By Terry Currier
in our May 2008 newsletter
Minimum System Requirements:
Now normally I would list the system requirements at the end of a review. However, I put them at the start to let you know I put it into an under minimum computer to see what would happen. I put it into a computer with a 1.7GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. While it did not work perfectly, it actually did better than expected. Yes there were some times it locked up and I had to reboot, but there were times it played live TV fine. But for the few times it did hang up, I was tempted to leave it in there. I was planning to move it to a faster 2.6GHz computer, but that one crashed so I had to wait to put it into another computer.
What I did end up putting it into was a computer with Dual-Core 2.2GHz, with Vista Business installed. Installation onthe underpowered computer produced a hard lockup, but still completed upon starting it up again. On the new Vista computer I had no problems. You can set it up for use with cable using QAM, or using antenna (either indoor or outdoor.) I choose to use the Terk HDTVi antenna I already owned. After installing the software it will scan for Internet Radio, analog TV signal, radio signals (you get an FM antenna in the box), and finally digital (HD) TV signals. I unchecked Internet Radio, and radio – sorry, if I want that I can go through the radio in my computer room. I let it get the analog signals just to see how it would come through. It was just as I expected. Not unrecognizable, but not good. I deleted those analog channels later. I think people will buy the product for the HDTV.
After it is done scanning you can go through and delete those channels you know you will never watch. The card comes with a year of use of TitanTV's EPG (Electronic Program Guide), or you can choose to use to use the free broadcast program if available. I choose to try the free rather than have to pay later for the subscription to TitanTV service. I must admit though the download for this while available is very slow in downloading and decoding.
The Pinnacle TV card lets you watch live TV, TimeShift, and/or record TV. You can schedule the recording of shows through the EPG (Electronic Program Guide), or through the manual setting. I used both with no problems. You can also directly use the record button on the display, or remote. I did however notice I could not get the fast forward to work. The fast forward is important to use with TimeShift, and the recorded shows to zoom through the commercials. Neither the control on the remote, nor right clicking for fast forward worked. I can usually save 17 minutes per hour not having to watch them. So I was disappointed with it not working. The shows are recording into MPEG format, but I could not view it using Windows Media Player (so I could not use it to speed through the commercials.)
How much space a file will take depends on the format you tell it to use. The best DVD setting took about 6.7GB for one hour. Using DivX format it cuts the size in half. Pinnacle does include their fine video editing software – Studio Quickstart version 10. With that I can take in the recorded shows to edit out the commercials, or work on getting my old VCR tapes onto DVDs.
The included remote control is a little small for my taste, but it works. For changing the channels you can use the remote, the up and down arrow keys, or click on the center showing the station and choose which station you want to watch.
It comes with a one year warranty. You can buy it for $79.99 at Pinnacle http://www.pinnaclesys.com. The best price I found was for $73.79 at BestBuy.com.
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/