External TV Tuners / PVR Devices: 3-way shootout

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Digistor TV Tuner / PVR USB 2.0

This was the first product we received so it was the first to be tested. The box was very plain looking (white with a sticker on it) and very small, we wonder if this is how they plan to ship their product out to retail stores.

Like we mentioned before, the tuner itself was the smallest of the three, just slightly bigger than a screwdriver handle. The included remote is very thin, which can be good and bad depending on your taste. It was made clear that this product is meant to be used with a laptop or a desktop, which explains the small size. The device allows you to watch, schedule, control, and record live TV. It’s also capable of importing video footage from sources like a VCR, camcorder, or DVD player.

Here is what’s included:

  • Digistor TV Tuner/PVR

  • USB Cable

  • Audio input cable

  • Audio output cable

  • S-video to composite adapter

  • Remote control

  • CD with driver

  • Ulead DVD Movie Factory 3

  • Ulead Video @ Home 2

 

Minimum requirements

  • P3 800MHz or higher (P4 2.4GHz is required for DVD real-time recording)

  • 256 MB RAM

  • DVD/CD ROM drive

  • USB 2.0 port

  • 200 MB HD space for included software

  • 4GB+ free ultra DMA for video capture

  • Windows XP SP1 or Windows 2000 SP4

 

Impressions

At first, we had a rough time testing this tuner as it would not function properly. After checking connections, cables, and everything else, we later found out that we had to use updated drivers from the manufacturer’s website in order to have the unit up and running.

I also found a problem with the supplied audio cable because it has male leads on it. My camcorder and Xbox console also utilize male connectors, making it necessary to use female adaptors to connect either device, and these were not included. To me, this is a very odd mistake to make. Virtually every gaming or media device you will want to connect does it in the same manner, with male connectors. You could still connect a VCR or DVD player if you were to directly connect the supplied cable to them.

The included instructions are very short, and to the point. There is no additional user manual for additional assistance. The instructions are the size of a sales pamphlet, or perhaps a travel brochure. Some additional tips or a troubleshooting guide would have worked wonders, especially since I did experience problems with the unit.

The included Ulead software is top notch. Ulead makes excellent multimedia software, and it is very easy to use. The unit does require the software application to run in the background, because it is always on “stand by” for the remote control. Here is a quick look at the Ulead interface:

The software has three included skins for the tuner, the above being default. The PVR functionality with the Ulead suite is excellent. Scheduling programming is quite simple, and works terrific. Here is a quick look at the interface:

The top picture shows you the programming in which is already scheduled, while the bottom is the add/edit screen. This would be where you would manually ad the programs to the schedule list, and is accompanied by a preview in the black box in the upper right hand corner. Of all the products reviewed here, the Digistor has the best software suite.

Overall, once the bugs were ironed out, the Digistor device really worked well. It makes an excellent travel companion in any laptop bag because of its remarkable size, and comes with the best overall software package. Unfortunately, sometimes when problems arise, they overshadow the strong points. If I were a customer of the product, I would have probably taken it back when I found the problems. The user manual is horrible, and the website is difficult to navigate through. I did fix the problem through an email via the company, but when I looked on the website to locate the driver, I could not find it. More advanced users like me should be able to solve this kind of problem but for your average end user, it’s an unwanted nightmare. It is quite possible that by the time this hits the internet, the product on the shelf no longer has this problem. One would hope so, anyhow.

 



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