Compro VideoMate U680F £28
25th Feb 2011 | 10:38
Powerful USB TV tuner tech
Compro VideoMate U680F: Overview
If TV on your laptop is your bag the bargainous Compro VideoMate U680F is the one for you.
Let's face it, TV tuners have been on the market since God was a boy and we all still own a TV set. To make it worth our while, tuners need to offer us features that the idiot box doesn't.
It's about pausing and rewinding live shows, recording to HDD, scheduling what and when to record automatically. On top of all that, it must be effortlessly easy to make use of all this extra functionality. No labyrinths of menus or cables.
You, the jaded consumer, know this. And so apparently do Compro.
It's relieving to see that tuner hardware is getting simpler and cheaper. The Compro VideoMate U680F is a TV tuner aiming for maximum functionality without any fuss, which boils down to all the above features with just a USB stick, antenna and remote.
Hardware tuners need to compete with on demand web content like iPlayer, so manufacturers are mixing things up a bit.
Compro VideoMate U680F: Verdict
With the Compro VideoMate U680F there's nothing to install internally - as with several other market contenders the idea here is plug in the USB stick to your desktop or laptop, connect the antenna and you're good to go.
Your PCI-E slots can breathe, and the whole operation can be fully functional in ten minutes.
The level of functionality you get will depend on the signal in your home - you will need an external antenna to pick up any reception.
It's also worth mentioning that the mini antenna you plug into the USB stick is very sensitive to position, so to get the best reception, some Beano-esque hanging out of a window will most likely ensue.
There's a very handy blue LED that glows, flashes or turns off depending on signal strength though, which turns the whole endeavour into quite a pleasant treasure hunt.
It's not military grade hardware, but hey, it's 28 quids people!
There are similar pieces of kit on the market for less, but Compro's trusty DTV software is what makes the Compro VideoMate U680F worth a few extra doubloons.
It's simple as pie to rearrange channels, set up a recording schedule to automatically save every episode of Steve Backshall's Deadly 60 to your hard drive, or endlessly rewind horror tackles while you're watching the football.
The U680F succeeds in nailing the level of simplicity and functionality needed to give actual TV a run for its money. For twenty eight pounds you're getting Sky Plus features on your PC with much less fussing about than tuners of 2 years ago demanded.
The most likeable features here are the USB interface and DTV 4 software.
USB tuners have been available for a couple of years now but have yet to render the PCIe cards obsolete, which is where they deserve to be; USB is the best option for systems of all sizes.
The DTV software is bundled with every tuner in the VideoMate range, and its ease of use is still unsurpassed.
The media centre remote though, resembles a toy mobile phone and is much bigger than necessary, whereas the mini antenna feels like it could do with beefing up for improved reception.
Simple and effective tuner solution for laptops and desktops alike.