At 6.25 inches square, the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2 has a big footprint for an external USB TV tuner. Like the , it retails for $149 and includes a remote control. Along with the Diamond, it offers the best image quality of the bunch, but it doesn't include A/V cables, so you'll have to supply your own to hook up a video signal.
The front panel contains stereo audio inputs and composite-video and S-Video inputs. Two coaxial connectors (TV and FM radio) are located on the back panel along with a USB 2.0 port and a power connector. The unit comes with a USB cable and an FM antenna, but no other A/V cables are included in the box. The Diamond XtremeTV PVR600 matches the Hauppauge's image quality, but it has cables. The included Hauppauge remote control works with an internal IR sensor to change channels, pause, rewind, fast-forward, and record, but it does not control your set-top box. For that, you'll need an IR blaster, which isn't included.
Installation of the WinTV-PVR-USB2 is straightforward, and all connections are clearly marked, so there's no confusion as to which cable goes where. The installation disc includes Hauppauge's WinTV software for watching, pausing, and recording live TV and Ulead's MovieFactory 2 DVD-authoring program. The WinTV program integrates with TitanTV's EPG (Electronic Program Guide) for advanced program scheduling. Hauppauge's proprietary software works fine, but other programs, such as are more intuitive.
Like the Diamond XtremeTV, the WinTV-PVR-USB2's TV tuner performed admirably. Some of the stations showed minor background noise and artifacts, and there was the usual image softness that is prevalent in all PC tuner cards, but the overall viewing experience was very good.
We experienced an annoying delay in changing channels on some tuners such as the , but not so with the WinTV-PVR-USB2. What did annoy us was the varying degrees of audio squelching that occasionally occurred when we switched channels, which distracts from a pleasant TV viewing experience, especially if you have the volume cranked up. Recorded programs looked as good as the original signal, and the unit did a great job of rendering a direct video signal from our set-top DVD player, delivering clean audio and video.
The FM tuner, however, was weak and had trouble locking in on local stations. We suggest using an externally mounted antenna if you plan to listen to FM radio through your computer.