Pinnacle PCTV To Go HD Wireless review: Pinnacle PCTV To Go HD Wireless

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Streams sources to any broadband-connected Windows PC in the world; built-in wireless networking support; integration options for Windows Media Center PCs; can accept as many as four A/V inputs (composite, S-Video, RF, and HD component) with pass-through; no host PC or monthly charges required; simultaneous streaming to multiple clients on a LAN; controls many brands of cable and satellite boxes and DVRs; excellent video quality over LAN, decent video quality via the Internet.

The Bad Only compatible with Windows PCs (so far); software and remote control options aren't as polished or thorough as those on the Slingbox; Media Center setup and integration isn't as easy and functional as it should be; recording function and Media Center streaming doesn't work outside a LAN; just one audio input for three inputs; monopolizes the attached device during viewing.

The Bottom Line The combination of built-in wireless and limited Windows Media Center integration makes the Pinnacle PCTV To Go HD Wireless one of the more promising Slingbox competitors for advanced users.

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Pinnacle

When Monsoon Multimedia released its Hava Wireless HD product in 2006, the company made no attempt to hide the fact that it was largely a "proof of concept" device. In other words, they were highly interested in licensing the product to a larger company with better brand recognition. Flash forward a few months, and that's now happened: the Pinnacle PC To Go Wireless HD is essentially a clone of the Hava Wireless HD, and--as such--performs identically to its doppelganger. But the release of the Pinnacle gave us a chance to see how the product has evolved over the past few months thanks to software and firmware upgrades. We also got our first chance to test its Media Center functionality with Windows Vista.

Like the Slingbox, the Pinnacle PCTV To Go Wireless HD's primary mission is to deliver your home TV programming to your PC screen--whether it's elsewhere on the home network, or anywhere on the Internet. But PCTV To Go manages a few distinguishing characteristics from the Slingbox line. First and foremost, it has a built-in 802.11g wireless capability, so it can interface with any existing wireless or Ethernet network (Slingbox is Ethernet-only). Secondly, it integrates with a PC running Windows Media Center Edition (either the XP or Vista Premium/Ultimate flavors), allowing you to record live streaming video on your PC when you're streaming inside your home (a standalone PC viewing application is provided for non-MCE machines). And finally, the Pinnacle allows multicasting, which means that within your home network, several users can watch the stream at the same time while one person watches remotely via the Internet (Slingbox allows only a single viewer at a time).

Design and connectivity
The Pinnacle PCTV To Go Wireless HD has a slightly different enclosure than the Hava Wireless HD. It's jet-black, and actually a bit more attractive and sleek than the Hava. Still, it puts you in the mind of a slightly oversized network router, measuring 2 inches high by 12 inches wide by 7 inches deep. Except for four green status LEDs, the front panel is nondescript. Once the Pinnacle is hooked up and active, it's designed to just sit there and process bits.

The rear panel is jam-packed with more jacks than an average DVD player. There are composite, S-Video, and component inputs, along with one set of stereo audio jacks (red and white RCA connectors) and a screw-type RF input. You can feed as many as four sources to the box, including an unscrambled RF source such as an analog cable feed or an antenna, which takes advantage of the built-in analog TV tuner. But because the composite, S-Video, and component inputs share a single set of audio jacks, you'll need to purchase Y-cable adapters to feed them simultaneously. Likewise, you'll have to have the second and third devices powered off (or muted), or you'll get a mashup of all the simultaneous audio streams. Alternately, you might use the second input as a video-only security camera feed--just plug in your camcorder. (By comparison, the Slingbox Pro has discrete audio inputs for each of its video sources.)


The PCTV To Go HD Wireless can handle multiple video sources, but it's got only a single audio input.

Rounding out the PCTV To Go's rear panel is a connector for the included dual-headed IR blaster, which remotely controls the A/V sources of your choice, such as cable/satellite boxes and DVRs. To interface with your home network, the Pinnacle has both a standard Ethernet port (for wired connections) and dual wireless antennas.

Setup
Setting up the Pinnacle is a two-step process: you need to connect the A/V cables to the video source(s), then connect it to your network, which involves installing the included software on a PC. Linking up with your home theater components is just as straightforward as hooking up a VCR or a DVD recorder. We appreciated the pass-through outputs, which let the PCTV To Go sit innocuously in the chain between our cable box and the A/V receiver without the need for splitters or monopolizing precious video outputs. Of course, as with any place-shifting box, the A/V source you connect to the Pinnacle will determine how much you'll get out of it. A cable or satellite set-top box will let you watch all those channels on your PC, but a TiVo-style digital video recorder will provide the added value of accessing those great DVR features--pausing and rewinding live TV, watching previously recorded shows--remotely.


The IR blaster lets the PCTV remotely control most home A/V devices, such as cable/satellite boxes, DVRs, and DVD players.

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Where to Buy See All

Pinnacle PCTV To Go HD Wireless

Part Number: 230100169
MSRP: $249.99 Low Price: $149.98 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Connectivity Protocols IEEE 802.3u (Fast Ethernet)
  • Functionality digital audio broadcasting
  • Type digital multimedia broadcaster
About The Author

John P. Falcone is the executive editor of CNET Reviews, where he coordinates a group of more than 20 editors and writers based in New York and San Francisco as they cover the latest and greatest products in consumer technology. He's been a CNET editor since 2003.