At a Glance
The Hauppauge WinTV-PVR USB2, one of the largest USB tuners we've seen, costs $140. But big size does have some advantages: There's enough room to clearly label each connector, further simplifying an already simple setup. The inputs you're most likely to fiddle with--composite and S-Video--are on the front of the box.
Configuring the WinTV software is straightforward, and you can fine-tune a channel's frequency after setup, in case the automatic scan doesn't quite lock onto the channel properly.
The WinTV tuner software is fairly compact on screen. The controls run along two strips: one on the left of the interface and the other along the bottom, leaving considerable room for the TV image. You can hide or redisplay the control strips instantly by right-clicking anywhere on the TV image. DVR and recording controls remain hidden until you activate them. Some of the buttons are very tiny, especially in the time-shift and recording control panels.
Curiously, the remote control isn't particularly user-friendly. Five of the buttons on the remote control are unlabeled, and two of them seem to do nothing. It would have made sense to assign one of them to manage the software's Surf feature, which displays thumbnails of current programming on all available channels, but this function isn't accessible from the remote. Adding to the confusion (which the abbreviated documentation didn't help resolve), some buttons operate differently depending on whether you're watching live or time-shifted TV.
When time-shifting video at high quality settings, the WinTV-PVR-USB2's image quality did not degrade. The WinTV software integrates with the TitanTV electronic program guide so you can schedule recordings in the EPG.
Unlike Hauppauge's $99 WinTV-PVR-150 tuner card, the WinTV-PVR-USB2 lacks an infrared blaster for sending channel-changing commands to a set-top box. The WinTV-PVR USB2 comes with Ulead DVD MovieFactory 2 SE, for burning recorded programs to DVD or CD. In contrast, the WinTV-PVR-150 includes a newer version of the same software--Ulead DVD MovieFactory 3 SE--plus Nanocosmos NanoPEG Editor 2.3 for editing MPEG files. With both Hauppauge products, the WinTV software made capturing and managing still images extremely easy.
The USB device offers one thing that its PCI cousin lacks: an FM tuner. Using a coaxial input, the FM radio tuner can receive radio transmissions over the included antenna.
The WinTV-PVR-USB2 is a capable device, but if you have an available PCI slot and don't need the FM tuner, the WinTV-PVR-150 is a better deal.