CES 2014 Features More TV on Tablets

Even though there wasn't a Mobile DTV TechZone at CES 2014, I found some mobile DTV devices on display, as well as tablets with built-in TV tuners.

The Audiovox Mobile TV receiver was being shown in the large Voxx exhibit. Voxx International owns several popular consumer electronic brands, including RCA, Advent, Jensen, Terk, Acoustic Research (AR), and others in addition to Audiovox. The display was simple--a large picture of the device, a few pictures showing typical uses, a tablet (which wasn't displaying mobile DTV when I saw it), and a map indicating Dyle TV coverage.

It was actually easy to miss the small actual receiver and antenna, as they weren’t exactly featured “front and center” in the display. In observing some of the people looking at the display I didn’t hear any complaints about the performance of the product, but did witness complaints concerning the lack of markets or number of program choices available.

I checked the mobile DTV signal from Telemundo's KBLR television at numerous locations around the Los Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall and South Hall Upper, and in every spot I was able to get perfect reception on my Audiovox receiver, even deep inside South Upper.

Some tablet manufacturers looking for a way to differentiate their products by adding TV reception: ISDB-T, DVB-T and even ATSC. Except for the RCA 8-inch single-core tablet, which was introduced last year, none supported ATSC-MH.

Azpen featured a big display proclaiming” “TV Tablet--Watch TV Any Where You Want”.

In South Hall Upper I noticed a sign proclaiming: “ISDB-T, DVB-T, ATSC” above one of the tablets shown by an exhibitor there. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of the company, but the tablets were based on a Rockchip processor and from what the exhibitor told me, the tuner/demodulator could be programmed for any of these standards with no change to the hardware. I hope to have more information on this product later this month.

In the Central Hall, SuperSonic featured a display with signage saying: “TV Tablets--Watch Live TV Anywhere on your Tablet.” The company had a variety of devices on hand, but I wasn't able to get any details on their “TV Tablets.”

One of my main criticisms of DigitalStream's RCA 8-inch mobile DTV tablet was its out-of-date single core processor. While this is fine for TV viewing, and the tuner appears to work well, the processor limits the device’s usefulness as a tablet for web browsing or gaming. The dual tuners--conventional ATSC and mobile DTV--are great, as they provide a much wider choice of programs in areas with strong signals.

I did find it interesting that the other TV tablet that RCA was showing this year--the DAA730R 7-inch MPEG2/4 Mobile TV product—didn’t include support for ATSC Mobile DTV. The tablet has a dual-core Amlogic A9 processor, 1 GB of RAM and runs Android 4.1 and is equipped with dual cameras and a 1024 x 600 pixel display. I would have preferred to see it use Android 4.3, as I recently updated my Novo 7 Amlogic A9 tablet to 4.3 and noticed a significant performance improvement. However, given the processor and the 1 GB RAM, even with the older Jelly Bean OS I would expect this device to be useful as a tablet as well as a TV receiver. (For additional details see the RCA press release.) It’s too bad it doesn't include support for ATSC-MH, but it should work fine with the Audiovox mobile DTV receiver. I found several web sites listing it at prices ranging from $124 to $150, but all were out of stock. When I find a unit for sale, I'll add it to my growing tablet collection and report on how it works as a tablet and a TV tuner.

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.