Issuu on Google+

Freesat Freeview Euro Tv Sky The best kit, The best programmes

Group test: DTT PC/ Mac Tuners February 2010

Avermedia AverTV Hybrid Volar HD

Hauppauge WinTV MiniStick HD

Elgato EyeTV DTT Deluxe

Technisat AirStar TeleStick 2

Want to see more?

Visit Wotsat.com for daily news, reviews and updates from the world of digital TV, or join our forums.

Subscriptions offer

y Subscribe toda and get a fantastic

Great subscriber only gift! gifts!

For the latest gift offer: Online: wotsat.techradar.com/inside-wotsat/subscribe

or call 0844 848 2852 (Lines open Monday-Friday 8am-9.30pm, Saturdays 8am-4pm) Subscribing from outside the UK? Call +44 (0) 1604 251 045 For back issues: www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/wotsatbackissue

Test DTT pc/mac tuners Hauppauge WinTV MiniStick HD

Elgato EyeTV DTT Deluxe

Technisat AirStar TeleStick 2

Te

P

ST•G

r O uP

e

•G

rOuP T

DTT PC/Mac tuners

T

ST

• TeS

•GrOu

Avermedia AverTV Hybrid Volar HD

External DTT computer tuners come with more than just Freeview reception including recording and remote streaming Freeview HD-ready tuners for PCs are only just starting to appear (see page 95) but the SD digital terrestrial television (DTT) tuner market is well established with numerous external boxes and internal cards available, some catering for Mac users too. The small form factor of USB TV tuners (most are little bigger than the average flash drive and a few half the size) makes them ideal for laptop users but you shouldn’t necessarily count on getting a full ‘mobile TV’ experience. Although a portable aerial is usually provided in the box, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to get a good reception even if you live in an area that’s already made the switch to digital. Luckily, all four of the tuners featured here will take a feed from a rooftop aerial, which is likely to give more reliable results. Some tuner products offer more than ‘just’ reception

of Freeview channels but be wary of those that claim to deliver ‘HD TV’ but only support the H.264 format used by some countries on the Continent. A small number also have AV inputs enabling them to capture video and audio from external sources such as a camcorder. Bundled software should at the very least support the seven-day EPG broadcast for Freeview channels and the ability to record programmes to your hard drive. Some applications add tvtv, a subscriptionbased EPG that includes 14 days’ worth of downloadable EPG data. Other features to look out for include editing and remote streaming to another computer or to Applemade devices such as Apple TV, iPods, iPhones and iPads. So if your computer is in need of a digital TV upgrade, tune in to see which tuner is right for you.

Buying tips n:As far as UK TV is concerned, a tuner is only HD-ready if it says DVB-T2 on the box n:Most tuners are built to meet the needs of Europe at large, so support for the UK’s MHEG-5-based red button services is not a given n:Some software timers enable your computer to come out of standby or hibernation to record, saving on your energy bill

n www.averm.co.uk n £60

Avermedia avertv hybrid volar HD

Ratings PLUS

n Three-in-one tuner n Good all round performance n External audio/video capture

Minus

n Analogue tuner may not be required n Poor portable aerial n MHEG-5 wouldn’t work for us

Build Setup Performance Features Value

hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh

72%

This hybrid tuner also provides analogue terrestrial TV and FM radio reception, though terrestrial HD is limited to H.264. With a glowing red LED power light, it’s not especially small. A two-pronged portable antenna can be secured to your laptop with a sticky pad. It yielded no channels, however, leading us to resort to using a rooftop aerial. A separate antenna caters for radio. A supplied lead sporting S-video, composite video and stereo phonos can be used to capture from external sources such as a camcorder or receiver. The remote is rather on the stubby side with basic buttons. It’s Windows Media Center-compatible or you can use Avermedia’s AverTV6 software, which comes in two skins – Azure Fantasy (like a car radio) or the circular sci-fi stylings of Dusk Comet, though we prefer the former. EPG data including synopses can be viewed as a grid for seven channels at once up to 12 hours ahead or a seven-day list for one channel at a time. You can set recordings from the EPG or using a manual repeat timer with the option to bring your computer out of standby or hibernation to record. Only one source can be recorded at a time in a choice of formats – MPEG-2 or H.264 for iPods/PSPs. Timeshifting comes with the option to retro-save cached material to the hard disc and use a slider to jump to a desired point

(this also applies to recordings). Avermedia’s Snug TV application allows for remote viewing over a home network on a PC, though fees are incurred (from about £3 a month) to view video in acceptable quality (640 x 480 compared with 320 x 240) and make remote recordings and only premium subscribers (around £5 a month) can stream to an iPhone or Windows mobile device. The Volar performed well on a PC with a Pentium 4 2.8GHz processor and 2GB of RAM – both for playback and recording. A dependable if not spectacular package, then.

