Product Review (June 2003) - MIT MDP-100 / MDP-120
MyHD High-Definition Decoder ATSC Tuner PCI Card

Home Theater Personal Computers (HTPCs) never really excited me much when they were strictly limited to DVD playback. The thought of having a PC dedicated to watching DVDs didn't appeal to me. However, my view of HTPCs completely changed when we installed a MIT (Macro Image Technology) MDP-100 high-definition receiver card into our PC. MIT is a Korean-based company that offers a fully integrated high-definition receiver on a small PCI card. This product turns your PC into a powerful high-definition PVR (Personal Video Recorder). Two RF inputs are available for both cable and over the air use. In addition, the MDP-100 includes inputs for composite, s-video and two-channel audio. All incoming video can be converted to 720p or 1080i in either RGB or component (Y-Pr-Pb) formats. A digital output (via the RCA connector) on the card is used for streaming Dolby Digital or standard two-channel audio to your A/V processor or receiver. If you happen to run Windows XP, the MDP-100 can control also stream high-definition content to your D-VHS recorder using the PC's Firewire (iLink) connection. However, we preferred using the hard drive for recording media for obvious reasons. Besides, we needed to take advantage of a new 160GB hard drive we recently purchased. The high-definition data stream is a memory hog and will require about 8GB of hard drive space per hour.

Design
The 8-VSB (Vestigial Side Band) ATSC HD tuner is built on a single-slot PCI card that incorporates the NxtWave NXT2000 8-VSB demodulator and TeraLogic Janus 8-VSB decoder. The NXT2000 is fully ATSC compliant and includes both demodulation and forward-error correction capabilities. The chip features a high bandwidth, high performance 10-Bit A/D converter with an internal reference. According to NxtWave Communications (Now owned by ATI), the chip’s 8 VSB mode had performance significantly better than what was shown for the Grand Alliance system at the Advanced Television Test Center (ATTC). The ATTC was created to test advanced television systems on behalf of the FCC Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service (ACATS). The equalization range for the demodulator chip covers all known multipath conditions found in North America. The chip is also robust in the presence of adjacent and co-channel NTSC interference, impulse noise, etc. The NXT2000 also includes a built-in signal quality indicator for quick antenna alignment and fast signal acquisition. The built-in carrier recovery circuitry, along with the equalization scheme results in robust and dependable demodulation even when the VSB pilot is lost. Once the signal is demodulated, the digital stream must be decoded. The TeraLogic Janus 8-VSB decoder processes large amounts of data, thereby off-loading the processor to perform other necessary functions in the environment.

Package
The MDP-100 is a well thought out package that includes a PCI card with dual RF inputs, an S/PDIF output (Two channel and Dolby Digital 5.1) and a 26-pin connector for the breakout cable. The breakout cable includes the composite and s-video input and the dual 15-pin VGA pass-thru connectors. The installation manual runs through all the supported Windows OS versions for a simple and successful installation. Should you run into any problems, the folks at Digital Connection can provide support (see below for contact information). Both drivers and application software is provided, but it is best to check the Digital Connection website for the latest release.

The MDP-100 includes a small, yet well designed and functional remote control, which communicates with an IR sensor that hooks up to the serial port on your PC. This setup worked flawlessly and the remote gave us full control over the system. An application called MyIRC runs in the background to provide the IR link interface to the MyHD application. Assuming your PC is connected to the internet, the MDP-100 takes advantage of TitanTV.com that provides an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) for registered users. TitanTV members have the ability to record and watch TV right from the guide and it's completely free with no monthly charges. The EPG interface is easy to use and is completely intuitive. It can be customized for each member, making it a powerful interface. The EPG provides a terrific and convenient way to locate programming available in your area.

Setup
We installed our MDP-100 review unit into a Sony Vaio desktop with a 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processor. The latest version 1.60 software was downloaded from the Digital Connection website at the time of this review. The breakout cable included with the MDP-100 has a 26-pin high-density D-connector on one end and a pair of VGA connectors on the other side (one to the video card and the other to the display) along with a molded housing for the composite, s-video and stereo audio connections. We hooked up our InFocus ScreenPlay 7200 high-definition HD2-based DLP to the MDP-100 using a high resolution Ultralink VGA cable feeding analog 720p video. The image was projected onto a 100-inch Stewart FireHawk Filmscreen. The quality of the picture was stunning with low noise, high resolution and excellent color fidelity. We recorded the Tonight Show all week long and the image was as good as if we were watching it live. We also recorded the movie Charlie's Angels on KABC and we now have some great demo material. Our local high-definition PBS broadcasts have also been excellent. We connected the digital output of the MDP-100 PCI card to our Parasound AVC-2500u A/V controller and the 5.1 audio played perfectly. Now the bad news. The MDP-100 is at its end-of-life and will be replaced with the new MDP-120.

The upside is that the new MDP-120 offers a better 8-VSB demodulator (NXT2002 versus the NXT2000) and the ability to mate with an optional DVI board ($89). The new MDP-120 is a little more expensive than the MDP-100 ($259 versus $229), but the improved signal sensitivity and DVI option makes it well worth the price difference. The optional DVI board used with the MDP-120 allows a pure digital interface to the latest displays, but does not support HDCP encrypted data. However, thus far broadcasters have not been using any HDCP protection.

