ATI CableCARD tuners reappear

CableCARD TV tuners for Windows have been around for several years, but they never really took off. The biggest barrier was the Windows Vista requirement of a special BIOS and activation code for a CableCARD system, which shut out the enthusiast market completely.

That all changed last September, when Microsoft and CableLabs announced that they would be eliminating those requirements for Windows 7. And within a few days after the launch of Windows 7, the Digital Cable Advisor was online; it checks your system specs and enables digital cable support if your system passes. (Details here.)

At the time of the September announcement, the only available digital cable tuners were the ATI Digital Wonder models. Although Ceton has announced plans to ship new models next year, they still haven’t provided a firm release date. The good news is that the ATI tuners, which had disappeared completely from the marker, are now back in stock at Cannon PC, as evidenced by this screen shot I captured a few minutes ago.


The price is still high, but if you’re tired of waiting, this is the only way I know to get started now. (And there’s no indication that the Ceton products will be any less expensive on a per-tuner basis.) For what it’s worth, I have three of the external ATI tuners running here on two different Windows 7 systems. As promised, they record local HD channels and unencrypted cable channels without any copy restrictions, which means those programs can be freely copied and shared between PCs and portable devices.

Anyone out there planning to install one of these devices? If so, you’d better move quickly.

(Thanks to MVP Mike Brown for the pointer.)

6 thoughts on “ATI CableCARD tuners reappear

  1. Ed, I think this is not an attractive offer for most consumers. Many companies are negotiating with tv and cable channel operators (including, most recently, Apple) for the rights to offer subscription services on the Internet. Many journalists believe that even the Blu-Ray system will eventually be replaced by online downloadable content of the highest quality. In my view, there isn’t much to be gained with the cableCard, save that you can record local and unscrambled channels, which means no recording of premium channels. Plus, the consumer has to pay for the card(s) as well as a monthly subscription fee. I’m sure that you’d agree that this is a long way from where we want to be.

  2. Unfortunately, the recent news indicates is that CableCARD is a dead end. The FCC is not going forward with this mandate but looking for something different.

    CableCARD has troubles because it is not two way and thus special cable company features are unavailable and switched digital video (SDV) which most cable companies have deployed and are likely to make greater use in the future is also not available with CableCARD.

    Enjoy these tuners while you can but they are almost obsolete. Their end is nigh.

  3. Richard, SDV support IS enabled with CableCARD. If your cable company uses SDV, they can provide a device called a tuning adaptor that will work with your CableCARD tuner.

    Yes, the technology does not have a limitless life, but it will be around and working for many years.

    Bill, you do not have to pay for a CableCARD upfront. They’re provided free by the cable company, and the monthly fee is less than the fee for an adapter box.

    Internet speeds are nowhere near where they need to be to reliably deliver on-demand video to consumers. Unless you like to waytch the words “Buffering… buffering…”

  4. Ed,

    If I add one of these now, can I still add the Ceton card later? I am considering one external card and then adding the Ceton once/if it ever appears.

    The future may be TV over the internet, but that future isn’t arriving anytime soon. CableCard may be on life support, but it is still all we have for at least 2-3 years.


  5. Aaron, you can have up to a total of four CableCARD tuners on a single system. The only issue with adding a second/third/fourth tuner later is you have to schedule another truck roll to install the CableCARD devices.

  6. These question partially have to do with the above but includes other topics. Are USB tuners (like the above) as good as pc card type tuners (single and dual) for performance and picture? Second – I have seen several articles here about minimum requirements (cpu speed, video card speed, memory) for an htpc. To records 2 or 3 HD shows and watch 1, what is the minimum requirement. By getting a faster cpu, video card or more memory than is in your answer, what would that buy for the HTPC function, that is, is there a limit to what you would notice?

    One last question – can a USB drive always be used for HTPC – even recording several shows while watching one all in HD?

    Thank you very much for your help.

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