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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 Bootstrap on 3/20/2007 5:52:01 PM , Rating: 2
One thing they do that doesn't make any sense to me given their generally crappy attitude toward customers is that local HD channels are unencrypted.

I believe that the FCC requires them to leave channels that are available for free over the air in the clear.

We pay for basic cable ($15 a month) and with the tuner I can get ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the local PBS station in HD. This covers 95% of what I watch anyway, so I'm very happy with the situation (I also get some additional digital content that we don't get over analog, mostly weather stations and such). I do wish Windows media center would support clear QAM, as the DVICO software is pretty bad (although the most recent version is a huge improvement), but all things considered, I have no incentive to switch to an expensive pre-built solution that will barely get me any more content than I already have.

RE: Pricks
By Bootstrap on 3/20/2007 5:56:34 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, I meant to say that I have a DVICO FusionHDTV 5 USB tuner.

RE: Pricks
By Anonymous Freak on 3/20/2007 6:48:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, they have to put all over the air channels in the clear, but they can still take technical measures that require you to have an HD cable box to receive it. (That's true of Comcast in my area. I pay for the $12.95/month 'limited basic' cable, and if I want to also get the HD channels, I need to rent a $9.95/month box. I can't get HD without that box.)

RE: Pricks
By Bootstrap on 3/20/2007 7:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting -- you've tried a QAM tuner and weren't able to get any channels? If Comcast is truly broadcasting clear QAM signals, then there shouldn't be anything preventing you from tuning them. I was pretty sure that any "technical measures" they take to prevent you from tuning clear OTA stations violates FCC regulations (how could they possibly prevent you from tuning it without encrypting the signal? either it's encrypted or it's not), but I'm admittedly not as up-to-date on this mess as others are. :)

RE: Pricks
By The Boston Dangler on 3/20/2007 8:31:38 PM , Rating: 2
All NTSC broadcasters in your area are available in-the-clear analog on all cable companies, the only equipment needed is a cable-ready TV. It's called "Must Carry". This law does not apply to digital SD or HD versions of those broadcasters. My (unnamed) company derives the analog version from the digital source, not OTA analog, in order to provide the best service possible.

As for all the extras, I charge extra for them. Sorry, I've got to make a living. By the way, WTF do I get for free from anyone?

I'm going to use the best cable boxes possible to:
1) Bring advanced products and services to market
2) Ensure high quality of those products and services
3) Prevent theft

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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