Compro's miniature VideoMate U3 digital TV tuner plugs into a USB 2.0 port and allows you to watch High-Definition (HD) and Standard-Definition (SD) programs on your PC or notebook. It's about the same size as a cigarette lighter and its case is made from aluminium. This appears to act as a heat sink for the Broadcom decoder chip that it houses, as the case warms up to about 34 degrees when the device is in use.
A tiny antenna jack on the unit lets you attach the supplied portable antenna (which seems to only pick up SBS in Sydney, poorly) or a cable from a roof-mounted antenna, using the supplied adapter plug.
Through a roof-mounted antenna, the U3 displays SD and HD pictures beautifully and its playback and recording performance was smooth and did not suffer from lip-synchronisation problems during testing.
We used the latest downloadable version of ComproDTV software (version 18.104.22.168) for testing, which supports a couple of new features:
picture-in-picture (PIP) allows you to watch live TV as well as a previously recorded file simultaneously and Video Wallpaper allows you to use digital TV as your desktop background.
PIP worked well with SD programs, but watching two HD-quality programs at once caused our CPU usage to soar to over 90 per cent and left our PC slow to respond to commands. We hope the PIP feature will be able to work with dual U3 tuners in the near future.
Watching SD and HD channels in normal mode will use up around 20 per cent and 50 per cent of the CPU respectively, so it's best to have at least a 2GHz PC or a Pentium M-class notebook to avoid system slow-down.
VERDICT: Overall, this is a hot little device for watching digital TV on your notebook or PC and it's definitely recommended if you want an unobtrusive external device.
SPECIFICATIONS: USB 2.0; Standard-Definition; High-Definition; timeshifting; recording scheduler; picture-in-picture; BDA drivers.