capsule review

ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0

At a Glance
  • ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0 TV Tuner Model 100703156

ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0
Photograph: Rick Rizner

The $99 ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0 delivers good performance and provides a host of features that make watching and recording television on a PC almost as trouble-free as doing so with a TiVo-style digital video recorder.

The software, simply called TV, has a control panel that looks like something out of an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise; ita??s slick to the point that we mistook the unwieldy volume control as a decorative flourish. Though the control panel takes up more room than it needs to, it's easy to hide.

Nice touches include readily accessible closed-caption and parental-lock features, and a jog/shuttle control for time-shifted video. You can vary the speed of the rewind and fast-forward functions, too. Right-clicking many of the buttons produces menus of more-advanced options.

ATI paid a lot of attention to detail: The tuner automatically plucks extra information such as the channel name and program title from the TV signal. Gemstar's GuidePlus+ TV-listing software is tightly integrated, simplifying the tasks of finding programs and scheduling recordings. A preview window in the schedule displays a currently showing program when you click on its name; low-cost TV tuners we tested that work with TitanTV do not have this feature.

Though no remote control is included, ATI sells its $49 Remote Wonder at half price to owners of the TV Wonder USB 2.0, bringing the combined cost to $124. The Remote Wonder is worth the extra money. For one, because it communicates with its receiver via radio frequency, the Remote Wonder doesn't have to be in line of sight with its receiver as infrared remotes do. This increases the distance from which you can send commands (we were able to change channels from another room). The remote comes with ATI's EazyLook software, which defaults to full-screen viewing and adds enough polish to the TV and time-shifting features to make you forget you're not watching a real TV set.

The TV Wonder performed well on tasks where a couple of other tuners stumbled. Most notably, when we time-shifted video at high-quality settings, the image quality did not degrade.

Other than a four-step diagram printed on the back of the box, ATI supplies no printed documentation--but you won't need it. The small, lightweight device is easy to install, and you'll be up and running in no time. The TV Wonder USB 2.0 lacks extras found in some other products, such as an FM tuner and software for editing video and burning DVDs. But it performs its core functions so well that it's still a great value.

Impressive features for a reasonable price make this USB tuner a top candidate for putting TV on your PC.

Emru Townsend

This story, "ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0 TV Tuner Model 100703156

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