There is something very alluring about the prospect of watching TV on your computer. The advent of catch-up services like the BBC’s iPlayer has fostered the idea, but the BBC is only part of the picture and with terrestrial and digital channels a-plenty, some people want a more comprehensive solution. At the very least, the prospect of TV on your computer for under £50 is a viable and low cost alternative to having a TV in every room.
This is where devices like the PCTV nanoStick from Pinnacle come in. They offer a plug and play system for watching free to air digital TV channels. The PCTV nanoStick is compatible with both Mac and PC and comes with software that lets you record TV and timeshift.
It is unfortunate that the tiny size of the USB stick (5.5 x 2.3 x 1.3cm) is marred by the fact that you need to plug in an antenna to receive broadcasts. This is small enough, but rather tall at about 14.5cm. It plugs into one end of the stick. You’ll need to carry it around along with the stick, which makes for a little more bulk than you might like. You can also, via the supplied adaptor, use your own household TV antenna if you get a cable extension for it.
Software is supplied for both PC and Mac users. PC users will need Pinnacle TV Centre Pro to watch TV, record and timeshift. We hit a snag on installing to a Windows Vista laptop in that the quickstart guide’s method of plugging in the nanoStick and then inserting the install CD when instructed produced a files not found’ response. We left the nanoStick plugged in, installed TV Centre Pro from the CD manually and it then proceeded to scan for channels. When this was completed it immediately switched to displaying TV.
The scanning process takes a good few minutes; easily enough time to make a cup of tea and drink it too. But in theory this is a once-only task.
With the process over, channels are displayed on screen and you have access to an EPG, channels listing, pause/play button for timeshifting and even a quick screen capture mode. If you’ve recorded programmes they are easily accessed. As well as free to air TV channels you can access Internet radio channels. There is a reasonable list already included and you can add more easily simply by pasting the URL.
A small remote control unit is provided, there is some extra software for editing video and, in one final clever wheeze, you can stream TV to up to three network connected computers.