So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Banksia Software HD USB TV Tuner
- Excellent image quality, Easy setup
- Jerky picture, Lag between channel changing
The Banksia USB TV Tuner provides sharp digital TV images, turning your home PC into a PVR at a reduced cost
Price$ 199.10 (AUD)
When we first get a product at the GoodGearGuide, we inevitably try to set it up without having to refer to the manuals. This is both to test how easy the set up will be for the average consumer, and also to boost our insufferably large egos as we convince ourselves how tech savvy we really are.
This was no different with the Banksia Digital High-Definition Digital USB Tuner, and it is a testament to the product just how easy it was to setup. We haven't used a device such as this before, but all that was required was plugging in a USB cable and installing software from the CD. As it is USB powered, no power cable is required, which we also found rather convenient. The CD install took about three minutes, after which a restart is required. That's about it. Once that's done, you can then watch Digital TV on your PC or notebook and best of all, you can also record it, turning it your computer into a PVR.
At least, that's how it's supposed to work. In practice, the Banksia Tuner left a little to be desired.
If you look at the box or product shots of the Banksia Digital Tuner, you will see a small black box - and this is true, the unit is indeed a small black box. When you open the package however, you realize you also have to plug in a rather large and unwieldy antenna in order to get reception. This does increase the size of the package somewhat and also the room that it takes up.
The first time you start the installed application, the Settings screen is displayed and we eventually realized this was a prompt for us to scan for channels. All up, the tuner took around four minutes to scan for both video and audio channels. One issue we did have was that not all channels were picked up, even with the antenna full extended. We tested the tuner on three different PCs in different locations, and each time, we picked up different channels. Whatever channels you pick up will be dependent on your location and the quality of the reception in that area.
Overall, we were impressed with the image quality and audio clarity presented by the Banksia Tuner. The custom application can be placed in full screen mode and with this enabled and the remote in hand, it did feel like we were watching TV. While the image did look a little stretched at times, for the most part, images were crisp and bright with audio correspondingly clear.
We did however, encounter one major issue with this unit on all machines that we tested on - a slight skipping and lagging every 30 seconds or so. For example, both the video and audio would play fine for around 30 seconds, and then suddenly lag for 2-3 seconds. As soon as we noticed this, it became more irritating as time went on and really detracted from the viewing experience. This jerkiness occurred, according to Banksia, because of poor reception. When we removed the Banskia antenna and plugged in a regular TV antenna, this problem all but disappeared. Wel also experienced a notable pause when changing channels with the Banskia antenna and flicking through channels quickly is all but impossible.
Another issue we had was with the remote. Using the remote, you can perform many of the basic functions, such as modifying the volume, changing the channel and using basic recording options. However one feature that many set top boxes have is a scrolling list of channels that you can select from. This is because there are so many digital channels that it is rather time consuming to manually increment the channel number to find the one you want. The remote does have a 'Favorites' list, but we could not figure out how to scroll through this list using the remote and ended up using the mouse. The best we could do with the Favorite is enter in the channel number, as these are all displayed in the list.
One of more convenient factors about the Banksia is that it turns your PC into a PVR (personal video recorder), allowing you to record live TV to your hard drive. Other useful options are a multi channel preview, although this is agonisinlgy slow and only one channel is active at a time and timeshifting. This is as simple as pressing the Record button on the remote for ad hoc recordings, or scheduling a recording in the settings menu.
We must mention here that we did experience a few problems when playing back recorded content. This sometimes involved clips not playing, the application crashing or sound not present. While downloading associated codecs appeared to remedy many of these problems, the manual was rather sparse in detail on what codecs users need to play back content and novice users may struggle. While the USB Tuner is a handy addition to your PC, Banksia need to provide more detailed information for those who may experience issues with both reception and playback.
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