Pinnacle PCTV nanoStick

TV tuners are turning up in every size, shape and configuration these days, and a lot of them are relatively cheap. Pinnacle’s version belongs in the low cost group, but sets itself apart from the competition with some good features and easy installation.

TV tuners are turning up in every size, shape and configuration these days, and a lot of them are relatively cheap. Pinnacle’s version belongs in the low cost group, but sets itself apart from the competition with some good features and easy installation. Designed primarily for notebook users on the go, the nanoStick looks like a retractable USB stick, with a port for connecting the external antenna. The build quality is great, both the dongle and antenna feel solid.

Here at PC World Towers we love us some high definition goodness, so it’s important to note that the nanoStick comes HDTV-ready out of the box. Combine this with FreeView’s HD offerings, and you’ll instantly have high definition television on your notebook. Pinnacle has also included time-shift functionality, for pausing and rewinding live TV, as well as basic editing software to trim any clips you’ve downloaded. We found both of these features to work very well. You can also record straight to DVD, although we did have some problems with this feature.

Installation was a breeze, simply install the bundled software, attach the nanoStick and antenna and the device begins to scan for channels. We found the software to be a little unstable at times, and we encountered some random crashes. As always, expect better results with newer updates. It’s also worth noting that the nanoStick is compatible with Windows Media Centre, which could provide a more solid back end.

The bundled antenna is a rather unimpressive looking job, and we weren’t surprised that it produced rather poor reception. Even when placed in the window of a tall office building the antenna failed to pick up some channels. On the other hand, we managed to get crystal clear reception by connecting an old bunny ears-style antenna, using the included adapter. You could also plug the nanoStick into your roof aerial if need be.

Using the bunny ears we experienced a very clear, high definition picture on the notebook we tested with. We recorded programs in our very favourite format, DivX, and the playback was excellent. You can’t record one channel while watching another, though, but you can set the nanoStick to schedule later recordings.

At the price of $99, the nanoStick should be an attractive solution for people looking for an easy way to view TV on their notebooks or PCs. The small form factor and antenna should be perfect for those days when you’re away from home, but still need to catch up on some daytime cricket. Not that we’d ever do that while at work of course.

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Jan Birkeland

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