Digital TV tuner in-a-stick
The Pinnacle PCTV nanoStick is an external USB DVB-T tuner that allows you to watch digital television on the fly. Designed primarily for notebook users, it combines ultra-sensitive reception technology (it says here) with a sleek and miniature design; ensuring you’ll never miss out on your favourite TV shows again. At least, that’s the idea in theory...
- Ultra-compact design, TimeShift functionality, record video directly to DVD, inbuilt editing software, good picture quality (in optimum conditions)
- Erratic navigation software, ineffective rod antenna
The Pinnacle PCTV nanoStick is not without its quirks, but it remains a fairly decent tuner for the asking price. In optimum conditions it will not disappoint, with the included features boosting its value considerably.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
Unfortunately, the included navigation software is not without its quirks, and the rod antenna suffers from inconsistent reception quality. This diminishes the nanoStick’s appeal as a portable TV tuner, though it still offers a reasonable performance for the asking price, with plenty of inbuilt modes and features. In addition to being HDTV-ready, the device sports TimeShift functionality (for pausing and rewinding live TV), basic editing software (for trimming your recordings) and even allows you to record programs directly to DVD.
In terms of design, the nanoStick resembles a typical USB thumb drive, which makes it one of the smallest TV tuners on the market. Its diminutive dimensions are perfect for ultraportable notebooks, with no unseemly protruding bits. Build quality is excellent, with an intelligent sliding mechanism that protects the USB connector when it’s not in use. (We can't tell you how many times we've lost tiny thumb drive lids, so the cap-free design is definitely appreciated.)
In addition to the nanoStick, the sales package includes a magnetic rod antenna, a miniature remote control, an antenna adaptor and all the required cables and software. Installing the device on your PC or notebook couldn’t be easier: simply connect the nanoStick to your rod or house antenna and then slot it into your computer’s USB port. Naturally, you will also need to install the TVCentre Pro software, which allows you to scan, store and record digital TV channels.
It’s at this point that the kinks in the nanoStick’s armour begin to show. While fairly straightforward and easy to navigate, the TVCentre Pro application was curiously unstable. Throughout testing, it seemed to crash or freeze up at random intervals; especially during start-up. It also refused to pick up some TV channels, despite multiple scannings. Fortunately, the nanoStick is also compatible with Windows Media Centre, which is bound to give you a smoother ride.
Like the nanoStick itself, the included remote control is of superior build quality; especially for the $99.95 asking price. While some users may be hampered by its tiny buttons, we personally found it a breeze to use. The miniature dimensions also make it well suited to travel. Indeed, the entire sales package will easily fit inside a small purse or bum-bag. Pinaccle has really pulled out all the stops to ensure the nanoStick is road warrior–friendly.
With that being said, the rod antenna is not quite so impressive. Its magnetic foot seemed rather weak and provided little stability, with a slight bump detaching it from our notebook’s metal palm rest. Its reception quality was also rather limited. Pinnacle recommends placing it near an upper-floor window away from reinforced walls and neighbouring buildings. Obviously, this won’t be feasible for some users, who will be forced to revert to their roof antennas. This could effectively quash the tuner’s portable capabilities, depending on where you live.
In optimal conditions, we didn’t experience any reception issues when using the device. Even in full screen mode the video quality remained good for most channels. Recordings are stored onto your hard drive in MPEG-1/-2 or DivX, or you can burn them directly to DVD. Unfortunately, you can’t watch one channel while recording another, as the product does not sport dual TV tuner chips (you can, however, schedule recordings for later).
The inbuilt video-editing software is also quite impressive. While a little on the basic side, it allows you to make simple trims/edits to your videos as well as add titles and transitions. This should be more than enough options for most users.
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