Our JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS VCR worked well with the MyHD software. Using the iLink (IEEE-1394) port on our Sony Vaio, we were able to control the VCR directly from the PC. By simply selecting the Tape option in the MyHD software, video was automatically recorded to the VCR tape when programmed or commanded to do so. D-VHS tapes have a very large capacity and can easily store hours of high definition video. A single JVC DF-420 D-VHS tape is capable of storing in excess of 44 GB of data or 3.5 hours of HD content. While the hard drive works great for temporary storage, the D-VHS tapes are better suited for archiving video.

Conclusion
The MIT MDP-100 unleashes impressive capabilities to the high-definition community by allowing them to record and playback over-the-air HD material. The video performance we experienced from this product was excellent and indistinguishable from our set-top box. The Dolby Digital stream decoded perfectly on our Parasound AVC-2500u and sounded fantastic. You do need a good signal to avoid dropout and luckily for us, we have a clear line-of-sight to the towers. The amazing part is the stored video can be played over and over without any degradation. Now there's a source for all that high-definition reference material you've been wanted to demonstrate to your friends. I can't think of a better product for the money.
- Kevin Nakano


Review System

HTPC - Sony Vaio PCV-RX550, 1.5GHz Pentium 4
Projector -
InFocus - ScreenPlay 7200 High-Definition DLP™ Front Projector (ISF calibrated)
Filmscreen -
Stewart 100 inch 16:9 Luxus Deluxe FireHawk ScreenWall
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500u THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management - Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers - Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers - Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer - Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments - Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box #1 - Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
Set-top Box #2 - RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
DVD/CD/SACD Player - Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player - Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
A/V Cables: UltraLink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
Video Generator - Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer - Milori ColorFacts with GretagMacbth Eye-One Beamer


Review at a glance

MIT (Macro Image Technology) - MDP-100
High-Definition Decoder ATSC Tuner PCI Card

Processors:

  • TeraLogic Janus Decoder
  • ATI's Nxt2000 HDTV Receiver/Demodulator

    Input Connections:

  • 2x Coax Antenna/Cable "F" Connectors
  • S-Video and Composite NTSC
  • Breakout cable for VGA loop-back (via 26-pin High-Density Connector)

    Output Connections:

  • 15-pin D-Sub VGA Connector
  • Component (Y-Pb-Pr with optional cable)
  • S/PDIF Digital Coax (RCA)

    Minimum System Requirements:

  • Pentium II 400MHz or faster processor
  • 64MB of RAM
  • Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000, or XP

    DTV Resolutions:

  • 720x480p
  • 864x480
  • 800x600p
  • 1024x768p
  • 1280x720p
  • 1280x1024p
  • 1360x768p
  • 1440x1080i
  • 1920x1080i

    Aspect Ratios:

  • 16:9 or 4:3

    Package Contents:

  • High-Definition Decoder ATSC Tuner PCI Card
  • Infrared Remote Control
  • Infrared Remote Control Detector (via Serial Port)
  • Pass-thru/Input Cable
  • Installation Guide

    MDP-100 Product Information

    Latest MyHD Drivers and Application Software

    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    Warranty: Two Year Warranty
    MSPR: $229 (Special price)


    New MIT (Macro Image Technology) - MDP-120
    High-Definition Decoder ATSC Tuner PCI Card with
    Optional DVI Daughter Board

    Processors:

  • TeraLogic Janus Decoder
  • ATI's Nxt2002 HDTV Receiver/Demodulator

    Input Connections:

  • 2x Coax Antenna/Cable "F" Connectors
  • S-Video and Composite NTSC
  • Analog 2-Channel Audio
  • Breakout cable for VGA loop-back (via 26-pin High-Density Connector)

    Output Connections:

  • 15-pin D-Sub VGA Connector
  • Component (Y-Pb-Pr with optional cable)
  • S/PDIF Digital Coax (RCA)
  • Analog 2-Channel L+R Stereo

    Demultiplexer:

  • MPEG-2 Transport Stream
  • Maximum 40Mbps
  • Control up to 32 PID

    Video Algorithm:

  • MPEG-2 Main Profile @ High Level (HDTV)
  • MPEG-2 Main Profile @ Main Level (SDTV)

    Frame Buffer Memory:

  • 16MB

    Minimum System Requirements:

  • Pentium II 400MHz or faster processor
  • 64MB of RAM
  • Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000, or XP

    DTV Resolutions:

  • 720x480p
  • 864x480
  • 800x600p
  • 1024x768p
  • 1280x720p
  • 1280x1024p
  • 1360x768p
  • 1440x1080i
  • 1920x1080i

    Aspect Ratios:

  • 16:9 or 4:3

    Package Contents:

  • High-Definition Decoder ATSC Tuner PCI Card
  • Infrared Remote Control
  • Infrared Remote Control Detector (via Serial Port)
  • Pass-thru/Input Cable
  • Installation Guide

    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    Warranty: Two Year Warranty
    MSPR: $279
    Optional DVI Daughter Card: $89

    MDP-120 Product Information


  • Company Information (Distributor for MIT)
    Digital Connection
    714 Adams Ave., #103
    Huntington Beach, CA 92648
    Phone: 714-960-9814
    Fax: 714-374-2574
    URL: www.digitalconnection.com

    Sales: 800-327-8049
    E-mail: Sales (Pre-purchase questions)

    Support: 714-594-0547
    E-mail:
    Support

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