There’s hardly anything to this Pinnacle kit unlike the massive studio sets we’ve reviewed recently. It’s just the box, the USB lead, the installation CD and that’s it. It’s another device entirely open and honest about the need for USB 2.0 for the minimum of dropped frames - and also an old-fashioned aerial to pick up a signal.
It takes you back to the days of the earliest Philips and Hauppauge TV kits as the software will seek out your channels, you save the presets and then off you go. Essentially, that’s all there is to it. If you’re using a screen with a Trinitron Tube (and Diamondtron screens too), you’ll get slightly better quality, as seen with some DVDs. If you have a flatpanel it’s much less of an issue - the only problems we can see on the horizon are the position of the computer and where your aerial can be hung for the best reception, and the potential for eyestrain if you’re not sat several feet away.
Last but not least is the increase in power usage of your computer over a television. If you have a show on while you’re surfing (and let’s face it any soap can be watched with the pictures off nowadays) then that’s fine. However using a PC just for TV could be wasteful (and noisier) compared to buying a real 14-28inch model for the bedroom. Of course, don’t think the computer will let you escape a TV licence either.
Pinnacle’s input and contribution to this situation is a handy remote control with all the expected features and real buttons for the virtual VCR, or PVR functionality, so you can watch from a distance. The camcorder in the diagram signifies Pinnacle’s bread and butter video capture function. Sadly, if you want Time Shifting, SVCD and DVD quality for burning recordings, you’ll be required to pay a charge. That’s the ultimate catch that makes the PCTV USB2 a turn-off.
There's nothing left to say. It's a television through your computer. That makes your monitor and soundcard quality additional factors influencing your experience. It's just a shame that Pinnacle saw fit to bolt on extras that you'd take for granted in a hi-fi player and if you just spent £60 on that new DVD Burner, you'd want picture quality befitting the format for free considering the UK licence is £120. That makes the PCTV USB2 only reasonable rather than a must-have.