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Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick
Watch TV on your notebook
By Joshua Virata

Pinnacle Systems has released a new version of its PCTV TV tuner sticks called the PCTV HD Pro Stick, the middle version of the product line retailing at $99.99 US. The other two being the PCTV HD Stick that doesn't come with an IR remote for $69.99 US, and the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick which comes with 2GB of built in flash memory for PVR recording that you can bring with you for $129.99 US. This middle flavor of the PCTV line is perfect for those who want to enable their computer to watch over-the-air TV broadcasts, as well as a multitude of other media options.

The company has done a good job refining and tuning the PCTV viewing software from when I first received one of these PCTV to GO TV tuner sticks for review. The software seems to have gotten better and faster at what it does. I know from experience and using the same laptop to review previous generations of this product that this is one of the best revisions yet. The hardware is smaller and more USB port friendly, especially when using the Pro Stick with a laptop USB Port. This version of the TV tuner software is more fluid and runs very cleanly with only a minor hiccup every now and then such as when changing channels.

With system requirements that match those of most new computers released in the past two years, most people shouldn't have a problem running the software on their current hardware set ups. The software calls for Windows XP with 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended) or Vista 32-bit with 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended). For watching standard definition TV programming, the software calls for a 2.4 GHz Intel Pentium 4, Pentium M 1.3 GHz, or equivalent AMD Athlon 64 processor. While HD programming can still be watched with these processor speeds it is recommended that a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 or Pentium M 1.7 GHz is used. Although with such a small jump in processor speeds I'm not entirely certain that this would be necessary, if your computer is optimized and doesn't have a lot of background programs running then the minimum system requirements should do fine.

Pinnacle's HDTV Pro Stick

In testing this version of the PCTV HD Pro Stick I ran it on two different laptops; a Sony Vaio, and an Apple MacBook Pro with Windows XP and Windows Vista Ultimate respectively. I have ran the previous versions on the Vaio with a lot of hiccups in the video decoding and watching TV but this time around it ran a lot better with less jittering. The Mac in Windows Vista also ran the software cleanly with excellent HD video quality when viewing Los Angeles-based ABC7HD over-the-air.

The software records in MPEG-1/2, DivX, or MPEG-4 compatible with a Sony PSP or Apple iPod for a trial period; the last two codecs have to be purchased after the trial period. But if you have any other encoding software, then you can just take the recorded TV program and re-encode it for any other device or codec you need.

The PCTV HD Pro Stick allows viewing for ATSC (HDTV up to 1080i, and SDTV broadcasts), NTSC (cable, over the air broadcasts), and ClearQAM unencrypted digital cable for up to 1080i HD programming. The antenna not only allows for TV reception but also FM radio reception.

The PCTV HD Pro Stick comes with the USB Pro Stick itself, an IR remote (batteries included), a coax cable antenna base with telescoping antenna, a USB extender cable, and a multiple input adapter for  1/8" stereo audio, composite video (RCA), and S-Video inputs. Inside the paper divider in the packaging there is user documentation, registration card, and Pinnacle s TVCenter Pro software as well as VideoSpin install disks.

For a first time user this TV tuner system is very easy to use and can change the way that you use your home desktop or even your laptop on the go. If you don t pay for an in home DVR this is your chance to record your favorite TV shows on your computer for viewing when you want, where you want, on any computer if you re that tech savvy. For more information, visit



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Joshua Virata is a 2008 graduate of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. He has been using computers since the age of 2 and is proficient in the areas of home wired and wireless networking, music creation, secure computing, cell phone communication and GPS navigation. You can email him at [email protected]

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