In the mid-1990s a debate raged over whether we would eventually end up watching television on our computers, or whether television would take over from the PC. In 1995 a PC called the MyGeNie went on sale boasting that you could watch TV while you worked...
In the mid-1990s a debate raged over whether we would eventually end up watching television on our computers, or whether television would take over from the PC. In 1995 a PC called the MyGeNie went on sale boasting that you could watch TV while you worked. But it was as much a lemon as the infamous P76 car. About the same time Apple put out a desktop model that came with a TV tuner card as standard equipment and while it was much better than the MyGeNie it was dropped the following year.
A lot of heat has gone out of the debate nowadays and most of us still rely on our TV sets to watch our favourite programs and our PCs for all of our computing needs.
TV tuner cards are available for the enthusiasts who want them but they are often difficult to install and even more difficult to tune. PowerColor has sought to change that image by offering a USB-TV Tuner, which it claims is capable of video conferencing. It is also capable of video and still capture from a variety of sources including TV reception, VCR and video cameras equipped with composite AV cables.
Rather than being an internal PCI card, the MTV 2000 utilises a USB connection and sits between the USB port and the TV antenna. It will link to internal or external aerials or direct to the cable tuning box. There is no direct connection to the PCs sound card but the audio is diverted through the USB to the MTV 2000.
While the device is simple to connect to the PC and television antenna, the instructions that come with the software leave a lot to be desired.
There are two CDs in the pack, one with the MTV drivers and tuning software and the other with a package of three Cyberlink applications for capturing, editing, compiling and emailing video. However, novice users have little hope of working out how to use it effectively and experienced users will be frustrated by the lack of clear instructions. For example there are no instructions for video conferencing or how to configure a video camera.
The situation is further confused by other configuration instructions that do not tell the user how to access the appropriate menu, or relate to menus that do not exist on this version of the software.
As a TV tuner the MTV2000 works well once you have found the correct country settings - again there are no instructions in the manual or the online help on how to do it, although there is a fleeting reference in the FAQ file to it requiring third party software such as Microsoft Net Meeting. There is a natural inclination to set the TV Tuner to one of the PAL settings, as that is the type of TV signal used in Australia. However, that doesnt work and you have to search down through the list until you can set it to Australia. To make matters more confusing the default video settings are NTSC and will not work when set to PAL.
The default resolution is set at 320 x 240, but, depending on your video card, it is possible to run it as high as 1,024 x 768, however, the frame rate starts to drop and the audio and video drop out of synchronisation.
Capturing video clips can be a hit or miss affair that works sometimes but not others, and while the box promises you can save still snaps in BMP, JPG, TIFF or GIF format there are only settings for JPG and BMP. Activating the still capture instantly disabled the audio and it took some fiddling to reset it.
Fine tuning and adjusting brightness and contrast is easily done using the left and right arrows on your keyboard, while channels can be changed by using the up and down arrows, and the TV monitor can be set to be always on top of the application you are working on, so if you are a TV junkie you will be able to keep up with your favourite programs or that special sports event.
Overall the MTV 2000 works as a TV tuner, but dont expect much else unless you have the patience of Job.
This Review appeared in the February, 2001 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine