OnAir Solution GT USB HDTV Receiver/Recorder Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: January 22, 2008
I was excited when I received the OnAir Solution GT because there have been times I wish I could have recorded a TV show digitally and watched it on my laptop while traveling for business. Sure, there are so many TIVOs out there and your cable company has DVRs, so you may be thinking why would you need this, right? Can you transfer those recording to your PC and is it in Hi-Def? That is the biggest gripe I have with DVRs, that you cannot watch your recordings on the PC or portable devices right after you record it.
Enter the OnAir Solution GT USB HDTV Receiver and Recorder. Wow, what a mouthful for such a compact device. So what is the OnAir Solution GT, you ask? It is a small box that connects to either an antenna source or a coaxial connection to bring TV to your computer. With the OnAir GT you can not only watch TV on your PC, but you can record it, and all in High Definition.
The OnAir Solution GT HDTV Receiver comes packaged nicely in the box. The front of the box shows the receiver with a person watching TV on their computer. Also on the front are some of the specs of the OnAir GT. Looking over at the back shows some of the features, a quick setup guide and information about the bundled software included with the GT.
Flip open the front of the box and it reveals what you really want. Included with the OnAir GT are the manuals, software CD, carrying case for the GT, antenna, remote control and batteries, USB 2.0 cable, and S-video/component cable.
The OnAir GT Receiver is an all-in-one unit. Just plug it into the computer and an input source and the GT controls the rest. Even the sensor for the remote control is built into the unit. The front has a glossy finish that is actually a dark window. Behind the window are the LEDs that show its operation and the receiving LED for the included remote control. The back has three connections for operation. The first is the coaxial input for the antenna or a cable connection from your cable provider. The second is for the S-video/component input cable, and the third is for the USB 2.0 cable to output the data to your computer.
The OnAir GT has multiple input connections to maximize its ability to bring you the best programming available. The first is the coaxial connector which allows you to scan for digital/analog over-the-air broadcasts from your local area using the included antenna, or you can connect the cable from your cable TV provider to view that programming. The second is the A/V in connector, which allows you to input not only S-video devices but virtually anything that has RCA outputs, such as DVD players, gaming consoles, and even that camcorder you just got for Christmas.
To install the OnAir GT, you must first install the drivers from the driver CD. Place the CD into the tray of your optical drive, and then plug in the OnAir GT to the USB cable and an available USB port on the computer. When the box pops up for driver location, point it to the disc and away it will go.
Once the CD is loaded into the system, you can start the software installation and configuration. A window will pop up letting you choose the model that you have so that it will install the correct software. Once the model is selected, it presents you with the options available for the GT. You can install the drivers, the HDTV program, which lets you view the TV on the PC, a copy of nVidia PureVideo Encoder, and a copy of InterVideo WinDVD Creator. The serials for the extra software are on the back of the CD sleeve.
Once it is all finished, you have several options you can enable or disable based on your usage preferences. You can elect to automatically launch the remote control software and the scheduling software when the computer starts up. You can also create the necessary icons on your desktop and associate .TRP files with the player so that it launches automatically when a .TRP is clicked.
The next two products are optional but recommended. The nVidia PureVideo Decoder is a plug-in that delivers more vibrant color and smoother MPEG-2 video for your system.
Next to install is the InterVideo WinDVD Creator which allows you to author your own DVD movies. I will talk more about this in the second part of the configuration.
Now that everything is installed, let's get into what actually makes the TV programs display on your PC. First off, before I begin I would like to note to you that when you first start the Tuner HDTV program it will ask you to change the main directory. If you are using Vista I recommend this so you will not have any problems with permissions.
The user interface for the OnAir GT has to be from the Stone Age. To get to the menu you right-click on the video and it brings up a list of what you can do. You can adjust basic video controls like size and color, change tuner modes, and record shows. That is about all of it. To scan for channels to watch, scroll to select "Channel Manager" option and click it. This will bring up a box for scanning. Select the ones you want to scan for. DTV is Digital and ATV is analog. Cable is for a hard connection and Air is for OTA broadcasts. As it finds a good channel it will lock it. When done scanning it will return you to the first channel and away you go watching TV.
