CPU Usage on WinTV-PVR 250

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by Bruce, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Guest


    I just got a WinTV-PVR 250. It seems to work okay, except that my CPU
    usage is 100% when just watching TV, and I can't hardly do anything at
    all on the computer while the WinTV application is running.

    Is this normal? Is there anything I can do to improve performance?

    Windows XP SP1
    DirectX 9.0
    1 Ghz Celeron w/384MB RAM
    ATI Rage 128 Pro (32MB)

    Bruce, Jun 4, 2004
    1. Advertisements

  2. Bruce

    Will Dormann Guest

    Watching TV has absolutely nothing to do with the PVR-250. Any CPU
    usage is because of the MPEG2 decoding. Your CPU is quite underpowered
    for that kind of thing. Consider getting a decent CPU if you want to
    decode MPEG2 without overtaxing your system.

    Will Dormann, Jun 4, 2004
    1. Advertisements

  3. Bruce

    Bruce Guest

    Not sure what you mean by "Watching TV has absolutely nothing to do
    with the PVR-250".

    So...pardon my ignorance....with the PVR-250, the TV analog signal is
    encoded into MPEG2 on the card, then immediately decoded from MPEG2 by
    software for display?

    Since I'm basically interested in this card for capture, is there any
    way to record without displaying it?

    Bruce, Jun 4, 2004
  4. Bruce

    Morrmar Guest

    I just got a WinTV-PVR 250. It seems to work okay, except that my
    No, it's not normal. Do a CTL-ALT-DEL and see what programs and
    processes are active. It won't be the card causing the 100% usage unless
    you have a driver or config problem with the card. I don't have the card
    but several in this ng do and you can check configuration issues with

    That's more than enough to work just fine with this card for simple
    viewing like your'e doing.
    The PVR-250 has a hardware encoder so it has nothing to do with the
    processor usage. For basic capture and viewing, his system is more than
    powerful enough, especially with a hardware encoder card.
    Morrmar, Jun 4, 2004
  5. Bruce

    Will Dormann Guest

    Correct. The PVR-250 records in hardware (0% CPU usage) into MPEG2
    format. If you are watching "live" TV, the card should be recording
    into MPEG2 and immediately decoding it (with your CPU) for display.

    Decoding MPEG2 is somewhat CPU intensive. If your software is also
    deinterlacing the picture, then that requires even more CPU power. As
    recommended in another reply, check your CPU usage with the task manager
    to see *what* is using up CPU time when watching TV. If it is almost
    all by your TV software, then your CPU might be underpowered for what
    you are doing.

    The MPEG2 decoder used can make a big difference on performance. Some
    have reported better performance with a 3rd part MPEG2 decoder, such as
    one installed by a software DVD program, such as PowerDVD. You can
    check what decoder is used by rendering an MPGE2 file with GSpot.
    My video path is:
    (S) --> Moonlight-Elecard MPEG 2 Demultiplexer --> MainConcept MPEG
    Video Decoder --> (R)
    and I find it to be quite snappy.

    Absolutely. Though this is a function of the software you are using.
    I only use the Linux tools for the PVR-250, but I would think that the
    Windows software package would include some sort of VCR or PVR type of
    software where you can record shows.

    Will Dormann, Jun 4, 2004
  6. Bruce

    FLY135 Guest

    You should consider one of the new ATI Radeon cards. New VGA cards have
    functions that accelerate MPEG decoding built into the hardware.
    FLY135, Jun 4, 2004
  7. Bruce

    Morrmar Guest

    Decoding MPEG2 is somewhat CPU intensive. If your software is also
    Since he's just watching TV, he's not _decoding_ anything either. The
    minimum configuration requirements for the card are a 733 processor and
    that's for pausing with full screen playback so the processor obviously
    isn't the problem.
    The mpeg decoder he's using isn't the problem either.

    The graphic display video card is definitely _not_ the problem either,
    unless there's a driver conflict. And it's hardly a reason to buy a new
    Morrmar, Jun 4, 2004
  8. Bruce

    FLY135 Guest

    So you know for a fact that the PVR 250 does not require decoding when
    watching TV?

    Since the encoding is done in H/W on the board I'd say that intimate
    knowledge of operation withstanding, it very well may only pass MPEG over
    the PCI bus. I know that the run of the mill TV card passes YUV video that
    can be just displayed, but the PVR-250 is a completely different animal and
    I wouldn't be suprised if there is no YUV path to the processor.
    Depending on if decoding for viewing is required or not.
    FLY135, Jun 4, 2004
  9. Bruce

    Morrmar Guest

    So you know for a fact that the PVR 250 does not require decoding when
    Like I said, don't have the card.
    On the other hand, I would be _very_ surprised if it _only_ passed mpeg
    data and then used a standard Window's codec to decode, even while _not_

    If it'll run on a 733, it's not maxing out the processor of a gig Cely
    by decoding anything from the PVR-250 while just viewing a program.
    There are other issues here, obviously. And they do not involve
    upgrading a processor or video card to get his 250 to function properly.

