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A new vidiot box

January 28th, 2009

Yep, in spite of knowing I shouldn’t be watching a lot of TV, I do miss some of the PBS type programming from time to time. In addition, we might watch an hour or so of random network television before the commercial overload kicks in and ruins the viewing experience. Our initial plan was to get a USB dongle and connect to one of the laptops whenever we felt like watching a bit of TV, but up until the end of the year, we never got around to it.

Well, I bought us a Avertv Hybrid Volar Max for Christmas. We’ve only just been using it the past few days, but I’ve got to say I’m quite happy with the functionality. I really expected HDTV to be much less reliable for us compared to analog TV as we’re often out in the middle of nowhere.

So far, we’ve been able to pickup more HD stations than analog stations. On top of that, we often get two or three channels from the same station. A PBS station with three channels running is quite nice as I’m not always interested in what the main channel is broadcasting. The main difference between our HD experience in a house versus a camper is the external, pointable antenna and the signal amplifier built into it. In the metro Orlando area, we were getting maybe six to eight channels with a pair of rabbit ears. Now, more than 60 miles from Tupelo, MS, we’re getting ten channels, even if a couple of them are kind of spotty when the storms roll in. Regardless of how many HD channels we get, I’m still going to be a little annoyed on Fed 17th, June 12th, or whenever they finally complete the cutover. The easiest way to point the antenna is to find an analog channel and try to tune it in before scanning for HD channels!

One of the most surprising things for me is that the USB tuner actually works quite well with my ultra-lightweight tablet PC. The processor is a mere 1.2ghz pentium mobile (1.8ghz mobile processor is recommended) and the HD channels still work quite well. Initially, I thought some of the jerkiness and pauses I was experiencing were due to CPU bottlenecking, but after changing locations, I found we were able to pickup high resolution channels just fine with the smaller laptop, so it was more likely a signal strength issue.

Obviously, we don’t bother with the timeshifting functionality as that would require a lot more electricity and constant reprogramming as we move around. I also could care less about recording shows. I’ve built full featured MythTV boxes, and unless I can auto-crop out commercials, it’s not worth the effort or hardware. I do rather like the electronic program guide though. I’ve just discovered that feature today and already decided what I’ll be vegging out to over dinner tonight.

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One Response to “A new vidiot box”

  1. Don’t you love technology! We started using a USB TV receiver about a year before we left. I love it! It’s a real space saver, as you don’t need an actual TV.

    The choppy HD channels are most definitely a result of the signal. My parents’ HD TV does the same thing while watching certain channels and in certain types of weather.

    An on board program guide sounds like a real plus! Our model doesn’t have that feature L

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