|ASUS My Cinema-U3100Mini HDTV Tuner|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Accessories|
|Written by Mathew Thompson - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 16 January 2009|
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HDTV Tuner Final Thoughts
The ASUS My Cinema U3100Mini is a very small and capable TV tuner for digital video. Considering the impending change to ATSC next month, such a device will be necessary for TV watching on your computer or a complete HTPC or computer DVR.
The device functions well on a computer that's fast enough, providing nice, clear digital video. Lower power computers can easily decode and watch SD material (480i/p and 576i/p), but will falter a bit on HD content. As such, it's important to check if the computer in question is able to decode HD mpeg-2 video in real time. I recommend finding a few HD mpeg-2 video clips (both 720p at 60fps or 1080i at 30fps) to determine if the computer in question is capable of displaying the video properly.
At $50-$60, it's at about the same price as its competition. I also liked the ArcSoft TotalMedia software that came with the tuner. However, there's a wealth of free and open source software available for use as well as Windows Media Center, which is included in Home versions of Vista. For the frequent TV watcher, the value of such a TV tuner is invaluable, especially considering the ease at which it can be used as a DVR. Its performance is quite good, but any user who wishes to use this on a computer and leave it in place must purchase and use a quality antenna with the device. The included antenna is decent for travel considering its size, but is not adequate enough for all channels.
The ASUS My Cinema U3100Mini comes with everything that is needed for installation and use of digital TV broadcasts on your computer. However, the instruction manuals are quite lackluster. Fortunately, drivers are available for download for XP, Vista 32-bit and 64-bit and Linux.
The U3100Mini itself is a nice looking device sporting the all-white look that became popular as of late. The green light indicating activity turns on showing activity is a nice touch. Its low-profile size makes it easy to hide should the look or light be irrelevant to your TV watching.
The U3100Mini is slightly heavier than a typical USB flash drive. The antenna or coaxial input connects via a small plug that looks like an AC adapter tip. The small size looks like it can break easily, though it connects fairly snug.
The U3100Mini itself performed as it was supposed to as a ATSC and QAM tuner. Picture came in clearly with no real video defects or problems. The included antenna was rather lackluster providing subpar reception for many stations, necessitating a larger antenna.
The U3100Mini can be had for $50-$60 from various retailers, which puts it at about the same price as other USB ATSC/QAM TV tuner devices giving it a moderate value. As of July 2009, NewEgg lists the ASUS My Cinema-U3100Mini for $49.99. As an accessory for an HTPC, it's invaluable for the frequent TV watcher.
+ Supports ATSC and QAM
- Miniature antenna has lackluster reception
Final Score: 8.15 out of 10.
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