Okay, so the Asus My Cinema ES2-750/PT/FM/AV/RC is a hybrid TV tuner card and, as you can probably surmise from the unwieldy nomenclature, it also has FM radio, audio/video inputs and an IR remote control.
So how does this budget AV mutant perform? As a hybrid card, you can switch between digital or old school analogue receiver, though it can only do one of these at a time and, if your digital signal is any good, you'll never bother switching it over. The option is there if you need it, though.
Sitting in that weeny PCI express slot, which we all secretly suspected was merely a cosmetic addition to our motherboards, it contains none of the clever hardware decoding of its more expensive brethren. However, through a tie-in with AMD, it'll use the hardware acceleration of your graphics card – as long as you have a HD series that is.
The sizeable box comes packed with the usual assortment of goodies; the first of which is a surprisingly responsive little remote control. Also, everyone's favourite – a portable antenna. This is actually as good as useless in a house, having limited sensitivity (it's only small), but the powerful magnet base will give you a few moments of amusement while you stick it in various places around your home.
Rounding this off, you get an aerial for the radio, which is a good length, and a smaller mounting bracket for your card if you're fitting it in a shuttle or other small form factor case. Fitting the card is a simple matter of slotting it in, but the general instructions were a bit on the slim side – basically a five-page booklet that tells you how to install a PCI express card in 29 different languages.
Even the PDF version on the CD offers only the most basic instructions, so you'll find yourself learning to use the supplied software by the tried and tested method of randomly clicking buttons and seeing what happens.
The software bundle includes Arcsoft Totalmedia (for your time-shift and PVR needs), ASUS Splendid (which does its best to beautify your ugly analogue TV signal), ASUS VideoSecurity (so you can turn your camcorder into a CCTV to spy on your neighbours... I mean... secure your home from thieves), and lastly ASUS GadgeTV.
This last is definitely the diamond in the rough despite the unfortunate sounding name. As long as you're either despairing under Vista or singing Alleluja at the feet of Windows 7, anyway. Yes, it's a 'gadget' that embeds itself onto your desktop and delivers basic record and pause live TV functions all in a tiny ickle window. It's sooo cute and much easier to use than the included PVR software.
Be warned though, with both GadgeTV and Totalmedia you'll need to pop off and make yourself a cup of tea while you wait for them to scan through your available channels, but you should only have to do this once.
'Reasonable' is the word that best describes the Asus My Cinema ES2-750; a good price, a decent bundle but ultimately lacking the clever stuff such as hardware acceleration (unless you're sporting an AMD GPU) and is just a single receiver. There are definitely worse tuners you could spend £45 on – just don't mention the instructions.
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