iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail

Platform

Video

Multimedia

Mobile

Other

Compro Technology VideoMate Live USB2.0 TV Tuner Review 

February 9, 2004




Although we encountered some problems when reviewing the Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus, the products and Compro Technology's attitude towards problems left a very pleasant impression. 

That is why before starting the tests I expected some surprises. And I wasn't mistaken. 

Accessory pack

The designers did their best.




The high-quality material and attractive decoration go with a transparent window which exposes the tuner. 

Now when we fished out all the stuff it's clear why the box was so heavy.




  • Remote control
  • S-Video - S-Video + Composite adapter
  • S-Video - Composite adapter
  • Mini-jack - 2 RCA adapter for audio-out
  • S-Video - S-Video cable
  • Composite - Composite cable
  • Power supply unit
  • Power supply cable
  • Screened USB 2.0 cable 
  • 4 software CDs
  • Tuner installation guide
  • Software guide

The additional software suite is identical to the one supplied with Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus, except ComproFM

Design and specification

There are some noteworthy tuner's specs

  • Hardware MPEG-2 support
  • Real-time MPEG-1/MPEG-2 compression
  • 16-channel preview
  • S-Video/AV(Composite)/Stereo inputs and outputs (!)
  • Dimensions: 177 x 115 x 23 mm 
  • Weight: 300 g

The interlacing, Noise Removal technology and AA in resolutions over 640x480, and Video Smoothing are supported as well.

There are obvious advantages when transferring MPEG-2 streams even with such interface as USB 2.0. However, the bandwidth of 480 Mbit/s is enough for TV tuners (we saw it with the Manli USB TV 2.0). The CPU load is low, well even low-end processors easily cope with MPEG-2 compression. Besides, entry-level computers usually don't have the USB 2.0 support.

If internal tuners don't need to look attractive, for external models it's is very important to look good as it influences user's choice. In this case the appearance is very exciting.




The power supply LED, USB 2.0 and IR receiver LEDs are in front.

All connectors are on back. 




The tuner supports a TV-out , that is why there are two S-Video connectors. If you need to connect a composite signal source, there're appropriate adapters. There's also a duplicate audio-out though it's not needed as sound goes via USB. Anyway, any addition is better than nothing.

We were afraid of opening the case, but the operation was successful. 




If it were not for a radio unit I would never think that this is a tuner. It looks like a real video card having an iron cover for some reason...

Now let's examine it closer.

The high-frequency Philips FQ1216ME/I H-3 module was used yet in ATI's All-In-Wonder.




The tuner has the Philips SAA7114H 9-bit ADC installed on NVIDIA's video cards.




This is a curious combination of the HF unit and ADC, isn't it?

The cooler makes the tuner even more similar to the video card (here is what the air vents are needed for).




Under the cooler is the MPEG-2 CODEC CS92288 chip from Cirrus Logic.




Compro Technology demonstrates an original approach even regarding minor parts. No secret that a lot of video cards that generate much heat have fans based on slide bearings. This card is equipped with the Magnetic Levitation Fan from Sunonwealth Electric Machine Industry Co., Ltd., and its principle of operation is described at company's site. That is why you shouldn't worry about life time of the bearings. This a a low-noise cooler and it also has a temperature sensor which can disable the cooling system if needed.

The heatsink nearby hides the Cypress Semiconductor USB 2.0 CY7C68013 controller.




Two 6ns EtronTech memory chips of 16MB are used as a buffer for encoded image before transfer.




Testbed

  • Athlon 2800XP CPU (Barton)
  • Gigabyte 7VAX mainboard (KT400)
  • ATI RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB DDR2 video card
  • 1 GB RAM (512 MB PC3200 from Samsung + 512 MB PC3200 from Kingmax)
  • Creative Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 sound card
  • FUJITSU MPG3204AT E hard drive
  • Windows XP Professional (SP1) ENG

Adjustment

The tests were carried out with the latest drivers 3.0.0.4 and with ComproPVR 1.6.2.5.

The tuner appeared in the section typical of internal tuners: Sound, video and game controllers, rather than in the USB controllers.




The settings and operation of the CompoPVR were described last time.




The bitrate parameters in the recording parameters are simultaneously playback parameters: this is logical but not that obvious.




At default 4 MB/s the image can even scare you away. Later we will get back to this issue.

The sensitivity is good, all the channels were found. No pickups, but they are not typical of external tuners.

The tuner also has a video-out, an exotic feature for tuners, its color standard coincides with the received signal or one applied to the video-in. You don't need to adjust anything, only connect an appropriate cable.

