KWorld DVBT-380U tuner £25
13th Feb 2007 | 00:00
A disappointingly sub-standard TV tuner
There's been a glut of tiny USB TV sticks appearing recently, each one filled with increasingly elaborate technology, yet still hanging neatly off the side of a notebook. Clearly, though, this takes a degree of technical expertise, because KWorld has managed to get the recipe wrong in its attempt to provide analog and digital reception in one diminutive device.
The main problem with this tuner is hinted at on the back of the box. According to the text, the 320U has benefited from an advanced thermal design, which in this case refers to the holes on the top and bottom of the plastic carapace.
This attempt to increase efficiency and stability has clearly failed. Users should consider themselves fortunate if they manage an hour's continuous viewing before the 320U becomes unstable, presumably owing to the fact that the device almost becomes hot enough to sear the flesh. Even if the tuner remains running, the smell of roasting electronics is slightly unnerving in a piece of modern consumer technology.
Any time spent successfully watching the mediocre picture will be almost as painful as the potential physical harm. The bundled HyperMediaCenter software is defiantly inflexible, with very few options to change settings. It's also ugly, with a choice of themes largely made up of garish pastel colours and low-resolution backgrounds.
The aesthetics of the software would be less of a problem if it was possible to view the television feed in full screen, but it isn't, meaning you have a permanent border surrounding anything you watch. Fundamentals, such as the ability to keep the video window on top of other windows or determine where and in what bit rate video recordings are saved, are also missing.
The 320U undercuts other hybrid tuners on price by a fair margin, but there are very obvious reasons why. Fiddly and ugly software is one thing, but the 320U appears to be fundamentally flawed - a reasonable level of overheating is a predictable side effect of miniaturisation, but rarely has it been this excessive.
Not only that, but the chunky, curved design ensures it often works its way loose in anything but a completely flush USB port, something lacking on most laptops. Taking all this into consideration, the best course of action is to steer well clear.