Compro Australia Videomate u2700

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Compro Australia Videomate u2700
  • Compro Australia Videomate u2700
  • Compro Australia Videomate u2700
  • Compro Australia Videomate u2700
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Small, external device; Has a video-in port; Can be used on a desktop PC or a notebook

Cons

  • Software interface can be difficult to use and sometimes unreliable; Remote control didn't work during our tests; Poor analogue reception

Bottom Line

All up, the U2700 is a suitable device for watching digital TV on a desktop PC or a notebook, but high definition content will only be viewable on a notebook if it has a powerful CPU. We like this tuner's features, but its software could be improved.

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The Compro VideoMate U2700 is a neat little external TV tuner with a USB 2.0 interface. It can be plugged into a desktop or a notebook PC and it will allow you to watch either analogue or digital TV signals.

Measuring 7.5cm by 5.5cm, it's a small device, and because it connects via USB 2.0, it means you won't have to go under the hood of your PC to install it. We didn't have any problems installing the U2700 on a Windows XP-based PC, nor on a Windows Vista-based PC. We installed the supplied software first, restarted, then plugged in the device using a single USB cable (it doesn't require a separate power cable, but a USB power cable is supplied in the box, just in case). Windows XP and Vista both recognised the device and installed the necessary drivers from the supplied CD.

We tested the U2700 from two locations, one in Sydney's north, and one in Sydney's east. The TV signal in our northern location is weaker than the signal in the east and many digital TV tuners often have trouble picking up all the available channels in this area. The U2700 was no exception. It only picked up SBS from the northern location, but from the eastern location, it picked up all the available channels (SBS, ABC, Ten, Nine and Seven) without a problem. It didn't take long to find all the channels either; our scan for channels was completed in less than a minute.

Compro's DTV 3 is the software interface that allows you to watch digital TV on your computer and, while it does have a few problems with its layout and design, it does also have a few useful features. As well as supporting time-shifting, DTV 3 also lets you record directly to single-layer DVDs (only if you have a DVD burner installed) and it also lets you record entire transport streams (meaning all the sub-channels that a channel broadcasts). For example, when recording an ABC transport stream, you will actually record the ABC, ABC2 and ABC HD channels all at once and then you will be able to switch between them when you play them back.

However, the DTV 3 interface needs to be refined and cleared up a little. It's also a little unreliable as it crashed a couple of times during our tests while we attempted to switch inputs. The DTV 3 control panel also often disappears too quickly when the TV window is in full-screen mode, and it's almost impossible to use as the mouse often submarines under the program window. Indeed, we were only able to easily use the control panel when the TV window wasn't in full-screen mode.

DTV 3 has a streamlined design and most features are hidden in edge-panels that show up by placing the mouse over the program's edges. Luckily, you can pin these panels so that they're always visible. When visible, you will be able to quickly access the configuration menu, enable time-shifting, access the recording scheduler and change the video source.

By changing the video source you can quickly switch to the analogue TV tuner, or to the video-in port. This is one of the smallest units we've seen to have a video in port, and this can be useful for recording programs from a VCR, for example. The quality of the video input was excellent. We were able to record from a VCR without losing any frames. The U2700 displayed images from the VCR smoothly and didn't suffer from audio synchronisation problems. If you're after a solution for archiving your old VHS recordings, this device will do nicely. Unfortunately, store-bought tapes with Macrovision copy-protection aren't viewable.

The analogue TV tuner can be used if you're having trouble getting digital TV channels, but its performance in our tests was terrible. It couldn't display any channels properly in either of our test locations.

Time-shifting needs to be enabled before you can start pausing live TV shows and takes about 10 seconds to initialise (from the time you click the button to enable it). It worked well in our tests with no problems pausing or resuming live TV shows. We could also easily use the slider to swiftly jump back or skip forward to catch up to live programming.

Channel changes were also swift with only a two second delay when switching between channels. it only took about two seconds to switch between channels. Starting a recording wasn't instantaneous as it took about five seconds to start recording from the moment the record button was pressed. As previously mentioned, DTV 3 allows you to record either an entire transport stream, or just the channel you are currently watching, but it also allows you to record directly to a DVD. Recording to a DVD works well for the most part, but sometimes it takes a while to finalise a disc when a recording is stopped.

DTV 3 will only burn to single-layer discs and you can change the recording quality in the program's settings. Using the default 'PAL DVD' setting, we found the DVD recording quality of shows to be slightly worse than the quality of shows recorded to a hard drive. You'll be able to fit around one hour and ten minutes on a single DVD in this mode and you should then be able to watch that disc on any other DVD player. The DVD recording time can be extended to around four and a half hours using the 'PAL 1/4 DVD' setting, but this will noticeably degrade picture quality.

As for its picture quality and system performance, the VideoMate U2700 uses the VMR-9 filter in DirectX 9 in order to render digital TV images. It looks clear and its performance is smooth, but colours did look slightly washed out during our tests.

On an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ based desktop with 2GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce 7800GT-based graphics card, the U2700 used between 18-27 percent of the CPU when displaying standard definition content in full-screen mode. It ate up between 37-51 percent when displaying high definition content.

On a notebook equipped with an Intel Pentium M 1.73GHz CPU, 512MB of RAM and an integrated Intel GMA 900 graphics adapter, the U2700 used between 42-51 percent of the CPU to display standard definition content in full-screen mode. We weren't able to view any high definition content on this notebook, indicating that high definition content won't work unless your notebook has a fast processor (we'd recommend at least an Intel Core Duo).

During regular use, the U2700's aluminium case gets very warm, but it doesn't get too hot to touch. Compro supplies all the cables you need to get it connected (including a USB cable, a USB power cable, S-Video and composite input cables and an antenna cable) and it comes with a remote control. The package doesn't include a remote control receiver, meaning this is built into the U2700, but we couldn't get the remote control to work during our tests.

All up, the U2700 is a suitable device for watching digital TV on a desktop PC or a notebook, but high definition content will only be viewable on a notebook if it has a powerful CPU. We like this tuner's features, but its software could be improved.

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