AverMedia AverTV Bravo Hybrid PCI-E ATSC Tuner Review
Continuing on with reviews that bring you news regarding the new digital television standard ATSC, today we take a look at the AverMedia AVerTV Bravo Hybrid PCI-Express Card that claims to be the best TV mate for your home theatre PC. Being able to receive ATSC, NTSC signals and digital cable signals through its Clear QAM support, we’ll see if this ATSC tuner card should be the one on your shortlist.
Since 1990, the core of AVerMedia's engineering and development has been based on digital video products and solutions. This focus has enabled AVerMedia to continuously set the standard for digital visual clarity, quality and effectiveness. Setting the stage was the AVerTV PC-based TV Tuner series and AVerKey PC-to-TV Scan Converters. From there, AVerMedia has continued to focus on digital video technology to include AVerVision Document Cameras, AVerTV Vista Certified TV Tuners, and the latest AVerDiGi NVR surveillance solutions.
With 11 branch offices, over 1000 employees worldwide and major distribution partners such as Ingram Micro and D&H, AVerMedia is able to serve our customers on a global scale with unsurpassed service and support. ISO 9001 and 14001 certified, as well as RoHS compliant manufacturing not only ensures high quality products, but follows the latest in "green manufacturing" standards. Furthermore, AVerMedia's Corporate Citizen Program gives back to the communities by supporting local, national and international causes and charities.
AVerMedia's corporate focus is not only to provide the most effective digital tools, but also to ensure a healthier environment while serving the community as a whole.
Looking at the specifications reveals that the AverMedia AVerTV Bravo Hybrid seems very similar in features when you compare it with the Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick which we reviewed previously.
In fact just about the only differences you can put between them are their interfaces (USB vs PCI-E) and respective bundles such as the remote control unit that comes bundled with the Pinnacle unit but not along with this AverMedia model standard but can be purchased separately.
The other difference is the support of recording in H.264 video compression format as opposed to the Pinnacle which can record in MPEG-2 video compression format. While some folks may not see any difference between the two video compression formats, H.264 is the newest standard and is much more efficient at recording the same video at half of the bit rate of recording in MPEG-2 meaning it’ll take up less space for recording. I found out that H.264 recording can only be done with the supplied software and only in portable media profiles such as for the PSP.
I think one of the unfortunate things is there is no starter antenna included with your purchase. So if you’re a long time cable subscriber and curious about switching to over-the-air or simply using a TV tuner card for the first time you might have to purchase a UHF antenna if you don’t already have it lying somewhere in your home.
Looking at the card reveals that it was created with being used in an HTPC in mind because the card is very small and short. It doesn’t look like it will have any problems being used in a small case. The card uses a digital audio/video capture converter made from NXP model number SAA7160ET to provide audio and video capture function and uses the bigger SAA7136E chip to provide the analog to digital conversions and utilizes a new generation tuner from LG in the LGDT3304.
AverMedia Center which is included with your purchase to view HDTV content and to make your PC an entertainment system is good software yet I feel it isn’t the best. If you remember one of the flaws with the Pinnacle HD Pro Stick was that the software was buggy. Fortunately AverMedia Center is the polar opposite being stable and having very little stability problems. The software did have a bit of a lag on the Athlon 3500+ system I was testing on but it was relatively quick overall. This could be attributed to the fact that the card is using a software encoder in which the CPU is doing all the recording and more. Very similar to the Pinnacle except that I felt under the same Athlon 3500+ system, the AverMedia felt slower than the USB enabled Pinnacle HD Pro Stick. Performance on the 3500+ was more sluggish compared to using the Pinnacle.
Utilizing the same card on my newer system, I had no problems at all because the Quad-core CPU could handle anything thrown at it. I’m going to assume with this card that a dual core processor will provide you with good results as a single core just don’t cut it anymore.
My biggest beef with the software is that it needs more direction in the form of text. There are buttons but no labels underneath. And in the menu there are a couple of spelling mistakes which takes away from the experience, it feels like it was rushed just a bit.
Scanning for channels was a little bit faster than the Pinnacle HD Pro Stick but still a little bit slow. Add the fact that I found it difficult to follow how to add and delete channels, the experience was a little bit dull. AverMedia has got to make their software easier to follow and to use because it doesn’t feel very powerful nor attractive nor even functional at times.
Viewing HD content is really amazing. The AverMedia AVerTV Bravo Hybrid has very good image quality although I feel it is tad soft. Images are otherwise colorful and pleasing. CPU utilization doesn’t fare too well with a single core CPU (the Pinnacle does better) but if you have a powerful PC you should not have any problems.
The LG tuner does a great job at pulling in HD signals and keeping them consistent at all times. It picked up one more channel that I could get with the Pinnacle if I moved my antenna. With the LG tuner, I didn’t have to do that.
Channel scanning takes a while like with the Pinnacle unit. It took me around 10 minutes to scan for both analog and digital channels.
The AverMedia AVerTV Bravo Hybrid is a good product. The card itself is well made and is powerful but the part that is lacking is the software. It just doesn’t provide a good experience and lacks ease of use and functionality at times (it doesn’t even have EPG). The Pinnacle Pro Stick’s software was a little bit buggy but the rest was really good and makes the AverMedia Center look like a poor attempt. The AverMedia Center looks worse in terms of functionality and ease of use than the free WatchHDTV software that is out there.
It comes down the pricing and at $79.99 I don’t think that’s a fair price for what you’re getting. If you can find this card for around the $69 or below mark then I do think you should consider purchasing it and utilizing the free WatchHDTV software out there as your main software.
Pros and Cons