Portable TV Tuners are a useful way to watch and record digital channels on the move, and Compro is undoubtedly one of the biggest suppliers on the market with its VideoMate series. The Vista U2800F Hybrid offers both digital and analogue viewing/recording and is compatible with VideoMate’s new ComproDTV software, which along with visual and functional improvements is fully certified for use with Windows 7.

Compro offers an impressively comprehensive package featuring the USB tuner itself, a portable aerial, FM antenna, IR receiver and a Media Center compatible remote control. It’s also supplied with Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5 to complement the main software, so right out of the box you’re getting quite a lot for your money.

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Set-up is straightforward thanks to a wizard-based approach that helps you scan for channels in your area and configure any audio and video equipment you have. As is typical with these sorts of portable tuners, the biggest problem most users will have is achieving a strong enough signal to store a good complement of digital channels using a portable aerial. We’ve tested a fair few of these devices over the last couple of years and very few have been successful in this area, relying instead on the ability to plug into a rooftop aerial.

While this is still the case here, the U2800F did perform better than most at retrieving a signal, though we were still only left with a handful of channels and most of these consistently showed signs of interference. To a large extent this is down to the particular area in which you live, but those looking to use such a device on the move can expect their fair share of problems.

We had no problems retrieving a wide range of channels through a rooftop aerial however, and we were impressed by the snazzy new interface that displays them, which is a big improvement over Compro’s previous effort. A clean layout and typical playback and record controls makes it easy to begin saving a programme to your hard drive or time-shifting back and forth. As with all digital TV Tuners pay close attention to the recommended requirements on the website and consider them the absolute minimum for stable operation.

Demands on hardware increase significantly for those looking to benefit from features such as PIP (picture-in-picture) and multiple channel surfing. For this reason these will be a bit of a luxury for most users but in truth there’s nothing wrong with simply browsing the channels in list form or skipping back and forth as you would with a regular TV.

The software offers an online EPG relevant to your area, which allows you to automatically set-up recordings as an alternative to the manual scheduler. This works fairly well, though obviously requires an internet connection. Additional features are fairly typical of this sort of device and include Teletext, closed-captioned viewing and the ability to adjust the display for each channel, rounding off a comprehensive range of features. Media Center compatibility makes it an effective addition to a home media PC and the remote control, which is a rather token "credit-card" type affair, is nevertheless well laid out and easy to use.  

Price when reviewed:

The capabilities of the U2800F are largely reliant on having the necessary hardware to cope with the demands of DTV viewing and the ability to access or establish a strong signal - those who may want to rely on a portable antenna for viewing on the move should be aware of the inherent issues with this type of connection. This aside, we were impressed by the comprehensive nature of the package on offer and the improvements made to the software. The Vista U2800F represents good value for money and performs very well in the right environment.