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NBA action in HD, it's fantastic

If you're hooked on professional basketball in HD, there's another way to catch all the action without upgrading your TV or cable box. I've reviewed two kits that let you watch and record digital over-the-air HDTV no matter where you are.

Matt Elliott Contributor
Matt Elliott, a technology writer for more than a decade, is a PC tester and Mac user based in New Hampshire.
Matt Elliott
2 min read

I haven't watched more than two minutes of NBA basketball--playoffs not included--since Michael Jordan retired (that'd be the second of his three retirements, in 1998). Then I got a HDTV last year and suddenly found myself tuning in for entire halves of meaningless regular season games--three-quarters of the game if Steve Nash was involved.

If you're hooked on high-definition professional basketball, there's another way to catch all the action without upgrading your TV or cable box. Throw a $99 tuner/antenna kit in your laptop bag and you can watch over-the-air HDTV no matter where you are--at home, in the office, or even while stranded at Chicago O'Hare during a brutally long layover. The time spent loitering at the gate might pass quicker if you could watch LeBron James battle the Big Fundamental in the NBA Finals on your laptop.

I've recently reviewed two external TV tuner/antenna kits that let you watch and record digital over-the-air TV--including HD--on your laptop. I recommend the Plextor PX-HDTV500U over the AVerTV Hybrid Ultra USB because: 1) its antenna is bigger and better able to receive OTA signals, 2) its tuner is smaller and more portable, and most importantly, 3) it's cheaper.

The Plextor kit on the right features a winning combination of a larger antenna and a smaller tuner. CNET Networks

Both tuners work with Microsoft Media Center, which provides a simple setup (it will download a program guide for your area and scan for available stations) and an attractive interface for navigating and managing media. The Plextor tuner bundles some second-rate software that will suffice should you have a version of Windows that doesn't include the Media Center shell. For its part, the AVerTV tuner supplies extras such as S-video and composite video ports and a FM radio tuner, which together were less important to me than better OTA HDTV reception.

One caveat: over-the-air reception varies. The only channel I was able to pick up in southern New Hampshire was ABC HD--home to the NBA Finals--with the Plextor antenna. The tiny antenna--possibly a last-minute add to the AVerTV kit, as it's not mentioned in any of the setup materials--wasn't able to pick up a signal. You'll probably have better luck in larger markets; this CEA site lets you know which analog and digital stations are in your area.