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Review: Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT

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The Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT is the first PCI-Express dual digital tuner TV card on the market.

Let's have a look at the card – for my tests I will be using Windows Vista Ultimate as my operating system. This is great for two reasons: Windows Vista will have a much larger Media Center exposure than XP MCE 2005 (as it's shipped as standard) and most importantly has native 64bit support within Media Center, meaning that for the first time 64bit drivers will be required for Media Center.

The great news is that even though Vista is not officially released yet, Terratec have already got drivers available for the card. Even more importantly, they have both 32 and 64 bit versions available.

Unboxing the card showed that Terratec have put some thought into it; the box includes everything you may need: the card (obviously), but there is also a USB infrared receiver and controller that will allow you to control Media Center, as well as the included software.

Talking of which, as well as the Windows XP drivers, there is also the Terratec Home Cinema software that has all the usual DVB-T features. Another great addition is the inclusion of Cyberlink's Power Cinema software, so even those that don't have XP Media Center or Vista can get the nice Media Center style 10 foot interface.

The card itself is a really nicely put together piece of equipment, with its white PCB. 

Both of the Micronas tuners are well shielded, and the card only requires one antenna connection, a nice addition.

Installation into a spare PCI-Express slot was a breeze, and after downloading the latest drivers for Vista, installation proceeded.

To make sure all was well, I popped on the Terratec Home Cinema software and kicked off a scan for channels.

I was not expecting too much in the way of reception, as the antenna that the card was connected to was a standard analogue one and I live in a class 2 antenna area. To my surprise, the software brought back all of the major channels, and only a few of them had some partial stuttering. The Terratec software also had another bonus hidden, it includes a subscription to the TVTV program data service.

After everything went so well with the Terratec software, I decided to fire up the Vista Media Center interface.

On first launch, and after going into the TV settings, Vista Media Center said that a new tuner had been found. I clicked through the screens to set the card up. After Vista's setup, all the channels that the Terratec software found were available to me. Why was this so surprising? The card that I was previously using (a Hauppauge Nova T) struggled to get some of the channels, and just did not find some of the fringe channels using this antenna.

After setting a few recordings up in Vista Media Center so that the card would have to use both tuners at the same time, and inspecting the output video, it seems that both tuners on the Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT perform just as well as each other.

I have been using the card in the Media Center for a month, with no issues raising their head.

To benchmark the Terratec I popped the Hauppauge back into the box and disabled one of the Terratec tuners. This forced Vista Media Center to use the two different manufacturers of card to record dual channel recordings. Both cards were plugged into the same booster/splitter box and the Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT clearly out performed the Hauppauge on every test. I even swapped the aerial cables around to make sure a badly screened RF cable wasn't the culprit. This showed that the tuners on the Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT are certainly more sensitive, and as such are more capable of holding a weak signal.

That said, both cards received and recorded all channels available in my area when plugged into my DVB-T antenna. However, even then the Hauppauge showed more dropout and stutter issues.

Conclusion

I would rate this card very highly indeed; I've been impressed with everything I have seen so far. The card is relatively cheap (around 70GBP / 130USD / 100Euro), performs exceptionally well, and has great support (Hauppauge, who after all are the market leaders, have very few 32Bit drivers – let alone 64Bit – at the moment), and best of all will fill that PCI-E 1x slot you have sitting on your motherboard doing nothing useful.

I would highly recommend one of these cards for your Vista Media Center project at a drop of a hat. I'm very happy with the one I have, so much so that it has replaced my trusted Hauppauge card.

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