The InterVideo WinDVD Creator is a program that makes authoring your own DVD as easy as possible. When you first start WinDVD, a wizard comes up allowing you to specify the settings you want for the DVD you are making. To make a DVD, just drag and drop the video clips you want included into the spaces on the screen and it will place them into the loop automatically. You can reposition them at any time to make the DVD better for you. Once done, click "Make Movie" and away it goes with your custom DVD.
|LG ATSC / NTSC Tuner (LG TDVS-H062P) 5th Generation Chipset, 1 Antenna Input [Digital/Analog TV (OTA and Cable)] ATSC / NTSC OTA Ch 2 - 69, Unencrypted ATSC / NTSC Cable Ch 2 - 125 & QAM
|Digital TV AC3 & 5.1 Channel Decoding Support, Analog TV Stereo / Multi Lingual Support|
|Composite Video / S-Video|
|Over-The-Air and Cable TV|
|Digital TV: MPEG-2 TS (up to 1920 x 1080 resolution) Analog TV and Video Input:
- MPEG-2 (720x480, 640x480, 480x480, 352x480) for SVCD or DVD
- MPEG-1 (352x240) for VCD
HDTV (ATSC) / Analog TV (NTSC) / QAM Digital Cable Features
- Supports HDTV resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 (ATSC)
- Watch Digital (ATSC), Analog (NTSC) (Even if you are in an area where digital cable broadcasting is unavailable, you can still watch analog TV over-the-air (captured by antenna) and cable TV analog broadcasts.), or Digital Cable (unencrypted QAM) TV (The tuner processes unencrypted high resolution signals in both QAM64 and QAM 256.)
- The latest 5th-generation LG Electronics tuner/demodulator offers unsurpassed metro and fringe area reception (The fifth generation VSB chip manufactured by LG has enhanced features that improve reception of digital TV signals even in fringe areas. It supports Terrestrial Digital TV (VSB: Vestigial Side Band) and Digital Cable TV (QAM: Quadrature Amplitude Modulation)) with virtually no multi-path problems.
- Pause Live TV and Timeshift (Pause TV at your convenience, and press Play when you want to continue) using DVR features (Digital TV)
- Playback HD stream files (ATSC) (Playback previously recorded material in original quality)
- Select from six speeds for fast forwarding or rewinding through recorded files
- Schedule to record (The Scheduled Recording function allows you to record your favorite shows in your absence. It is possible to set up a schedule to record programs on a daily, weekly, or special occasion basis. If the computer is in Standby or Hibernate, the computer will be automatically powered on to run your scheduled item.) up to 80 programs
- Real-time (The instant record button allows you to save Over-The-Air (OTA) or Cable broadcasts to your hard disk in their native resolution for playback at a later time.) or Scheduled Recording on Digital / Analog TV
- Still image capture (While watching TV, it is possible to capture and save your favorite scene easily in either BMP or JPEG format.) on Digital and Analog TV (JPEG or BMP format)
- Time-shift support(Have you ever had to stop watching TV briefly to answer the phone, go to the door, or for other reasons? When enabled, simply click the Pause button, and the Timeshift function will automatically record up to 120 minutes of any TV program you are watching. Return within 120 minutes, and you can click Play to resume watching your show, without missing any program content.) (Digital TV)
- Record while in time-shifting mode (Have you ever wished you could go back and record a great scene? Now you can! If timeshifting mode is enabled, simply rewind to the beginning of the scene and click the Record button.) (Digital TV)
- Recording during playback (While playing back a file, clicking Record will save a clip to a separate file.) (allows editing / saving of previously recorded material)
- D-VHS (You can use your D-VHS device to record Digital programming from the OnAir HDTV Program. You can also playback (and record) clips from your D-VHS device to your PC's hard drive.) HD Stream playback and recording (Windows XP only)
- Connect your VCR or Camcorder (Simply connect your Camcorder, VCR, or gaming system to the Composite or S-Video input. Click the Record button to save it as an MPEG-2 file on your computer. You can use various 3rd party utilities to then burn this .MPG file to CD or DVD) to record your favorite tapes to PC
- Connect your favorite gaming console to play and record games on your PC (Connect your favorite video game console to the tuner and use your PC monitor to play your game. Also, record your favorite game sessions so you can play them back for your friends. (Supports up to 720x480))
Audio and Video Features
- Dolby Digital® 5.1 (Equipped with the most up-to-date HDTV decoding engine, you can experience 5.1 output if your sound card supports it. In addition, with an SPDIF port, you can pass the audio to an external sound system.) Channel support (Digital TV)
- AC3 / AAC audio decoding
- Stereo and multiplex sound support
- SPDIF Output for Digital TV through an AAC compatible sound card (not included)
- GT easily fits into pocket, backpack or laptop case
- USB Powered for maximum mobility
- Remote control (The full featured remote control allows you to control the functions of the TV program from a distance. You can also set it up to control your other PC programs.)
