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A computer TV tuner is a hardware component that is designed to enable your computer to pick up television signals. It converts a standard analog TV signal then demodulates it into a digital signal. Many TV tuners are designed with a built-in video capture card to enable you to record television shows onto your hard disk. There are also some graphics cards that have integrated TV tuners, such as the ATI All-In-Wonder series. A TV tuner can be either internal, such as an expansion card or external, such as a USB device.
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USB TV Tuners
A USB TV tuner is an external, USB-connected device that enables you to capture, record and watch TV, DVD, VCR or video camcorder on your desktop or laptop computer.
Today’s USB TV Tuners come in different sizes, some of which are not much larger than the typical USB thumb drive. The tuner conveniently plugs into the computer’s USB 2.0 port for easy installation. Some even come with a remote control offering much of the functionality of a regular remote control.
Many USB TV Tuners do not require any external power source. Their low power consumption design makes it possible for the tuner to operate on USB bus power.
There are three types of USB TV tuners:
- Analogue USB TV tuners
- Digital USB TV tuners
- Hybrid USB TV tuners
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Analog USB TV Tuners
An analog USB TV tuner is suited for real-time viewing because it only outputs video stream. In order to record TV using an analog tuner, you will need to use a compression software application. An analog USB TV tuner may be able to receive FM radio signals. A number of higher-end analog USB tuners are designed to encode signals to MPEG so as to facilitate the CPU’s task of processing the information.
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Digital USB TV Tuners
Digital USB TV tuners are a step up from the analog counterparts. Since digital television is streamed via MPEG-2, this does away with the need for an encoder. This type of digital tuner is able to synthesize the entire MPEG transport stream.
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Hybrid USB TV tuners
A hybrid USB TV tuner retains both analog and digital signals. It can be configured to operate either as a digital tuner or as an analog tuner. A combo tuner is similar to the hybrid tuner and works in much the same way, aside from the fact that the combo is designed with two separate tuners, which share one port.