July 6, 2008

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q Review
Miami Beach, United States

A few weeks ago I was asked if I wanted to take a look at Hauppauge's latest USB TV tuner.

Hauppauge is a brand that I'm familiar (and comfortable) with. The company primarily designs products that interface with computers to deliver multimedia content for manipulation and archival. I dealt with many of their offerings well over a decade ago, back when the company was really geared towards video-import cards for desktop computers (competing against ATI's freshly released All-in-Wonder video card).

Hauppauge has re-geared in recent years, becoming a big player in the "TV on your PC" market. The product sent to me, the WinTV HVR-950Q, is one of their most recent releases, premiering at the CES tradeshow this past January.

Device Size, Portability

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q with antenna

The self-powered USB stick is of a design I haven't seen before. It isn't much larger than a traditional thumb drive, yet sports a coaxial plug integrated onto end. I found that the moderately plump device (as USB sticks go) obstructed an adjacent USB port, but should it become an issue, an extension cable is included.

I'm honestly a little embarrassed to say that I didn't realize that the antenna had a telescoping top until it got caught on something—I'd been using it in its unassuming condensed state, never thinking once to give the top a pull.

The remote pushed in as far as it will go

The thin remote works with the device's built-in infrared receiver, and is shaped to stow away in a laptop's PCMCIA slot. This wasn't an option with my notebook, as it's equipped with PC Card's physically incompatible successor, the ExpressCard.

I get the general impression that all components would travel well. They're light, compact, and don't feel cheap in the hand.

NTSC, ATSC, and QAM

One of the marketing niches this device has fallen into is its support for both analog and digital over-the-air signals, as well as sporting an integrated Clear QAM tuner (which enables direct reception of unscrambled digital cable channels).

ATSC will (finally) replace the analog NTSC television standard by February 17, 2009 in the United States, and August 31, 2011 in Canada. The high definition television standard can produce wide screen 16:9 images up to 1920×1080 pixels in size—more than six times the display resolution of the earlier ATSC standard.

Further reading: What's the difference between NTSC, ATSC, and QAM?

Using the WinTV-HVR-950Q

Setup with the included CD was simple and straightforward. There were no complications installing on Windows Vista, or annoying "bloatware" applications dropped in without permission.

WinTV Interface

Hauppauge's principal software offering is a TV tuning and recording application called WinTV. Upon starting the application for the first time, the program prompted to search through and note the available channels. Probably because I figured out too late at the supplied antenna actually extends for better reception, I opted to pluck the analog over-the-air signals it picked up out of the memorized lineup (fuzz, fuzz, and more fuzz).

Using the WinTV software is a somewhat anti-climatic experience. I found the user interface to be rather clunky, and often slow to respond. I never really looked forward to booting it up.

There's a noticeable delay between switching digital channels, much like hitting the 'channel up' button on some satellite setups. This is annoying for a channel-surfing speed freak like me.

Application interface quirks aside, I really never expected to see the kind of quality on my screen from an over-the-air signal that I do with this device. It's simply stunning.

Within minutes I was completely convinced that dumping the fuzzy, analog signal that we've all grown up to know in the United States for a digital broadcast was a fantastic milestone for this country—one that should be embraced, not frowned upon.

Many of the ATSC channels don't broadcast in their full high definition potential (something even more obvious when an HD program is interrupted with a local commercial shot in standard definition), but of those do, I can say with no uncertainty that it's the best looking video image I've ever seen on my laptop. Better than any DVD or movie I've watched on the system was this over-the-air broadcast.

It's a wonderfully strange, pleasing experience to see—so much so that I stopped watching some programs on the TV with fuzzy reception I have here in my hotel room, and started using my laptop.

I found it interesting that the digital over-the-air channels stammered and fragmented if the reception wasn't solid (like a bad satellite connection during a storm). It would seem the days of static fuzz and ugly image ghosting are almost at an end.

