USB TV tuner reviews

With a USB digital high-definition TV tuner and a laptop you can take your HDTV on the road.
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02.What to buy


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TABLE NOTES Price Price paid, as of August 2010 Ease of Use (60% of overall) includes evaluation of hardware and software installation and use. The software evaluation covered the installation, help provided, tuning, recording, the controls (remote control and software), playback of recorded programs, time shifting and desktop operation. Performance (40% of overall) includes both HD and SD versions of the five main digital channels broadcast in the greater Sydney area – ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine and Ten. Specifications Hybrid tuneris one tuner that can be configured to act as an analog tuner or a digital tuner, Dual tuner is similar to a hybrid tuner, except there are two independent tuners on the card; MCX is a coaxialRF connector socket 30% smaller than a standard coaxial connector; MMCX socket is a coaxial RF connector but smaller than MMX; Coaxial socket is a standard RF socket. Features EPG (Electronic Program Guide) support is an on-screen guide to scheduled broadcast television or radio programs; Teletext a television information retrieval service; Subtitles/captions are textual versions of the dialog in films and television programs; PIP (Picture In Picture) displays one or more programs in inset windows while the main is displayed on the full TV screen; POP (Picture Outside Picture) allows the user to divide the screen into two same-size pictures, enabling viewing of a second program; Auto tuning automatically configures and tunes the available broadcasts; Time shifting is the recording of programming to a storage medium to be viewed or listened to at a later time; Wake up recording enables the user to resume/begin recordings form a standby mode; PVR functionality is a device that records video in a digital format to a disk drive or other memory medium within a device. TABLE NOTES [A] USB tuner does not feature a connection for a portable antenna, so does not come bundled with one. [B] The device works in Linux out of the box. To watch TV use one of many Linux programs, such as Me TV available in Ubuntu software center.

How we test

Testing included standard-definition and high-definition broadcasts of the five main channels in the Sydney area – ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine and Ten, using automatic and manual tuning. The performance of each TV tuner was indicated by a simple pass or fail.

Ease of use We installed each USB TV tuner into the same USB connection on our test laptop, using a clean operating system each time to avoid any software conflicts.

We look at the clarity and intuitiveness of onscreen indicators and controls including station search (tuning), general operation, EPG if available plus the ease and quality of recording and playback and the features and controls available. We assess the remote control (if provided) for features and ease of use and we look at any special options, such as time shifting, integration/compatibility with other programs, keyboard shortcuts, file conversion and GPS functionality, if included.

Performance We test each TV tuner at several different locations across greater Sydney, using both a fixed-rig standard household external antenna (VHF/UHF X-type) and with a portable antenna. For those tuners that come with a portable antenna supplied, we also tested with it, but this didn’t contribute to the overall score.

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