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Compro VideoMate U900 - Tiny USB TV Box
Peripherals | First Looks
Tue 22 Nov 2005



Matchbox TV

 

The VideoMate U900 is even thinner than your typical mobile phone.

 
A mini 32-key remote is included.

 
  An assortment of cables are included for extra inputs, like S-Video and Composite.

We all have had our fair share of exuberant press releases from technology companies, all enthusiastically exhorting the various achievements featured in their latest product. Although there are usually a few genuine gems worthy of acclaim, mundane and disappointing ones are more the norm. Chastened by such experiences, we have acquired a skeptical approach to any outrageous claims, which was how we treated Compro's claim that its new VideoMate U900 is the world's smallest fully functional USB2.0 TV box.

TV Anytime, Anywhere

From its early roots as an OEM manufacturer of electronics equipment, Compro has gradually transformed itself into a specialist firm concentrating mainly on competitively pricedT TV tuner cards. The VideoMate U900 TV tuner box is yet another milestone. Designed with the proportions of a credit card, it is extremely lightweight at only 60g and thin enough to slide easily into a shirt pocket. It may be hard to believe that this pocket-sized device can bring the world to your screen but that was exactly what it did. With support for virtually all TV formats, from NTSC to PAL, this device will work regardless of your location. Additional input interfaces to S-Video and Composite means that you can even attach it to other video sources like a DVD or VCD player.

The key requirement here is that your computer or laptop must possess at least two USB2.0 ports. The higher transfer rates found in the USB2.0 standard enables relatively smooth playback while the device also draws its power through this interface.
Predictably, the VideoMate U900 relies on your system's CPU for most of its processing, which is why, if you intend to record at the highest DVD quality, Compro has recommended a 2.4GHz processor as the minimum. The TV playback turned out to be quite acceptable but not really comparable to a hardware decoder based TV tuner card.
A Fully Functional PVR

To satisfy its claim as a full-fledged TV tuner box, Compro has rightly included necessary features such as scheduled recording and time-shifting. Time-shifting allows you to pause your television programmes, with the TV tuner buffering the show until you are ready to continue. On resuming, you could even fast-forward or skip the commercials, just like any competent personal video recorder (PVR). There is even a mini remote that adequately covered the main functions of the PVR.

For such a product, your hardware is only as good as its software, as without a competent PVR program, many of its touted functions would turn from plus points on paper to frustrating liabilities. Accordingly, Compro has included its proprietary ComproPVR2 program and we are glad to say that it worked perfectly out of the box. While it was not equal to your commercial media center programs, it was easy to use. Crucial settings like scanning for valid TV channels were initiated automatically the first time you start the program. Inclusive of the installation time, we estimate that even the most inexperienced of users should have the VideoMate U900 working in half an hour. Additionally, a couple of programs from Ulead were bundled to aid in editing your recorded shows and videos.

Final Thoughts

Compro's experience in building TV tuners is evident, as witnessed by the simple but polished PVR program included in its VideoMate U900. The tiny dimensions of this TV tuner belie its full range of features and capabilities, which are all pretty decent. The less demanding or novice user who values portability and convenience should find the VideoMate U900 TV Tuner Box an effortless initiation into TV Land on the PC.

  Product Specifications

  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.4 x 1.4cm
  • Weight: 60g
  • USB 2.0 Interface
  • Built-in IR Receiver
  • TV Format: NTSC, PAL, SECAM
  • Resolution (Screen Size): NTSC (Up to 720 * 480), PAL (Up to 720 * 576)
  • Supports S-video, Composite video and stereo audio input
  • Supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4  recording formats
  • Mini 32-key Remote Control