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Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick HDTV Tuner Review
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Scanning the airwaves.
Navigating to TVCenter Pro’s “Channel Scan” screen, five different types of scans can be run: internet radio (which is more of a “download the latest list from Pinnacle” than a scan), analog television, FM radio, digital antenna and digital cable. Fill in the tick boxes for whichever scans you want to run at that time, and then click the big “Scan” button to start. Most of these scans have some advanced properties that can be configured, such a video format and the type of scan to perform, which can range from “quick” to “best quality”. Despite greatly increased scan times when running a “best quality” scan, I saw no obvious difference in the end results when compared to “quick”.

While a scan is running, a list of the channels discovered so far slowly grows. Each time a particular scan is performed it will completely replace the channels that were found the last time the scan was run. This could prove inconvenient for users with antenna rotors, since all channels will not be receivable at the same time. Where’s “auto add to list”?

Looking closer the software does allow you to add channels manually, however for HDTV stations that process couldn’t be more difficult. It’s not possible to tell it that you simply want to pick up whatever’s on channel 57.1 – instead, you must provide all of the information that would normally be supplied by the channel’s PSIP data stream. Data such as service ID, network ID, transport stream ID, PMP PID, PCR PID, and even worse the channel’s actual frequency in megahertz. This isn’t the kind of thing that stations publish on their websites, and is certainly no replacement for a simple “auto add” feature.

My next thought was that since the software has the capability of saving and loading channel lists, perhaps those files were in XML or some other editable text format and multiple lists could be manually merged together. Alas it turns out that lists are saved in an uneditable binary format, and even if that wasn’t the case a bug cropped up where half the time the software would save an empty file or only import part of an earlier list.

It seems that the only viable solution is to save your master channel list, run another scan with a new rotor position, manually write down the complete advanced details of any new channels discovered, and then re-load the master list and add those channels in manually.

Where size does matter.
Before hooking the HD Pro up to my big antenna, I first threw caution to the wind and gave the small stock antenna a chance to tune something – anything. Smaller than a car radio antenna and not even paired like normal rabbit ears, I really wasn’t expecting the bundled antenna to do much of anything. I may only be 15 miles away from a principal broadcast tower, but my location in a valley affords no direct line of sight to the tower, and experience has shown that any sort of reliable reception here requires a certain amount of... mass.

Starting off first with analog channels, the HD Pro managed to lock onto a few channels, but none of them were watchable. At best there was one channel with strong static, and another with strong ghosting. Moving onto digital channels, I was surprised – no, shocked – when the HD Pro managed to lock into two ATSC channels: 5.1 (CBLT transmitting on 20.1) and 44.1 (CJMT)... and both were perfectly watchable!

Considering the dismal analog results and the fact that local ATSC channels are all rather low powered compared to their analog counterparts, the fact that it could do so well with such a feeble antenna made me even more eager to pair it with my main antenna system.

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