When I wrote the 'A Student's Guide to Technology' article back in July one thing that wasn't covered was TV Tuners. This wasn't out of neglect but simply because we hadn't looked at any TV Tuners for notebooks in a good while and, since we're not in the practice of recommending things blindly, there was nothing to be said. Until now, that is, since I'm looking at an ExpressCard TV Tuner from AVerMedia.
Retailing for just shy of £60, the AVerTV DVB-T Express features a digital tuner and as you might expect has timeshifting and recording capabilities. In the box you get the ExpressCard device itself, which is a 34mm card, a small portable antenna and an adapter for a standard RF connector. An accompanying CD also contains the AVerTV 6 software, though naturally the device is compatible with XP Media Center Edition as well as Vista Media Center.
Installation was surprisingly painless. To test the card I plugged it into a notebook running Vista, and then prayed as it searched for drivers. As many may be able to appreciate Vista driver support can be a patchy affair, but to AVerMedia's great credit Windows Update searched for, found and successfully installed drivers for the card within minutes. This was certainly a good start, and boded well for the rest of the review.
Next was the AVerTV 6 software. Installation was easy enough, and running it under Vista provided no real issues other than the fact it switches to the Basic mode because the program can't deal with the Aero Glass features. On the face of things it's a fairly comprehensive piece of software, with support for a 7-day EPG, Picture-in-Picture, Picture-out-of-Picture and the UK Digital Teletext service MHEG-5.
As is common with many of these own brand software solutions though, the interface leaves a lot to be desired. The skinned control panel is right out of dodgy freeware media player territory, with lots of small buttons whose purpose isn't immediately obvious from the tiny icons. No better is this illustrated than in the 7-day EPG, which although fairly navigable is cramped and rather ugly to behold.