Pinnacle PCTV To Go Review

Pinnacle Systems has partnered
with Monsoon Multimedia
to present an OEM’d version of the HAVA Wireless called Pinnacle PCTV To
Go
. Pinnacle’s PCTV To Go allows customers to enjoy their
entertainment systems wirelessly around their house or anywhere across
the world. Pinnacle is the latest to invade the Placeshifting market
where Sling Media and Sony LFX currently rein supreme.

The PCTV To Go boasts east wireless setup, integrated Microsoft Windows
XP Media Center Edition (MCE) support and, what’s important to people
on DVR Playground, extensive digital video recorder (DVR) support.

The PCTV TO Go provides full resolution television viewing in MPEG-2
around the house for DVD-like quality as well as MPEG-4 quality over
the Internet.

One major plus for Pinnacle PCTV To Go is that anyone can easily setup
the box as it wirelessly connects to a PC or home network eliminating
the need to somehow get the network to your entertainment center.
While Sling Media provides a solution for extending your network to
your TV, you need to purchase a SlingLink for $99.99 which is the
“least expensive way to connect your Slingbox to your router without
wires.” Another major plus for the PCTV To Go product is the ability
to multicast your entertainment to multiple devices in your house (not
available outside your network). I plan on using this feature at an
upcoming party to wirelessly multicasting a console football game
around my house to several laptops located in multiple rooms increasing
the number of spectators. The PCTV To Go device also becomes a virtual
tuner for a Windows MCE PC allowing you to use all the functionality of
the MCE without having to open the computer and install a tuner.
Finally, PCTV To Go allows you to bring the DVR functionality to the PC
you use to watch the video (this functionality is not available away
from the home due to possible copyright infringements).

So, how do you setup the Pinnacle PCTV To Go?

Setup Wizard

Starting with the installation, I opted to download the 46MB version
1.1 to make sure I had the latest software to work with from Pinnacle System’s support
site
. The latest software enabled support for HDTV content (1080i,
720p, 480p/576p are supported, added an automated firmware update,
additional devices supported by IR Blaster, fixed various wireless
configuration problems and more.

Once fully downloaded you simply double click the EXE file, extract
files to a directory and go. Once the process starts you will see the
typical Windows wizard which helps you run through the installation and
registration process. Currently, only Windows XP is listed in the
Download area (which includes XP Home, XP Professional and XP MCE).

Setup Wizard - Video Test

Once the wizard finishes, you will be asked to run the Setup Wizard.
The software version is checked as the first step (thank goodness I
opted to download the latest version off the site!). Next you need to
detect the PCTV To Go which disconnects you from your current wireless
network (if already connected) to create the initial connection with
the PCTV To Go. Next, firmware versions are compared and if your PCTV
To Go does not have the latest firmware, the Setup Wizard will ask you
to update. Since the PCTV To Go software and firmware are still being
developed, you’ll want to upgrade whenever asked. After the firmware
is updated (it needed to be in my case), your video settings are tested
as you can see in the picture. Once you’ve established video you are
then asked to configure the TV Tuner Input. You can choose either
“analog cable or antenna” or “an external device such as Cable Box or
Satellite Receiver” and the channel number if you choose the latter.
Since I have DirecTV I chose the latter and channel 3.

Setup Wizard - IR Blaster

The next step in the Setup Wizard is configuring the IR Blaster. This
is where a weakness of the product presents itself as my very standard
device was not listed. I am testing with a Hughes HDVR2 and needed to
select the HR10250 model to use my DVR functions on the box. Every
release includes support for additional devices that you control
through the IR Blaster, but currently there is limited support for
devices. More than likely you will need to test a few models to see
which IR Blaster command set works for you. The next screen in the
wizard allows you to test.

Setup Wizard - Fine Tune

After you have found a command set that works you need to additionally
fine tune the IR Blaster settings to match the behavior of your remote.
You need to choose how you enter in single digit channels (4, 04 or
004) and check a box if you need to press Enter after the channel
number. I chose 4 and checked the box. You also can modify a slider
bar depending on how slow you have to press buttons on your remote.
I’ve included a screenshot to show my setting and to show an issue with
the UI (notice that above the slider there are missing parts to the
sentence).

Next you can configure PCTV To Go to be used with Microsoft’s XP MCE by
choosing if you want to switch to Coaxial/RF input when used by Media
Center. Again there is another issue with words running over other
words on this screen. Adjusting sliders for various A/V settings
including Hue, Saturation, Brightness, Contrast and Volume is next. I
kept the defaults. Next you choose you Admin password which requires
you to enter your password twice (typical).

Finally we get to the interesting part of the setup, Remote Viewing.
First you must select a unique ID that is automatically assigned to you
or type in your own unique ID. I typed in “testbox” as my unique ID.
After typing that in, I’m done.

Advanced Settings

The setup is relatively easy, but since I like to play with things I
decided to go into Advanced Mode to change my IP address to something
other than the assigned DHCP address. After assigning a new IP address
I had to login to my router and setup port forwarding for port 56123.
Unfortunately different routers have different ways to setup port
forwarding so check the documentation for your router.

Ok, so setup is fairly simple… how well does the product work?

Family Guy screenshot

To properly test PCTV To Go, I connected to the device both via the
local network and remotely.

First I connected wirelessly at home and was able to attain a streaming
bitrate that ranged between 6 mbps and 7.5 mbps. What does that mean?
It means I was able to watch streaming video in full screen on my
laptop with no pauses in sound or frozen video. Overall, the viewing
experience on the local network is simply excellent.

Next I tested the PCTV To Go connection from a remote network. The
results were roughly equivalent to other placeshifting solutions I've
seen over remote networks with a couple of video freezes, but overall
the PCTV To Go remote video was very good.

DirecTiVo Guide

There are three rather large areas of opportunity for improvement on
the PCTV To Go. First, support for more devices using the IR Blaster
is needed. Second, the remote control interface needs to desperately
be reworked. The remote control interface currently makes the product
seem unfinished even though the technology behind the device works
great. Finally, currently the product only works with PC running
Windows XP (no Mac, no PSP, etc...).

Recording Ability

The issues with the device are overlooked thanks to the ability to
record directly on the laptop and I look forward to testing the
multicasting feature a later this week. Also, the audio and video
quality is outstanding especially on the local network.

Pinnacle's PCTV To Go Wireless TV Tuner can be purchased from Amazon.com.

We're suppose to be in HD!

Click the image above to see a full size screen capture.