Review Price free/subscription
A few months ago I did a round up of Digital TV Tuners that included the Asus U3000. This was quite a cool looking , but was marred by one crucial flaw - it didn't work very well. As a result Asus UK was keen to get me to look at the My Cinema-U3000 Mini.
Rather than a fold out design of the U3000, the Mini is just a simple USB dongle sized design, complete with a detachable cap that just screams ‘lose me’. As the dongle is so small the TV aerial connection is miniature so an adaptor is supplied so you can hook up to a regular TV point. An external stand alone aerial is also supplied. This is on a long wire so you can place it in the optimum position to get a signal, and the aerial is hinged on its stand so you can angle it. However, the chances of getting a Freeview signal via this aerial where I was testing were virtually zero so I made do with using a roof aerial.
The dongle is white and looks quite smart, and features a grille at one end that lights up green when you get a signal. However, there’s no remote supplied, so you need to be close by to control it.
Once you've connected the dongle and installed the drivers you then have to install Asus MyDVD. This essentially just a rebranded version of Cyberlink's PowerDVD - this is necessary as it installs an MPEG2 decoder so you can view the Freeview video stream. Also supplied is PowerDirector Pro DE, which is a basic video editing application, and also Media@Show SE, which is designed to create slideshows and presentations. Amazingly, your Windows desktop resolution needs to be set to 800 x 600 or 1,024 x 768 for this to even launch. I can't see many people making much use of this software.
Unlike with the U3000 the U3000 Mini software has all the required serial numbers supplied so you can actually use the product - a real step up from the U3000 - well done Asus. However, the serial numbers are all printed on the CDs themselves, which means that you have to insert the disc, start the installation, remove the disc to enter the serial number and then reinsert the disc to carry on with the installation - which will then auto launch a second installation, which you then have to cancel. It would have been easier if the numbers were printed on the CD sleeves, but then you'd run the risk of losing the sleeves and installing the software in the future.
The Mini is compatible with Windows Media Center so if you've got that but don't have a TV Tuner then this would be a easy way to add one. However, if you don't have MCE then you'll have to rely on the software supplied. The software you'll be using then is Asus EzVCR - a truly inspirational title that makes great use of the English language.
After you've launched the software you need to scan the airwaves to pick up channels. By default it's set to Taiwan, so you have to change it to your country. Scanning for channels took just under five minutes to complete, which wasn't too bad.