ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

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ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby Apoptosis » Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:35 am

ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Don't have a TiVo? Cable DVR just doesn't cut it? Is the ASUS My Cinema-EHD3-100 card your answer? The ability to watch and record both digital (ATSC/QAM) and analog (NTSC) TV channels at the same time, along with an embedded MPEG2 hardware encoder on the card to reduce CPU load while recording, all add up to an attractive package.

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After having used the ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 exclusively for a couple weeks vs. my TiVo DVR it is my belief that this product brings the HTPC market much closer to where it needs to be for mainstream usage. Part of this belief however is based on the way in which Vista Windows Media Center is able to leverage the card, and not based on the software provided by ASUS. If Media Center did not exist and the ASUS application was my only avenue, my experience would not have been near as smooth or enjoyable. For those looking for a complete HTPC setup to add to their existing Vista installation, The ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card does deliver...


Article Title: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review
Article URL: http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1017/1/
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby Major_A » Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:39 am

You should have tried SageTV if you like Media Center. Direct recording to MPEG files rather than Media Center's proprietary format. Extremely more customizable and even supports MKV acceleration. When I built my HTPC years ago I started out with Media Center 2005 then found SageTV and haven't looked back.
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby Bwall » Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:30 am

This is tempting as I'm getting ready to make some changes on my HTPC. I'm building a similar PC for a friend who would like HTPC capability but not its primary function...I may have to give this a shot and toss my year old PCI tuner card into the other machine.

Great first review!!
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby KnightRid » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:38 am

Have some questions...

1. How will this work with Dish or DirecTV? Do you still have to go from the sat box to the tuner and set the channel on the sat box to record on the computer?

2. Did you try an OTA signal for HD? No antenna included, that kinda sux.

3. Will it record to 720p or 1080p? What format (avi, wmv, mkv....)

4. Did you try to set the recorded shows to a seperate drive, the time delay to yet another drive and then have the main program on the normal drive?

5. Will the built in tuner pick up HBO and such or is this another time you have to go from the sat or digital cable box to the computer, then set the channel on the box for the computer to record?

6. What kind of file sizes are we talking for a 1 hour show? 480&1080 HD and SD comparison would be nice.

Main sticking point i have had is they just dont work for crap when you have sat service! I want to record a show or 2 shows at once while watching another on tv and NONE have been able to do that, hence all the questions ;) I would LOVE to have a real HTPC for recording shows and such, but with sat service, I just cant see how to do it, unless this will work.

Mike
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby InspectahACE » Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:03 am

this looks like it would crap on my tuner a few times.
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby Major_A » Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:22 am

KnightRid wrote:Have some questions...

1. How will this work with Dish or DirecTV? Do you still have to go from the sat box to the tuner and set the channel on the sat box to record on the computer?

Main sticking point i have had is they just dont work for crap when you have sat service! I want to record a show or 2 shows at once while watching another on tv and NONE have been able to do that, hence all the questions ;) I would LOVE to have a real HTPC for recording shows and such, but with sat service, I just cant see how to do it, unless this will work.

Mike

My HTPC is setup to control my Dish Network set top box. The problem there is you can't have two tuners controlling the box but you can definitely buy a separate tuner to record HD OTA broadcasts at the same time. You just have to make sure the tuner for the satellite has an IR blaster that can manipulate the satellite's box to change channels. Currently I'm running a Hauppauge PVR 150 and have a spare K-World PCI tuner and a Hauppauge PCIe HD Tuner. I bought the HD Tuner to record HD OTA channels but apparently I live too far away from the broadcast stations to get a good, stutter free signal.
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby forsaken » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:00 pm

Hi,

This is Jeff, I wrote the article. I'll try to answer your questions as best I can, am at work right now so can't check
some of what you asked out.

> 1. How will this work with Dish or DirecTV? Do you still have to go from the sat box to the tuner and set the channel on
> the sat box to record on the computer?

