PCTV records television shows on your hard disk
Ease of installation gives this package the edge over its rivals
By DOUG BEDELL / The Dallas Morning News
Buyers of Pinnacle Systems' PCTV Deluxe will need a high-end Windows machine for the package to work.
Pinnacle's PCTV Deluxe demands a high-end Windows computer, but what it returns in value at $200 is impressive.
Like the similarly priced WinTV-PVR from Hauppauge and Creative Lab's VideoBlaster MovieMaker, PCTV Deluxe turns your computer into a TiVo-like personal video recorder. You can schedule, record and watch as much television programming as your hard drive will hold.
Unlike its competitors, this software and hardware package includes a well-designed remote control and an ease of installation that puts the others to shame.
Pinnacle has created a multifunction, attractive stand-alone unit that can sit anywhere in the room within reach of its USB cable. There's no need to rip into the computer case to install anything.
On a modern computer equipped with USB 2.0, video can be transferred to the screen or hard drive at an impressive 480 megabits per second. Although PCTV Deluxe will function on older USB 1.1 systems, performance glitches arise. The video stream simply can't keep pace with the processor as it compresses images for PVR features such as instant replay and pausing live shows.
Therefore, despite the minimum system requirements printed in the manual, it's best to use this product on a Windows machine with at least 1 gigahertz in processor speed and USB 2.0.
None of the competitors offers the fast data rate transfer found in Pinnacle's PCTV Deluxe. And the design makes it easy to hook up a digital video camera to transfer home movies to your hard drive for editing and storage.
The software package is designed to help you burn CDs and DVDs with any video content, whether home movies or television programming. A full archive of all the Sopranos episodes, for example, can be scheduled and burned to a DVD-writable disk without a lot of clicking and fidgeting.
Most Windows XP Media Center computers being sold for $2,000 don't have similar capabilities. In fact, many, including the HP Media Center line, require third-party software packages to copy video to DVD.
Buying a ReplayTV or Tivo unit costs about the same as the Pinnacle PCTV package, so if you're looking for an entertainment center box, they are still the best option. But for college kids in a dorm room or a PC in a home office, the Pinnacle system makes a lot of sense.
As long as your computer has the horsepower, you won't be disappointed.
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