Watchandgo, it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. But this little TV card is a nifty gadget. Of course, calling it a gadget possibly does it a disservice, as gadgets tend to be fairly useless objects. The watchandgo is quite handy if you like to watch TV while on the move.
It consists of a PCMCIA card, an external antenna and software. Initially the watchandgo shipped with a small antenna, which works fine in Formac’s native Germany where digital TV signals are strong. In the UK the signal is considerably weaker, so it’s now shipping with an active antenna, which is big, but works well.
The card fits into 15- and 17-inch PowerBooks - lowly 12-inch models and the iBook range lack the PCMCIA slot required. The card protrudes a little from the slot, and it has a connection for the coaxial RF cable. The cable links to the antenna, which is an oblong affair, a little smaller than A5 in size. The thickness of the cable and the size of the antenna does make the package a bit unwieldy. It’s not something you might whip out on a train, but if you are at a desk, it is easy to set up.
Once everything is installed, tuning the channels is easy enough. The receiver is a digital one, so all the Freeview channels are available. Also, because it is digital, the picture is perfect so long as you have a decent signal. Coverage varies throughout the country, but our signal was excellent and worked without fuss.
The software also allows recording of shows, and you can use the on-screen guide to pre-programme recordings. The software will then wake the computer from sleep mode (though the lid must be open), and record in your absence.
One niggle is that to watch pre-recorded shows you need to have the card inserted. You needn’t have the antenna connected, but it is a hassle if you are watching on a plane or train. Thankfully, there is a simple solution, you can watch the content without the card using MPlayer OS X. It’s an excellent, free viewer that allows full screen playback. It’s a shame that the Formac software doesn’t offer this facility, but this is a simple solution.
I really enjoyed using the watchandgo, it allowed me to watch TV at work -not that I get to watch TV at work on a regular basis. But it will be a popular facility to have during the World Cup, or whenever there is a news story big enough to clog the BBC news Web site. Capturing TV shows is fun too. For the price, it is certainly worth it for many people. Whether it is to relieve boredom when working late nights, provide entertainment on a train or plane journey, or just to watch the cricket, watchandgo is a very handy thing to have.