DVR Functionality

Hauppauge WinTV application suite comes with broadcast recording and scheduling capabilities, enabling you to keep a copy of a show you like for later viewing, or pause live TV if you're interrupted.

I tried recoding an episode of CBS's The Unit, which is beautifully broadcast in full HD, where I quickly discovered that recording (or pausing) broadcasts could be dangerous on laptops with limited hard disk space. The hour-long show consumed six gigabytes for the video file it created.

Obviously different resolutions record to differently sized files, but it was clear that my system wasn't going to be recording anything with any regularity.

Intended Audience, Final Thoughts

With a $99 price tag, I look at this device and think about whom it's actually geared towards. Although it'd surely travel well, and has the possibility of being used both domestically and abroad (countries and territories using ATSC), I think that it's best used to enable DVR capabilities at home (and stay there in such a role).

I'm not a user of TiVo and other popular consumer (or cable company provided) DVRs, but I have a feeling that people end up building their own little home DVR solutions because they want to share recordings with others, avoid paying service fees, or want to take their archived shows with them on the road on an external hard drive.

For those interested in such things, the HVR-950Q is a good option.

Pros:

  • Works with Windows XP and Vista, Mac OSX
  • Self-powered (doesn't require an AC adapter)
  • Comes with a decent external antenna for picking up standard definition and high definition signals
  • Supports Clear QAM digital TV
  • Live and recorded HDTV has truly outstanding, impressive picture quality
  • Smooth, full-screen HDTV playback on average budget notebook

Cons:

  • No out of the box Linux support
  • Outdated remote design doesn't stow inside modern laptops
  • It isn't obvious that the external antenna extends to improve reception
  • Clunky WinTV viewing application
  • Not channel surfing friendly
  • WinTV 'snapshot still capture' feature never produced a clear image (always came out looking scrambled)
  • Very large video recording file size (6GB for one hour in HD)

Comments:

Canada

Erik

July 7th, 2008

Two thoughts - First, I don't think it's fair to blame Hauppauge for the telescopic antenna snafu. Not having seen it, I'm not certain how "hidden" the feature is but it seems like your own "duh, I'm a fool" moment may have made that an unnecessarily negative point.

Second, I'm not certain that the negative aspect of the large HD video recording file size should be a ding for Hauppauge. Yes, it sucks when there's less than at least 100GB of free space but that's the nature of recording up to 1920×1080i/p, high frame rate video, not to mention the audio coming along with it. To be fair though, this is an issue with any DVR system, be it PC-based, TiVo or cable/satellite service provided. MPEG4 encoding may provide some benefit, I'm not sure what this particular device is using. Even so, the majority of systems allow for eSATA and/or USB storage expandability at the consumer's choosing.

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

July 7th, 2008

Very true, Erik. I believe it's MPEG-2 with this one.

The United States

Bret Suttle

August 18th, 2008

I was looking for a device that will not only allow me to watch over the air HD content on my computer but also burn my videotapes to DVD's…will the 950Q allow me to do this?

Hungary

Craig | travelvice.com

August 19th, 2008

Howdy Bret — I don't believe there's any dvd burning software included in the bundle, but I don't think that would stop me from hooking my VCR up to the device, tuning in, and recording to output to the hard drive. Should be simple enough to burn onto a dvd from that point (lots of authoring software floating around out there).

Note: I didn't test hooking anything up other than antennae. I'd get in touch with Hauppauge to make sure an output from a VCR will be picked up (though don't see why it wouldn't).

The United States

Bret Suttle

August 21st, 2008

Craig-Thanks for the reply…I'm definately going to look into it. :-D

The United States

Rickey Francis

October 5th, 2008

The problem I have with the WinTV-HVR-950Q right now is I don't see how you can just the RCA input and S-video. I have plug it in and put my camcorder s-video cord in the thing and select S-video from the provided Wintv viewer and not showing anything.

The United States

Sharusvens

November 12th, 2008

I 'm in Haiti I have a Win TV-HVR-950q it 's never run I can't take any channel with it I don't know if the materiel not work in other country who not listed in the country list. can you Help me?

