Get a USB TV tuner for $29.99 shipped

This hybrid tuner can turn your PC into an HDTV--and even a DVR if you use the bundled software (or, better yet, Windows Media Center).

This TV tuner-DVR in a box is a steal at $29.99 shipped. Meritline

Update (Dec. 22, 4 p.m. PT): Sorry, folks, the tuner is sold out--at least for now.

For several years I've relied on free over-the-air digital signals to bring high-definition TV into my house. And I've paired those signals with Windows Media Center for free DVR goodness.

The key bit of hardware in that equation is a TV tuner, and right now Meritline has the deal to beat: a Mygica U6012 Hybrid USB TV tuner for $29.99 shipped.

Because this is a "hybrid" tuner, it can pull in the aforementioned over-the-air HD signals (aka ATSC), Clear QAM (digital signals delivered via cable), or analog channels (aka NTSC, also delivered via cable).

Notice I said "or." I think many people mistakenly believe a tuner like this lets them view all of these sources simultaneously (and some of the negative reviews reflect that), but that's not the case.

What you can do, however, at least with software like Windows Media Center, is connect multiple tuners. Thus, you could have one devoted to, say, analog cable, another pulling down ATSC HD, and so on. That's what I do.

And it works beautifully, though over-the-air signal quality depends in large part on where you live and what kind of antenna you use. The Mygica tuner comes with a small set of rabbit ears, which should pull in at least a few local channels--but you may need something bigger or stronger. Read the FAQ on the product page for more details.

Also, be sure to read the info about updated and forthcoming drivers. I'm happy to see that there's one in the works that will allow the bundled remote to work with Windows 7.

In short, if you've been thinking of dipping a toe into the wonderful world of TV on your PC, this is a seriously affordable pool pass. Other hybrid tuners I've seen sell for upwards of $100.

Backup deal: A site called GameBay.com has Lego Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda for Xbox 360 for $13.49 shipped. That's a mighty sweet pair of games for the price.

 

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