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CyberLink PowerCinema 4

Watch and record TV on your PC By John Virata

Watching TV on your PC is not new. The concept has been around for more than a decade. My first experience with TV on a computer was with a Macintosh TV, circa 1993 or so. It was an all in one unit that doubled as a TV and a computer. It came with a remote control and a connection so you you can plug in a cable TV line right into the back of the system. PC add in card manufacturers followed suit during the late 1990s with TV tuner cards. So they've been around awhile.

CyberLink has introduced PowerCinema 4, a $99 "TV Entertainment system for the Digital Home" that combines TV capabilities with a whole host of multimedia features all in one box. A hybrid digital/analog version is also available for $119.95. All that is needed is a Windows XP PC running a 2.6GHz Pentium 4 CPU or faster, 512MB RAM, Direct X 9 or later, 1GB free hard disk space, DirectX compatible display adapter and sound card, a free PCI slot, and a mouse. Here is our review.

Installation of the PowerCinema 4 involves installing the PCI card, turning the computer on and installing the driver. Once the driver is installed, I installed the PowerCinema software, which makes up the core control of PowerCinema. That and the included remote control and infrared receiver, which plugs into a free USB port on the computer. PowerCinema launches with a double click of the icon on the desktop, or with a push of the Home button on the remote.

When you launch PowerCinema, there are a whole host of multimedia items available to you, including viewing live TV, watching movies, viewing pictures and videos, listening to the radio, listening to your music collection, and playing games downloaded from the Cyberlink store. In addition, PowerCinema supports the following file formats, so if you have these formats on your computer, PowerCinema can play them; Video: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-2HD, WMV, WMV-HD, DivX, ASF, DAT, DVR-MS, and AVI; Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV, CDA; Image: BMP, JPG, PNG; Disc formats: DVD,SVCD, VCD 1.0, VCD 2.0, miniDVD.

Live TV

With everything installed, you can turn on the TV feature by launching PowerCinema and selecting TV from the menu. The TV will launch in a window around the size of 640, and the TV guide resides to the left. The guide includes the following features: Live TV, which is just like your TV; Recorded TV are those episodes that you have recorded with PowerCinema; Schedule, which enables you to schedule a recording of a TV. With schedule, you can record a show once, every week day, or a specific day of the week. You input your desired time and end time.

TV Preview

The software will do the rest; TV Preview, which enables you to preview up to 12 channels (on a 19-inch LCD) at a time, or up to 44 channels. The preview is a screen capture of the channel which updates every few moments. You can then choose a channel to watch by using the arrow keys on the remote and pressing the OK button.  Program Guide, which requires an Electronic Program Guide, enables you to view a listing of what is on TV; and Settings buttons, which enable you to tweak the signal settings, channel settings, recording settings, guide settings, and a restore default settings button.

You can watch videos either from CD/DVD or via hard disk drive

The Movies and Videos button feature enables you to play a DVD or any video supported video file located on the computer's hard disk drive. 

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