I don't have Dish or DirecTV so this is presumtion on my part, but since the Dish or DirecTV has to authenticate, you
would have to go from the sat box to the tuner. Supposedly the MCE remote can control your cable box, but I spent
about an hour trying to get that to work (it even tried to learn the buttons one at a time) and eventually I gave up
trying to get it to work. Even if you could get that to work however, the problem is unattended recording, and while
you could possibly get the remote to change channels, as another poster pointed out, without an IR blaster and some
means for it to realize it has to change the channel that way, you would'nt have much success. Remeber, this
is based somewhat on speculation on my part, but I would say that this wouldn't work well for a Dish/DirecTV setup.

> 2. Did you try an OTA signal for HD? No antenna included, that kinda sux.

Correct, no included antenna, but yes I did try an OTA signal and being that OTA Digital is compartive to any
digital signal in that it's either an on or off proposition, the quality was exactly the same as a digital cable channel.
The only limitation with OTA is the signal you are receiving, so depending on that, you tend to get more freezes/frame
loss (again, that's based on my signal quality/antenna)

> 3. Will it record to 720p or 1080p? What format (avi, wmv, mkv....)

My TV has 480i/480p/1080i capabilities, no 720p or 1080p, so I wasn't able to test that, the card though says it
does support 720p60 and 1080i/p30

As for format , I'll double check that when I get home, I have things recorded both through the Asus app and through
windows media center, I would imagine that depending on the app it may save in different formats, I would hope
however that due to the MPEG encoders it would save in mpg, but I will check later on.

> 4. Did you try to set the recorded shows to a seperate drive, the time delay to yet another drive and then have the main
> program on the normal drive?

No, and I do believe that would have made a difference. I don't think you can have the time delay to a separate drive,
but having the recordings/time delay to a separate drive would definately have made a difference.

> 5. Will the built in tuner pick up HBO and such or is this another time you have to go from the sat or digital cable box to
> the computer, then set the channel on the box for the computer to record?

Because HBO is an authenticated channel, you would absolutely have to go through the cable box. Without premium
channels, in fact, that is one of the main purposes behind a cable box. It is also why you need cable cards with
a Tivo, specifically to decrypt encrypted streams such as HBO. The cable company sets up your specific address
(there are entire discussions on how this works elsewhere, but for simplicities sake lets just call it a MAC address) on
their backend and permissions it with your specific address, so the tuner would be unable to decrypt the signal
even if it had decryption capabilities. it is also linked to the hardware - case in point, the motorola cable box
I have has, inside, hidden, a cable card (i thought this was rather funny) - I took the cable card out, and
plugged it into my Tivo. If the authentication was purely based on the cable card device itself, then
there wouldn't have been a problem as the device MAC doesn't change when you plug it into something
else (just like a NIC doesn't) - but it did not work (and in fact, as soon as it realized it couldn't authenticate,
it sent a signal to the backend erasing my perms entirely - try explaining THAT to a cable company that has no idea what
a cable card is.. *sigh*)

> 6. What kind of file sizes are we talking for a 1 hour show? 480&1080 HD and SD comparison would be nice.

I'll take a look when I get home. I might have both, if not, I'll set it to record both a 1-hour SD and 1-hour HD.
The HD goes to 1080i automatically and the SD goes to 480i automatically, this is a function of my TV/cable box, and isn't
controlled by the Asus.


> Main sticking point i have had is they just dont work for crap when you have sat service! I want to record a show or 2
> shows at once while watching another on tv and NONE have been able to do that