- Digital Signal Strength Display makes antenna pointing easy
- Electronic Programming Guide (Electronic Program Guide data is received from Digital TV (OTA) broadcasts. For other sources, our program is compatible with TitanTV's website.) (EPG) (OTA Digital TV)
- Sleep timer
- Zoom Navigator (You can zoom in on a certain area of the screen while watching TV. The picture can be zoomed from the default (100%) to a maximum of five times of the current TV view (500%).) to select and enlarge the TV picture
- Titan TV integration
- Digital and Analog Closed Caption support
- Wallpaper TV View (live video or captured images as your desktop background)
All features and specification data taken from AutumnWave which is the manufacturer of OnAir Solution Products ( http://www.autumnwave.com/Consumers/OnAir-GT.html )
Now that we have gotten the formalities out of the way, let's see how well the OnAir GT performs. Sure, everything looks good on paper, but I am the type of person who wants to see it first hand. Since this is the mobile edition, I will be testing it on a laptop to get the most versatility out of it. The box and paperwork did not specify whether it would work on Windows Vista, so I will be testing it on both Windows XP and Windows Vista, which is dual booted on the laptop, to see if it will work.
- Sony Vaio Laptop (Model # VGN-N250E)
- Intel Core Duo 1.8GHz
- 1536MB DDR2 Ram
- 120GB hard drive
- DVD-R/W drive
- Windows XP Pro w/SP2
- Windows Vista Home Premium w/SP1
- OnAir Solutions GT USB HDTV Receiver/Recorder
I will be testing the OnAir GT in four categories. First, I will be looking at how easy it is to use, second is for the functionality of the GT, third will be for the quality of the picture in both digital and analog modes, and finally for the impact on the system's resources.
Ease of Use:
I have been a user of Windows Media Center and a little bit of CyberLink's PowerCinema for a long time. The interface that the OnAir GT uses is archaic to me. There is no menu system. The options are brought up by right clicking on the video window. Programming channels takes some fiddling around with the interface. All around, it was not well thought out when the user interface was designed.
The functionality of the OnAir GT ties in with the ease of use. There is only basic functionality for the GT. You can watch digital or analog TV on it, you can record current and future shows, and you can take still images of the shows. For recording you have the option to record in MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 formats with different size and quality options. With the software, you cannot convert the media for portable devices like an iPod without third party software. One big feature I would like to point out is "Timeshift." This is a feature that allows you to pause, rewind and fast forward live TV using your computer's hard drive to store up two hours of video. This is great for those important episodes of "Lost" that you are watching when the dreaded phone call comes for you.
The picture quality of HDTV Digital broadcasts over-the-air are great. It is a shame that you cannot subscribe to more OTA HD channels. I watched the entire NY Giants game with no hiccups at all from inside a concrete building. Below are some of the screen shots for different resolutions.
Hi-Def 420i resolution
Hi-Def 720i Resolution
HD 1080i Resolution
Of course, analog signals can not compete with the quality of digital ones, but the OnAir Solutions GT will pick them up as well.
OnAir GT Analog
For this, I recorded what the task manager was reporting for CPU usage when in Digital HD and Analog modes.
The OnAir Solution GT HDTV USB Receiver/Recorder does do what it is designed for, which is watching and recording TV. The interface leaves something to be desired as it is plain and very basic, but it gets the job done. Recording allows you to schedule future shows with the ability to control the size and the quality with a few well used presets. The signal was very clear for the Digital HD, which was nice to see since the analog was always blurry or fuzzy. Also, the OnAir GT worked just flawlessly in Windows XP, as well as in Vista. Even though it is not Vista certified, I had no problems with it at all.
Timeshift is amazing. As busy as the average person is today, most never get to watch a full program without interruptions. The ability to pause for those interruptions, or rewind to get a double take on that ever important fight scene is a big plus for the OnAir GT. For the price though, I think it is a little expensive, but it does bring those few over-the-air HD channels to your computer. This has become a part of my computer bag of goodies for use when I travel for work and which I use constantly.
- Receives Digital and Analog Broadcasts
- Receives Hi-Def Signals
- Very Portable
- Includes Remote and Antenna
- Ability to Record Shows
- Timeshift for Live Digital TV
- Very Basic User Interface