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ASUS 1GB GeForce GT 430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket Review

ASUS 1GB GeForce GT 430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket Review

I purchased the ASUS 1GB GeForce GT430 graphics card to upgrade my Dell Slimline 540s and convert it to a Home Theatre PC. An upgrade was needed because my machine struggled to play High Definition video content smoothly with its original graphics card in MediaPortal and XBMC.

ASUS 1GB GT430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket

ASUS 1GB GT430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket

The original graphics card was an ATI Radeon HD 3400 Series and did not have the power to decode High Definition video content quickly enough. This resulted in dropped frames and choppy playback. Handing the decoding over to the Dell’s CPU was no better; the Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU Q8200 @ 2.33GHz in my Dell would typically run at approximately 85% utilization or greater. And that’s not good when there’s windows services running in the background and choking the decoding process. HD content was unwatchable.

The ASUS 1GB GeForce GT430 is endowed with 96 CUDA cores, which means it can decode HD content flawlessly while taking the heat off the Dell’s CPU. And it seems to do it effortlessly. It has transformed my weak and feeble Dell into a very capable HTPC.

The other key points:-

  • With a HDMI connection to my TV and the latest nVidia drivers,  the GPU up-scales everything to 1920 x 1080p.
  • The card can alter it’s screen refresh rate to match the frame rate of the encoded video. This is essential if you are likely to be watching video from different countries and sources. It assists in making playback fluid.
  • The GPU works at approximately 60% when decoding 1080p, high frame-rate video. There’s nothing that I’ve found it can’t handle. I downloaded some really high frame rate 1080p test samples from the internet and it played them, no problem.
  • It handles Blu-Ray decoding beautifully.
  • In conjunction with the LAV codecs, it decodes the four Freeview HD channels with ease from my TBS 6280 DVB-T2 tuner card. My original graphics card had no chance decoding these. – Just remember to select the CUDA option in the LAV Video decoder settings to off-load the decoding to the ASUS GT430 –
  • And since the GPU does all the work now, the Dell’s CPU typically runs at approximately 10% with ample overhead for those pesky background services.

Playback with all material is fluid and smooth. No dropped frames, choppiness or stuttering.

The down side:-

  • Initially, the GPU fan was quiet and operated at acceptable noise levels for a HTPC. Shortly after a year though, it became noisy and I performed a BIOS hack to reduce its speed and noise output.
  • The graphics card itself does over-hang the neighbouring PCI slot as the GPU heat-sink is quite deep, but I was aware of this before I purchased it.

A superb piece of electrical engineering that’s breathed new life into a dying PC.

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TBS 6280 DVB-T2 Freeview HD Dual Tuner Card Review

TBS 6280 DVB-T2 Freeview HD Dual Tuner Card Review

The TBS6280 DVB-T2 Freeview HD dual tuner is a low / high profile PCIe x1 card that generates mpeg transport streams at hardware level to enable the playback and recording of free-to-air Freeview HD and standard definition channels. Driver support for Windows and Linux means that this card can be used with many of the popular, free-source, Home Theatre software packages such as MediaPortal, Argus TV, TVHeadEnd & MythTV. It’s an excellent piece of kit for any HTPC enthusiast.

TBS 6280 Dual DVB-T2 Freeview HD PCIe x1 Tuner Card

TBS 6280 Dual DVB-T2 Freeview HD PCIe x1 Tuner Card

What it does

Hardware Transport Stream Generation

The TBS 6280 DVB-T2 tuner card has two tuners to receive free-to-air, terrestrial digital television broadcasts and convert that data into a MPEG transport stream (MPEG-TS, MTS or TS files) for immediate playback or storage. Effectively, the transport stream is a format container for multichannel audio, video & subtitles. It uses error correction data to preserve continuity when the broadcast signal is weakened. And since all this is done in the hardware, there is negligible loss of your PC’s resources. The dual tuners have good sensitivity, which means better reception for those in poor reception areas.

Simultaneous Multichannel Recording

Terrestrial digital television services are transmitted  on multiplexes (or Mux) and many stations can occupy a single broadcast frequency.

Since there are two tuners in the TBS 6280, it can receive the broadcasts from two multiplexes at once. This means that it is possible to watch and / or record more than two channels at once, provided that the chosen channels occupy the same two multiplexes.

I receive broadcasts  from the Mendip transmitter where channels are assigned to the mulitplexes shown below:

Mendip Mulitplexes & Channels (17/09/13)

Mendip Mulitplexes & Channels (17/09/13)

So, for example: recording all the HD channels simultaneously would utilize just one of the tuners, leaving scope to watch or record channels from one other mux with the second tuner.