Correct, even with Tivo (before DirecTV dropped Tivo) they had problems with Sat. Dishes. The vanilla Tivo's - back then
it was the Series 2, had more functionality than the DirecTV tivo's. Mainly I think this is due to the absolute need
for the direcTV/Dish box being involved no matter what. Tivo Series 3 and Tivo HD boxes were finally able to get
the dual-tuner/All channel functionality with cable by getting the FCC to mandate cable companies provide
cable cards to customers (the cable companies fought this very hard because they didn't want to lose DVR business)
Eventually Tivo won (yes, I cant get cable cards because I a forced to use a rinky-dink no-name cable company that
has zero idea as to what a cable card is). Even with cable cards, you still can't get 100% cable functionality - for example,
with Charter here in St. Louis they have "Charter On-Demand" whereby you can access a menu and select an HBO show
for example, and Charter will stream it to you. Cable cards are one-way devices, they are not bi-directional, and
due to the on-demand service needing bi-directional capabilities, you can't do it. Same with *ORDERING* pay-per-view
specifically through your cable box - no 2 way communication means no ordering through cable (you can still call
the cable company, order it over phone and set tivo to record). So with all that being said, because Dish/DirecTV
aren't able to provide separate ways of unencrypting their signal, you are always tied to the box & tuner in the box.
I think that you would run into the same problems with your setup with the Asus that you have previously.

-Jeff


KnightRid wrote:Have some questions...

1. How will this work with Dish or DirecTV? Do you still have to go from the sat box to the tuner and set the channel on the sat box to record on the computer?

2. Did you try an OTA signal for HD? No antenna included, that kinda sux.

3. Will it record to 720p or 1080p? What format (avi, wmv, mkv....)

4. Did you try to set the recorded shows to a seperate drive, the time delay to yet another drive and then have the main program on the normal drive?

5. Will the built in tuner pick up HBO and such or is this another time you have to go from the sat or digital cable box to the computer, then set the channel on the box for the computer to record?

6. What kind of file sizes are we talking for a 1 hour show? 480&1080 HD and SD comparison would be nice.

Main sticking point i have had is they just dont work for crap when you have sat service! I want to record a show or 2 shows at once while watching another on tv and NONE have been able to do that, hence all the questions ;) I would LOVE to have a real HTPC for recording shows and such, but with sat service, I just cant see how to do it, unless this will work.

Mike
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby forsaken » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:06 pm

That is correct, you would end up with one card for the sat box (like you said, an IR blaster is key to getting
this to work, and since I didn't have one for my cable box, was unable to get it to work) - and one card
for HD OTA. In my area, HD OTA is spotty at best, so your going to have to rely on good signal coverage, and your
limited to OTA channels on your separate tuner. Depending on what you record/watch, this might not be a bad
thing. That's what makes HTPC expieriences so unique is that alot of it is dependant upon each individuals
viewing preferences and initial starting setup (sat/cable/ota)

-jeff


Major_A wrote:
KnightRid wrote:Have some questions...

1. How will this work with Dish or DirecTV? Do you still have to go from the sat box to the tuner and set the channel on the sat box to record on the computer?

Main sticking point i have had is they just dont work for crap when you have sat service! I want to record a show or 2 shows at once while watching another on tv and NONE have been able to do that, hence all the questions ;) I would LOVE to have a real HTPC for recording shows and such, but with sat service, I just cant see how to do it, unless this will work.

Mike

My HTPC is setup to control my Dish Network set top box. The problem there is you can't have two tuners controlling the box but you can definitely buy a separate tuner to record HD OTA broadcasts at the same time. You just have to make sure the tuner for the satellite has an IR blaster that can manipulate the satellite's box to change channels. Currently I'm running a Hauppauge PVR 150 and have a spare K-World PCI tuner and a Hauppauge PCIe HD Tuner. I bought the HD Tuner to record HD OTA channels but apparently I live too far away from the broadcast stations to get a good, stutter free signal.
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby forsaken » Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:20 pm

Hi,

> 3. Will it record to 720p or 1080p? What format (avi, wmv, mkv....)

Windows media center stores the file in dvr-ms format (which is really MPEG anyway)
From the wikipedia page for dvr-ms:

DVR-MS (Microsoft Digital Video Recording) is a proprietary video and audio file container format, developed by Microsoft. Audio and video are wrapped in an ASF container with the extension DVR-MS. Video is encoded using the MPEG-2 standard and audio using MPEG-1 Layer II or Dolby Digital AC-3 (ATSC A/52). The format extends these standards by including metadata about the content and digital rights management.

The asus app writes a straight MPEG file.

The SD program I had recorded was 640x480, and the HD one was 720x480 - The SD I looked at was recorded
in Windows Media center, and the HD was recorded in the Asus app.

