Devices like the Slingbox and Sony's LocationFree let you watch what's on your home TV from almost any location. The WinTV-PVR USB2 TV Anywhere is Hauppauge's attempt to jump on the place-shifting bandwagon by pairing its existing WinTV-PVR2 USB2 TV tuner with a third-party media streamer -- Orb.
The WinTV-PVR USB2 TV Anywhere (we'll refer to the complete package as 'TV Anywhere' for the sake of brevity) is based on established hardware and software. The hardware portion is a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR USB2, which attaches to your computer via a USB cable. This turns your PC into a TV or draws inputs from a variety of sources including your existing set-top box via composite or S-video inputs.
It's fairly chunky compared to the plethora of USB pen drive-style TV tuners available, but this device is a 'HardPVR' model featuring a dedicated hardware MPEG-2 encoder chip. This means it doesn't rely on your computer's CPU to take the strain of recording video, which can make all the difference to a slow PC. If you plan to use your computer to surf the Web, write an email and so on, while you record TV, this is ideal.
TV Anywhere gives you most of the mod cons of the TV tuner world. There's time-shifting, which lets you pause and rewind live TV, USB 2.0 support, which lets you record a higher quality video stream than USB 1.1, and you can view screen grabs from multiple channels simultaneously in a grid. There's even an FM radio tuner.
TV Anywhere's biggest attraction is its compatibility with the Orb service, which also happens to work with just about every other TV tuner and is available for free from Orb's Web site. This gives you access to the digital media stored on your PC (including the TV signal received by the WinTV-PVR2 tuner) via a Web interface. With it you can stream live TV, photos, music and video to a Web-enabled laptop or compatible mobile phone.
It's extremely easy to set up -- you simply install it, tell it what folders you want to access while away from home (or in another room), log into the Web client and off you go. TV, videos, photos and audio are all easily accessible, and unlike the Slingbox and LocationFree you can actually record TV as well as access a selection of channels broadcasted via the Internet, such as BBC News 24.
The TV Anywhere's biggest drawback is the disjointed nature of its software and hardware. Whereas Slingbox and LocationFree are almost seamlessly integrated with their respective software, TV Anywhere has no less than 17 software components to install. It's not particularly tricky (everything is handled via a wizard), but it's time-consuming and could be confusing for total novices.
Another significant drawback is the TV Anywhere's analogue-only tuner. Slingbox comes with a hybrid digital/analogue tuner so you can access dozens of Freeview stations (if you don't already have Sky or HomeChoice), but here you're limited to analogue versions of the five terrestrial channels, which won't even exist in a few years.
Other niggles include the user interface. The WinTV viewer is unashamedly nerdy in its presentation and hasn't changed much since it first arrived all those years ago. The Orb interface isn't quite as unfriendly looking, but this product definitely isn't designed for the average grandma.
A major failing is that you have to leave your home PC switched on in order to watch TV while away from home. It doesn't have a network port for connecting to a router, so your PC has to act like one -- not so great if you don't want to run up a significant home electricity bill while you're on your next business trip.
Our final gripe is the price. TV Anywhere has an RRP of £100, which is cheaper than a Slingbox but still too much considering you can buy digital USB tuners for less money and download Orb for free.
TV Anywhere does everything it claims to. It's ideal if you want to turn your PC into a television, and the ability to watch your home TV from Web-enabled laptops and mobile phones is useful. The only letdowns are that it lacks Freeview and isn't as seamlessly crafted as its rivals.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin