For many, the desire to have TV capabilities on the PC is great. But there can be a lot of compatibility problems when using an internal TV tuner device. Come join Mike "Darthtanion" Wright as he takes a look at the Prolink PlayTV Box which eliminates these compatibility issues once and for all. Could it be that this is just the ticket? Come see for yourself!
IntroductionBy now, most folks have heard of Prolink. They are a Taiwanese company that specializes in multimedia, graphics and displays. Born in 1989, they have come up with several products that serve the desires of those looking for that little extra something to make their systems unique. Whether you're looking for a graphics card based on the latest nVidia GPU or a flat panel monitor, the folks at Prolink can help you out.And keeping with the tradition of providing that little difference to set you apart, we have as today's contestant the PixelView PlayTV Box. As the name suggests, it serves as a means of getting a TV signal onto your monitor, but we'll leave the wherefores and whatnots for a bit later on.So sit back and come check out the latest gadgetry offered by Prolink. If you happen to be one of those looking for something special, it may be just what the doctor ordered.
PlayTV Box - Specifications
SpecificationsHere we go again, starting off with those dreaded facts and figures. But we'll go ahead and stick with the old adage that the more information on a new product, the better. So without further ado, we're off.Hardware SpecificationsInput- TV Input: Coaxial (RF)- Composite video with separate audio input- S-Video with separate audio input- VGA 15-pin inputOutput- VGA 15-pin RGB output- Stereo sound audio outputDimensions- Base unit: 20cm x 16cm x 4.6cm- Remote unit: 16.6cm x 4.8cm x 2.5cmWeight- Base unit: 660 grams- Remote unit: 45 gramsFeatures- De-interlace function- Full-channels TV tuner, including broadcast and cable TV- Easy to connect and use without any OS compatibility issue or hardware performance limitations- Output resolution up to XGA (1024x768)- Saturation/Contrast/Hue/Brightness adjustments- Supports composite video & S-Video input for VCR, VCD, DVD, camcorder or TV games (PS2/XBOX)- 700 billion operations per second- IR receiver input built-in for infrared remote control- On Screen Display (OSD)- Supports channel auto scan- Auto detect external source signal for PAL/NTSC/SECAM- NICAM/EIA-J/BTSC dbx support (optional)- Teletext (optional)
PlayTV Box - Description/Contents
What Is a PlayTV Box?
To begin with, I would like to state that the purpose of this device is to let you watch TV on your CRT type monitor. If you read through the specifications on the last page (you did read them, didn't you?), then you saw a little blurb about the device requiring no operation and compatibility with the operating system on your machine. That's right, this device runs completely independent of the system OS. There have been some complaints in the past with small problems cropping up when using an internal tuner card, so these issues have been addressed by making the entire setup external.But why would anyone really want to have something like this anyway?There are any number of situations where something like this would be handy, but let me bring up a simple one that happens to apply to me. I happen to be married with an eight year old running rampant through the house all the time. Since we don't believe in having televisions in every room of the house, the living room generally has cartoons or some such thing playing on the television set. One can only put up with so much Scooby Doo before going nuts, so I can leave the munchkin to her devices while I go into the back room and watch some sports on the PC.Now that we have covered What the PlayTV Box is for and Why it can be useful, lets take a peek at the components necessary to pull off this concept of an independent TV on the computer.What You Get
Before we delve into the guts of this rig, I wanted to take a moment and mention the fact that there are some folks out there who realize that delivery services don't care about your packages. When this package arrived at my door, I opened it up and noticed right off that the box had been mishandled pretty badly. But thanks to a little planning on the part of the folks at Prolink, everything within the box was still in great shape. All major components are individually wrapped in bubble wrap to make sure that you get a working unit when it arrives to you. Sometimes it is these small things that can really make a difference.
What you end up with once everything is out of the box should have you well on the way to TV freedom. You get the main external unit, power adaptor, all necessary cables, a manual and a remote control. And remember when I talked about the small things making a difference? Well they even provide batteries for the remote. In this day and age, that is nearly unheard of!
