I am in process of trying to wean myself away from my series 3 TiVo. Don’t get me wrong I still love TiVo and have a Premier one for our main TV in the living room. However, I’m recording so few shows that it is not worth paying the $12.95 a month extra for the one in my computer room. However I do still want to be able to watch some TV, especially sports, so I brought the AverTVHD Volar Max a USB digital tuner for my Mac mini. I know that in my area I can get ABC, NBC, PBS, Fox, CW plus a local religious station. I checked out Antenna Web to get this information. In fact many of these stations have multiple streams, with different programing. I was however hoping to get some more digital channels by connecting it to the cable outlet. Boy was I disappointed. Other than music channels I got only 3 more channels that I could watch. I was not expecting to get scrambled channels, however I was expecting to get the same digital channels I could get thru basic cable. I guess I expected too much from Comcast. I do get other channels like TNT, Bloomberg TV and more, but they are audio only, no video. Which is interesting for about 30 minutes, but not very practicable. It wouldn’t be so bad if Comcast had’t degrade the nonHD channels so much that they are almost unwatchable, especially for sports.
As for the AverMedia HD Volar Max itself, it works. However the UI leaves a lot to be desire. When you first setting it up, and you are scanning for channels, every time you rescan as you move the antenna to get the best location, it erases the channels you have already gotten. I quickly figured out that do one scan facing the antenna in the direction where the most channels broadcast from and then add the rest manually. It also doesn’t come with remote, however it does works with the Apple Remote. If your machine can handle it you can do PiP, mine could not. You can schedule recording either manually by time or by using the program guide. That is if I could figure out how to set the correct time on it. As far as recoding, I did a short test recording and it played back fine thru the VLC application.
If you do decide to go this route there are a couple of web sites I recommend checking out prior to doing any purchasing. The first is AntennaWeb, which will give you a good idea what antenna will work best for you and how to position it. The second site is called Silicondust which will give you some idea what channels you may receive. What channels you receive will depend on you antenna and where you place it. In most cases an outdoor antenna will work better, but that is not always practical. I also looked at the EyeTv hybrid but it was almost twice as much. Is it twice as good, I wonder. If you have used the EyeTv hybrid and would recommend it. If you do recommend it let me know.