The $99 Plextor ConvertX PVR PX-TV100U is a no-hassle, no-frills solution for inputting a TV signal to your PC. The slim package includes a pocket-size USB box, the requisite cables, and "lite" versions of SageTV and Ulead VideoStudio. Despite so-so image quality, it's still a good value if you want to watch and record TV on your PC for minimal effort and cost. It's certainly cheaper than buying or building a Media Center PC, and it's easier to install than an internal TV tuner card.
The PX-TV100U features stereo audio-in jacks and composite-video and S-Video input jacks on the front panel. Although the connections are color-coded, the labeling is the same color as the panel bezel and is almost impossible to read. On the rear panel, there's a coaxial jack for the cable TV input.
Composite audio and video cables are included, along with a USB cable, but unlike with the and models, you don't get a remote control. Bundled software includes SageTV Lite, Ulead's VideoStudio 8 SE DVD, and a 21-day trial version of SnapStream's Beyond TV DVR application.
The PX-TV100U was easy to install, although we had to tinker with the SageTV application before we could get it to work correctly. A watered-down version of SageTV Media Center software, SageTV Lite, contains only DVR functions, an EPG (Electronic Programming Guide), and a 3-day advanced-programming limit (the $79.99 full version has 14-day programming capabilities). Also missing from this version are the photo and music management features found in the premium package.
The included Ulead VideoStudio 8 SE DVD is a simple video-editing and DVD-authoring program that works fine for basic editing and DVD burning. It includes templates and simple wizards for common tasks. Where we started to lose our fondness for the ConvertX PVR PX-TV100U was, unfortunately, with its primary task of displaying a TV picture. We weren't thrilled with the tuner's performance. There was a significant amount of background noise on many channels, although some stations were worse than others. The pause when changing channels was uncomfortably long, a frequent problem with TV tuners. The unit does not take kindly to the presence of other USB devices; the TV picture froze momentarily whenever we moved our USB mouse. We replaced the mouse with an older serial version and the problem went away, but it returned again with a completely different USB mouse. For $50 more, you can upgrade to either the Diamond Xtreme TV PVR600 or the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2, which both offer better performance.
Recorded-program image quality was nearly identical to that of the original live feed, but scrolling text appeared especially fuzzy on the recorded programs. The ConvertX did, however, produce good results from a direct video signal sent using a set-top DVD player through the unit's S-Video port.