Beginning with the main unit, the front only has a power switch and some lights that show the current mode of operation. The back, however, has a plethora of connections that should handle all functions nicely. It has a standard coaxial cable connection to allow an external antenna to be attached to the unit. In my case, I hooked it up to cable TV. You also have input connections for either Composite Video or S-Video, and also stereo input jacks for both. Also present is a stereo output jack and 15-pin connectors for input and output of video. This allows you to use this external box as a pass-through from the PC to the monitor.
With all of the jacks available on the back of the unit, it is a good idea to have the cabling necessary to hook all of this stuff up. Fortunately, all cables are included with the package. You have an S-Video cable, a Composite Video cable, sound cables, the power adaptor and a cable to hook up between the PC and the unit. Since the monitor will also hook up to the box, this should fill all the holes available except for the speaker out. Sorry, but you'll be on your own for this one.
What would watching TV be like without a remote control unit? Good thing that Prolink decided to add one with this kit so that we don't have to find out. Whew!The remote is pretty standard fare as far as they go. Nothing out of the ordinary, but all the features that will make your channel surfing experience everything that you're used to. It even has a "Recall" button to go back to the most recent channel that you switched from. Can you say Couch Potato?
PlayTV Box - Performance
Does it Work?As stated earlier, the sound will be about the only thing that is not included in this kit. The jack on the back of the unit, however, is a standard RCA type connector so will work nicely with any regular set of headphones or PC speakers. Considering that speakers are about as cheap as you'll ever need, there should be no problems here at all.Now that we have everything hooked up and the unit turned on, all that we need do is turn on the monitor. This can be done by either the button on the unit or the remote. Once it comes up, you can choose between the sources available. You have three modes to work with and they refer to how you have the signal coming in. One for S-Video input, one for Composite Video input and one for the CATV (or satellite or whatever you have for antenna for your TV).What can I say except that it worked just as it should. Picture quality wasn't quite what you will get from a regular television set, but the picture degradation was very minimal. It was far better than most internal TV tuner cards that transfer the incoming signal to .mpeg format before displaying. Here are a couple of pictures that I took of the output:
I'd like to apologize for the picture quality, but it can be difficult to capture a good digital photo of a display screen. The slight blurring you see in the second picture was due to not using a flash and the shutter staying open a bit longer on the camera. It was not present on the actual screen when I was watching. Since there is no interaction between the picture and the computer, normal screen captures were out of the question.One other item of note is the On Screen Display. It allows you to adjust color levels to meet your personal tastes. Just hit the "Menu" button on the remote and you'll have the option of adjusting things so that they are just the way you like them.And finally, since I am the inquisitive type, I decided to see what would happen in the event that you were working on the PC and the power got turned on to the tuner. You'll be happy to note that it just lets the system continue running in the background while the TV tuner takes over and works like normal. When you power down the tuner, your desktop comes back just like you left it. Nothing goes crazy and all functions work normally.
PlayTV Box - Conclusion
ConclusionWhile this might not be a device that everyone will be interested in, for those who want the ability to have their monitor to display TV output, it works wonderfully. It gives a very reasonable image quality that doesn't have that scratchy appearance that is put out by most internal tuners. It also accepted all cable channels I had available with no problems at all. And best of all, it won't interfere with the OS in any way.But if you want the ability to do image captures or record a show that is playing, then you'll be out of luck with this model. You'll need to look elsewhere for a device that allows this capability, but it will likely come at the cost of reduced image quality.Another nice feature is the ability to hook up other devices to it. If you have a movie you want to watch on VHS, then just hook up your VCR to the back of the box and you're set. Camcorder got something of interest? Hook it up. If it has either Composite or S-Video output, it will work with the PlayTV Box.Bottom line... If you've been looking for a means to watch TV on the PC but don't want it to interfere with your system, then you have found what you've been searching for. If you plan on recording, however, you'll want to look elsewhere.- ProsEasy to hook upNo compatibility problems with OSAccepts most standard video devicesOutput to any device with VGA compatibility- ConsSlight image degradationNo capture abilitiesRating - 9/10
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