TV tuners housed in external USB devices have several advantages over their PC Card-based brethren. They're portable, easy to set up, and most importantly, don't require cracking open your computer case to install. The Diamond XtremeTV USB 2.0 is a comprehensive package of software and hardware for users who want to record TV programs on their PCs. The heart of the PVR600 is a USB 2.0 TV tuner box, but the $149 package comes with lots of bundled extras, including USB and S-Video, RCA, and FM antenna cables, plus a remote control. While the device's image quality doesn't match that of the best internal TV tuners, casual viewers will be hard-pressed to spot the differences, and the Diamond XtremeTV offers one of the better software packages we've seen.
The external USB 2.0 box is about the size of a small external hard drive or a paperback book. Its front panel features an illuminated power switch and RCA audio, S-Video, and composite-video inputs. The back panel supplies inputs for a coaxial cable and FM connections, as well as a USB port for connecting the unit to your PC and a DC power input in case you're using the XtremeTV PVR660 with a nonpowered USB port. An IR blaster is not included, but there is small remote receiver in the bundled that you attach to your cable box, allowing you to point your Media Center remote at the cable box instead of the PC. IR blasters are, in realty, a pain to set up and fairly useless, so it's not a big omission.
The bundled remote control is about as thin as a credit card and can control a variety of functions on your PC, including powering down your whole system. The sealed buttons on the remote are an acquired taste and may not appeal to all users.