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Product Review: Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650

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Being tested today is the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650…. I love when tech companies name stuff – it’s so much fun. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? The Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650. Of course, from the name you know exactly what it is, right? A device that allows you to connect your cable to your Windows 7 PC with dual CableCARDs, basically turning your computer into a DVR. But, you knew that since it is so obvious from the name. And just to either clarify things, or make them more confusing, I’m not sure which – the DCR in the name stands for Digital Cable Ready – not Digital Cable Recorder or something like that – even though it looks very similar to DVR – DCR is not directly related.

I’m going to refer to the device as the WinTV from here on out, if you don’t mind. :)

The WinTV is a small black box, about the size of a desktop external hard drive, and plugs into your computer via USB. It has two slots for CableCARDs – which means you can record two shows at once, or watch one show while recording another. You have to get the CableCARDs from your cable provider, and – of course – you have to have a cable TV subscription. Power Cord slot, coax cable nub, USB cord slot, and the dual CableCARD slots are the connections on the back.

What you would need:

  • A Windows 7 PC
  • A Cable subscription
  • A CableCARD or two
  • The WinTV
  • Enough Hard Drive space on your PC to save your recordings

Some may ask – why get this when most cable companies give you a DVR either free or for a small monthly fee – which may or may not be more than the rental cost of the CableCARD. Well, there are advantages.

The main one for me is expandability. The DVRs you get from your cable provider have whatever space they have – and that’s it. If you want to record more shows than you have room to store – you can’t. You have to start deleting stuff. With the WinTV – you can save as many shows as you’d like – and if you run out of room, just get an external hard drive and keep recording. You can also have and use this device if you already have a DVR – but say your cable-provided DVR only lets you record four shows at once – with a WinTV – you can record up to two more shows. Want to record even more – buy another WinTV, (and probably another computer – I haven’t tested to see if two WinTVs can run on the same computer or not – but I wouldn’t think so unless it was a very very powerful PC.)

Another advantage is exportability. The only way you can watch shows on your Cable-provided DVR is on a TV connected to that DVR (some companies are expanding it to any TV in your home, but you are still limited). Once the shows are on your PC from the WInTV, however, they are files on your computer – they can be exported to a different format and taken anywhere, on your phone, your tablet, your laptop, a DVD, whatever.

Now, for the downside – CableCARDs cannot do PayPerView or Video On Demand – so you won’t be able to watch or record those on your PC through the WinTV. Premium channels like HBO or Showtime work fine (as long as you are subscribed to those channels) – which some cable DVRs won’t even let you record.

Recording can be a little PC intensive, especially two shows at once – so using your computer while those shows are being recorded is probably going to be slow – you won’t be playing any graphically intensive games while recording your shows.

Now – final verdict – do you need one? Well, it depends. If you already have a DVR and you are happy with it, probably not. If you want to be able to save your shows longer than you have space to do so on your DVR, or if you’d like to be able to carry your shows around in your pocket – then it could be a benefit, and the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 is one of the least expensive and yet capable and easy-to-use options out there for these CableCARD USB devices. If you have a DVR and want to be able to record even more shows than you can now – pick one of these up.

If you are a Mac user – unless you are ready and willing to BootCamp Windows 7 – I am sorry you need to find another solution. If you have Windows XP or Vista (WHY DO YOU STILL HAVE VISTA?!?!?) you would need to upgrade before you can use this.

A note – CableCARDs are not generally well advertised on cable provider’s websites – basically because they don’t want to provide them – they want to lock you into their system, with their hardware. They are, however, required by law, I believe, to provide them. So even if you don’t see CableCARDs listed anywhere, call and ask, or email or web chat, whichever you prefer. They have them, they aren’t free, but they are offered.

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About ChadWSmith

  • streamer

    Nice overview of what CC tuners do, but I wouldn’t call it a review of the device. I would expect a review to have a few pictures of the device and at least a description of the setup process, usage and performance. Perhaps add a brief comparison with similar devices like the 3 tuner HDHomeRun Prime and the 4 tuner Ceton. Would also be good to mention the fact that these work with Media Center Extenders like Xbox and the soon-to-be-released Ceton Echo.

    The main reasons I have one are to avoid my cable company’s $20/month DVR fee and terrible DVR interface. I’d like to know what planet has DVRs cheap or free as you said in the review – cable boxes may be cheap, but definitely not DVRs.

    Anyway, I’m very pleased with mine. It paid for itself in a scant 5 months. It was quite a lot of time and effort to set up, mainly because most CSRs at my cable company have no idea how to activate a cable card for a device like this. Once I found the right person, all was well.

    It’s also worth noting that in areas that use SDV, you’ll need a tuning adapter as well, which is usually free with a cable card. Otherwise you’ll be wondering why many of your channels are missing.

  • Igor

    More info is required. Like, how does it compare to HDHomerun and various HDTV USB sticks, can you use it with OTA, does it use proprietary display software, is the aspect ratio and size controllable, is it linux compatible, etc., ?

  • Chad

    I don’t have an HDHomerun or other devices to compare it to. It requires Windows 7. It is not Mac or Linux compatible. Do you see where I put “You need a Windows 7 PC” – kinda covers that. Also the fact that is is called a “WinTV” should clue you in a little, I would think. You need a CableCard – Ergo, it is not compatible with over the air. Seriously – I covered this. Just read it.