Ideas on Choosing a TV Tuner

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Ideas on Choosing a TV Tuner

A television tuner is generally a device that is used to receive television signals on a computer. Some TV tuners double as a video capture card, which allows the recording of television programs onto the computer’s hard drive. This function is very similar to the work of a digital video recorder (DVR). Similarly, there are many computer video cards that also works as TV tuners, especially the ATI wonder card series. These cards comprise tuners and analogue-to-digital converters as well as demodulation and interface logics.

Initially, most of the TV tuner interfaces were PCI bus expansion cards until the development of the PCI Express bus cards. However, since then, TV tuner interfaces also include PCMCIAs, ExpressCards, and dongles. Most contemporary TV tuners work directly with Windows Media Centre without any other software or hardware additions. They also generally have the ability to watch and record TV shows in HD as well.

There many quality brands of TV tuners, but Hauppauge TV tuners are by far the most popular, followed by HP and ATI. Some brands are more expensive than others, but aside from the brand and budget, there are other factors that buyers need to consider including the various tuner types and their corresponding features.

Types of TV Tuners

The first thing that buyers should determine before they attempt to source a TV tuner is whether they are currently receiving digital or analogue broadcasting. Additionally, they need to consider their recording preferences such as two-channel recording or simultaneous viewing and recording. There are four basic TV tuner types, and they are discussed below.

Analogue Only and Digital Only TV Tuners

As the "only" in the names suggest, these tuners are only able to record one specific type of broadcast. Therefore, "digital only TV tuners&" only record digital broadcasts and "analogue only TV tuners" only record analogue broadcasts. These single broadcast tuners are generally cheaper, so persons on a budget who are sure of their broadcast type can consider this option.

Hybrid Tuners

Hybrid tuners are great for persons who are not sure of their broadcast type because they are able to facilitate both. The fact is that a hybrid tuner can function as a digital or analogue tuner but may pose a little difficulty in switching from one function to the other. If users would like to receive both broadcasting signals at once, they should consider combo tuners.

Combo TV Tuners

Combo TV tuners can be considered an upgrade to hybrid tuners in that it does not require switching from one broadcasting type to another. The combo tuners have two tuners on the one card, where one works as an analogue and the other works as digital. This easily allows users to record and watch two different channels at the same time as long as one channel is digital while the other is analogue.

Dual TV Tuners

The dual TV tuners are the most popular because they take the combo tuners to the next level. These TV tuners allow the user to watch and record two different channels simultaneously whether they are both the same broadcasting type or not. In essence, they can be both digital and analogue or a combination of the two. Dual TV tuners are also generally more expensive than its counterparts.

TV Tuner Input Type

Even when buyers become aware of the different types of TV tuners, they still need to consider the various input connection types before they make a final decision. As stated before, TV tuners can be installed as an internal PCI card or they can be plugged in externally via a USB port. There is not much difference between the two in terms of performance or quality. The choice simply depends on their personal preference and convenience.

For instance, if all the PCI slots on the computer are already used up or if users want to use the tuner on multiple PCs, it is best to buy a USB tuner. However, if you want to utilize more than one input, such as direct cable and connection via S-video, a PCI card would be appropriate. Additionally, if the buyer is using an older model computer that only uses a regular PCI slot as opposed to a PCI Express (PCI-e), he or she needs to spend a little more time searching for a good PCI TV tuner because the choices become more limited.

FM Radio and Other Miscellaneous Features

The radio feature is not really an important feature because most computer users simply listen to various internet radios or utilize the online streaming platform, which is incorporated by most radio stations. However, if the buyer’s favourite radio stations have not yet conformed to the technological age by introducing live online streaming for their stations, a TV tuner with FM radio support can be considered.

TV Tuner with Cable or Satellite Services

If buyers have an active cable package at home, their TV tuner can enable them to watch available analogue channels as well as available unencrypted digital channels. The decision of analogue and ClearQAM is made by the cable company, but they do not often want to release the details to their consumers. However, most users often receive many local channels along with a few national ones with their tuner only.

If buyers want to receive all the channels that their cable provider has on their computer, they can connect the cable company’s set top box to the TV tuner with a composite cable, component video cable, or S-Video. Buyers should, however, note that using S-Video, and composite cables do not receive HD channels and hinder the recording and watching of two channels even if they are using a dual TV tuner. Therefore, component video cables are more appropriate for HD channels and satellite TV as opposed to cable.

Terminology Glossary Chart

Buyers can easily understand the aforementioned details, but for further clarification on some of the terms and abbreviations used above, the following glossary chart is helpful. It provides short descriptions and definitions of each term.




Analogue standard for television; analogue television is still available via cable


Digital television, new standard for over-the-air broadcast; antenna instead of cable; also contain HD channels


Format in which digital cable is transmitted; similar to ATSC but carries about twice the amount of data and is transmitted through cable instead of over-the-air


Unencrypted digital cable


Provides a substantially higher resolution than standard-definition television


Peripheral Component Interconnect, a local computer bus used to attach hardware devices in a computer

PCI Express

Peripheral Component Interconnect Express, a high-speed serial computer expansion bus that was created to replace the older PCI

While the above chart is intended to help users better understand the details within this guide, it is also a great keepsake to use as reference when buying other related components. It can be consulted when buying a new TV or another computer part as long as the terms are relevant.

How to Buy a TV Tuner on eBay

A general search for TV tuners from the eBay homepage generates numerous results, which can overwhelm you. However, if you are still uncertain of what to search for, the general search can be used to familiarize yourself with the types of TV tuners available. This can help you to create a more defined search term to narrow down your results.

Once you have decided on the specifics for your TV tuner, type the new search term and review the newly generated results. For instance, if you are now sure that you need an analogue only tuner, you can type that into the search field and all other tuners are filtered out. Also, you can input design specifications to perform your search, such as "PCIe TV tuners" or "USB TV tuner". These specific search terms simplify the shopping experience by eliminating the unrelated items and reducing the number of options. At this point, buyers input other specific filters, such as brand and pricing, to completely narrow down the choices to a few items. Buyers can now find the right TV tuner for them.


Buying a TV tuner can be a simple task or a very daunting one based on the buyer's knowledge base and experience. eBay makes buying a TV tuner online very easy with their built-in search engine and filter options, but buyers still need to educate themselves on various factors to be considered before making a purchase.

Buyers have to first understand that there are several types of TV tuners, and each serves a different function or set of functions. Even after learning the various types, buyers also need to consider the input type of the prospective TV tuner and the corresponding port or slot on their computers. Even after they decide on the type and input of their prospective TV tuner, buyers still need to consider the need for additional feature options and cable connections if so desired. With all things considered, buyers know what to expect from their new TV tuner and its limitations, if any.

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