Posting ads for 48 years
They look like USB memory sticks but they're really TVs, writes Mark Camm.
You can't slot a TV tuner card into a laptop. Horrible mess. What you need is a USB plug-in. These memory-stick TVs work like the real thing but plug into any USB port. If all goes well, it's Neighbours at 6.30pm.
These TVs on a stick are just as useful for big-box owners. There's no hardware to install - just plug in and watch away.
OK, so much for the advertisement. Do these tuners really work? The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is a little more long-winded.
Three of the four USB tuners tested here are hybrids, capable of picking up free-to-air analog and digital and high-definition channels. One is digital and high-definition only. But each produced superb, flicker-free, rich and smooth images in different screen sizes, including widescreen. They did their jobs as tuners very well indeed.
The front-end software they came with - so-called "media centres" - is mostly another matter.
Although the tuners could be set up to timeshift, record programs, replay recorded programs and even convert programs to MPEG format to burn to a DVD, they didn't do it with the ease and convenience you might expect. The technically adept will be fine but those less adept will be less fine.
Pinnacle's Flash Stick looked the business. The picture was impressive, even on a somewhat ordinary LCD screen. But the front-end to operate the TV and several other functions was clunky and slow to react. This was the only non-hybrid in the group. Plus the tiny remote was fiddly and difficult.
Terratec's Cinergy Hybrid was the most expensive model tested here - and the biggest disappointment. The picture was excellent but the remote would not work, even though it was explicitly set up to do so. It was the most trouble to set up and get going and, despite driver and software updates, OS patches and burnt offerings, the analog stations would not display properly.
DVico's Fusion was easy to set up, had a reasonable remote and a simple but stylish media centre. But it was slow to respond - to anything - and didn't like channel surfing. None of them did.
The best (and the cheapest, about $100, although it came without a remote) was MIS's DigiVox. It was a simple, easy to install and the media centre was simple but effective and relatively stable.But against it, once the channel scan took place there was no way to edit the channels