Black Gold BGT3620 £110
21st Apr 2011 | 10:00
Twin-tuner terrestrial HD TV is now possible on your PC with this multi-tuner PCI-E card but it's not all plain sailing for us
Recently we reviewed the PCTV nanoStick T2 – the UK's first external DVB-T/T2 tuner. Now comes the BGT3620 twin-tunered internal card from Black Gold Technology (BGT) which slots into a PCI Express x1 slot in a desktop PC.
Only fairly recent PCs offer such an interface but, then again, the decoding of HD channels is quite a punishing task that – as a minimum – requires a dual-core processor.
On the whole, we're impressed with BGT's design. The card is supplied with two mounting brackets that allow it to be fitted to half-or full-height slots. BGT even supplies the screwdriver.
There may not be a loopthrough aerial output, but a multi-pin socket accepts a variety of different SD analogue video inputs via a proprietary cable that's terminated with a series of connectors. With the right software, these will allow you to view (or record) composite, S-video and component sources.
The BGT3620 is beautifully made. The tuners lie beneath a screened can; upstream of these are pairs of chips from Sony and NXP that demodulate the DVB-T, DVB-T2 and – as an added bonus – DVB-C (digital cable) signals, allow the streams (or digitised analogue video to be injected into the motherboard's PCIe bus.
A third socket is the gateway to another potentially useful feature – remote control – but this feature was not included in our 'OEM' package – it's down to resellers to decide what customers will get.
Sensibly, BGT does not supply drivers with the BGT3620. Instead, you have to download them from the BGT website – thereby ensuring that you're up to date come installation time.
These Microsoft WHQL-tested drivers are BDA-compliant, meaning that they should work with any Windows digital TV application. They're claimed to be compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7 – Microsoft's Media Center is also supported.
For digital TV duties, we used the excellent DVBViewer software. You have to decide between cable (though Virgin Media's channels are encrypted) and terrestrial – owing to that single input you can't connect both simultaneously.
Searching and use is very much dependent on the specific software that you're using. DVBViewer allows you to search a full band, or a specific channel or range. The entire UK UHF spectrum (channels 21-69) was searched in around three-and-a-half minutes.
The sting in the tail is that of HD performance on our quad core Yoyotech PC with powerful ATI graphics card. When HD channels were selected we were initially treated to random blocks of colour and squeaky blips of sound.
Updated drivers improved matters (we got a picture) but not the fact that the PC would lock up if we left the software tuned to an HD channel – either that, or subsequently selected SD channels were juddery.
Either way, the PC had to be restarted. The drivers are said to be compatible with the 64-bit Windows installed on our PC. We hope that BGT can fix this.
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