Romania

Craig | travelvice.com

November 12th, 2008

Howdy — Hard to say. Haiti certainly isn't on the list of ATSC-broadcasting countries, though it should be able to pick up at least some standard over the air channels (though again, I'm not sure what the broadcasting quality of said channels is in those part).

Try pulling the top of the external antenna to extend it :)

The United States

Mike

December 1st, 2008

According to "www.linuxtv.org" the 950Q is supported in digital but, strangely, not analog mode. I just ordered the thing from Newegg on a Black Friday special, so I'll have to see if that problem has been fixed and just not logged.
Crossing my fingers…

The United States

hey

February 25th, 2009

costco has same exact thing for $50 and this is $99

The United States

Chris

February 26th, 2009

"It isn't obvious that the external antenna extends to improve reception"

LOL. I have had this tuner for about a year now, and I didn't realize that the antenna extended until just now when I read this comment. I thought the antenna was just a piece of trash, maybe I should try it out extended.

The United States

Chris

February 26th, 2009

Update: The antenna included is just as useless with the antenna extended as it is with it down. However this tuner does work quite well with my home made antenna.

The United States

nancy

February 28th, 2009

I currently have cable. If I plug in the coaxial cable to this gadget, will I get all the hd cable channels? or do I still need an hd box from my cable company?

The United States

Todd_S

March 1st, 2009

Nancy, most cable companies offer the local HD channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc) in clear QAM which this device should receive. The FCC actually mandates that cable companies offer the local HD channels in the clear but I have heard of some that do not. My cable company (Charter) offers about 12 or so channels in clear QAM and the local HD channels are included. About the only way to find out what you have on your cable system is to try out a QAM tuner or talk to someone who has.

As for any other HD channels, most likely they are encrypted and this device will not receive them.

The United States

Meg

March 2nd, 2009

Does this tuner show/record captions? I take my laptop everywhere, but sometimes can't blast out the sound where I'm at and it's not convenient to wear a headset, so captions are a MUST.

The United States

Elizabeth

March 17th, 2009

This may be a stupid question but do I understand correctly that this device will pick up over-the-air channels without me needing to have cable or satellite?
We'd like to disconnect our satellite service but still want to get local channels and don't have an outside antenna on our house or one of the "converter boxes" that we'll need soon.

The United States

Tom

March 19th, 2009

Yes, Elizabeth, you can get all the broadcast channels in full HD over the air for free. You will need an antenna.

Try this website: http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/Welcome.aspx

There you can enter your zip code to determine what type of antenna you will need and what channels you should recieve. The distance you are from the broadcast tower will determine how big and what type is required. The Satalite and Cable companies do not like to advertise that the very best quality signal is the free, uncompressed, over-the-air (OTA) signal. I find it funny that reviewer of this product found it "simply stunning" and seemed suprised by the picture quality obviously shows they have not used a USB tuner before which makes me wonder why they were asked to review a product that they no nothing about… but that is another matter. The piture from these devices always looks like that! This product simple does what all digital OTA tuners do is recieve the full HD signal. I too plan on getting rid of my Directv subscription because mostly I watch Network and PBS programming. I can get CSPAN over the internet. The questions I have for the reviewer are relative to the Cable signal They did not seem to have tested it there. Does it recieve the analog channels from Cable (which are NOT going away in June 2009)? Does it actually recieve the QAM HD unscrambled channels?

Canada

Crooked by Hauppauge

May 3rd, 2009

I was baffled by the fact that the audio is mono only. It is not written on the box nor in the review!
Lie by omission?

