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    Hardware Reviews


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    Ceton InfiniTV6-ETH Network Cable Card Adapter Review

    Hardware
    From the beginning, I've followed Ceton. I received one of the very first InfiniTV4, in the first batch, as soon as they had them. I participated in the Echo and App Betas. And from the beginning, I loved the direction that Ceton was taking. Ceton was bringing real life to the cable card in Windows Media Center, and allowing us to do things that just we always wanted.. but Microsoft and others never pushed. ATI had their 2-Tuner external USB Cable Card device, but outside of being clunky it was nearly ungettable; you had to acquire it through specific sources and it's tuning capabilities were rather poor.

    Ceton InfiniTV 6-ETH Cable Card Adapter



    From the beginning, I've followed Ceton. I received one of the very first InfiniTV4, in the first batch, as soon as they had them. I participated in the Echo and App Betas. And from the beginning, I loved the direction that Ceton was taking. Ceton was bringing real life to the cable card in Windows Media Center, and allowing us to do things that just we always wanted.. but Microsoft and others never pushed. ATI had their 2-Tuner external USB Cable Card device, but outside of being clunky it was nearly ungettable; you had to acquire it through specific sources and it's tuning capabilities were rather poor.

    So for years, most of us who relied on Windows Media Center "cut the cord"; using just QAM tuners - like those from Silicon Dust, Happauge and others. But the InfiniTV changed the game. A single PCI-E card provided you four tuners so you could watch and record multiple channels in fantastic digital quality..

    A lot of us loved the PCI-E InfiniTV, but the PCI-E version still was a rather long card - which made it a difficult fit for small MicroATX and MiniATX cases. And more and more people wanted smaller media centers to go in their bedrooms or remaining rooms. This brought on three potential problems: (1) if you used Media Center Extender, like XBOX, you were reliant on the main Media Center; and (2) if you used a separate media center it might see the recordings on your first media center, but LiveTV wasn't very functional, finally while Ceton offered a USB edition, it didn't solve the pile of SDV adapters and other items you would need to go with it, creating an environment that wasn't necessarily wife friendly.

    Silicon Dust provided a solution for this with their PrimeHD Network Cable Card Adapter.. and a lot of people - including myself, added a Silicon Dust HD Prime to our network to accomplish the task that the Ceton didn't... you could hide the Silicon Dust in a closet and get good performance while hiding all the boxes. This also allowed you to use Micro and MiniATX system designs or even go cardless to get the performance you wanted.

    So, when Ceton rolled out their 6 tuner network edition, they solved a potential problem for me: I currently use both a Ceton InfinTV4 and a Silicon Dust HD Prime, to get 7 tuners. But if I had a way to replace the InfiniTV4 with a 6, and put it on the network.. I might solve multiple problems.

    The Install

    The Ceton install is surprisingly quick and easy, very comparable to the install of the SiliconDust. If you are coming from a prior Ceton InfiniTV4 (like me) I STRONGLY recommend removing your Ceton Drivers and Card FIRST and then installing the drivers.

    http://youtu.be/fMQUV0EMg1o

    One of the key differences in comparison with Silicon Dust and others is that the USB connector will be Mini-USB. This is because the VERY SMALL form factor of the Ceton ETH-6. Ceton thankfully includes this USB cable, and the connection was a snap. After contacting my cable TV provider and re-authorizing my cable card - a requirement if you move it from an InfiTV4 to a 6, or any device to any device (the pairing must last) I was off to the races.

    Adding the InfiniTV-6 to my network ended up giving me 13 tuners.. two analog, two QAM, and nine cable card tuners. I was now over the "footlong" registry fix I had put into my media center some time ago, thanks to TunerSalad.. (http://www.mychannel...unserSalad.aspx) Good luck for me, they've expanded and it now supports up to 32 tuners in a box. (how and why, I have no idea.. but then again, I never thought I would need 13).

    After a few reboots, I began the re-setup wizard within Microsoft Media Center to grab hold of my new network tuners. I had no issue grabbing hold of all tuners and getting them configured and setup. Depending on your configuration, this may take a bit - though I always bypass the "scan for QAM" as it never seems to give me anything.

    Notes about Requirements

    The Ceton comes with a gigabit ethernet port, and you will need it. While their page lists "at least a 100Mb wired network" this is really an understatement. If you plan on using all six tuners at once, you're going to use between 80%-90% of the entire bandwidth a 100mb network can provide. Add in more network tuners (for me 5 more) and you're way over the limit.

