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Product: KWorld PlusTV ATSC 340U
Manufacturer: KWorld
MSRP: $49.99 [BizRate]
Lowest Historical Price: $15 [History]

Introduction
TV Tuners started as big, bulky PCI cards that could only be used inside desktop machines. The picture quality from early TV Tuner cards was fairly inadequate as compared to watching a real television set. With the advent of USB 2.0, numerous external TV Tuner options became available. These external USB 2.0 tuners have come to rival their desktop counterparts, all while remaining a single plug and play stick. The KWorld PlusTV ATSC 340U USB TV Tuner is only slightly larger than a standard USB Flash Drive, and it offers the ability to turn your desktop or notebook into a TV. Is it small enough to be useful as a portable TV tuner, and will the quality be acceptable? Click through to find out.

Specs
Model: 340U
Connectivity: USB 2.0
Tuner: ATSC, QAM
OS: XP SP2, XP MCE 2005, Vista 32/64



Test Machine
Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
Intel Pentium 4 3.4GHz
1GB RAM
ATI Radeon X300 128MB

Un-Boxing
The package comes with the USB tuner, the ATSC Antenna, a Quick Start Guide, and the Software/Driver CD. The tuner is shaped like a super-sized USB Flash Drive and is somewhat heavy. If your USB ports do not have a lot of space between them, chances are the tuner will block access to the surrounding USB ports. I was a little disappointed that they didn't include a short USB extension cord to compensate for this. The tuner is heavy enough to make the device sag a bit in the USB port, which can result in the tuner not being recognized properly in Windows. This is partially because the included red "cap," which slides in/out to expose/protect the USB plug, prevents it from fully engaging the port. To solve this, I removed the cap, which allowed the device to sit further into the USB port, giving it more stability and a fully engaged connection. The cap was not designed to be removable, but removing it doesn't require breaking anything.



Review
After I got around the quirks of the device itself, I was finally able to install the software and try it out. An updated device driver is available online from Kworld, however you will have to install the application software from the included CD. The software is a good approximation of Windows Media Center for those who don't have it. The setup didn't take too long- I installed the online driver and then proceeded to install the application from the CD. After auto-detecting which channels I could view, it was ready to go.

The first thing I tested was video quality. The image is rendered well, especially if the source is true HD. However, stuttering may occur if you are multi-tasking. This is dependent on your system's hardware. Oddly enough, performance was worse when hardware acceleration was turned on than when it was off. This probably reflects the weak graphics capabilities of the Radeon X300 equipped PC used in this test.



The included software can also function as a DVR, recording TV shows in mpeg format. However, since the file is encoded with a special codec, chances are that you cannot view it on any other computer without installing their software. You can also use the software to create screen caps of what you're viewing.

If you plan on using this as an over-the-air tuner, I'd suggest getting a better antenna or a signal booster of some sort. NBC OTA reception is notoriously bad in San Francisco, and although the software registered as having 3 bars of reception, there was a lot of stuttering and frame drops when it was tuned to that station. Stronger stations such as ABC even had a couple frame drops here and there. Conclusion- the included antenna is pretty much garbage.



Conclusion
If you are receiving your signal through cable service or have a strong antenna, this device works as advertised. It is a low-cost alternative that will display OTA HD channels, or you can hook it up to cable and watch TV on your computer. The DVR software can save you the monthly cost that a standalone DVR (although the DVR would be more convenient to use). However, if all you have is the included antenna, you may be limited in channels and signal quality. Note that this is an ATSC tuner (no NTSC signals), so you will not receive any OTA stations that have not converted to the new format.

Image Gallery


Price History [History]

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    WartHog Ben's cred: 67
    Posted 3:29 pm PDT 08/21/08

    Does it run on Linux?

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    buttmunch Ben's cred: 69
    Posted 3:36 pm PDT 08/21/08

    That's just a Myth.

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    du_ron Ben's cred: 1
    Posted 5:37 pm PDT 08/21/08

    I have no problem with BensBargains.net doin' kudos to Tomshardware.com

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    radix33 Ben's cred: 39
    Posted 9:19 pm PDT 08/21/08

    David Hasselhoff looked kinda pixelated. Still looking good tho!

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    AELITA Ben's cred: 80
    Posted 4:43 am PDT 08/22/08

    I have this stick for abouit 6 months and may rate it with 3 stars top. Hardware performance is OK' but Arcsoft TotalMedia software is not good. In PIP, I visually compare picture quality of my Samsung tuner and Kword tuner on HDTV. I may say Kword looks better.
    If you are recording and trying to watch recorded video at the same time - TotalMedia will encount problem and stop. Have use MS Media Player or Nero to watch video when recording.

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    the lawyer Ben's cred: 435
    Posted 9:37 am PDT 08/22/08

    15 bucks for this thing, how well does it freeze up your computer ben?

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    pressingonalways Ben's cred: 39
    Posted 7:17 pm PDT 08/23/08

    how about a mac? Does it run on OS X?

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    tiburoncito2000 Ben's cred: 164
    Posted 10:38 pm PDT 08/26/08

    I'm sure this will work on a Mac, parallels or dual boot system can do the trick

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    sandman Ben's cred: 61
    Posted 9:43 am PDT 08/27/08

    Will this run on a mainframe with a 60" monitor? For $15, I have high expectations.

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    shantanu007 Ben's cred: 2
    Posted 9:34 pm PDT 09/20/08

    How about running it on leopard without using boot camp

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    megabyte10240 Ben's cred: 60
    Posted 9:41 pm PDT 09/20/08

    ok, you probably only get the public channels though so its not really worth it

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    psmull11 Ben's cred: 2
    Posted 11:29 am PST 03/7/09

    Hmm, Jury still out on this one. Sounds good though.

  • Was this useful?
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    jonmx Ben's cred: 8
    Posted 11:48 am PST 03/7/09

    sandman wrote:
    Will this run on a mainframe with a 60" monitor? For $15, I have high expectations.


    Why would the size of the monitor have anything to do with it. If it recieves HD signals, you should be good to go. For $15 seems like a bargain assuming you can get good signal.

  • Was this useful?
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    jonmx Ben's cred: 8
    Posted 11:51 am PST 03/7/09

    megabyte10240 wrote:
    ok, you probably only get the public channels though so its not really worth it


    What do you expect to get, HBO? It is to receive broadcast TV stations,but you can also get unscrambled cable TV stations.

  • Was this useful?
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    manofgod72 Ben's cred: 1
    Posted 11:23 pm PST 12/19/09

    I have friends that have used this product and says it works great.

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