Saturday May 18, 2024

Kworld VStream X-Pert TV-PVR USB 2.0 TV Tuner Card Review

Company Info: Kworld Computer Co., Ltd.
Category: Computer Hardware
Supported OS: Windows 2000/XP
Price: ~$60
Rating: 3.0/5.0

Reviewer: Wayne Eggert
Date: March 13, 2005

I was in the market for a USB TV Tuner card a few months ago because I wanted to be able to have the ability to make short clips of SNL, Super Bowl commercials or TV shows. I had just purchased a Tivo and also wanted to experiment some with MythTV or other computer-based PVR solutions like Beyond TV. So, I figured I was taking a chance in ordering a cheaper no-name brand USB TV Tuner card, at least in having it work properly with any PVR software available for Windows or Linux. Plus, I thought even if I couldn't get it properly working with any software PVRs, it would still be neat to be able to take it with my laptop to somewhere with a cable hook-up (another room in the house or on get-aways). I ordered from Newegg for around $60 and hoped that soon I would be enjoying trouble-free TV watching with this new marvel of technology. The laptop I tested it on is a Dell 600m 1.4ghz Centrino.

First Impressions
You know how when you're walking around in stores you see a cheap imitation of a name-brand device? That's kindof how I felt with this device. It didn't scream "cheap" per-say, but it also didn't have a very high-quality feel to it. It came with all necessary hook-ups and a software CD with the company's own version of PVR software. I never actually opened the remote up -- the plastic seemed so thin that I thought I might crack it after using it a few times. Not a good first impression, but I suppose that should have been expected.

What counts is on the inside, right?
Well, regardless of how I felt initially after seeing the unit, I couldn't dismiss it as a horrible product without trying it out. I plugged everything in, installed the software, rebooted and decided I'd first try watching live TV through the card. I had to upgrade my USB drivers on my Dell laptop because I hadn't previously downloaded the driver version that supported the USB 2.0 speeds. That was road block #1.

Road block #2 was not having a line-in audio jack on my laptop. You need a line-in with this particular TV tuner -- it's a shame they couldn't have passed audio through with the USB data, but I guess they were trying to save on bandwidth. In any case, I have a microphone-in jack, and after investing a ton of time researching, found a registry hack to get the microphone-in to play through my speakers (it's default on Dell laptops to not have the microphone sound audible through the speakers). The problem was I had no control over the volume of the microphone jack. My only choice was to purchase a USB sound card - which I did -- a Sound Blaster MP3+ USB sound card.

Sound Card Arrived
After purchasing the Sound Blaster MP3+ USB sound card, I was finally able to hook into a true line-in jack and control the volume of the audio. I again tested live TV and noticed quite a few frames were being dropped. In addition, I was having some audio syncing problems and occasionally a split-second of audio dropping out. Now I was starting to doubt I'd every be happy with this solution, but I was determined to figure out what the issue was.

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