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Transcend TV-Box USB 2.0 TV Tuner - Page 3 0f 3
Posted: June 14, 2004
Author: Jason Kohrs
Manufacturer: Transcend
Source: Transcend

Testing / Use (continued):

The still image capture quality is best detailed through examples. The following images are unedited files as snapped by the TV-Box. They appear a bit grainy to me, which was surprising since the live images were far sharper and a bit more vibrant. The quality may be hampered by motion blur, but I didn't pick any high action shows specifically to compensate for that.

Some CNN coverage of Reagan's funeral and Uma Thurman on MTV...

Click Image for Larger View Click Image for Larger View

Some Cartoon Network action (the best quality capture in my opinion) and Will Ferrell as Anchorman Ron Burgundy...

Click Image for Larger View Click Image for Larger View

The video capture testing was the most involved, and of most interest to me. The playback is easy... recording is the hard part. Recording seems to be the weak link in TV tuner technology, but it isn't all the tuner's fault. The hard drive, memory, and processor all come into play while trying to create a quality recording where the audio and video stay in sync, and the playback is at least as good as, if not better than a VHS recording. I'd prefer much higher quality than VHS, but historically speaking, I've learned to be reasonable.

The basics of testing involved capturing 5 minute clips from the same channel using various settings and comparing them to each other, as well as to those captured by the Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 XP on the same channel. I scheduled the TV-Box to record the 5 minute clips to an empty partition on my RAID array in Good, Better, and Best modes, as well as set to a custom profile based on NTSC DVD mode. The Leadtek tuner recorded the same way, and it was set to use three common profiles I have used over the years. Full details of the recording profiles are visible in the table below, as well as some basics on my conclusions...


The first few columns may be self explanatory, but the last two are a bit subjective and may need some clarification. The "Video Quality" and "Audio Quality" columns feature rankings based on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best. All of the numbers are my impressions of the performance as compared to the original source, as well as to each other.

All recordings featured the same audio profile, and the resulting sound reflected this... They were all very clear, but with a faint hiss, and a bit of emphasis placed on the higher frequencies (which was easily remedied through the sound card's eqaulizer). The Leadtek card lost a bit of ground on audio performance at certain settings, as the sound seemed to be a bit weak across the board. Overall, I was very impressed with the audio portion of the TV-Box recordings!

The Good and Better modes both record at 320x240, so a small file is created, but so is a small image. The image looked great though, and even when stretched larger than its intended size it looked surprisingly sharp. I have to agree with the nomenclature when choosing Best to describe the next mode... It truly was! The image quality was excellent, and even when played fullscreen at 1024x768 on my 17" TFT LCD monitor, it looked better than I could have anticipated. The Best mode records at 640x480, and the file size jumps up in line with this change. As compared to similar files from the Leadtek tuner, they are considerably larger (but nothing compared to what that MPEG-1 recording did on the Leadtek).

The DVD NTSC format capture was the only source of disappointment during video capture. Not to say the image didn't look great, it did, but this was the only format where the video in the recording was out of sync with the audio. The audio was still as good as on the other tests, but a minute or so into the recording and the sync was off by about a 1/2 second already. Record for an hour or more and you'll be highly disappointed at trying to play that back.

Conclusion:

Overall, I am highly impressed with the Transcend TV-Box USB 2.0 TV Tuner. My experience with the Leadtek Winfast TV 2000 XP Deluxe had set the bar fairly high for TV tuners, and I was not convinced that an external device could compete with its performance. The TV-Box USB 2.0 matched the performance of the Leadtek tuner, and does so while providing extra benefits such as a simpler installation, flexibility for easy sharing between multiple systems, and the ability to be used on laptop computers.

The points scored for performance and convenience are bolstered by the price... One can be purchased directly from Transcend for $75 US, or a search of PriceGrabber shows that our friends at Newegg also carry them for $55 US (prices as of the posting date of this review). Considering a PCI card TV tuner will cost $40 or more ($42 for the Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 XP Deluxe), a few more dollars buys equal performance and greater flexibility. Not only does the price of the TV-Box USB 2.0 compare well with PCI based tuners, it is very attractive when compared to other external USB TV tuners.

For its impressive performance, simple installation, and competitive pricing, I award the Transcend TV-Box USB 2.0 TV Tuner 4.5 out of 5 stars... "Readily Recommended"!

Final Rating (4.5 out of 5 stars):


Pros:

Impressive audio and video during TV viewing
Captures done in "Best" mode truly live up to the name
Convenient remote control
Powered by USB
Featured packed software
Simple installation - plug and play
Compact, attractive device

Cons:

Capture in DVD NTSC mode resulted audio/video synchonization problems
EPG (Electronic Programming Guide) was not functional

Special thanks to Transcend for providing the TV-Box USB 2.0 TV Tuner to BigBruin.Com for review!

Please drop by the BigBruin.Com forum and feel free to discuss this review!

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