Categorized | HDTV

Fusion III QAM HDTV Tuner Card Reviewed

Posted on 18 August 2004 by

AMDPower site (which is currently being slashdotted, have pity) is running a review of the Fusion III QAM HDTV Tuner Card manufactured by DVICO. The DVICO site is severly lacking in userful prodcut info on the Fusions III QAM HDTV Tuner and the sites that they list as US distributors doesn’t have much more info and is on pre-order.

This card, *should* allow you to record your digital cable without the separate box, which would keep the signal chain digital, BUT more importantly would allow for HDTV content broadcast via digital cable to be PVR’ed natively. Previously HDTV tuner cards only did OTA (over the air) terrestial digital TV signals.

I’m not sure how it works yet as I can’t get to the deeper pages in the review. Is it using a CableCard? Something else? Suffice to say I’m real excited about the prospects of this card.

FALSE ALARM This card ONLY does unencrypted QAM/digital channels. I’m still very interested in the card and would like to review it, but I’m still looking for the holy grail PCI HDTV QAM capable card that perhaps uses CableCARDs for descrambling.

More details to follow… and read more for part of the text of their review.


Fusion III Gold QAM HDTV Tuner Card
Manufacturer: DVICO
By: Jack Kolesar 08-17-04

Introduction
Fusion Box
It has been nearly three years since I reviewed one of the first HDTV Tuner cards to hit the market. At that time, the Access DTV card retailed for $400.00 and the only HDTV station available in my area was the local CBS. While the adoption of High Definition has improved greatly, I have to admit that it has been slower than I expected. Equally as surprising is the limited availability of HDTV tuner cards. Until recently, there were few players in this market. I am happy to say that this is starting to change. Manufacturers such as Hauppauge, ATI, and Dvico have developed affordable HDTV cards. Today, we are looking at one of these cards, the Dvico Fusion III Gold QAM. What makes this card unique are some very exciting features that others do not offer. Most notably is the reception of QAM modulated streams. What is QAM you ask? Simply put, DIGITAL CABLE. This does NOT mean that you can buy the card and get free pay stations. We’ll get further into this later. Let me first tell you how I came to know DVico.

A little over a year ago, I became a beta tester for DVico’s line of HDTV cards. What started as a stumble across a Google search turned into a year long journey testing various production and pre-production Dvico units. Before Dvico, all HDTV Tuner cards were hardware-based. This meant a dedicated Mpeg-2 decoder and increased cost. Out of curiosity, I started searching for a software-only solution that would offer the same functionality at a reduced cost. After all, the ATSC over-the-air signal is nothing more than an Mpeg-2 stream, albeit at a very high resolution and bitrate. While I was playing around at the AVSForums, I saw that Korean-based Dvico was accepting beta tester applications for a U.S. launch of their HDTV cards. The first card I tested was their FusionHDTV II, shown above. The FusionHDTV II would be their first US available HDTV Tuner card. It was also the first card on the market to use a software-based HDTV decoder. Soon after the release of the card, Dvico started experimenting with the possibility of decoding QAM signals. With the existing tuner chip on the HDTV II, it was not possible. However, after several revisions of cards and input from U.S. beta testers, Dvico delivered the Fusion III Gold QAM. It is the only HDTV tuner card on the market which can successfully decode QAM modulated digital cable stations. Today, we are reviewing that card. Let us first look at the specifications and features.

Specs and Features

The Fusion HDTV III Gold QAM is based off of Conexant’s newest signal-decoder chip, the CX23882. Conexant has long been the industry standard when it comes to tuner cards. Their newest line of chips, is what allows the reception of QAM signals. Working together with the decoder chip is a Tecmic tuner chip. Since ATSC signals use standard UHF frequencies, the tuner portion of the card is nothing entirely special. The card has two RF inputs, one is for CATV and one for Over-The-Air. There is also an S-Video port and an Audio input which can be used to capture video from a Digital Cable Box, Camera, Playstation, etc. It can also be used to scale and upconvert video from an S-Vid or Composite source to hi-res. The S-Video port can be made into a composite port with a simple S-Video to Composite adapter. Such an adapter is not currently included in the package. When Dvico released the QAM version of this card, they added a daughter board which can be seen in the third picture below. I’m uncertain as to the exact functionality of this board.

Conexant Chip
Connections
Daughter Card

Test System / Decoding Options

Since the Fusion cards do not have a dedicated Mpeg-2 decoder chip, the minimum system specs can be a bit stringent. However if an ATI card is used (8500 and up), the fusion drivers borrow the built-in Mpeg acceleration from the Radeon using DxVA (DirectX Video Acceleration). The Fusion can take advantage of DxVA using several GeForce cards as well. These cards include the MX420, 440, and FX Series. Keep in mind that the nVidia list is very specific. There are certain code operations that the DxVA drivers will need to call upon from the GPU. Following is a list of system requirements compared with my test system.

Required
My System
CPU (DxVA)
750 MHz
3200+
CPU (Pure Software)
1.6 GHz
3200+
Memory
266 DDR
PC 3200
Harddrive
UDMA 66
UDMA 100
Video Card Used

Radeon 9600
Amount of Memory

512 MB
Motherboard

Abit NF7-S

As you can see, the listed system specifications are not very detailed. After testing the card, it is my opinion that the specifications are a bit underrated. I would highly recommend downloading the demo software before you even consider getting this card. That’s right! You can download a demo of the software and an HDTV stream from DVico’s website and begin watching HDTV (pre-recorded streams only) today. You can find a link to the demo software here.