The hardware support let the CPU load be 15% at most at capture at the highest quality settings. Deinterlacing looks perfect; I haven't noticed any traces of "comb".

MPEG-4 is not supported, and I couldn't find any alternative software supported by this tuner. 

Quality


  

  

  

The quality can be considered good, but I noticed some noisy "strings", noise above and quite large image fields.

In the driver 3.0.0.6, released right after our correspondence, the noise elimination filters removed the pickups. Although I didn't have the tuner by that time I don't see any reasons why I shouldn't believe this. For example, the 01/03 channel problem of the Compro Videomate Gold Plus was solved only in the ComproFM 1.3.4.0 released in October 2003.

Secondly, you can correct the image fields. The DWORD Trim register parameter in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Compro\ComproPVR can help it. The upper bits control the right and left edges, the lower ones - upper and lower fields. For example, for trimming 16 pixels the Trim value is taken equal 0x00100010 (remember about the hexadecimal system, 0010=16). I hope the next ComproPVR versions will get a respective option. At least one country will need it.

The sound quality is excellent. 

USB1.1 mode

Now we are going to see how the tuner works in such extreme mode. 

At the very beginning when we tried to turn off USB 2.0 the Windows XP went into hysteric and displayed the following message.




we ignored it and ran ComproPVR. The maximum bitrate was limited at 4 MB/s at that.

Let's see what we got.

While the static scenes look more or less good,


 

the dynamic ones are not that perfect.


 

At least, it works. You can even watch video if you have no choice. Taking into account the tuner's price (MSRP USD$209), it's better to get a USB 2.0 controller though owners of notebooks can have a different opinion. 

Remote control

This looks like a good unification; the remote control doesn't differ from the one we saw last time. It only changed its color to match the tuner. 

Conclusion

Please note that we draw up the conclusion taking into account all the changes that took place after the testing. 

Highs

  • USB 2.0 interface
  • MPEG-2 hardware support
  • Excellent build quality
  • Good audio/video quality
  • Perfect sensitivity
  • No pickups
  • Deinterlacing
  • Noise Removal and Video Smoothing
  • All possible connectors for external sources
  • Video-out
  • USB 1.1 support
  • Handy software
  • Channel Surf sound
  • Multifunctional remote control
  • Rich accessory pack
  • Stylish design
  • Efficient manufacturer' support

Lows

  • No FM tuner
  • Field trimming only by editing the register
  • Snapshot implementation is not that handy
  • No MPEG4 support
  • Audio options unavailable in ComproDVD

This is an interesting product with an attractive design, MPEG-2 hardware support, a curious cooler and a rich accessory pack. Taking into account that the market of USB 2.0 TV tuners is still forming let's wish the Compro VideoMate Live USB2.0 to take a good place there. And certainly, we look forward to seeing  new model with the FM support. 





Alexey Samsonov aka AlS (als@ixbt.com)
 

Write a comment below. No registration needed!


Article navigation:



blog comments powered by Disqus

  Most Popular Reviews More    RSS  

AMD Phenom II X4 955, Phenom II X4 960T, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Intel Pentium G2120, Core i3-3220, Core i5-3330 Processors

Comparing old, cheap solutions from AMD with new, budget offerings from Intel.
February 1, 2013 · Processor Roundups

Inno3D GeForce GTX 670 iChill, Inno3D GeForce GTX 660 Ti Graphics Cards

A couple of mid-range adapters with original cooling systems.
January 30, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1

An external X-Fi solution in tests.
September 9, 2008 · Sound Cards

AMD FX-8350 Processor

The first worthwhile Piledriver CPU.
September 11, 2012 · Processors: AMD

Consumed Power, Energy Consumption: Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge

Trying out the new method.
September 18, 2012 · Processors: Intel
  Latest Reviews More    RSS  

i3DSpeed, September 2013

Retested all graphics cards with the new drivers.
Oct 18, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, August 2013

Added new benchmarks: BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light.
Sep 06, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, July 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 and AMD Radeon HD 7730.
Aug 05, 2013 · 3Digests

Gainward GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Golden Sample Graphics Card

An excellent hybrid of GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GeForce GTX 660.
Jun 24, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

i3DSpeed, May 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770/780.
Jun 03, 2013 · 3Digests
  Latest News More    RSS  

Platform  ·  Video  ·  Multimedia  ·  Mobile  ·  Other  ||  About us & Privacy policy  ·  Twitter  ·  Facebook


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Copyright © Byrds Research & Publishing, Ltd., 1997–2011. All rights reserved.