n www.elgato.com n 0800 048 0408 n £80

Elgato eyetv dtt deluxe

Ratings PLUS

n Small and lightweight n Useful accessories n Good Mac software

Minus

n Pricey n Windows software could be

better

Build Setup Performance Features Value

hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh

85%

Deluxe it may be, but this PC and Mac-compatible ’Micro-stick’ is also incredibly small – barely larger than a postage stamp really, so less likely to be bashed around should you want to attach it to a laptop or Macbook. It’s ready for HD broadcasts up to 1080i but this only applies to the H.264 broadcasts available in mainland Europe. Two portable antennas are supplied – one tiny and telescopic, the other larger and with a 4ft extension cable for moving it around the room. Neither worked well for us, however, compared with using a rooftop aerial. Software is supplied for Mac and PC users. For the former, there’s the slick and feature-stuffed EyeTV 3, which can be controlled using a nifty onscreen virtual

remote (the supplied physical controller is very usable too). An attractively arranged searchable main EPG is populated by seven-day DVB data can be used to schedule recordings (there’s also a manual timer for this). You can search for shows according to specified criteria (e.g. genre, actor) and create Smart Guides for the shows you want to watch with the ability to schedule series recordings. Alternatively, you can subscribe to tvtv, for which a free one-year trial is included. Recordings can be playlisted and subsequently edited. You can also export them to iTunes, transfer them to an iPod and stream them over a network to other connected Macs with EyeTV installed. Download the EyeTV app from iTunes (£2.99) and you can stream live or recorded TV and control it including setting up recordings using an iPhone or iPad. PC owners get support for Windows Vista and 7 or you can use Terratec’s Home Cinema software. This includes favouriting, an EPG, recording and timeshifting but isn’t really a patch on Elgato’s own app, lacking support for Apple products or the ability to add remote streaming to the mix. The EyeTV DTT Deluxe is fairly expensive for a TV tuner but Mac users in particular will find pretty much all their needs catered for – proving that good things really do come in small packages.

Test DTT pc/mac tuners n www.hauppauge.co.uk n 0207 378 1997 n £50

Hauppauge wintv ministick hd The MiniStick isn’t as ‘mini’ as the Elgato but it’s still small enough – around the same size as the average pack of chewing gum and slender too, with a USB extension cable provided. As expected, HD reception is limited to H.264, rather than DVB-T2 for Freeview HD. A pocket-friendly credit card-sized remote is usable enough if rather plain, and more variation in button size would have been welcome. You can plug in a rooftop aerial feed or try your luck with the basic portable aerial, which comes fitted with a hinge and a magnetic base but didn’t manage to pull in any channels at our central London test location. The MiniStick is PC-only and compatible with Windows Media Center running on Vista, XP and Windows 7 or you can use Hauppauge’s rather basic WinTV 7 application. This features a useful signal level monitor and an EPG populated by seven-day DVB (now-and-next data can be viewed when watching a channel) but you can’t use tvtv as an alternative. Information is displayed in grid form with synopses and the ability to schedule recordings. A separate manual scheduler has once-daily and weekly repeat options up to one week and you can decide the length of the recording and have your computer come out of standby to record. Recordings are made in MPEG-2 TS format labelled

Ratings PLUS

with name, date and time, but there’s no editing, iPod exporting or post-conversion. If you buy the separate WinTV Extend application (£15) you can stream live TV to iPods, iPads, iPhones or Macs and PCs over a network or the internet with timeshifting included. WinTV constantly caches what you watch, enabling you to timeshift skipping back and forth in 10 or 30 second or one-minute intervals and buffered TV can be saved as a permanent recording. Recording, playback and general viewing held up well using a moderately specified Intel Core 2 PC with 2GB of RAM, with no jerkiness to report. Not the most fully featured package then (unless you decide to pay for WinTV Extend, perhaps), but this remains a reliable digital desktop TV upgrade (provided you have a rooftop aerial nearby) for the money.

n Easy set up n Recording and timeshifting n 7 day EPG

Minus

n Portable aerial didn’t work for us n Basic software supplied n Limited recording formats

