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PC World Compares USB Tuners

The Hauppauge HVR-950Q tuner is now available from electronics retailers. In the article USB Tuners Deliver HD to Your PC, PCWorld compared the HVR-950Q to the Pinnacle HD Pro Stick (Model 801e).

I discussed the Pinnacle HD Pro Stick 801e in my RF Technology column in the Sept. 3, 2008 issue of TV Technology, but so far have not obtained an HVR-950Q for testing. The Pinnacle 801e performed well in my tests, outperforming the DVICO FusionHDTV7, which uses the same chip set—an XC5000 tuner and an Auvitek AU8522—as the HVR-950Q.

The results of the PCWorld testing found the Pinnacle 801e outperformed the HVR-950Q, but the review was based on reception at one Boston location and minor non-RF performance issues. Both tuners found 30 channels, but only the Pinnacle HD Pro Stick picked up four "key" channels, including the Boston NBC affiliate, where the reviewer was able to watch the Olympics.

As I stated in this month's column, the HVR-950Q's predecessor, the HVR-950 has been one of my favorite tuners. The HVR-950 used an older Xceive tuner and an LG demodulator. The Pinnacle 801e has the same XC5000 tuner as the HVR-950Q, but uses the Samsung S5H1411 ATSC/ClearQAM demodulator instead of the Auvitek demod. I'll reserve judgment on the HVR-950Q until I have a chance to test the tuner in multiple cities around the country on VHF and UHF channels, as I've done with USB DTV tuners in the past.

One final note for Linux users. A patch for the v4l-dvb modules is now available that allows the Pinnacle 801e HD Pro Stick to work in Linux. It works fine with ClearQAM signals. The issue with scanning in the Linux Kaffeine multimedia player that caused problems for the FusionHDTV7 is also present with the Pinnacle USB tuner. The same developer that created the Pinnacle 801e patch is working on ATSC channel scanning in Kaffeine, so I'm hopeful we'll see a solution to that problem soon.

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.