PowerColor Theater 550 Pro Video Card Review

powercolor-theater

Introduction

Having built a new PC this last holiday season that is running Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, the one item that I didn’t get at that time was a TV tuner card. After 3 prior experiences with embedded tv tuner/video card variations of the ATI’s “All-In-Wonder” series over the years, I wanted to find a higer quality tuner card that would allow me to utilize all of the benefits of the Media Center Edition, but didn’t fall into the “all in one” video card class since I am already using ATI’s X700 Pro (PCI Express) video card.

Needless to say, when PowerColor asked who might be interested in reviewing a their new Theater 550 Pro TV tuner card based on ATI’s new THEATER 550 Pro chipset, I jumped at the opportunity.

Overview

The THEATER™ 550 PRO chipset is for the home PC user who craves a superior home theater experience on their computer. ATI’s THEATER™ 550 PRO brings tomorrow’s high-end home theater technology to today’s desktop and notebook PCs. The THEATER™ 550 PRO brings stunning visual detail and impact through its many advanced video processing features, including a 3D comb filter.

A few of the chipset’s highlighted features include :

  • The first hardware-accelerated video processor with both PCI Express and PCI support.
  • Hardware-accelerated video processing with a high-end 3D comb filter enhances fine-detail video fidelity.
  • Advanced personal video recording capabilities and superior lower-bitrate MPEG-2 encoding enables more video content to be recorded to a single DVD-R/DVD-RW disk.
  • Built-in digital audio capture enables perfectly synchronized video and audio.
  • Intelligent noise reduction algorithm cleans up snow and other unsightly artifacts from your video source with dedicated hardware, resulting in better looking captures that take up less disk space.
PowerColor Theater 550 Pro Specifications
  • The ability to watch the best TV quality on your PC
  • Real-Time Hardware MPEG2 Encoding
  • Powerful 12 bit video engine
  • Hardware 3D Comb Filter
  • Hardware Noise Reduction
  • External S-Video/Composite input support
  • TimeShifting and scheduler recording
  • Listen to Stereo FM Radio
  • 16MB DDR Memory
  • Low-profile design
PowerColor Theater 550 Pro Details
    • Unparalleled integration
    • Video decoder
    • Worldwide stereo audio support
    • IF demodulation
    • DVD quality MPEG-2 encoder
    • PCI & PCI Express x1bus interfaces

Features never seen before on the PC :


    • 12-bit Video decoder with hardware 3D Comb Filter
    • Hardware Noise Reduction
    • Digital 12-bit IF demod
    • First PCI Express TV chip

Additional features :

    • FM Radio
    • Closed captioning and Teletext support
    • Integrated anti-aliasing filters
    • Sharper video capture is achieved through an industry leading 2D 5-line comb filter.
    • Professional quality 3D comb filter which is used to separate the luminance and chrominance components of video. The 3D filter works best on still areas of video because it is able to scan ahead a frame and determine whether the image has changed or not. It then uses this information to properly separate the luminance and chrominance parts of a composite or TV tuner signal to eliminate color bleeding or other artifacting.
    • The THEATER™550 PRO’s digital audio architecture delivers 100% synchronized audio and video. Audio and video streams are processed in together in the chip and sent out packaged as a MPEG stream to the system for storage or playback. Say goodbye to bad lip synch!
    • High horsepower chip ensures that frames are never dropped and smooth and fluid video is recorded, providing an ideal PVR experience.
    • Bright bursts in white or color levels occur due to fluctuating signal strength and cause video to suddenly brighten and then darken. The THEATER™550 PRO prevents this problem from occurring by using a 12-bit analog to digital converter which converts and smoothes out the analog signal, along with Automatic Gain Control (AGC) circuitry.
    • Most analog video sources, whether from cable TV or antenna are very noisy with snow and other distortions. The THEATER™550 PRO has been designed to tackle this real-world video and has a dedicated engine to intelligently remove noise, yet still achieved sharp edges and fine textures.
    • The THEATER™550 PRO combines all the features of a TV tuning PVR card into a single chip complete with high-end THEATER™quality

Minimum System Requirements :

    • 750-Mhz CPU or faster
    • 128MB RAM or above
    • Microsoft Windows XP, 2000, Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition
    • One available PCI slot (PCI version)
    • One available PCI-E slot (PCI-E version)
    • CD-ROM drive
    • Graphics card with DirectX 8.1 or above
    • Sound card
    • Cable TV signal or amplified antenna

Package Contents :

  • Hardware MPEG2 – TV 550 PRO TV tuner card
  • Quick Installation Guide
  • Driver/Application CD
  • AV cable
  • FM Antenna cable
  • Remote control
  • Remote sensor
  • Software: PowerCinema, PowerDVD, PowerDirector SE+, Power Producer DVD, MediaShow SE, Power2Go