With the launch of Freeview|HD in New Zealand people have access to high quality digital, high definition TV broadcast over DVB-T. The easiest ways to get Freeview|HD are to either purchase a set top box or one of the new TVs with built-in Freeview|HD receiver.
This is the easiest way because New Zealand uses H.264 encoding for its high quality broadcast. This is a newer standard, used only in a few places around the world. It provides higher picture quality, but it's demanding on the decoding hardware and software. Using a set-top box guarantees you get the setup working without any complicated configuration required - although I had to return the Freeview|HD set top box three times because of faulty units.
A more complicated way is to build a Home Theatre PC (HTPC), installing one of the many DVB-T cards and configuring the appropriate software. This would ensure the highest quality - providing you pass over the many configuration problems you will face, many of them discussed in our Freeview forums.
The Compro VideoMate Vista U2800F USB DVB-T receiver is another option, very flexible if you don't have a HTPC with a spare expansion slot, or if you like me use a small machine for your HTPC needs - in my case I use an Apple Mac Mini running Windows Vista under Bootcamp as my HTPC.
I tried it in my notebook running Windows Vista and on my HTPC also running Windows Vista. Compro provides the device with software for DVB-T, but it is not compatible with H.264, meaning we need third party software to make it work in New Zealand.
In terms of drivers for the device itself however you will find no problems using either the drivers provided on the CD, or using the drivers from Microsoft Windows Update. Actually I tried it on my HTPC without installing any driver, and in a couple of minutes the operating system had downloaded the appropriate drivers and it was ready for use.
The small antenna provided proved to work well, but we are here in a priviledged area, in line-of-sight of a transmitter tower, with 100% signal.
The Compro VideoMate Vista U2800F USB DVB-T receiver can also be used as a FM receiver for your PC with the bundled software.
The package also includes a credit card-sized Media Center remote control, an infrared USB receiver, and the cables required. The remote control will work with Compro's own software, Windows Media Center or even with dvbviewer.
I've used it on an Acer Ferrari 5000 notebook (AMD Turion 64 bit dual core, 2 GHz, 2 GB RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256 MB) and it had no problems with most of the TV programs. TV3 however broadcasts at 1080i and the notebook didn't have the power to decode the H.264 stream without dropping some frames. The same happened on my HTPC. The lesson is clear: if you are using a solution without a dedicated hardware decoding you will need a lot more CPU power.
Overall the Compro VideoMate Vista U2800F USB DVB-T receiver performed well and had no problems receiving the broadcast in my area.
- Easy to use, literally plug and play
- Drivers available from Windows Update
- Cost is low compared to other card solutions
- Mobile solution can be transferred from PC to PC without having to open cases
- No hardware decodingso you need a more powerful PC for the higher resolution in some channels.
In New Zealand contact Anyware for more information.