Test results for 12 USB HDTV tuners priced from $34 to $127
- A USB tuner can effectively turn your laptop or PC into a TV and digital video recorder (DVR).
- Software is inconsistent but most devices work with Windows Media Center.
- A fixed outdoor antenna is needed for best results.
A USB TV tuner for your PC brings with it the promise of crystal clear digital TV picture and sound, more stations – both standard and high-definition – and advanced recording functions such as time shifting. These thumb-size devices can turn your laptop into a full TV and digital video recorder (DVR) almost anywhere you go.
We took 12 of the latest models out across Sydney and the greater west for a road test to see how well they work in real-world conditions, both with a normal household antenna and with a portable antenna, where provided.
- AV Labs AVL683LE
- AVerMedia AVerTV Volar M
- AVerMedia AVerTV Volar HD
- Blaze HDTV Tuner
- Compro Technology Videomate U90
- DVico FusionHDTV Nano+
- Elgato DTT DVB-T Freeview TNT TDT
- Hauppauge MiniStick-HD
- Kaiser Baas Netbook TV Stick
- Leadtek DTV Dongle Gold
- MyGica DVBT mini TV Stick
- PCTV NanoStick
Although we tested using laptop computers, these USB devices could just as easily plug into your PC and large screen at home, but will they do as good a job? Based on our test results the answer is ‘yes’. If you plugged the USB TV tuner into a standard rooftop antenna most would give you a high quality reception and, using the hardware in your PC, all the advantages of a lounge room DVR.
A digital video recorder (DVR) combines digital reception with a hard disc drive. It functions similar to a VCR but records television in digital format. DVRs have the same functions as VCRs (recording, playback, fast forwarding, rewinding, and pausing) plus the ability to jump forward or backward instantly.
If you are using a version of Windows that comes with Microsoft’s Windows Media Center software, you may want to try it as an alternative to the software that comes with the USB TV tuner.