Big names such as Diamond and Hauppauge dominate the PC TV tuner category, but several small players also make perfectly functional devices. Honest Technology is a good case in point. It positions its $129 My IC-TV Media Center Deluxe differently than do manufacturers of other USB TV tuners we've seen. Rather than selling the hardware and throwing in some multimedia software, Honest Technology makes the My IC-TV Media Center software (available by itself for $99) the main product and includes the USB 2.0 capture device as an extra--you can't get the tuner separately.
The My IC-TV Media Center Deluxe package worked as advertised, and we got it up and running in minutes, viewing our satellite TV feed through a PC. The trouble is, we ended up with a hardware device locked into a software package that lacks the sheen and polish of the Windows Media Center interface. For only $20 more, you can get a more flexible USB TV tuner, such as the Diamond XtremeTV PVR600 or the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2, that works with Windows Media Center and other PC media-management apps such as BeyondTV.
The tuner box itself comes with a remote control and a dongle with S-Video and composite-video connections. The IC-TV software covers most of the bases a media suite should. Besides recording TV programs, it can organize photos, music, and video files. We found the navigation on the clunky side, with necessary options and functions often hidden in menu trees. But once you get the hang of navigating the progam, you can easily move among the various modes. The My IC-TV Media Center Deluxe package provides easy access to content on other computers on your home network. It also lets you transcode movie files to formats such as MPEG-2, making them easier to back up on DVD or VCD.
Recorded video looked slightly softer than the live feed from our cable source, but the quality was acceptable for material from an analog TV tuner--a technology with inherent limitations. The My IC-TV Media Center Deluxe offers two quality settings for recordings, but we saw no discernible difference between them in our testing.