The United States

mike

May 6th, 2009

I have the 950Q and I have no issues firing up the TV Tuner, it works fine. My problem is the files don’t burn well using Nero 9. I have played with Nero and tried to tweak it a billion ways with no success. The files themselves play "ok" on Windows Media Player or Nero, but when you try to burn these same files the video is blotchy, pixilated & audio way off. I have burned over 100-200 DVD's in the past year or so and I have never had these problems nor have I EVER had to try and tweak the settings as I have now trying to burn my 950Q files. Hauppauge has been very little help. Again, I use Nero a lot and have for years, but I cannot get any of these 950Q files to burn properly. The 950Q give practically no ability to adjust (am I blind?) any recording settings other then 6GB DVD or SVCD2GB. No options for bit rate, anything… Any help or suggestions it would be greatly appreciated.

The United States

Jim

May 8th, 2009

Hi,
Pictures from my 950q are fabulous and audio is stereo. My unit get very hot and shortly no no more pictures.

The United States

Dave

May 10th, 2009

The file size for recordings of digital broadcasts has nothing to do with this device. There is a popular misconception that devices and software like this re-encode the incoming video to save it to disk. This is only true for analog signals. Digital signals (like over the air HD) are already encoded to be sent over the air. This encoded stream is simply saved directly to disk without re-encoding. This allows for first rate quality of recordings without the overhead of re-encoding. Thus the file size is simply a factor of the incoming stream.

Canada

LT

May 28th, 2009

can this device work without a computer? i mean, provide power via USB, but connect directly to a TV via composite connections and use an on screen menu/guide via the remote to select channels and watch programming?

Egypt

Craig | travelvice.com

May 29th, 2009

'fraid not LT. Need a computer for this device.

The United States

Steve

June 7th, 2009

So it plays back both digi and analog equally as well.
Does the antenna screw into the unit's coax cable?

I have WinTV USB2, so I think unless I have Media Center I will need to uninstall it?

The United States

Bill

June 21st, 2009

It gets everything, I have cox cable and this device does what others don't.
Analog Digital, and QAM if I decide to drop cable it still works, before and after the recent change it worked.

Only note - I use windows 7 and the Media Center not the crap software for XP without media center.

The United States

BlueCollarednek

June 27th, 2009

I can not get the audio to work with this video card. Updated video and audio drivers, and installed latest version of their softwear. Anyone have a solution?

Canada

Larry

July 1st, 2009

I having a problem with my device. It is always behind on everything. Sport Games are terrible. I hear people cheering almost 5-6 seconds before I see it. I tried support but all they said to do was Allow Overlay . That seems to have helped a bit but it is still not live streaming, any help on how to get it like this?

The United States

Brian

August 1st, 2009

The included antenna works much better if you raise it up high. I attached an extension coax cable to my antenna and hoisted it up a tall tree and got incredible reception. (To get it up the tree, I threw a string with a weight attached to it over a high limb of the tree, attached the extended antenna to the string, and pulled on the other end of the string (like a pulley) to pull up the antenna.) I got many stations out in the country (at least 40 miles away).

The United States

Andrew

August 19th, 2009

Hmmmm. . . must be nice that most everyone is able to get something. I can't pick up a signal even with a known signal level of 97 according to my cheap digital converter box. It just keeps saying 0 channels found. I've uninstalled and reinstalled several times and same result. I've used my WinTV USB model 40011 for years and now everything is digital so I have been forced to use a digital converter box. I was hoping this would be simpler to use but so far it's not working. Maybe I have a bad unit. . .

Canada

Kyle

August 30th, 2009

ive been having problems since the beginning… first i recieved an error message while installing the drivers (from the cd) saying that my computer did not have compatible hardware. went on Hauppauge's web site and i do have compatible hardware. Downloaded the newest drivers for it…it installed…
Also when i tried to plug it in the first time my computer did not find it. I have to hold it up constantly for it to be connected to my computer…and even then this still only works maybe 25% of the time… Is this a faulty product or is this happening to others???

The United States

Lauren

September 22nd, 2009

It is fair to blame Hauppauge for the uncertainty about the telescoping antenna because it is shown in the photo on the back of the box in its unextended position. I am sure that this gave the reviewer the impression ( exactly as it had done for me) that it was not telescoping. I was surprised to see it extended in the photo and that was the only way that I had figured it out myself, although I am still updating system drivers so I am not at the point of reading every word of the docs yet, so it may well be mentioned in there somewhere.

