OK, so i live in Argentina, and our TV Standard is PAL-N. Actually, there are just 3 countries using this standard:
Some months ago, i decided to build an HTPC with a relatively old computer that i had laying around here, so the obvious buy was a TV Tuner Card that was also compatible with Windows Media Center.
After several hours of searchs at different manufacturers’ sites, i concluded that the best one to buy was the ATI eHome Wonder, mainly because it was cheap (around U$S 40 at ebay) and because it had a hardware MPEG-2 encoder (that means that when you record a tv program to your hard disk, the processor inside your computer is virtually “free” to do anything else).
So great, around 10 days later, my brand new TV Tuner card arrived, and it worked great, except for the fact that it doesn’t supports PAL-N, in other words, the tuner is hardware locked at the NTSC/M norm, mainly used in USA and Japan.
I was really dissapointed about this, not because of the lack of support for PAL-N, but because of the lack of correct and accurate specifications in almost all the manufacturers websites. In most cases, they claim “WorldWide standards support”, but what they fail to tell you is that they are talking about the LINE or S-Video inputs, but not about the TV Tuner itself.
So what is the deal here ?… pretty simple, 90% of TV Tuner cards out there use really old “tuners” in order to get the RF signal (that’s what comes from the antenna or from your cable provider), and those tuners are usually locked specifically to a prefixed norm (usually NTSC & PAL-B).
Thanks god, after some more search (and after trying several other tuner cards), i found the answer to my prayers: There are new manufacturers that are using silicon based tuners on their boards instead of the old “steel box”, those silicon based tuners dont have any limitation when it comes to the standards they can tune, on top of that, they are amazingly small and the image quality and input sensibility is just better.
Actually, i found the guys at MSI, AdsTech and AverMedia using those silicon based tuners for their new cards, and most probably all those cards are compatible with almost any standard out there, no matter where you are.
So what did I bought finally ?
I found an AverMedia AverTV Purity 3D MCE 500 for a really low price at eBay (brand new).
(Please note the lack of information about the supported standards at their page)
This is actually a pretty high end card, it comes with dual tuners (you can watch one channel while you record a 2nd one), it also comes with Hardware MPEG-2 encoding, it uses a silicon based tuner so it is worldwide standards compatible, and it is compatible with Windows Media Center 2005 and Windows XP (i have found that it is also compatible with Linux and some Linux media centers, but i didnt test that myself yet).
So yeah, if you want to watch TV at your computer or you want to build an HTPC and you live in a country where NTSC or PAL-B are not the TV standards, this is probably the best buy you can make.