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-- by Joel T. Patz
For after-hours TV or for tracking the financial cable channel's updates during business hours, STB Systems' TV PCI board offers outstanding features and performance. It includes an Intercast viewer application, which uses Intel's technology to combine HTML-formatted data and a TV picture on the same screen (data is carried in the black stripe you see when your TV picture starts to roll)
Installation is easy. You simply plug in the board, reroute the audio cable between your CD-ROM drive and sound card to connect the TV PCI to the CD-ROM, then use the included cable to connect the TV PCI to your sound card. Driver and software installation, including the addition of DirectX(2) drivers from Microsoft, was simple. We tested the card using Windows 95 on a Micron Pentium 200.
The TV PCI board is compatible with a wide variety of video cards that have a DirectX-compliant display driver, including those from STB, the ATI Video Expression and 3D Expression, Diamond Stealth64 Video 2001 and 3000 Series, Stealth 3D 2000, Matrox Millennium and Mystique, and most motherboards using the S3 Trio64V+, S3 ViRGE and ViRGE VX, or Cirrus Logic 5446 controller chips. We used the STB Velocity 3D board in our test system. (For additional information on the STB Velocity 3D board, see Reviews, March.)
A remote control window governs channel selection, volume and video source (TV tuner, S-Video from camcorders and Composite for VCRs). There's also an audio input jack for sources that need it, such as your VCR. After connecting an ordinary rabbit ear antenna, we used the software's scanning feature to set the active channels. The board also works with cable systems using IRC and HRC transmission standards.
We were impressed by the excellent picture and sound quality of the TV PCI. You can easily resize the video display window diagonally (aspect ratio is strictly maintained)
Programming your favorite channels, listening to the SAP audio channel or accessing closed captions is a snap. The one limitation we found with this board was the TV PCI's poor handling of closed captioning. Instead of scrolling the text (so that the top line scrolls off the screen at the same time that a new line of text appears at the bottom), the board refreshes all caption lines, making it difficult to read the captions without giving yourself a bad headache.
The TV PCI board includes a video- (single image) and audio-capture application. It's very poorly documented but fortunately it's still easy to use.
For its high-quality display, easy installation and reasonable price, the TV PCI rates a place on our Recommended List.