I was pretty excited when Santa brought me the Hauppauge WinTV-USB2 for Christmas. I like to watch a lot of television shows and last semester I had to miss them a lot because of late night group meetings. This is a TV tuner card that plugs into my laptop’s USB port so I can record shows straight to my computer. Though I played with it a little bit during at home, this first week of the semester has been my first real chance to have it permanently set up and running. It has been a mixed experience.
First the positives. After last semester I needed a better way to get my TV fix. I got caught up with Lost and The Office through iTunes, but the $1.99 an episode adds up quickly. Being able to plug it into my USB port is also convenient since I didn’t need to try to install anything (I am not sure I could have installed anything in my laptop anyway). Recording shows has been nice. I was able to record a rerun of the Rose Bowl and burn it to DVD for my dad (of course I still need to mail it out). I was also able to tape shows while I was out or when I just had something better to do. TitanTV is a great way to get TV listings and makes it really easy to record shows.
All that being said, there is a lot of little bugs with this thing that would make it difficult for others to use. The device must be plugged-in when the computer is started and must remain plugged-in for the WinTV application to work properly. It inhibits my ability to carry my laptop around, since I may need it to be set up to record. Also annoying is the fact that if a recording fails for some reason, the software does not try to resume recording. This may not be a big problem though, since most of the failures I have had so far tend to be human related. A combination of video compression and my lousy cable connection creates an effect that does not deliver the pristine picture one would expect from digital technology. The WinTV software in general is kind of clunky and leaves a lot to be desired. Too bad Windows Media Center is offered as an option for this device.
None of my complaints are major for me, but they may be deal breakers for the less tech-savvy user. If people expect users to really embrace the digital media lifestyle, we need products that are much simpler and more reliable. I would like to see Windows Media Center in action sometime, because I think it is supposed to do this well. Apple also does a good job of making digital media accessible to users, though they do not have a TV-tuner/PVR application at this time.
Anyway, I am mostly happy with it at this point and look forward to lots of good television in the future. Now I just need an iPod Video to watch these videos on the go 🙂