By Terry Currier
When I first saw the AVerMedia Volar Max all I could think of was “this is so cool.” I’ve seen TV cards at CES (Consumer Electronic Show), but what made this one stand out was the antenna. The unit itself is a flash drive sized USB TV tuner which can pickup both analog and HDTV signals. The antenna is only 3 inches tall, and with the antenna ears extended it reaches 7 inches. Yet it pulls in over-the-air (OTA) High Definition TV (ATSC) signals very well. While it will scan and find analog stations, but don’t count on those to come through very well – at least not main (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX) stations. You really would be buying this for the HD value anyway.
Setting it up was really no problem. It does take a while though. You install the software and tell it to scan for TV signals, it scans for analog, and then ATSC signals. It then will scan for FM stations. If you have music on your computer it can also play that. The unit’s software can also be used to play video, and show pictures (create slide shows.)
It can also be hooked up to use your cable provider via the Unencrypted “Clear” QAM support. So if you hook up the unit to a cable provider and you have digital cable channels, you will be able to get those with out the set top box. And the answer is no, this does not mean you will get premium pay channels.
Once set up I could get the all main stations and many others. Most of the public broadcasting stations do OTA, and I easily got them in gorgeous HD.
The AVerMedia Volar plugged into the notebook
A minor thing true, but interesting how the software displayed the resolutions it was receiving. I switched it to use cable (no HD, I don’t have that set up), and it had no problems with the conversion. I also experimented with connecting my Terk HDTVi antenna. While still not a full on the roof top antenna it is a good antenna with 34 inch ears, and about three feet higher up. The results? The Terk was really only a little better, that’s how good the AVerMedia antenna is.
Over the air broadcast of HDTV is uncompressed, so the signal/picture comes through very well. In fact antennas have seen a rebirth of sorts with people buying them to use for getting the HD signals. Here is some interesting bits I found about HD antennas from a web site - http://www.hdtvantennalabs.com/hdtv-antenna-hype.php.
“Do you know what HDTV antenna is? If you do, forget it immediately. There is no such thing.
Do you know what a regular antenna is? Antenna is a piece of metal designed to resonate at a specific frequency and to be responsive over a range of frequencies. TV antennas are designed to work either in the range of Ultra High Frequencies (UHF), Very High Frequencies (VHF) or both. Any station transmitting within an antenna bandwidth, i.e. the VHF/UHF frequency range, can be picked up by the antenna and transferred to the TV set.
All television broadcasts, digital and analog, high definition and standard definition, take place in the VHF and the UHF bands. What make a signal to be HD is its content, the way a signal is modulated, and not the carrier frequency it is transmitted on. On the contrary, for antenna only the frequency matters. ”
Don’t believe it? How about building your own HDTV antenna out of coat hangers, a plank of wood, and a low cost VHF/UHF transformer? Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQhlmJTMzw. Of course I rather use the compact AVerMedia antenna.
With the H.264 recording compression format it reduces the amount of hard disk space needed for recording. It takes about 6.5GB per hour while my ADS unit recording into HD will take about 10GB per hour. If you want to save space you can record into WMV format, but of course the picture will not be as good.
If you have various AV devices such as PlayStation, Xbox 360, or camcorder you can connect it to the Volar with its dongle. Inputs include the 75 O TV Antenna, Composite (RCA), and S-Video. AVerMedia said to resolve the latency problem when playing video games on Vista MCE, AVerTV Hybrid Volar MAX employs the exclusive Vista MCE Video Gaming Plug-in to synchronize the video and audio of video games.
The Volar can be setup as a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) to record whatever show you want. You can click on the record button, or use the EPG (Electronic Programming Guide, only for Digital TV ) which downloads show information for the main stations with an Internet connection. With the TV Scheduler (One-time/Continuous Mode) you can program it just like a VCR: set the channel, time, and duration.
It doesn’t matter which type of screen you have, wide screen (16:9) or normal (4:3) since you can change the aspect with just a single click. The AVer MediaCenter software lets you do TimeShifting. Simply put it is a pause allowing you to record show parts, but not necessarily the whole show. You get up to get something to eat, come back and start playing the video again. Catch up by zooming through the commercials. Volar lets you do Picture-in-Picture by showing up to three stations on the screen at the same time.
I tested it on a Gateway Desktop with Windows XP with Media Center Operating system, an HP notebook with XP Home Edition, and a Toshibanotebook with Vista Home Premium. I had no problems on any of them.
You also have the ability to record (including scheduling) FM radio and play it later. Also you can do screen captures of live TV. In fact you can set it to take a number of pictures at set intervals. The unit does not have a remote, but you can purchase one from their E-Shop for $19.99.
The AVerTV Hybrid Volar MAX won the 2008 CES Innovations Design & Engineering Award in the Video Accessories Category. This is a great HDTV unit especially for the mobile traveler, or even for those that don’t want to open up their computer to put a TV card in.
The AVerTV Hybrid Volar MAX is available now for $79.99 MSRP. For more information go to www.avermedia-usa.com or call AVerMedia at (408) 263-3828.
Winners is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG) is an international, platform-independent, nonprofit corporation (incorporated in Washington, DC) devoted to helping user groups throughout the world. Almost 400 user groups are members of APCUG. http://www.apcug.net/