Canada

vallidor

October 20th, 2009

This does not work on OSX. The website has no OSX drivers, the disc does not come with any drivers, and any references to EyeTV working with it don't typically mention that EyeTV is commercial software which must be purchased separately.

That said, the old 'free' versions are no longer available and even the new paid versions are built specifically for the Elgato-branded USB tuner.

The United States

Jen

December 29th, 2009

We only have 1 TV in our house and my boyfriend hogs it playing video games and I got the Wintv-hvr-950q so I could watch tv on my computer while he's using the tv. Can I plug an actual cable wire into this product and watch all my Cablevision cable on the computer?

Canada

mike

January 4th, 2010

if you plug the actual cable directly into your tv (analog), then yes, it'd work the same. if the cable runs through a box first and then to the tv, it'll work fine for the analog (standard def) and unencripted digital (hd) channels, but you might lose some of the hd channels if they're encrypted. if the latter is the case, you can alternatively run the cable box to the tuner instead of the tv and basically treat your laptop as a tv, but that might be a bit of a hassle?

The United States

Ken

January 8th, 2010

Just got mine today and in all attempts it will only record 3.99G and stop. Space not a problem I have 1T free. I can not find any tech info on tweaking. Could it be the "buffer" size?

Canada

Steven

January 9th, 2010

I recently upgraded my laptop to Windows 7 and despite the drivers and WinTV7 all being made available for this product on the Hauppauge website, I am still having problems in that I cannot view my cable on my laptop the way I used to (this was all I ever used it for, via S-video). I feel like SCREAMING!

Canada

Ilija

January 11th, 2010

Ken, this has nothing to do with your buffer size. Chances are you formatted your hard drive into FAT32, which (iirc) has a file-size limit of 4GiB. If you format it into NTFS (for Windows/Linux/OS-X) use or ext-4 (for Linux/OS-X use), you will increase the maximum file size to way above your current drive's capacity.

The United States

Greg

January 22nd, 2010

ATSC (OTA, cable QAM) works nicely with Linux, vanilla >2.6.29 kernels built in driver, using Mythtv. Analog/FM support in CVS versions of V4L…working

The United States

Debbie

January 23rd, 2010

I am having the same problem mine says Drivers have not been updated.Compatible hardware not found,I went to there website and downloaded the latest update they had.I still get the same error.

Colombia

david99

March 15th, 2010

I just got mine, installed lates drivers on windows 7, it starts capturing video, but freezes after 20-30 seconds, all the time. when i scan channels (connecting just the coaxial cable) the application wintv throws an exception. ANyone else wiuth the same problem?

thanks!

The United States

AJ

March 18th, 2010

david99, I too have the same problem. I have windows 7 and get an exception when scanning using coaxial cable.

The United States

Buster

August 22nd, 2011

It works fine with EyeTV, I have 2 of them and my Elgatos died long ago. I replaced them with these units but yes I had to buy EyeTV.

The United States

Prole

October 29th, 2011

My 950Q worked OK for 39 days, then died in the middle of a movie. The warrantee was 30 days! I haven't yet tried to return it (to Best Buy) because it's a long drive. I hope they'll be understanding and not say "Too bad, out of warrantee! You lose!" They'd be within their rights to do that, but it would be as bad for business as I could make it…

The unit worked fine until it died. The interface was slow to respond, and the audio sometimes (not always) would get up to a couple of seconds ahead of the video, but it worked acceptably. But dying for no reason NINE BLEEDING DAYS after the warrantee expires is a real recommendation-blocker.

The United States

Lew

January 9th, 2012

Can I connect my 950Q to the cable box and then connect my computer to my TV with HDMI cable and therefor be able to record the encriped channels and also show them on my tv?

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