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  • TV Tuners vs. Web TV: Point/Counterpoint
Technology Articles > Hardware > TV Tuners > TV Tuners vs. Web TV: Point/Counterpoint

TV tuners let you watch broadcast digital television, cable or satellite on your computer. The main benefit of buying a TV tuner is so you can roll your own personal video recorder (PVR) system as an alternative to a digital video recorder (DVR) box. When TV tuner cards first hit the market, they quickly gained somewhat of a cult following among geeks, enthusiasts and home theater PC builders. But now, the trend seems to be dying. Or is it? In this article, we’ll discuss two points of view regarding the future of the TV tuner.

Point: TV Tuner Cards Are Cheaper than DVRs Over the Long Run

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your digital cable box probably has a built-in DVR. However, your cable company likely has it disabled since you don’t pay an extra monthly fee to access this feature. This fee is usually around $10 and up per month, which can seriously add up over the years. Even if you buy a third-party DVR, such as a TiVO, you often have to pay a monthly subscription for service.

Counterpoint: HTPCs are Expensive Upfront

A TV tuner card isn’t the only piece of hardware you have to buy in order to enjoy TV on your computer. Depending on the age of your system, you may also have to invest in a video card, a RAM upgrade and perhaps a new monitor. To replicate the TV watching experience you’d find on a home theater system, you’d also have to invest in a sound system, or send your recorded shows back to your TV. Plus, you may need to buy PVR software for your computer.

Point: We Watch More TV on Our Computers Than Before

If you regularly watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or other video on demand or streaming video content on your computer, it makes sense to combine all of your watching onto your computer. Not only will a TV tuner card let you watch on the air digital broadcasts, but it’ll also let you record and save shows that haven’t made it onto Netflix or Hulu yet.

Counterpoint: We Watch More Online Content on Our TVs Than Before

Google TV, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, web-ready Blu-ray players—the current trend is actually quite the opposite. We can watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, Blockbuster Online and even YouTube right from your TV. It makes more sense to watch all your shows on your existing home theater or entertainment system than pull broadcast content onto your computer.

Point: Digital Broadcast TV Channels Have Better Quality

Streaming content via the Internet is dependent on your broadband speed and degrades quickly if your Internet is slow. Digital broadcast TV channels deliver better quality without sucking up your bandwidth.
Counterpoint: The Internet is Getting Faster and Video Formats are Getting Better

While DVDs, Blu-ray and HD broadcast TV channels remain the highest quality mediums for video, web formats are catching up. Vudu, for example, has an excellent HD quality streaming movie service. And 4G data connections are expected to surpass cable Internet speeds in the near future.


After reading the arguments above, which would rather invest in: a TV tuner card or a web-enabled TV? Give us your feedback in the comments!