    Hell, I can't believe I'm defending these cards, I don't even like them.
    I went with an ATI AIW myself. <g> But with the proper s/w and drivers,
    the op will be able to view a program and use his computer as usual or
    record a program and take a slight performance hit. That's what made
    these cards are so popular.

    See above, they couldn't sell the card if it was going to max out the
    processor of a P3 just by viewing.
    Morrmar, Jun 4, 2004
  10. Bruce

    Keith Clark Guest

    Yes, he is decoding.

    The software is streaming the mpeg output from the card into a buffer to be
    used for pausing or rewinding live TV. So anytime you watch live TV the CPU
    usage will increase because what you're actually doing is reading from the

    At least with BeyondTV that's true. I can disconnect the antenna cable and
    continue watching for a few seconds so that would imply a buffer that's
    being decoded for viewing.

    But like you said, even a 733 MHz processor should handle it just fine.
    Keith Clark, Jun 4, 2004
  11. Bruce

    Keith Clark Guest

    No, it's not normal. I have two PVR-250 cards in a Celeron (2.4 GHz)
    system with only 512 MB RAM and the CPU usage barely registers when
    recording two channels at the same time.

    When recording one channel and watching another, then CPU usage goes up a
    bit, but nowhere near 100%.

    Hauppauge software is notoriously bad though. I hated it.

    Try downloading a demo of BeyondTV from www.snapstream.com (what I use)
    or SageTV from www.freytechnologies.com and see if that doesn't help.
    Keith Clark, Jun 4, 2004
  12. Bruce

    FLY135 Guest

    It has nothing to do with defending the card. The issue is representing
    your assumptions as fact.

    It could be very well that the card is passing compressed MPEG to the CPU.
    That would be my bet. And it could be very well that he has installed
    another program that has replaced the PVR-250 decoder s/w with another that
    is less efficient. Which makes the advice by Will to check the Directshow
    decode graph a reasonable thing to do. It could affect the performance if
    the decoder uses the later model card's MPEG decode acceleration.
    They could if you have conflicting software that decreases the performance.

    You are correct that there could be other backgrounds apps hogging the cpu.
    It happens all the time with spyware and the like. So your advice is useful
    in the context that these avenues should be checked.
    FLY135, Jun 4, 2004
  13. Bruce

    crusty Guest

    I have the PVR-250 too. I run a 1.4GHz Athlon with 256meg ram, Win98SE OS and am
    using the stock software Hauppauge supplied with the card, not their latest.
    Their latest has some undesirable features, like always displaying in DVD
    regular quality unless you're recording, then it drops to displaying in the
    quality mode you record in. I prefer to always see what quality I'll be
    recording in before actually recording.

    For me, typically, WINTOP shows the PVR250 is using 35-40% of cpu cycles when
    viewing at DVD Standard quality. Reducing the quality settings to DVD Super long
    play drops the CPU cycles to about 30%. Reducing the quality even lower to
    MPEG-1 VCD drops the CPU usage to 15%. Increasing capture quality settings to
    the max, MPEG2 12MBps CBR results in 45% CPU usage.

    Recomendations to reduce cpu usage for you -

    1) Reduce the MPEG capture quality settings to what you need rather the best
    settings. For any tape or TV station captures, DVD Superlong Play is adequate.

    2) Reduce the WinTV display size on your screen to the minimum. Windows XP uses
    more cpu cycles to handle 'overlay' displays than Win98, due to the overhead for
    'transparency' handling, and the larger display area can take more cpu cycles.

    3) Think about changing out the Celeron with a regular P4 CPU, or look into
    'overclocking' the CPU you have. More GHz will help.

    4) Make sure your hard drives are defragged regularly and that you're recording
    to the fastest drive you have.
    crusty, Jun 4, 2004
  14. Bruce

    Morrmar Guest

    Since he's just watching TV, he's not _decoding_ anything either.
    So you can't just _watch_ uncompressed TV without storing it to disk and
    then reading from the disk? I thought the Hauppage cards took the load
    off the system? Everything you see is encoded by the card, stored to
    disk, then read from the disk and then decoded by Windows in real time
    before it reaches your monitor? Even when your _not_ recording?
    So there's no AVI passthrough like on ATI or Canopus cards? If your just
    watching TV on your monitor, it's _always_ recording to computer hard
    disk? I thought the PVR series cards were capture cards that you could
    configure with s/w to use as a DVR. I didn't know that you _had_ to use
    it that way, to use your processor and hd _all_ the time.

    I used a AIW on my old 1.2 Cely and just viewing TV barely touched the
    processor usage and nothing was spooled to my hard drive. I could even
    capture mpeg in SVCD format and still use my computer. Decoding isn't
    _that_ processor intensive enough to time up a gig Cely.
    Morrmar, Jun 4, 2004
  15. Bruce

    Keith Clark Guest

    As far as I know, but I'm willing to be wrong. If someone knows differently
    please let us all know and please post a reference if applicable.

