Compro VideoMate S800F £53
29th Jul 2010 | 10:53
TV on your PC without the download cost
Compro VideoMate S800F - Overview
It may look like the graphics card from your first PC in 1997, but the VideoMate S800F from Compro is a handy bit of PCB that allows you to watch and record live television on your PC.
Along with the S800F card itself, Compro has included a software suite, a remote control, and a vast multi-coloured spaghetti of cables.
Thankfully you won't need to use all the leads provided, they're included because the S800F is extremely versatile in terms of the aerial connections it supports. DVB-S (Freesat to its mates), DVB-T (Freeview) and the all-but-defunct Analog connections are all fully supported.
Compro's bundled software suite also lets you record live TV straight onto hard disk and take screenshots.
The S800F is intended to allow users access to TV with the ease they're used to from their actual idiot box, but with much more tweakery and functionality.
Compro VideoMate S800F - Verdict
Installation is simple as.
Bung the card in a free PCI-E slot (the S800F will fit in just about any PC including home entertainment systems due to its low profile), connect it up to your signal method of choice, install the software and endure the tedious auto scan process that we've all learned to dread since the first digibox was conceived.
Just as well it's simple though, because Compro's setup guide for the S800F is so badly translated it becomes enigmatic and rather poetic at times.
The same can be said of the included software; at once point while I was updating the driver for the card I was informed that simply 'an event' had prevented successful installation.
Compro's DTV 4 software suite is a simple, but immensely effective bit of kit, but if you're getting your TV signal through anything but DVB-S, you can just as easily use the S800F with Windows Media Center.
Compro's software allows quicker access to all features, such as the time-shift and multi-screening, but Media Centre sure is easier on the eye if you're just using it as a straight TV.
The single biggest advantage Compro's S800F has over simply watching TV on a, you know, television, is the ability it gives the user to record live broadcasting and save it directly to hard disk.
It's as easy as pressing the big red button either on your remote or on screen, and setting the file path you want to save to. Other features, such as choosing your reception from amongst a myriad of unavailable satellite networks, are less useful...
It's hard to lay into the Compro S800F for its functionality, ease of use or reliability. Short of some quite endearing mistranslations in the manual and software, it's a very user-friendly package.
The problem is, however easy you make it, using your PC to watch TV will never be as simple as using a TV and a digibox. You don't want wires snaking across your room connecting your PC to an aerial any more than you want to shift the thing next to the TV.
That would be beyond futile.
With the rise of on-demand services like iPlayer and 4OD available on your PC, do you need a tuner card all that much?
A versatile and user-friendly card, rendered partially redundant by online and on-demand TV.
Input support: DVB-T, DVB-S, Analogue, FM Radio
Form factor: Low profile PCI-E
Remote control: Yes
Software support: Windows Media Centre