1.0 (compared to several MBytes/sec if it decompressed it).  Another reason why this is the most sensible route to take is for recording, the computer doesn't really have to do anything, it's just streaming the live MPEG-II feed from USB straight to disk.

Running the Setup program on the CD installs the DTV viewer application and WinDVD software.  If you want to use Digital Teletext and "Press Red" interactive services (MHEG-5 support in other words), then you will also need to install the Digital Teletext application afterwards.


Click here for full image

The main program that you'll use is the DVB-TV, which reboots the DEC into PC mode (since it behaves differently).  The boot up process takes around 10-15 seconds after which the main program loads and initialises the InterVideo Video and Audio decoders.  The first time that this is run, the options page pops up.  Here, you select the region that you live in and the transmitter that you receive television from.  If you don't know this, then you can simply select All Region.  After this, the software will search for all possible channels and then sort them to the correct channel numbers.  The newer 2.15a version of the software assigns channel numbers correctly through the Favourites function (rather than putting them alphabetically).  The radio channels will need assigning however.


Click here for full image

If you have installed the Digital Teletext app, then a small 'T' icon will appear at the top of the channel list, clicking on this launches the Digital Teletext viewer.  If the station has interactive services, then Press Red will appear after a few seconds.  If a station isn't broadcasting and shows a station logo, such as ftn or CBeebies, then selecting these stations during the shutdown period will automatically launch the Digital Teletext viewer.  Unfortunately there is no support for moving video within the text, which means that for example with BBC Parliament you get text and sound, but no image.  There are also issues with graphics not displaying correctly, such as on Free2Play.  You cannot use the remote control to browse the Teletext, but there is an on-screen remote and you can also type on the keyboard with the Cursor Keys, Enter and R, B, Y and B to select pages.

Recording


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After making a recording, you can play it back either through the main DVB program, in Windows Media Player (or any other DirectShow supporting program such as RealOne Player v2.0) or within a dedicated DVD decoder application such as Cyberlink PowerDVD or InterVideo WinDVD or one of the many other MPEG2 decoders.  If you play it back within the main DVB program, then a box appears as shown in the image on the right, you can Play/Pause, Stop and Seek with this and it replaces the TV image.  A similar dialog box is used for the Time-Shifting feature.  This can be very useful, if you don't know what time-shifting is, I'll try to explain it by way of an example:  Your favourite program begins at 7:00, but at 7:10 your phone rings... Simply press the record button and it will start recording, now you get off the phone 5 minutes later, you can either record the rest of the program and watch it later, or you can start playing back what was shown at 7:10 and continue to watch the program to the end, i.e. it will finish 5 minutes after it was broadcast - i.e. it's shifted 5 minutes behind.  This way, you don't have to wait for it to finish, and also you don't miss anything, you're watching the beginning as it's still recording the end!

Once you've made the recording and watched it, you may decide that you want to store it for watching later.  If you're a perfectionist, then I suspect that you'll want to trim the start and end off the recording so that it starts and finishes in the right place.  Unfortunately Hauppauge doesn't include a utility to do this, but you can download a freeware program called Vidomi.  Click here for a quick setup guide.

Recording Quality

Since the MPEG-II stream is being saved directly to disk, the quality is the best possible.  Depending on the station, you can get very near DVD quality video and sound.  Modern films maintain their anamorphic resolution and can even be deinterlaced using the Weave deinterlace method, rather than the lower quality Bob.  I have included some samples for you to view below to judge for yourself.

http://www.dayc.vispa.com/images/dectmf.png
http://www.dayc.vispa.com/images/dec9yd.png
http://www.dayc.vispa.com/images/decgmtv.png
http://www.dayc.vispa.com/images/decc4.png

Please note that the film images above are stretched vertically in the screenshots.  This is only because they are anamorphic widescreen, they are resized correctly on playback.  I have not modified the images at all.  Notice how clearly defined and evenly coloured the text is.
« Last Edit: Aug 01, 2004, 04:08 AM by Chandler »

Offline Chandler

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Hauppauge DEC2000-t
« Reply #2 on: Aug 01, 2004, 03:58 AM »
TV Mode

In TV mode, the box works just like any other stand-alone box.  The first time that it is switched on, it asks you if you want to scan for channels, and in my area it correctly located all channels.  However, it doesn't put the channels in the correct order like the PC software does so you may want to do that yourself.

There is a single 21-pin SCART "Euro-Connector" on the back of the unit.  This single connector connects to a free SCART socket on the back of your TV or VCR.  Stereo sound is supported, either through the 21-pin connector or the dedicated mini-jack connector.  There are three options in the comprehensive setup menu:  Video (Composite), Video+ (RGB) or S-Video.  All three modes are sent over SCART, with RGB providing the very best quality.  Cheap adapters can be purchased separately to convert the 21-pin SCART to S-Video and Phono Audio if required.  If you don't have a SCART enabled TV or VCR, then traditional RF (coaxial) output is supported.  I did notice one problem with the RF out however, when the box is on, then it passes through the regular analogue signals to the TV fine, but when in standby the RF out is turned off.

The remote control works flawlessly in TV mode and there is no delay in changing channels.  Unlike some set-top boxes there is a volume control and mute function which works independently from your TV.

One noticeable omission is support for MHEG5, which means that you will be unable to view digital Teletext and Press Red services, along with games channels such as Free2Play.  There is also no support for picture on BBC Parliament, since this is transmitted in quarter picture resolution, which the DEC2000-t seems unable to support.  It should be noted that the cheaper DEC1000-t (TV only) box from Hauppauge does support MHEG5, but there are huge differences between the two products.

