Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick

Let me be the first person on the internet to review this product. Maybe I can hald prevent you from going though the same hassle I did.

This TV Tuner is about on-par with all of Pinnacle previous offerings. The hardware itself is high-quality. Really pretty slick actually.

Have a look:
Product description

Pinnacle has excellent advertising, package design, and hardware design. It would appear, however, that they have about 2 programmers, and one of them is a monkey. (The monkey does the better work, of course)

The drivers are bad. Real bad. They are slow, the picture quality is crap, the channel changing speed is crap. The advertised support for Windows Media Center Edition is questionable: to support MCE a capture device must have hardware MPEG encoding. The HD Pro Stick has mpeg encoding when viewing HD – because the signal is an mpeg stream. When watching analog TV it appears to be using a software codec pretending to be hardware.

You cannot install the drivers without installing Pinnacle’s Media Center. A testiment to poor planning and limited resources, this hog has plenty of options that are totally meaningless. The Electronic Program Guide (EPG) is slow, ugly, poorly rendered and blatantly thrown together.

First of all, it is not free. They are generous and throw in 1 year of updates for free, but then you have to pay.
Ok…
So after you wait 20 minutes for it to download the EPG data, and “import” it, you can go ahead and use it. Hooray! I should be able to see what channel I’m watching, and what show is on!

WRONG!

If you want it to show the channel name, you have to type it in by hand when you add it to your favorites list. And the real kicker: it only shows about8 characters from teh title of the show, and 8 characters from the description.
So When I’m hoping to see something like:
———–
28 – FX
The Moose River Haunting
Two second grade kids are lost in the woods, and come bact to haunt the village of Moose River.
——————-

Instead you see:
————
28
Moose Ri….
Two Secon….
——-

Elipses and all.

Garbage. This is with “high resolution” epg enabled.
Ok, what about viewing the full EPG – what shows are on. It does not display in the window. Oh no, it pops up another window that must be navigated with a mouse. And it looks like a series of listboxes.

The analog picture looks washed out, there is a high-pitched sound in the background, and the sound is occasionally muffled.
The timeshifting works, but the graphics it displays (which make no sense) when you first pause TV chew up too much CPU.
At all times, and in all modes, the mouths do not line up correctly with the sound.

Why do I complain? Why not just use different software?
Nothing supports it yet, and when they do the performance will be crap.

The final straw was a trip to the support page. Pinnacle does not allow you to download drivers for their products. You must have a licence key to prove you purchased product, then you can pay them to send you a CD. They rarely ever update their drivers, and they do not act on customer concerns. The customer care ends the moment you give them your money.

They will probably support the product for a few months, until there is something newer for the monkey to work on. They have not yet even begun Vista drivers. Their official statement is “we will make vista drivers after vista comes out, and only for supported products”

They support very few product.

I will be returning this lovely piece of trash, and trading it in for a Hauppauge PVR. It’s not as new or shnazzy, but it is support by a company that actually cares about their customers, and is still updating the drivers for their circa-1999 capture boards. Thank goodness I got it at best buy.

Summary:
Pinnacle hardware is sold to convince you to purchase their flagship Studio product. They are not interested in quality or support. The Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick is not worth your money if you are looking for a PVR solution, and you will rue the day you purchased it.

Just ask the folks at the Pinnacle forum:
No drivers without key
Seeking better PVR software
Typical diagnosis: YOU need to remove things from your PC

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