One of a range of video digitiser products from Hauppauge, the WinTV USB does just what it says on the box; it allows you to watch TV on your Windows PC courtesy of a simple USB connection. It supports 125 channels from cable TV or standard antenna, and will also accept video from VCR or camcorder.
The WinTV adapter has been bitten by the ‘iMac bug’ design-wise, which is a little unfortunate since it will clash horribly with the majority of boring beige PC cases, but that’s OK since users aren’t obliged to display the device with pride on their desks. Once the cables are connected, the unit can be discreetly stowed away out of sight. The box itself has a functional set of connectors, including line in and line out for the audio, an S-Video input, a UK aerial socket, and a captive USB cable. There is no need for a power adapter since the unit draws power from the USB interface itself.
Installation is a straightforward affair, and simpler than its PCI siblings since the PC case doesn’t need to be removed, but the USB interface does mean that it is only currently compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000. Plug and play completes without a hitch, and then the application software is installed separately. This consists of three different programs; WinTV 32, a viewer that looks like a conventional Windows program, WinTV 2000, which has similar functionality but with a trendy new interface, and VT Plus, a Teletext viewer.
VT Plus is actually a superb program that breathes new life into the old Teletext system. Taking a multiple-windowed approach, windows will stay open when you navigate away from them, making it easy to return to a previous screen and compare two screens side by side. Another nice touch is the ability to synchronise the system clock with the Teletext clock.
WinTV 2000 is a capable TV viewer program with a good set of features, such as a software remote control handset, still and video capture, and full screen mode. The user-interface is well thought-out, and will soon support ‘skins’ in the manner of Windows Media Player or Netscape 6, giving it potential for an individual look.
The WinTV USB adapter is designed as an entry-level device. Unfortunately, this means that it only supports mono audio, and doesn’t sport some of the features of Hauppauge’s other products such as MPEG-2 recording which would enable modern hard disks to store many hours of video for later viewing.
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