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Two AMD TV Wonder DCTs (upper right) give the Velocity Micro CineMagix the first PCs with CableCARD support
The first batch of CableCARD-ready, high-end Media Center PCs is ready

Earlier this week Velocity Micro spread word that the company was approaching the final stages in readying the CableCARD-ready CineMagix Grand Theater and CineMagix Pro Cinema systems. 

At the Consumer Electronics Show last January, AMD took the veil off its Open Cable Unidirectional Receiver -- the TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner.   The TV Wonder DCT is the first of its kind, giving PCs the ability to tune NTSC, ATSC over-the-air, QAM encrypted ATSC and CableCARD support.

Velocity Micro will be the first PC vendor to bring the new TV Wonder DCT to the masses. The company is in the final stages of production and is already taking orders.

Unlike the original batches of ATI TV Wonder 650, Velocity claims the AMD TV Wonder DCT is stable and ready to go.  "The card itself seems to be a really solid product," said Velocity Micro Director of Product Development Chris Morley.  "The drivers are all inside Vista ... You can configure it as an over the air HD tuner; it will do analog, standard def."

Microsoft has already made it abundantly clear that CableCARD support is only for OEMs and system builders -- do not expect AMD OCUR cards to show up on eBay in the near future. Even with the hardware, systems require BIOS-level support and authentication; CableCARD PCs constantly ping CableLabs for authentication.

Drawing support from manufactures, Microsoft and AMD/ATI is no easy task either. Dell and HP demonstrated AMD TV Wonder Digital Cable PCs earlier this year, but corporate representatives from both companies stated these will likely be Q3 2007 products.

"Some of the traditional players in this space are looking to us to OEM these systems for them," said Morley. 

The focal point of the new CineMagix systems is the digital cable tuners, though the systems will also boast features not found on any other systems yet.  Blu-ray support for CineMagix systems is already available, but Velocity Micro is also the first system builder to include support for Vista's MCE plug-in support for PowerDVD.

Velocity's site claims its Intel-based Grand Theater systems will ship before mid-April followed shortly thereafter by the AMD-based Grand Theater systems.  AMD systems start at $1,795 and Intel systems start at $2,195.

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Whats the diff?
By Alphafox78 on 3/20/2007 1:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
What is the difference between me buying the cheapest one they make and totally rearranging it with a new case, hard drive etc. vs. building my own (aside from cost)? I wonder how cheap you can get one, all you really need is the mobo and the cable card. you could get it with a celeron and 40gb hd and just upgrade all the stuff yourself. if we cant get the cablecards themselves, then this might be the only option.

RE: Whats the diff?
By rtrski on 3/20/2007 2:22:05 PM , Rating: 4
Reportedly (I hang out on a lot of Home Theater PC focused websites and forums) there are several protections:

1) there are special BIOS switches to enable the CableCard decryption...the version of the BIOS with it will likely not be given to consumer mobo purchasers. Doesn't mean it won't leak out eventually... that BIOS handshaking might also cry foul if too much other hardware changes, preventing you from just moving the mobo and card to an otherwise new system.

2) there will also be extra Vista keys to release the protected media path functionality for the CableCard, said keys presumably only available to the licensed OEMs. Again, presumably, moving the OS to a system with a lot of the hardware updated (including processor) might trigger the registration hash to not match. I bet they lock this one down even tighter than the usual installation/registration hash for Vista itself, which at least has to assume a user might upgrade processor and all peripherals outside of the mobo (and despite that, I've still had to call for permission on plain old XP more than a few times as I upgraded or replaced various hardware over the years...).

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on either of the above...would love to see a ray of hope for a homebuilt...but not counting on it right now. :(

RE: Whats the diff?
By Alphafox78 on 3/20/2007 2:59:18 PM , Rating: 2
thanks for the info.
also, they dont seem to make a 'cheap' version, they are all pricey!

RE: Whats the diff?
By JCheng on 3/20/2007 5:28:25 PM , Rating: 2
I can tell you from experience that a budget machine won't render fullscreen HD content in Vista Media Center without dropping frames. To have a good experience you really need a fast processor and at least midrange graphics card. Plus HD content fills up your hard drive pretty fast.

RE: Whats the diff?
By rtrski on 3/21/2007 9:39:10 AM , Rating: 2
JCheng: The AMD R6xx series GPUs (I know, not released yet, so I'm basing this entirely on "PR") reportedly has a 'universal video decoder' dedicated core on the chip to do hardware accelerated decoding of all standard media file types (e.g. MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, etc.)...perhaps a drop-in of the decoder engine from some of their multimedia products e.g. the Theaterpro 650?. Supposedly this drastically reduces CPU involvement for simply watching media as compared to other GPUs. I read this at:

If true, then a lower-level CPU just might do the job fine. You'd still require at least a mid-range card for 1080p output resolutions, of course.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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