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Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick

TV on your PC? Even better: high-definition television on your laptop! The USB 2.0 interface is actually fast enough to handle streaming HD TV on your computer display, so you can plug in a small external USB device and be watching live TV.

And Pinnacle has just augmented its PCTV line of USB HD tuners with an interesting new feature: the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick requires no software installation -- the included Windows TV tuner / DVR application runs directly from memory on the device. So it's a lot easier to just plug it and use it, on desktops and laptops. It's also compatible with Windows Media Center.


The Pinnacle PCTV HD product line includes PCI cards and USB Sticks for PCs, and the Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Stick -- and all supporting HDTV.

- The base PCTV HD Stick records in MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats, from both analog (NTSC) and digital (ATSC) TV ($79.99).

- The PCTV HD Pro Stick adds an AV adapter for capture from external analog sources, plus recording to MPEG-4, DivX, and direct-to-iPod or PSP formats ($99.99). It also includes a mini remote control.

- And the new PCTV HD Ultimate Stick adds the "Plug-&-Watch" feature to run the application directly from the stick($129.99). It's also hardware-ready for Clear QAM (unencrypted digital cable TV).

A few provisos: While you don't need to install the TV software application, you actually do need to install the required drivers the first time you use the hardware -- a quick operation from the memory on the device. And pushing HD video can still be a big stress on a PC, so Pinnacle recommends a Pentium 4 at 2.6 GHz or equivalent, with Windows XP or Vista. The Ultimate Stick ran great on my test Xeon quad system at 2.6 GHz -- HD TV played easily, using only some 15% of the processor.

See previous article on the Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick (3/2007).

    Find the Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick on Amazon.com

More on using the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick ...



The Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick device is 4 1/4 inches long, with a USB plug at one end and a RCA video connector on the other. It includes a mini telescoping portable antenna for off-air signals, or can be connected directly to a cable TV signal with a coax cable, or includes an A/V input adapter to capture from composite video or S-Video with stereo audio.


The included TVCenter Pro software scans for available channels, analog and digital, SD and HD, plus, as a bonus, it also can play Internet radio. It also works as a digital video recorder, with a program guide, so you can record live or schedule recording, and timeshift recordings. The stick actually includes both a read-only memory with drivers and a re-writable memory area which can record up to 2 hours of SD TV directly to the stick.

The product also includes Pinnacle Studio QuickStart software for basic video editing of your captured clips. Or break out the tiny remote control to enjoy TV on your PC from across the room.

The PCTV HD Ultimate Stick installed easily and ran cleanly on my test system. It did have problems trying to tune to weak digital channels -- freezing on the last channel or displaying an error. Exiting the application or just tuning to an analog channel cleared the problem, and Pinnacle recommends removing such weak channels from your tuning list.

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This entry posted on October 15, 2007.

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