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Leadtek Winfast TV USB II Deluxe
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Date: Mar 10, 2005
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Matt Beauvais
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Introduction - Leadtek Winfast TV USB II Deluxe

Years ago, when computers with a 200MHz Pentium processor and 32MB of RAM were all the rage, we came upon a nifty device that came pre-installed in a wimpy Packard Bell PC. This device was a PCI TV Tuner Card. Back then, the ability to watch TV on a computer was somewhat of a rarity.  And now, while there are many more options available, its still pretty uncommon.  However, users are no longer limited to simply watching.  In fact, there are a myriad of other uses for this kind of device. One addition has been the ability to receive and even record FM Radio signals.

Today on HotHardware, we will be examining these features, and beyond that, we'll also be taking a look at the visual appeal and ease of use of Leadtek's WinFast TV USB II Deluxe. This product is well suited for those looking to watch TV on their PC's, and is also a decent choice for those looking to do a little media encoding. Would you like to record your favorite shows and cut out the commercials? Or maybe take all of your home videos off that deteriorating video tape? Reportedly, the Winfast TV USB II Deluxe gives users the ability to do all this, and more.

Product Features and System Requirements
Package Contents
Package:

Leadtek WinFast TV USB II Deluxe
External USB 2.0 Device, Cable-F connector and FM Radio connector, Audio In and Audio Out connector, Composite Video in connector and S-Video in connector,
slim remote control with battery, USB 2.0 connector, 3x USB 2.0 Hub.

Power Adapter:

1x DC Power Adapter

Manuals and Books:

1x WinFast PVR User's Manual
1x Quick Installation Guide

Software Packaged:

Ulead Video Studio 8.0
DVD Movie Factory 3.0 & Cool 3D
InterVideo WinDVD Player

MuVee Auto Producer 3

System Requirements:

Pentium 3 550MHz or Above
Pentium 3 1GHz or higher for MPEG-1/2 Recording, 1.2GHz for Time-Shifting)
128MB or more of system memory
Microsoft Windows XP with SP1 / 2000 with SP4 OS
1 sound card line-in or speakers (Windows 2000 user)
Connect stereo audio cable to sound card or speaker when under Windows 2000
USB 2.0 compliant port

Pricing and Availability:

$150 USD

Warranty:

3 Year Warranty with a Real-time RMA policy

 







 

Notable Features:

Direct Brun DVD/VCD/SVCD Stereo Support
MPEG-1/MPEG-2/MPEG-4/WMV/VCD/DVD Video Capture
MP3/WMA/WAV Audio Encoding
De-Interlacing
Picture-in-Picture
Time-Shifting
Closed Captioning
Secondary Audio Program(SAP)
Still Image Snapshot(JPEG/BMP/PNG/TIF)

 

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A Closer look and Package Contents

Leadtek WinFast USB II Deluxe - Taking a closer look
Leadtek's Bundle

The WinFast TV USB II Deluxe has a clean look to it, nothing ultra fancy, just a simple thin box with the Leadtek logo on it. However, Leadtek has also included blue indicator lights on each side of the unit. While this looks good with some rigs, this might be a slight turnoff to those of you looking to conceal the device with your other computer gear.

On one side of the device, you'll find the S-Video, Composite Video, and two USB ports. The other side contains the Audio In and Audio Out ports, as well as another USB port. The round hole you see in the front of the device, is the infrared receiver for the remote control.

  

Other than the expected cables and cords to get the product up and running, Leadtek has also thrown in a few appealing extras. A black carrying case has been included, and while trying to fit everything in there(software excluded) makes for a tight fit, nothing is in danger of being damaged or broken. The remote control is a nice touch that without doubt adds a certain level of "creature comfort".  In addition, the FM radio antenna extends to about a 11"-12" so the signal quality is pretty good.

   

As you can see, there's a nice complement of software to help you along with your media adventures. The manuals that are packaged are a quick installation guide, and the WinFast PVR manual. The quick installation guide will help you to setup up all the proper connections, and get the drivers installed. The WinFast PVR User's Manual explains how to operate the software for watching TV, so if your looking for help with the extra software, you'll have to consult the help files.

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WinFast PVR Software and Recording Options

WinFast PVR Software and Features
Channel Surfing on the PC

With the device hooked up to a cable line, and the drivers installed, we were able to begin channel surfing. The interface is pretty standard, as TV Function icons such as "+" and "-" for volume control are universally recognized. The main control panel allows you to change the volume, channel, and input source. You can also record video, take a snapshot, and open various media files to play. The only icons you may not recognize, would be the setup icon, and the Time Shifting Icon.

 

Setting up the recording options was probably the trickiest part of the configuration. A slew of recording options are available. Supported video capture formats include MPEG 1 Normal Quality, Good Quality, and Optimal Quality. The same quality options are available for the MPEG 2 format. Other formats include VCD, Super VCD, DVD, Windows Media(R) Video, and Uncompressed AVI. You can also choose to directly burn to a VCD, Super VCD, or DVD. The Audio-Out Control Line, and Audio Recording Line options available are the standard Microphone, Wave, Line-In, Video, as well as a few others.

  

Other options that are under your control are the Snapshot format, Master Audio Stream, and Record Volume. Beyond that, you are allowed to select the Time Limit, Size, and Frame rate of the recorded video. You can also choose to split the file into however many sections you want. Users can also adjust various image quality features such as Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Saturation and Sharpness. The third tab in the setup screen, is the TV Schedule. This option gives you the ability to have the program switch to a certain channel at a certain time, just like a standard VCR.

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Image Quality, Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Video Image Quality
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Now, let's talk a bit about image quality. But before taking a look at the pictures below, we'd like you to keep in mind that video quality is affected by the signal strength of the incoming cable line.  So, if the incoming cable signal is poor, video quality will be adversely affected.

  

When compared side-by-side to a standard TV, we thought the Leadtek WinFast USB II's output seemed to reveal a bit more background noise, but the overall picture quality was quite good. However, the resolution of a computer screen is much higher than a typical television, and users generally sit much closer to their monitors, so you're more likely to pick up on on-screen imperfections.

We really liked the Leadtek WinFast USB II Deluxe, although there are a couple areas where it could be improved. First, the USB cable that ships with the unit is easily dislodged from the device. The slightest nudge would jar the cable loose.  And another problem with the included USB cable is it's length. It's only about a foot long, so putting the unit anywhere except right next to your computer is not an option. Earlier in the article, we also mentioned the blue lights on either side of the Leadtek WinFast USB II Deluxe. These LEDs are very bright and there is no way to turn them off. While we don't really consider this a problem per say, not being able to turn off these LEDs will surely put off some potential consumers.

With a MSRP of around $150 USD (street prices already considerably lower), the Leadtek WinFast USB II Deluxe offers good image quality, a great software package, and some nice extra's such as FM Radio, a black carrying case, and a remote control. This product would be a good fit for anyone looking to get their feet wet with TV Tuning and Capture, and is even a decent choice for some more advanced users. The drivers are easy to install, and the WinFast PVR software is a breeze to use thanks to its well appointed graphical user interface. Based on its feature set, complete bundle, and ease of use, we're giving the Leadtek WinFast TV USB II Deluxe a Heat Meter rating of 8.

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