Name: AVerTV Volar HD A835(Aver Media)
Type: Digital TV tuner for PC and Mac
System Requirements: Click here
Price: £18.99 from Amazon
With most of the functionality of a fully-fledged set-top box, the AVerTV Volar HD A835 digital TV tuner for PC and Mac has a lot going for it. But is it relevant in this age of catch-up TV and high-definition television?
The AVerTV Volar HD A835 unit consists of a set-up software CD and a USB drive, which a supplied TV antenna can be plugged into. Considering the USB stick has to accommodate a chunky aerial connection, it manages to stay fairly slim, though you may have trouble squeezing in other USB devices should your ports be closely bunched together. The aerial itself is little bigger than a thumb drive too, housing two telescopic, rotatable antenna and comes with two mounts; a suction pad and a clip for sticking the unit to the top of your monitor.
Once the quick software installation is complete and the AVerTV Volar HD A835 USB unit is plugged in, a surprisingly fast and accurate channel scan will have you watching Freeview channels and listening to digital radio within minutes. Though image quality will depend somewhat on the quality of your monitor, we were pleased to find our viewing session to be clear and free of noise. However, despite the HD suffix, you wont be able to get any high-definition Freeview channels; though it supports H.264 transmissions, which are widespread in Europe for high-def shows, it isn’t compatible with the DVB-T2 transmission system Freeview HD is based on. An update has been promised for some time, but we were unable to access the channels during our review.
Though here you negate the need for an internet connection in order to watch shows, it’s also worth noting that in this age of streamed catch-up TV on computers, we’ve forgotten how frustrating trying to pick up a good TV signal is. The AVerTV Volar HD A835 had us standing with the aerial over our heads in order to maintain a decent image. A quirk of our tuner or simply the fact we’re in something of a coverage blackspot, it’s worth remembering before committing your cash.
The software accompanying the drive is full of functionality, including a full EPG, timeshift modes and a number of recording and scheduled recording options. We particularly liked the fact you’re able to record in iOS compatible formats, meaning getting your favourite shows direct from the telly onto your Apple mobile media devices won’t be a problem. It’s a shame though that visually the software is very bland, with a design more like shareware rather than a retail product.
With most of the major Freeview destinations now having robust video-on-demand services backing them up online, TV tuners for PCs are beginning to feel a little redundant. The AVerTV Volar HD stick makes itself more useful than some by offering video recording modes directly compatible with iOS devices, but a bare-bones software interface and lack of Freeview HD channels, paired with the frustrations of picking up a decent signal, ultimately let it down. Having said that, it’s a cheap and small solution for those watching the pennies our with little space to play about with, so it may find an audience with students or backpackers.