Pinnacle PCTV Pro TV and FM tuner card

Recently, there seems to have been an influx of computer TV tuner cards hitting the market that also have FM radio tuning capabilities. In July we reviewed the LifeView FlyVideo 3000 and this month we tested the Pinnacle PCTV Pro, a card that allows you to watch TV and listen to stereo FM radio on your PC, while you use other applications.

With the well-integrated bundled Pinnacle PCTV Vision software, you can record FM radio in both MP3 and WMA formats. Additionally, video and still images can be captured from the TV or from external sources such as a video camera, VCR or DVD player. Video compression/saving formats include MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and DV. Format presets such as VCD and DVD are also available, which means recorded video can easily be prepared for burning to a CD or DVD.

In addition to the usual on-screen display capabilities found on these cards, the PCTV Vision software features a handy recording scheduler and some nifty time-shifting abilities that allow you to pause, or replay, at the same time as recording a live show. I also particularly liked PCTV Vision's channel surf facility, which takes a snapshot of each channel in real time and displays a thumbnail wall, which you can then click on to switch to the selected channel. Teletext can be viewed with the bundled WebText software, which also incorporates Internet search functions. Other utility software includes T-REX for converting multimedia files and a trial version of Pinnacle Studio 7 for video editing. If you think the PCTV Pro would have been a great PC addition during the recent World Cup, you'll be pleased that Pinnacle also bundles a copy of Electronic Arts' FIFA 2001 soccer game. Perhaps you can relive the excitement all over again, with you as the soccer star!

The PCI card itself features FM and TV aerial connectors, a 3.5mm audio-out jack (a small audio cable is supplied with which you can externally patch into your sound card's line-in) as well as both Composite (RCA) and S-Video ports. The PCTV Pro includes a remote control (batteries included) that gives access to TV, Teletext and video recorder functions.

Brief fold-out setup instructions are provided for Windows 98/Me/2000/XP. Hardware and software driver installation took approximately 10 minutes. The remote control receiver plugs into an available serial port and, after you restart your PC, the PCTV setup assistant will test the PC's readiness. After ensuring the cable from the roof antenna is plugged into the aerial connector, getting PCTV Vision to scan for all available FM radio and TV signals takes three to four minutes and the channel names are automatically assigned. At $225, the Pinnacle PCTV Pro is an attractive way to get both TV and radio on your PC.

In brief:Pinnacle PCTV Pro

This PCI TV and stereo FM radio tuner card also acts as a digital recorder, with teletext and time-shifting capabilities to boot. It includes a functional remote control and well-integrated software designed to work on Windows 98/Me/2000/XP.

Distributor: Pineapplehead.

Price: $225.

Phone: (03) 9852 7444.