Conclusion

The Hauppauge DEC2000-t is an excellent solution for people who want to watch Digital TV on their PC cheaply, while still having the option of watching it on a television set or recording to a VCR.  I can see it being the most attractive to students, since they will not need to take television set with them, saving space for vodka bottles... and work.  There are a few problems, but none that seriously affect the operation of the device.  Hauppauge have had a good track record with releasing software updates for their analogue WinTV cards and I expect this to be no different.  The lack of MHEG5 support in TV mode may be an annoyance to some, but how often to we actually view it anyway?

Pros
  • Works with PC and TV
  • Includes remote control
  • Excellent recording and playback quality
  • Relatively cheap    
  • Space saving    
  • Looks great
Cons
  • No MHEG5 support in STB mode
  • Slow remote in PC mode
  • Random software crashes
« Last Edit: Aug 01, 2004, 03:58 AM by Chandler »

Offline Chandler

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Hauppauge DEC2000-t
« Reply #3 on: Aug 01, 2004, 04:03 AM »
July 2004 Update

Introduction

The DEC 2000-t has come a long way since it's release in late 2002.  Initially it used the 1.xx software that accompanied the Nova-t card and it lacked key features such as a scheduler.  This all changed in 2003 when the software was updated to 2.xx, and after a few beta versions reached 2.15A (reviewed here)

A lot has changed in the year that I've owned the DEC, and it's been an interesting experience.  The DEC has received several software and firmware updates as has my computer system so I decided it was time to test it on a modern system using a modern chipset.
New Test Rig

    * AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Barton
    * Biostar M7NCD (nForce2 400)
    * ATi Radeon 9800 Pro
    * Creative Audigy 2 ZS
    * Hitachi 7K250 200GB

Software Installation


Click here for full image

The first thing that you notice is the brand new installer.  The original 2.17 release didn't prompt you to uninstall previous versions of the software which caused problems for some people.  The more recent 2.17d does however so should avoid the "Script Error" messages.



Once installed, there isn't much difference to the appearance of the main window.  The desktop icons are now labelled Digital TV (DEC) and Digital TV (NOVA) which allows you to use both a DEC2000-t and Nova-t together one the same PC, more on this later.

EPG


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This isn't a new feature, but until now the 7/8-day EPG hasn't been available across the UK.  This is my first chance to try it out.  For starters there are two places to access the EPG and they work differently.  The Program Magazine allows you to build a set of channels which you want to collect EPG data for, and it only updates when you instruct it to.  Updating the Program Magazine can take some time and also interrupts what you are viewing while it does so.  As a result, I don't use it much.  However...


Click here for full image


Click here for full image

The other EPG is dynamically updated while you are viewing channels on a particular multiplex.  You don't have to tell it to update, and it holds the data until you close the application.  So, if you view BBC ONE, it silently collects the EPG data for all channels on Mux 1 (BBC ONE, BBC TWO, CBBC, BBC THREE etc.) without interrupting you.  If you then watch ITV1 it will add the channels from Mux (ITV1, C4, ITV2 etc.) to it's EPG data.  You can view this data by clicking the "i" button below the channel list.  By default only one channel is displayed at a time, but you can click the numbers at the top of the screen followed by a channel from the list to add more panes.

DirectX 9.0 Support

We finally have fully working DirectX 9.0 support.  This means however than DX9 is now REQUIRED.  The software does work with older versions of DirectX but you may find incorrect aspect ratios.  With DirectX 9.0 you will no longer get distorted aspect ratio problems when viewing the 4:3 in 16:9 framed channels such as Five and BBC.  If you have replaced quartz.dll with the DX8 version at some point, then you should reinstall DirectX 9.0.

To fully appreciate the DX9 support you should enable VideoMixingRenderer9 (VMR9) which will give better aspect ratios as described below.


Click here for full image

With the support for DX9 comes some new advantages.  There are now 3 supported modes which are automatically selected with the default settings - 4:3, 14:9 and 16:9.  When watching a true 4:3 program on a channel such as ITV1 or TMF the image will fill the screen.  When watching a true 16:9-only program such as films on Five the image will be deep-letterboxed to 16:9.  However, where AFD describes 14:9 Centre-Cut Out, you now get the half-way 14:9 mode which the BBC uses for a lot of older programs on the CBBC Channel.  The widescreen bars are thinner than with 16:9 and a little bit more is cropped from the sides.  This mode is used for 4:3 within 16:9 programs such as the Five News Updates.

Another advantage of using VMR9 over Overlay is that you can have multiple video windows.  With overlay you are limited to just a single video window on most graphics cards.  The only disadvantage is that it doesn't work very well on older hardware.  If you have a GeForce2 or newer you should be fine.  I'd avoid using it on SiS' integrated video chipsets.

AC3 Sound

Australian and German users will appreciate the support for AC3 sound.  Currently there aren't any AC3 sound streams being broadcast on the UK's Freeview service and this is unlikely to change for the next few years.  When it is enabled, it brings up the properties for the InterVideo Audio codec supplied with the software.
Conclusions

Through listening to their customers Hauppauge have made huge improvements to their DEC and Nova products.  Stability has improved considerably, the annoying little bugs have been fixed and there are new features.

New Rating: 9.5/10


DISCUSS HERE
« Last Edit: Aug 01, 2004, 04:07 AM by Chandler »