Choosing the Right TV Card
Choosing the right TV Card first depends on where you are and what type of broadcast you are receiving. If you have only an analog broadcast, then you can use only a card that handles analog connection. If you have both analog and digital broadcasts, then you have to go with the card that supports both (called hybrid cards). In United States, there is no longer an analog broadcast as far as I know, so you will need to go with a digital TV Card.
Second, the TV card should be capable of handling High Definition (HD) broadcasts, plus your computer should have the necessary computing power to display HD streams. I do not recommend going with HD streams if you have a relatively old computer. If you will use your computer to record TV streams (sooner or later you will), make sure that you have a capacious hard disk to record the TV shows.
Third, if you want to record HD streams and save them to your computer, then know in advance that encoding those streams require immense computing power. For the analog broadcasts, the TV cards have MPEG-2 decoders on board, which requires minimal processing power, but this is currently not available in any card for the HD streams. Therefore you will have to rely on your computer’s processing power.
Fourth, you may go for an internal card that is attached to an empty PCI slot on your computer or an external one that uses the USB port, If you are a Linux user, I suggest you look for MythTV compliant TV Cards to avoid headaches in the future. The rest of this article is the same for Linux, the only changes are the programs you are using.
While you are choosing the TV card for your computer, I suggest you to check whether they are compliant with Windows Media Center (MC). This way, you can watch TV inside your MC and avoid conflicts between the MC and the TV card’s software.
I also advise you to check if the card has a remote controller included in the box. Spend a few dollars more and ask for the one which has a remote controller. The separate remotes are priced higher than the TV cards themselves.