    If your home network is not Gigabit, I would STRONGLY tell you it's time to upgrade a switch and or think about re-wiring. The Ceton doesn't have or provide Wireless support, and because of issues with latency and performance, I can't imagine a wireless configuration being functional. For a test, I tried the Ceton over a 500Mb AV Powerline network adapter.. and the performance was not acceptable... I had no issue tuning a channel and recording another, but the moment I added a third, the performance immediately fell off and the output was not usable.

    In light of this, I would strongly recommend that only those with a hardwired Gigabit network apply.

    Second, remember recording multiple shows at once will grab a lot of system memory; EHSHELL (windows Media Center shell) often can grab 2Gb or more of main memory, so I would advise if you're running Windows Media Center that 8Gb should be your desired configuration.

    While Ceton device will work with other media center software, in those modes because of CableLabs certification, it is likely to work as mostly a QAM device. I understand solutions for Mac exist, but as I have not tested them (yet) I will not Comment, though I will make an effort soon.

    Network Provisioning

    While Ceton works on dynamic pooling of tuners, I had no issues provisioning my tuners to divide them amongst two media centers. This is a great way to give both media centers some tuners to have available in a live mode. But while provisioning is nice, the promise of dynamic pooling as updates become available really could be the breakout feature; allowing the media center that needs it to have access while one that is "off" or not in use to give up it's claim on tuners.

    Ceton provides Beta drivers at this point that give this kind of access, but I don't want to include in my review the performance of beta drivers. I expect in a few months to update and adjust this review to include those within my thoughts.

    Conclusions

    The Ceton InfiniTV6-ETH fills a void for a lot of HTPC enthusiasts. For a lot of people, having six tuners online on a network will be enough; so one InfiniTV6 on a network will give them everything they are after from their cable card company. The performance and output on the InfiniTV6-ETH easily matches the performance I receive from my SiliconDust PrimeHD, I was unable to tell apart recordings from either device.

    If you are buying a InfiniTV6-ETH, I'd tell you that just like those of us who bought the InfiniTV off the waiting list to get one first, you can probably expect some driver updates as we go to improve performance. Right now, the InfiniTV6 doesn't quite "switch stations" as quickly as the Silicon Dust. But that small lag isn't really enough for me to put the unit down.

    For a lot of people, the ETH-6 is going to answer all the big questions. But before you buy, just keep these things in mind:

    * Have a Gigabit Network

    * If your provider requires SDV switcher, make sure your SDV switcher will support 6 tuned. This MAY require a firmware update, which they can do remotely if they haven't already.

    * Remember, your SDV box cannot be connected in a "loop" to your Ceton - you will need a SPLITTER before your SDV with one link going to your SDV, the other to your Ceton device.


    If you've got those bases covered, plug in your Ceton and enjoy - because this is about as good as HTPC gets.

    Reviewed by: MattCR




    6 Comments

    Are those scores right?

    Hah!   They are playing with how to feature things, we had those stripped out at one point and it looks like they were added back in.  

     

    I'd give it a 5/5 for hardware performance ;)

    So you like it?

    Any benefit to a pcie internal card vs the external card.

    For a lot of people, the benefit is going to be that having it ethernet based means that you don't have to have an SDV switcher and associated equipment right near your HTPC or in your living area, making cable runs easier/etc.

     

    The other benefit is that it makes Mini-ITX and teamed Media Centers much easier, as many media centers can "share" the same tuning device, providing you multiple media center capabilities much easier.

    Are there any functional differences between the two solutions? (I thought I read that the external Ethernet version supports tuner pooling while the PCI does not?)

    Are there any functional differences between the two solutions? (I thought I read that the external Ethernet version supports tuner pooling while the PCI does not?)

     

    No.  The big difference is one you can hide in your closet or in a different room then your recieving media center.  The big advantage is for those of us that use tuning adapters/etc., it gets clutter away from our livingroom.

     

    I added a second 6ETH this weekend, putting 14 tuners on line in my MCE.  A while back that would seem crazy, but we just decided to blanket record this season for every new show and go back and pick them up later if worthwhile, so why not? (2 6 ETH, 2 Analog tuners, we removed the QAM tuners from our configuration)