Since our favorite channels span just two multiplexes, there is rarely a time when a programme cannot be scheduled to record because there is no spare tuner.

What it does not do

The TBS 6280 tuner card plays no part in the final reproduction of the transport stream. If you experience micro-stutter, dropped frames or degraded picture quality the items responsible will be your choice of codecs and / or the hardware of your PC.

What’s in the box?

  • TBS 6280 DVB-T2 dual tuner card PCIe x1
  • Low profile bracket for conversion
  • Remote control and infra red receiver
  • A mini in-door aerial
TBS 6280 DVB-T2 Dual Tuner Card: Box Contents

TBS 6280 DVB-T2 Dual Tuner Card: Box Contents

TBS 6280 Physical Installation

  • The card is packaged with a low profile bracket and swapping it with the supplied taller one is relatively straight forward.
  • Fitting the card into an available PCIe x1 slot is a breeze. It couldn’t be easier.
  • This card boasts a RF IN and RF OUT connector (aerial pass-through). Fantastic news for those people with just one aerial connection at the back of their TV sets. My aerial connects here, then I use a connector cable to supply the RF signal to my TV. There seems to be no apparent loss in signal strength at the television by connecting in this way.
  • As my installation was part of an upgrade, I opted to continue using my more versatile, Windows Media Center remote instead of the one supplied. And as for the in-door aerial: it may work if you happen to live next door to the transmitter.

TBS 6280 Driver Installation

How to install the TBS 6280 driver – Windows

Visit the download section of tbstv.com by clicking here.

Download the Windows Driver set-up program; run it and install the appropriate driver for your operating system (XP/Vista or Win7).

Once installed, you have the option to install bundled software such as TBSViewer and TBSVHID Tool. Don’t bother with these unless you intend to use them.

There is no requirement to re-boot.

How to install the TBS 6280 driver – Linux

These directions are based upon the driver revision v130909. Visit the download site to ascertain the current revision and make that substitution if necessary.

You will need the unzip program installed. This can be obtained through the Software Centre application.

Launch a terminal window then type each line followed by ENTER:

mkdir driver
cd driver
wget http://www.tbsdtv.com/download/document/common/tbs-linux-drivers_v130909.zip
unzip tbs-linux-drivers_v130909.zip
tar xjvf linux-tbs-drivers.tar.bz2
cd linux-tbs-drivers

Depending on which version of Linux you have (x86 or x64), you will have to identify the correct driver to install from those just created from the above uncompression.

Type:

uname -a

Then depending on the output, select the correct driver for your operating system.

  • for x86 kernel 3.x (x86 32 bit installations of kernel 3.x): ./v4l/tbs-x86_r3.sh
  • for x86 kernel 2.6.x (x86 32 bit installations of kernel 2.6.x): ./v4l/tbs-x86.sh
  • for any x86_64 kernel (x86 64 bit installations of Linux): ./v4l/tbs-x86_64.sh

Then, type the following to install the correct driver for your system. This example shows the installation of the x64 bit driver. Substitute the highlighted file path and file name with the one appropriate for your system.

sudo ./v4l/tbs-x86_64.sh
sudo make && sudo make install

When complete, reboot so the driver can take effect.

sudo shutdown -r now

TBS 6280 DVB-T2 Review

I have set TBS 6280 DBV-T2 tuner card up and had it working with various combinations of operating systems and HTPC software. And it has performed flawlessly; waking from the PC’s sleep state without problems and never missing a recording.

The Good Points:

  • Dual tuners with good sensitivity
  • Receives terrestrial, free-to-air, Freeview SD & HD channels
  • Ability to watch and / or record multiple channels simultaneously, from two multiplexes
  • Works in Windows and Linux
  • The developers, TurboSight, seem committed to Linux as drivers are continually revised
  • Low profile option for media center PCs
  • Aerial pass-through
  • Wakes from PC sleep state without problems

The Bad Points (And these are minor bad points):

  • The Linux drivers are not open source
  • There is no infra red remote driver available for Linux, so the supplied remote will not work. However, Windows Media Center remotes work as normal.

OVERALL SCORE 5/5

The Codecs I Use for Windows Playback

With the right selection of codecs, both SD and HD video are crisp and vibrant while playback is smooth and faultless. I use the LAV filters in Windows, available with the installation of MediaPortal or separately here, at Sourceforge.

Not only is the video codec the best, but the LAV audio codec resolves a lot of the problems associated with audio playback on the Freeview HD channels. If you’re having problems with your set up, try these codecs out.

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