> 6. What kind of file sizes are we talking for a 1 hour show? 480&1080 HD and SD comparison would be nice.

I went off of 2 existing recordings, they weren't an hour, but I believe some extrapolation would
be an adequate estimate.

Both apps, the file sizes were about equivalent, I believe this is due to the frame size difference (640x480 for SD,
720x480 for HD) but for ~30 minutes, both were *around* 1.5 Gig, so *around* 3 Gig for a 1 hour show. This about double what the file size of a 30 minute recording on a tivo would be, but this isn't really surprising to me. Tivo fosters it's "hacking" community, encouraging it to do all sorts of stuff, but the one thing they refuse to even allow discussion
of on it's forums is discussion about cracking their encryption or compression schemes, as their ability to compress
the data to the file sizes they reach (about 850 meg for a 30 minute HD show) sets them apart and is really a cornerstone of their technology. Where you can do well with an HTPC however is your ability to put multi-terabhyte drives in. Of course, Tivo realized this was a weakness for them though, and with their Tivo Series 3 you can plug in an eSATA drive (not to mention the whole blessing of new drives to put in it) - but your still limited in your abilities in this area with a tivo vs. hooking your HTPC up to a huge multi-terabyte EMC SAN array ;-)

-Jeff
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby ikjadoon » Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:03 pm

Hi! Do you have the TV Pack for Vista? It's not an update; either you bought it with the TV Pack or you don't have it. If you don't have it (like me, lol), can you get OTA sub-channels and their respective guide data? Like, 27.1 is the main channel. Do you get any sub-channels to begin with?

Glad they have it on PCIe, though. I have no PCI slots left! :(

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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby KnightRid » Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:59 am

Thanx Jeff for the in depth answers and all the time you put into it!

OTA channels are spotty where I live also, so that would not be a choice for me :(

Somebody has to come up with a solution for sat and digital cable boxes or I just dont see these cards taking off. You can get you companies DVR and record 2 shows at once for around what $7 - $10 a month. I really would like the ability to record shows in HD and save them to a hard drive or discs. Since i already pay for the sat service, it su having to then go out and buy the tv shows on dvd if I want to keep them :(

Mike

There has been talk for a LONG time about a usb device from DirecTV that would allow using a computer to record shows, but nothing has come to fruition as far as I know - that little device would be just plain awesome!
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby Major_A » Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:39 am

Sort of... if you have Dish Network's DVR then you can hook up an external drive for more space.
http://www.engadgethd.com/2007/08/15/di ... t-on-dvrs/
Problem there is Dish Network seems to be putting it to you with no KY.

I enjoy my HTPC, I can watch live TV, DVDs, movies I acquire :-$, shuffle my music, view pictures and much more. Recording TV is nice but it's only a small fraction of what you should build a HTPC for.
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby KnightRid » Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:33 am

Major_A wrote:I enjoy my HTPC, I can watch live TV, DVDs, movies I acquire :-$, shuffle my music, view pictures and much more. Recording TV is nice but it's only a small fraction of what you should build a HTPC for.


See I would say a HTPC is only worthwhile if you are going to record on it. ANY computer can just play files/music/etc. Thats why I have a computer at each tv in the house and NONE are setup for actual HTPC functionality. I just slap a dvd in and it plays, etc.

Mike

If I could ever find a decent FREE HTPC program along with a remote for the computer, I might do it, but all of the HTPC programs focus on live tv/pausing live tv/recording live tv.
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Re: ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card Review

Postby Major_A » Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:39 am

The only "free" HTPC software I've encountered that isn't total garbage is Window's Media Center. If you know how to use Linux (I don't) they have a pretty decent app for free, so I've read.
Linux's MythTV

Nero has a HTPC software center if you use Nero 7 or newer. I personally use SageTV, problem with it is the program relies on slow Java. The other program I tested before buying SageTV was BeyondTV. The interface is nice and it's more responsive than SageTV but it lacks a lot of the functionality that SageTV provides.
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