It wasn't long ago that we took a look at Terratec's Cinergy XS, a thumb-stick-style TV tuner that connects to a PC via USB and can receive both digital and analogue TV signals. Today we're reviewing a tuner from AVerMedia - the AVerTV DVB-T USB2.0. This, as you'll have already figured out, is USB, too, but what the name doesn't tell you is that it's digital only and a compact - 100(w) x 25(h) x 70(d)mm - desktop model, not a thumb-stick.
Before getting down and dirty, though, a bit of background.
In the UK, digital terrestrial TV is growing rapidly and that's just as well given that the last analogue TV transmissions are due to be turned off in 2010. But there are good reasons for going digital right now.
Digital signals, where you can receive them, can deliver better quality than traditional analogue broadcasts, particularly in areas where ghosting is a problem on analogue. Also, whereas analogue offers just five TV channels, digital has 40 free TV channels, plus a bunch of subscription channels and 24 free radio channels. And, happily, it's cheap to go digital - set-top boxes are being sold on the High Street and in supermarkets for as little as £30.
Pop over to Freeview's site for a channel listing. Know, though, that there are still some holes in the coverage, so the site also has a reception checker to help you find out the status of Freeview reception in your area (by postcode). There's no absolute guarantee of reception even if the checker says you'll be okay but a very big chance that it'll be right about lack of reception.
Not surprisingly, a lot of PC users are no longer satisfied with old-fashioned analogue TV tuners of the sort that have been available for years and want in on the benefits of the digital TV revolution. There is now a decent selection of PC tuners that conform to the European DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting - Television) standard and many of them are inherently better than the analogue models that preceded them and still sell alongside them.
In addition, many Windows computers are now sufficiently powerful to be usable as media centers. Pair up such a PC with a DVB-T card and you'll be able to enjoy hard-drive-recorded TV programmes. This includes the wonders of time-shifting - starting a recording when your viewing is interrupted and being able to come back and start viewing again where you left off even though the programme is continuing to be recorded. Great stuff!
As for the AVerMedia tuner, you can find this on the net for around £54 (inc VAT, ex delivery) - that's about £6 less than the going price for the Terratec. The small difference perhaps underlines the limited value put on analogue capabilities though, in truth, there may be times they'd come in handy. So, let's see what AVerMedia supplies for the money.