Build Setup Performance Features Value

hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh

70%

n www.technisat.co.uk n £40

Technisat AIRSTAR TELESTICK 2

Roughly the size of a disposable lighter, this aggressively priced and flamboyantly named stick comes with a relatively chunky portable antenna which actually managed to pull in channels at our test location, though you can use a rooftop alternative. The remote is serviceable if rather cheap-looking, betraying Technisat’s German origins by sporting buttons for the Sieh Fern EPG. You can, however, use the UK’s MHEG-5 interactive services, earning Technisat the right to put the Freeview logo on the box. It’s Media Center-compatible (Windows XP, Vista and 7) and bundled software comprises MainConcept’s basic Eve v2 application and DVB Viewer TE2. The latter is a

favourite with PC TV enthusiasts and a fair selection of its most desired features are included in this version. The DVB Viewer interface is mostly grey with red buttons and it’s easy to quickly find what you want. You can sort and reorganise the channel list and create a favourites list. Channels can be displayed along the right-hand side of the video window together with their logo and now-and-next information is shown along with the programme. There’s no tvtv support but seven-day DVB data can be displayed in basic grid form or in a Media Center-like timeline view. Recordings are in TS format and can be scheduled via the EPG or using a manual timer. You can opt to split files in advance and set a buffer either side. Timeshifting is also supported. The tuner worked well in operation with no jerkiness during recording and timeshifting on our Intel Core 2 PC fitted with 2GB of RAM. The remote could be better but a seemingly robust tuner, good performance and the excellent DVB Viewer make this a decent buy.

Ratings PLUS

n Competitively priced n DVB Viewer n MHEG-5-compatible

Minus

n Lacklustre remote n No iPod support n No remote viewing

Build Setup Performance Features Value

hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhh

73%

And the winner is... If all you want is a bit of desktop Freeviewwatching with maybe recording on the side, then none of the tuners featured here will disappoint. For those that demand more flexibility, the differences between all four products featured are clear, though it really comes down to how much you’re prepared to pay. Hauppauge’s MiniStick HD may be in last place but it doesn’t disgrace itself for £50. WinTV7 is rather conservative on the features front, but if you plan to use it with other software (Media Center or WinTV Extend) it’s a reliable performer. Avermedia’s Volar HD will soon see one-third of its usefulness (the analogue tuner) made redundant for most people and it’s a shame you can’t record from one tuner while using the other. But it does come with a reasonable software offering, even if most remote features such as streaming to an acceptable standard or using it with an iPhone require you to open your wallet once more. The Technisat AirStar TeleStick 2 shades it, however, thanks to a great price – which partially offsets the poor remote. It helps that DVB Viewer is also in the box, packing usability only bested by Elgato’s ultra slick EyeTV3 app as well as supporting ‘red button’ services. And it’s competitively priced too n Grant Rennell ST•Gr

Mac users have long been well-served by Elgato’s products and a fairly recent decision to let PC users join the party is welcome, even if many may wish EyeTV 3 could be ported over to Windows. The Deluxe Mini lives up to its name physically, performs well on relatively low-spec machines and integration with Apple products and iTunes will please Apple acolytes. Again, you’ll need to shell out more for remote features such as streaming (not monthly) but there’s more than enough useful functionality crammed into EyeTV 3 as it stands even if Terratec’s PC application is comparatively weak on the features front.

O

P• TeST•

G

ST

u

•GrOuP

Te

Verdict

rO

uP T e

Make and model Price

Avermedia AverTV Hybrid Volar HD

Elgato EyeTV Deluxe Mini

Hauppauge WinTV MiniStick HD

Technisat AirStar TeleStick 2

£60

£80

£50

£40

Tuner supports

DVB-T, H.264, analogue, FM radio

DVB-T, H.264

DVB-T, H.264

DVB-T, H.264

Aerial included

l

l

l

l

DVB 7-day

TVTV, DVB 7-day

DVB 7-day

DVB 7-day

l

l

l

l

MPEG-2 TS/H.264

MPEG-2 TS/H.264

MPEG-2 TS/ H.264

MPEG-2 TS

iPod recording exporting

l

l

-

-

Timeshifting

l

l

l

l

Editing

-

l

-

l

Claimed

-

-

l

l

l

l

-

l (with Snug TV Platinum)

l (with Mac app)

l (with WinTV Extend)

-

Composite/S-video/ analogue phonos

-

-

-

Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz/Intel Atom 1.6GHz/Windows 7/Vista/XP

2.0GHz Intel/AMD/ Atom CPU, 1GB RAM

Windows Vista/XP (Service Pack 2)/ 7 SD - 1.2GHz processor, 64MB graphics card

Intel Pentium III 1000MHz or higher 512MB RAM, Windows7/Vista/XP

-

Intel Core CPU, Mac OS X v.10.5.8

-

-

72

85

70

73

EPG Recording Recording formats

MHEG-5-compatible Remote computer viewing Remote Apple product viewing AV inputs

Minimum PC requirements

Mac support Rating %


PC and Mac DTT tuners group test