Two weeks ago I reported on Pinnacle's new USB ATSC tuner, the PCTV HD mini Stick (opens in new tab). While I haven't had a chance to pick up one of these tuners for testing, Pinnacle was kind enough to send me information on the chips used in the tuner.
Two items differentiate the Mini Stick from other widely distributed USB tuners. The "signal boost" technology—a low-noise amplifier than can be switched out for use in high signal level environments—should improve indoor reception. The other item is the 8-VSB demodulator, a Micronas DRX3933J. This is the first USB ATSC tuner I've seen with a Micronas demodulator.
Broadcasters may remember Rich Citta's paper on his new demodulator design at NAB several years ago. That demodulator and adaptive equalizer, which at the time was too complex for existing chip technology, was able to not only cancel multipath, but used the multipath signals to allow reception even when the main signal's SNR was less than 15 dB. The tuner is the NXP TDA18271HD. NXP introduced this tuner in 2006. It is a single conversion tuner with integrated RF tracking filters and a typical noise figure of 5.5 dB. Devin Heitmueller, who created the patch that allows the Pinnacle HD Pro Stick to work in Linux is willing to work on Linux support for the Pinnacle PCTV HD mini Stick if the engineers at Pinnacle provide him a unit and datasheets on the tuner components.
Pinnacle isn't the only company including some additional amplification in their tuners. Dish Network Corp. has announced the DTVPal Plus at an MSRP of $69.99.
"The DTVPal Plus carries all the popular features of our top-rated DTVPal, plus a tuner that can help consumers living in weak signal areas maximize the number of over-the-air channels they receive," said Tom Stingley, executive vice president of sales and distribution at Dish Network. "With the introduction of the DTVPal Plus, Dish Network truly has solutions for every consumer in the country."
The tuner includes analog pass-through, which provides reception of LPTV and translator stations that remain analog after the February transition, as well as auto-tune timers for recording programs on a connected VCR. Signal strength screen pop-ups help viewers troubleshoot lost signals.
Finally, while many PC and USB tuner manufacturers are moving to silicon-based tuners, some TV set manufacturers prefer a "can" design. Xceive's SN5000A module provides the benefits of Xceive's XC5000 smart silicon tuner with can tuner compatibility. I've covered the XC5000 tuner in RF Report before. The SN5000A module gives it plug and play physical compatibility with specific "can" style tuners.
Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.
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