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AVerMediaTV Studio Pro

From AverMedia

By Terry Currier

I admit I originally thought that having a TV card in the computer was silly. Now Iím trying out the AVerTV Studio Pro, and I have to say its fun, and easy to use. Yes I can just have a TV in the computer room (and I do), but I have learned there are benefits from using a TV card with the computer. The best thing is I can easily scan the different channels to see what is on. Again, yes I can keep pressing the button on my remote for the TV. However with the AVerTV you have the ability to see on the screen 16 channels at once. It rotates the sound through the channels, along with the channels themselves rotating until you find the one you want. You can resize the screen. It can go from full screen down to about one-fourth of the screen. One handy feature is you can have it set to always be on top. That way it is always showing even while working on a project (such as typing this review).

opening screen of the AverMediaTV interfaceSetup was like the movie title ďThe Good, the Bad, and The UglyĒ. Putting in the PCI TV card was easy, Windows saw it had something new and asked for the drivers. It got them okay, but according to the installation instructions it should have somewhere ask for me to put in a product key number, it never did. The installation still went though kay, and the TV worked fine. You then have it scan for channels. This works for air (antenna) or cable. In fact the air scan picked up channels very well on its own. Of Course the cable scan gets all the channels. You then go through with the setup of the TV and eliminate those you want to skip. I think itís a good idea to scan for both for when (not if) cable goes out. The setup also puts an icon in the right side system tray for quick activation. Running your display at 16bit Hi-Color mode is the most suitable setting. I have found it easy to click and bring up the AverTV rather than my TV just to see what was on. Another thing you can do is capture an image on the TV screen with resolutions up to 1600 x 1200.

FM interfaceAs you can guess by the name the Studio Pro has more to it than just the TV option. It can play CD music, you can use it as a FM radio, and as a VCR. The CD player works fine, but there are more complete programs including Window Media Player 7.0 and above. The FM player works just like the FM radio in your car you can even setup buttons for you to click and change the stations quickly. With their FM player though you can click the record button and it will record what is coming over the radio into a WAV format.

Okay now we come to the bad part where I had problems. The VCR function works just like an ordinary VCR except of course it is coping to your hard drive instead of a tape. Right off the bat it recorded fine, picture was good, but no sound. An email to AverMedia and I got an call from them, when I was not home and a request to call back. I called back at the time designated three times and got a recording but no call back. So I email about the problem to their technical support and got an answer back the next day. Apparently I had to go into the recording properties and setup the record line-in. This information was in their FAQs. So if it is a Frequently Asked Question why didnít they just put the information in their setup guide? After setting put the line-in I was in business.

schedule TV showsThe TV is fun, but VCR capabilities are great. Working just like a regular VCR I can have it record what is showing on the screen. With the included schedule program I can easily program it to record a certain program daily, weekly, or monthly. Even more, just  like the popular Tivo product I can do a Time Shift. While watching TV if I want to not miss anything while getting a snack I click on the Time Shift button and the picture freezes. Meanwhile it is recording the show. When I come back the display shows how much time I missed. Clicking on the play button it begins to show what I missed. In the background it is still recording the show. You can catch up during commercials, click on the forward skip button and it jumps 10 seconds each time you click the button. While youíre catching up it will continue to display how far behind real time you are. You can also click the Skip to End button to stop the replay and return to the currently ongoing TV program. For those who are wondering the answer is no. No, you can not watch one program and record another at the same time.

16 channel sweep

16 channels open

screen capture

Screen capture

VCR config

VCR config

TV screen always on top

Show always on top

In the VCR mode they have what they call the Interactive Record. It again allows for the real time replay while its still recording, but with more ability for jumping ahead. It has a  fast forward skip or fast backward skip button to go forward or backward by 20 seconds each time you click on it. There is also a slider bar for you to quickly move backward or forward. They note the to run Time Shift or Interactive Record functions, you need a sound card which can support full-duplex operation to capture and playback sound simultaneously. Also the playback quality of both is based on the CPU power of PC. If the CPU speed is fast enough and with MMX support, you will get the better performance.

The recording are saved in MPEG I or II format so you can actually watch them with other viewing programs. I did watch it in Windows Media Player, but its better to use the AverMedia player. The down (or bad in keeping with the theme) side is that it would not let me choose where to save the files. It saves them on the root directory. You can move them later and play them from anywhere, but they really should allow the user to say where they want them to be saved. Here are some other things you should know. When the computer accesses the drive if you are using the recording function you will lose some frames. Itís a small loss but you should know that if you were doing a disk intensive thing such as defragging or downloading you would lose a lot. Also the file sizes can be large depending on how much you record. A half-hour show took up 784 Mb of space.

One more thing they give you is a infrared remote control. Okay granted it may make it easier for some while across the room to control the unit. But, most people are just sitting there while in use, and its just as easy to click on a function as to press the remote. If you want it though there it is. Now the ugly part. The remote I got never worked. I was just about to give up on the  support from AverMedia when two weeks later they finally replied. They noted they have  heard of the problem with the remote, but unable to determine what the cause is. They had me download the latest drivers, but that did not work.

Summary 

The AVerTV Studio Pro includes a TV, VCR, PVR, FM, and CD player which works really great even with the problems noted. Could I recommend it? A reluctant yes because of the setup problems which they can and should make easier, and the remote and support problems. After all the MSRP is $80, a TV, VCR, or PVR is going to cost much more. If you shop around, Fryís has had them on sale for $50.  http://www.aver.com or (800) 863-2332

Requirements

For Real-Time Video Capture at 320x240 (MPEG-I): Pentium III 450MHz or better

For Real-Time Video Capture at 720x480 (MPEG-II): Pentium III 800MHz or better

128MB RAM or better

Available PCI 2.1-Compatiable Slot

Sound Card (Full Duplex forTime-Shift and I-Record)

Windows 95/98/98SE/2000/Me/XP

PCI VGA Card with DirectX 6.0 Support

From our May 2002 newsletter


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