OnAir Solution GT USB HDTV Receiver/Recorder Review

ajmatson - 2007-12-29 16:16:39 in Digital Photography/Video
Category: Digital Photography/Video
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: January 22, 2008
Price: $159.99

Introduction:

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.

 

Closer Look:

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.

 

Closer Look:

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.

 

Installation:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Configuration:

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Specifications:

Interface

USB 2.0

Main Chipset

CX25843, CY68013A

Tuner

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

Audio

Digital TV AC3 & 5.1 Channel Decoding Support, Analog TV Stereo / Multi Lingual Support

Video Input

Composite Video / S-Video

RF Input

Over-The-Air and Cable TV

Video Formats

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

 

 

Features:

HDTV (ATSC) / Analog TV (NTSC) / QAM Digital Cable Features

Playback Features

Recording Features

Audio and Video Features

User-Friendly Features

 

All features and specification data taken from AutumnWave which is the manufacturer of OnAir Solution Products ( http://www.autumnwave.com/Consumers/OnAir-GT.html )

Testing:

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.

Testing Setup:

 

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.

 

Functionality:

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.

 

 

Picture Quality:

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

 

System Resources:

For this, I recorded what the task manager was reporting for CPU usage when in Digital HD and Analog modes.

Conclusion:

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.

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: