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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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RE: Pricks
By TimTheEnchanter25 on 3/20/2007 1:52:57 PM , Rating: 2
At least they are using a somewhat nice looking HTPC case for their media center pcs. If I'm forced to buy an OEM version of one of these, I don't want it to be in the crappy looking mid tower cases that Dell and HP use.

I'm not sure that I'm willing to give up hope of building my own yet though. I really don't see why a big Mobo company like ASUS, can't make a special mobo with the cable labs stuff for the bios. If they bundled it with the tuner and registered it with cable labs, I don't see how that is a bigger risk for cable labs.

I could buy one of these and put it in a better case. Then I could upgrade it with better ram, a better CPU, a better GPU, and more add more HD space. Is cable labs going to care or even know if I did this? If not, how is anything different if I'm forced to buy an OEM pc?

RE: Pricks
By alifbaa on 3/21/2007 12:38:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing the reason for the OEM only rule has more to do with being able to charge a premium to early adopters than it does DRM. They are well aware of all the points you raised. So long as there is only 1 company producing cablecard tuners, they will do things like this.

Personally, I can't wait until the FCC finally forces all these companies, including the satellite companies, to do away with STBs and cards all together. That was originally supposed to happen in 2008, but I haven't heard a thing about it since they announced it two or three years ago.

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