    It does, on the *encoding* side. The incoming video is encoded into an
    mpeg-2 stream in real time.

    As far as I know. But like I said, if that's not true then I'm willing to be
    educated if someone will post a link to a technical article.

    But as I've said in other posts, this isn't an issue for us with analog
    cable and analog TVs. I've hooked it to a Sony, a Zenith and a Curtis
    Mathes, and in all cases we prefer the image coming from the PVR over a
    composite video cable (none of our TVs have S-video :-<) to the one coming
    from a raw antenna input on the TV.

    I have noise reduction filtering disabled so I don't have a theory or
    explanation as to why the recorded image would look more pleasing. It
    appears very sharp, detailed, rich in color and contrast. I'm using the
    Intervideo codec for playback with BeyondTV 3.5 (beta).
    If you're timeshifting, yes. That's no different than a Tivo, as far as I
    know. How else would you be able to rewind LiveTV?

    In BeyondTV you set the buffer size for timeshifting. I set mine for 3.1
    gigabytes which is about an hour so I can pause liveTV for up to an hour. In
    our house that's almost a requirement.

    Yeah, I used to play DVDs on a 500MHz Pentium II without killing the CPU.
    That's pretty much the bottom end for me.
    Keith Clark, Jun 4, 2004
  16. Bruce

    Morrmar Guest

    It could be very well that the card is passing compressed MPEG to the
    As much as these cards are touted on this ng, I ASSumed that you could
    watch TV without having everything encoded and recorded to disk before
    it reaches the monitor. As Keith has said it uses the processor and hard
    disk to view it, and he's got a lot of experience with the card, yes I
    will admit I WAS WRONG.

    Damn, am I glad I got the AIW now. That's too much wear and tear just to
    _watch_ TV on your monitor. It's expected with recording but not just
    watching it.

    I thought I said that here in response to the op original post, where
    you had recommended getting a new video card:

    "No, it's not normal. Do a CTL-ALT-DEL and see what programs and
    processes are active. It won't be the card causing the 100% usage unless
    you have a driver or config problem with the card."

    Since I said that in my first post, I'm glad you agree now. <g>
    Morrmar, Jun 4, 2004
  17. Bruce

    Bruce Guest

    Thanks for your response!

    How do I know if the software is "deinterlacing" the picture? (I'm not
    sure I know what this is.)

    The CPU usage is being taken almost entirely by WinTV2K.exe. This is a
    fresh install of WinXP - there is nothing else running in the
    What is GSpot? How do I tell Windows what to use for a decoder?
    Haven't found it yet, but I will keep looking...

    Bruce, Jun 4, 2004
  18. Bruce

    Keith Clark Guest

    I wondered about that too but Tivo doesn't seem to have a problem with it.
    Do they use some other scheme?

    Where would the wear and tear be? The motor is spinning 24x7 *anyway* in
    every system I have, and some at work have been running for years, the fluid
    dynamic bearings in the new Maxtor and other drives are designed
    specifically for 24x7 operation (and low noise)...

    Would the seek servo burn out sooner, assuming proper cooling and everything
    else being equal?

    As far as I can tell there's just as much wear and tear from the drive
    sitting there spinning as there is writing a 12 GB file, assuming you're not
    doing excessive seeking.

    Speaking of seeking, if anyone knows how to make a Maxtor 250 GB drive's
    seeks go from "quiet" to "completely silent", please let me know. Sometimes
    when recording two channels at once the seeks can be a little irritating if
    the living room is quiet.
    Keith Clark, Jun 4, 2004
  19. Bruce

    Morrmar Guest

    So there's no AVI passthrough like on ATI or Canopus cards? If your
    I agree, but I didn't think you _had_ to use the buffer if you didn't
    want to rewind live TV or weren't recording it. I thought you could just
    watch TV on your computer monitor without using your hard drive. I'll be
    very surprised if someone verifies that it's the only way to watch TV on
    your computer monitor.

    I got the impression from the op that he was just watching TV, not
    recording or time-shifting or anything else. I'd bet the s/w that came
    with installation put a bunch of stuff in his startup group and that's
    what's bogging his system down, or the combination of the Hauppage s/w
    and the usual suspects... antiviral programs, network programs, memory
    resident programs, etc.
    Morrmar, Jun 4, 2004
  20. Bruce

    Keith Clark Guest

    There you go.

    Try another application like BeyondTV or ShowShifter or SageTV - I'll bet
    your situation improves. Make sure you have PowerDVD installed so you can
    tell BeyondTV to use the Intervideo decoder.

    Warning - if you try BeyondTV (version 3.5 currently in beta allows this), or
    SageTV you'll soon be buying more PVR-250's so you can record multiple shows
    at the same time. ;->
    Keith Clark, Jun 4, 2004
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.