TweakTown

GIGABYTE GT-U8000-RH digital TV Tuner

Today we check out the GIGABYTE U8000-RH USB digital TV Tuner and see how it goes at adding TV capabilities to your PC.
Published Sun, Aug 12 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Producer / Publisher: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Techy Stuff

Introduction and Techy StuffGIGABYTE is well know for manufacturing a wide range of computer accessories such as motherboards, graphics cards and cases, not to forget that it also manufactures notebooks and mobile phones.However, it's not so well know for making other computer peripherals and today TweakTown is taking a closer look at one of its first USB TV tuners, the GT-U8000-RH, or simply the U8000 for our purposes.
This is a Hybrid tuner, which means that it can tune in both analogue and digital DVB-T TV programs. GIGABYTE also has a digital only version, the U7000, which is a physically smaller model. Both models are based on a Dibcom chipset and if this doesn't say anything to you, then what you should know is that this is one of the best DVB-T chipsets on the market for PC applications.It allows for the device that's it's based on to be used on the move, in fact it should work in speeds up to 100km/h (or a little over 60miles/h), so you could in reality use this in your car or onboard most trains which is connected to whatever mobile device you are using that includes a USB port and supported operating system (Windows XP and Vista - both 32-bit and 64-bit versions).
The U8000 also has a Conexant chip for the analogue part and it's compatible with PAL, NTSC and SECAM and works with terrestrial as well as cable TV signals. GIGABYTE has a very thorough design for these USB tuners and has even fitted heatsinks internally to reduce the temperature of the chips during use.The little black square you can see on the picture above next to the heatsinks is an IR receiver for the remote control. We've tested other brand TV tuners in the past and they do generate a lot of heat - it's good to see that GIGABYTE has taken this into consideration and take stability and long life seriously.But enough about the technical specifications, let's take a closer look at what you get for your money.

In the Box

In the BoxGIGABYTE has done a great job with the packaging - it looks very professional and it's something you'd easily spot if it was on a shop shelf.In the box you'll find apart form the USB TV dongle, an antenna, two antenna adaptors, a remote, a small USB extension cable, a quick install manual and a drivers CD which also comes with CyberLink PowerCinema, as an added bonus.

Click for a larger version

The reason for two different antenna adaptors is because of different connectors being used in different parts of the world. The screw on type is also for use with cable TV and you have to swap them depending on what you want to use the U8000 with. Maybe not as convenient as using a larger dongle, but it looks better in practicality. Having the IR receiver for the remote integrated is clever, but it will prevent you from using the remote if you plug the U8000 into the back of your PC where the IR signal of course will not reach. It does work in some instances if you have a wall behind the computer to reflect the signal off though. The remote can also be used to control various functions in Windows, which is a neat touch.The supplied antenna looks like your average Wi-Fi bundle antenna that is supplied with a lot of motherboards that comes with a Wi-Fi card at first look, but luckily it's not. Although we didn't realise it at first, it actually extends just like most radio antennas do and the built quality is very sturdy. Another neat feature is the fact that it has a magnetic stand which means that it's easy to attach to something magnetic.
All in all a pretty good bundle and it's hard to find any faults with the U8000 so far, but let's move on to the all important usage part to see what this thing can really do.

Software and Usage

Software and UsageWell, we're not going to describe how to use CyberLink PowerCinema here, as it's a fairly standard app and it looks similar to Windows Media Center Edition. It's not the full on version, as if you want to watch DVD's, then you have to upgrade.The supplied version only allows for TV, Radio and recorded video content to be watched but that is fine for what the U8000 was designed for. This is quite understandable, as there are licence fees to be paid for the extra features.In general PowerCinema is a pretty straight forward to use package, although we're not sure if it was because of the tuner or the software, but changing channels felt really slow, especially on DVB-T.Tuning is done automatically, but we had major problems getting digital reception in the area were we where at the time of testing, although placing the antenna horizontally seemed to fix the problem oddly enough. Your mileage will vary but of course you would want to make sure you are using this device in an area with good TV reception or you may not have much luck.
As you can see from the screenshots, digital reception was excellent and the U8000 also supports EPG or Electronic Program Guides. You can select to record programs from the EPG and the U8000 also allows for time shift recording.
Analogue picture quality from a cable TV signal was sufficiently good, although we don't have any screen shots from it here. It wasn't as good as the digital channels, but all of the cable TV channels got tuned in and there's an option to sort them automatically in PowerCinema.
Apart from the channel selection slowdown issues, the U8000 did a pretty good job and both picture and audio quality was among the best we've seen from USB DVB-T tuners so far.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsAs a first product, GIGABYTE has done a pretty good job with the U8000 and if you're not interested in analogue TV, then the U7000 is a cheaper alternative. It lacks some features such as video capture, but it keeps down the cost and reduces the clutter and the otherwise clumsy dongles you get with USB TV tuners.The whole package is nicely put together and at around $90 AUD (the U7000 is even cheaper at around $66 AUD) it's not a bad price either for what you get. There are some other limitations such as line of sight for the remote control and we're not huge fans of the little plastic nipple type remotes, but we're not really going to complain, as most cheap USB TV tuners don't come with a remote at all.If you're already running Windows MCE, you'll be happy to know that GIGABYTE supplies compatible drivers in the box as well, but these are only for the XP version. There's really is very little to complain about here for the price and hopefully GIGABYTE will continue to produce equally impressive peripherals in the future.It gets our recommendation if you're looking at adding TV to your PC or notebook, no problems at all!- ProsGreat pricingEase of installation and useHeatsink inside to control thermal issuesBundle including PowerCinema and remote controlWorks in the car up to 100km/hDriver support for Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit) - ConsSlightly difficult to get good reception (could be our test location)A little slow when changing channelsLacks video inputsRating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Value Award!

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