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(Pocket-lint) - We thought that the ultimate wow factor TV would be the Dick Tracey watch, until we actually saw a real life watch-based TV that is.

The picture quality was very poor, along with the reception unless you wandered around with an aerial perched on your head. Then Hauppauge told us about their brand new "hybrid" TV on a USB stick.

The hybrid reference is down to this tiddly (only 66mm in length plugged in) device incorporating an analogue aerial and cable TV receiver plus a Freeview digital TV receiver.

Add the WinTV2000 software and you get to pause and record TV shows as well. Like the watch it has all the wow factor ingredients, but does it fall over on actual performance?

Yes and no. Thanks to the full size aerial socket which is sunk into the top of the device you can get the same quality reception as you will on your living room telly. But that's kind of defeating the object of having a portable device like this, it's screaming out to be used with a laptop, on the move.

You've probably spotted the flaw here, no aerial to plug into that socket. Except Hauppauge had a cunning plan, and have seen fit to include quite probably the sexiest TV aerial known to man.

The portable DVB-T antenna starts off being just 21cm in length, but by the time you've screwed it together and attached it to the rather heavy base with integrated cable you end up with a 34.5cm thing of retro beauty.

Think of a CB aerial attached to the roof of a Ford Capri and you are in the right kind of look and feel territory. While not as good as a good aerial mounted on the roof of a house, it's certainly the best portable reception we've ever seen. Unfortunately it does add 142g of additional bulk to your portable experience.

It's easy to use, plug it in, connect an aerial, load the software and sit back while it does its stuff including auto-tuning and naming the TV stations for you.

Digital recording is a one click affair, with an hour of telly occupying about 1.5Gb of disk space in MPEG2 quality. And that should be the end of a 9 out of 10 review, apart from a couple of problems.


On the down side, there are three main problems we can see with this unit.

Firstly this is a USB2.0 only device, so owners of older computers can't play.

Secondly, and perhaps more seriously, the software is very dated (the clue is in it being called WinTV2000) and comes without an electronic program guide.

Thirdly, no remote control despite the Infra-Red receiver on the side of the HVR-900.

It's still a tempting buy, but the polish is taken off by these limiting factors.

Great value if you can live with its limitations, but there are cheaper digital TV-only USB stick devices to be had (Freecom DVB-T USB).

Writing by Davey Winder. Originally published on 24 February 2006.