Here at Remote Central, we don’t normally review things that aren’t remote controls – or at least directly related to remote controls. But when I first heard about Pinnacle’s PCTV HD Pro Stick, there were a couple of points that made it clear that this would be of special interest to me. First, it’s a $149 USD off-air HDTV tuner, and I’ve been using a large outdoor antenna to get HDTV since well before it was en vogue. Second, Pinnacle’s tuner comes with a miniature remote control accessory that, were it not also fully functional, would look perfectly at home as a fridge magnet.
The Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick model 801e (which I’m now going to shorten to the “HD Pro”) is an external USB 2.0 television receiver the size of a pack of stick gum. Being so small and transportable the HD Pro is naturally marketed for use with laptops and folks on the go, however there’s nothing about the product that would make it unsuitable for a desktop system, and it would be ideal for swapping back and forth between different PCs as the need arises.
Sure it looks small – but it’s bigger on the inside!
Due to its compactness I expected the HD Pro to be a bare bones receiver with perhaps only ATSC HDTV reception, but Pinnacle pushes the envelope by outfitting it with truly deluxe capabilities: it’s not only capable of receiving high definition television from an antenna, but also has analog standard definition NTSC reception for cable and antenna, HD and SD ClearQAM reception for cable, FM and digital cable radio tuning, and it can even act as an analog capture device with composite and S-Video inputs. If that’s not enough there’s a built-in infrared receiver for the bundled remote control. This truly is a wonder of modern miniaturization!
The HD Pro itself measures just 3.53” long, 0.90” wide and 0.52” thick (9.0cm by 2.3cm by 1.3cm). Without the two protruding connectors on either end it’s only 2.75” (7.0cm) long. Save for the big coaxial connector, the HD Pro could be easily mistaken for an ordinary USB memory key. But look closer and you’ll see a tiny port on the right side, used for the breakout cable that includes S-Video, composite video and stereo audio inputs. This could be used for watching TV from a satellite or cable box, or capturing footage from a VCR or old camcorder. A shiny black window on the top houses an infrared receiver along with the status LED.
Also bundled with the HD Pro is a telescopic antenna with a magnetic base that extends to 2 feet in height, a 1 foot USB extension cable (in case you don’t want the module plugged directly into your computer – useful since attached cables tend to tug on it), a pair of heavy duty AAA batteries for the remote, two software CDs, and a small amount of paperwork including a Quick Start guide.