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