Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Stick Review

While LCDs have expanded to fill walls, TV tuners have become so tiny they can squeeze into a USB plug. The Hybrid Stick is a fairly chunky USB plug – big enough to foul the power connector on a MacBook Pro if you plug it into the adjacent USB socket – but it includes analogue and digital TV reception. There’s also an S-Video and composite input connector which can record and view analogue video from a VHS player or camcorder – a useful but possibly slightly dated option now.

The Stick may be tiny – but how well does it work? In practise it depends where you live. Torture testing the supplied micro-aerial in an area with notoriously poor reception produced nothing at all. A budget portable TV could just about pick up an analogue signal, but the Hybrid Stick pulled in intermittent audio only, with no picture. This puts receiver sensitivity 3-6dB down from a budget TV, and 6-9dB down from a high-end plasma or LCD. Moving to a different location with a distant transmitter just below the horizon produced better results, with solid reception of both digital and analogue signals.

It picked up a good range of channels, with high quality picture and sound.

The software is a Lite version of Elgato’s EyeTV. This offers basic channel listings, and simple time-shifting and recording. These do what you’d expect, with a minimum of fuss, all controlled from the keyboard or the supplied plastic remote. But setup is awkward. There’s no quick way to rescan for channels, and there’s also no ‘find the next strongest channel’ option – not good on a product that appeals due to its portability. More features are available with the full version of EyeTV, available for £25.

OUR VERDICT

The Hybrid Stick will be useless in poor reception areas. But if you live somewhere with a strong signal, or want a portable TV option for journeys with your MacBook or MacBook Pro, it’s a good performer.

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