Product Review (October 2004)
ADS Technologies - Instant TV Video Recorder

Conventional VCRs are being replaced by a variety of new products. Tivo, DVD recorders and other hard drive based set-top boxes appeal to the masses and offer a great way to time-shift programs. These new products offer much simpler user interfaces and far more flexibility than what many have become accustomed to with VCRs. PCs are even becoming an integral part of today's home entertainment systems with DVD and hard drive based recording and playback features. Many of the newer PCs come with built-in TV tuners. For those lacking a tuner in their computer, ADS Technologies has introduced Instant TV, an inexpensive ($80 street price) way to get this capability using a standard high-speed USB 2.0 port. The Instant TV features a small external tuner console that interfaces directly to a cable line or rooftop antenna and connects to the PC's USB 2.0 port. Power is provided by the USB interface, so there is no need for a separate power adapter. The setup also includes a small credit card sized IR remote control.

The product features a 125 channel NTSC tuner that streams audio and video to the connected computer through the high speed USB interface. Command and control is also handled through this interface. Ulead's Video@Home 2 software is included with the system and offers an all-in-one video package that lets users record, playback, and burn TV programs or other audio and video to disc. A featured called Disc-Direct™ recording allows users to save time and hard drive space by creating sharable video files that are used to write to Video CD and DVD discs. Using the Web-based Electronic Program Guide from TitanTV.com, users won't miss their favorite TV shows because they can schedule recordings with a simple click of a button once they set up their free account.

The Video@Home 2 software has a host of features that include a Video Color Manager for adjusting brightness, contrast, hue and saturation (color). The TV Channel Manager allows the user to define the region (USA), TV system (NTSC in our case), cable/antenna and channel name. It is also possibe to record directly from a DV camcorder to disc. Once recorded material is saved, a playlist can be created by simply using the Playlist window and selecting the files of interest. Once the files are defined, the user clicks on the Save button. For quick recording, the user can right-click the record button and select a predefined recording time (30 min, 60 min, 90 min or 120 min). Users can also use a list of keyboard shortcuts to quickly access functions.

The front of the tuner box has two LEDs, one for power (red) and the other (green) to indicate reception of the remote control commands. The back of the external tuner box has the USB interface and an F-connector for the cable or antenna input. Also included is a composite and s-video input along with a 3.5mm two-channel audio input allowing users to capture audio and video from analog sources such as camcorders. There's also a 3.5mm two-channel audio pass-thru connector identical to the audio input connector. This output only passes the input signal and does not send audio from the recorded sources.

Remote
The small remote included with the system is small and looks similar to the remotes that often come with camcorders. Personally, we would prefer a larger remote, but it does provide adequate functionality. The remote uses a button battery that is included with the system. Standard features such as Power, Input Select, Mute, Volume, Channel Select, Record, Play/Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind and Stop. The remote also includes a Jump button used to toggle between the current and previous channel selected. This is a nice feature if you happen to be watching two programs. The T/S button is used to put the software into a Time-Shift mode, where you can pause, rewind and fast-forward through programs. This mode creates a recording buffer that allows you to use the Time-Shift features.

Setup
We installed Instant TV on our Sony VAIO Laptop (PCV-K23) without any problems. ADS specifically instructs the user to first install the drivers, so we did that and then installed the Ulead software. Once the software was installed, we connected the external external tuner box via the USB cable. The system immediately recognized the hardware and after a minute or so we were ready to go. The remote LED on the receiver unit flashes any time the remote sends commands. This provide the user with a visual verification of commands being recieved. Pressing Power on the remote launches the Video@Home 2 software.

Performance
Instant TV is a simple and inexpensive system to install. We liked the USB 2.0 interface simply because we avoided opening up the machine. In addition, using a standard USB 2.0 port lends itself well to laptops as tested in our case. Picture quality was sufficient, but not great since the source was coming for an analog NTSC signal. We did see some Y/C separation artifacts that are common in low cost TV decoders. Other than our critical review of the picture, it functioned well. As a PVR it did a good job at time shifting programs. We are a fan of TitanTV.com and have used it with our high-definition MDP-100 PVR system with great success. Using it with the Instant TV system was just as simple and stored our reservations on the hard drive without a problem. Channel changing is a bit slow especially for an analog tuner. However, most digital tuners (SD and HD) have been this way for years, so some users might not find it a problem.

Video can be displayed in a smaller window or full screen. Obviously full screen reveals flaws in the source, so don't expect the picture quality to rival high resolution sources. Video quality depends on the source as well as the recording mode selected. VCDs produced the most compression artifacts as one might expect, where AVI looked very good for an NTSC source. The ability to directly capture video to disc was a nice feature that worked well.

The Ulead software has a useful display that provides information such as Input Source, Playback Status, Elapsed Time, Audio Status, MTS Status, Playback Speed and much more to the user. There is also a Time-Shift recording bar on the lower section of the display that gives the user's relative position during playback. The green portion of the display indicates the current playback position, while the red portion is the remaining amount of recorded material available. The great feature here is the user can record a program and at the same time watch any part of the recorded material. This feature worked as advertised and was very impressive. We noticed that as we scanned forward through the recorded material towards the real-time recording at the 2x speed, the software kicked us back into the 1x mode automatically when we hit the end. A fast PC also helps since all of the encoding and decoding is software based.

Conclusion
Using Instant TV is a great way to get TV on your laptop or desktop, especially if you are on a budget. The setup was simple and easy to install. Video and audio are streamed directly from the external tuner over the USB 2.0 port, so there is no extra cabling needed between the tuner and computer. The Ulead software has many features and the web-based Advanced Programming Guide provided by TitanTV.com makes programming simple. For under $100, you get a good product with a full set of features for making time-shifted recordings with full access to the media as it is recording.

- Kevin Nakano

Review System

Laptop PC - Sony VAIO PCV-K23, 2.8GHz Pentium 4

Review at a glance


ADS Technologies - Instant TV

Features:

  • USB 2.0 connection to the PC
  • Capture audio and video via the USB 2.0 port
  • Pause Live TV
  • Last viewed channel
  • 125 Channel Analog TV tuner
  • Includes remote control
  • Time-Shift Recording - rewind, pause or fast forward live TV
  • Scheduled recording with Electronic Program Guide
  • Full Screen TV viewing on PC monitor
  • Record video from any analog video source
  • Direct to Disk Capture - capture TV shows directly to re-writable disks
  • Edit and update re-writable disks - add shows to a disk, add chapters and menus
  • Integration with full DVD authoring software applications

    System Requirements:

  • Windows XP Home or Professional
  • 2.0 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or better
  • Available USB 2.0 port
  • AGP Graphics Card
  • Sound Card for audio playback
  • CD-ROM for software installation
  • CD or DVD writer for VCD, SVCD or DVD creation
  • Internet access to www.TitanTV.com
  • 4 GB for approximately every 2 hours of video recording time

    Packaging Includes:

  • USB 2.0 Instant TV unit
  • Remote Control
  • 125 Channel Analog TV tuner
  • 6-foot Audio/Video cable
  • 6-foot USB cable
  • CD contains: Ulead Video@Home, Windows Media Encoder 9, Instant TV Drivers

  • Latest driver/software support

    Instant TV Product Brochure

    Model: USBAV-704
    UPC: 7-57887-70400-1

    Source: Manufacture supplied
    MSRP: $44.99

    Weight: 3lbs.


    Company Information
    ADS Technologies
    12627 Hidden Creek Way
    Cerritos, CA 90703
    Ph: 800-888-5244, 562.926.1928

    Fax: 562.926.0518

    URL: www.adstech.com

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