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Re-Printed From SLCentral

Phoebe Micro TV Master + FM
Author: Paul Mazzucco
Date Posted: February 27th, 2002
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/video/phoebemicro/tvmasterfm

Introduction

The longer I've been in college, and the more time I spend living in cramped quarters, the more I've come to rely on making all my space serve double-duty: all my lights are clip-on; my printer is on top of my monitor; some wall-space is reserved not for posters, but instead for my whiteboard (I use it heavily for coding); last summer I enlisted a TV Tuner to gain even more space. When I got the Phoebe Micro TV Master + FM, I was about ready to replace my old TV Tuner, and my stereo too (more space!).

In The Box

  • TV Master + FM PCI Card
  • Remote Control
  • User's Manual and Utility CD
  • RCA Adapter
  • Radio antenna
  • Remote Sensor cable

Features

Watching TV on Video Display

  • Resizable TV window from icon size to full screen
  • 125 channel cable ready TV Tuner function
  • Closed caption
  • 16-channel preview function
  • Auto scan tuning of Broadcast and Cable TV channels
  • Stereo and Mute Functions
  • Listen to FM Radio while you work on your Computer
  • Autoscan.
  • 20 preset Stations Fine Tune.
  • Station Number and Frequency Display

Image / Video Capture

  • 15 Frames per second
  • AVI & BMP compatible
  • YUV 4:2:2 quality with RGB 32, 24, 15 format
  • Support Coax, Composite, S-Video and Camera input CVBS)
  • Full screen (up to 640x480) capture capability

Internet / Point-to-Point Phone Application

  • NetMeeting compatible and support H.324 standard
  • Sound card, modem and camcorder or Desktop camera required

Other features

  • No VGA loop-back cable required
  • High bandwidth PCI 2.1 bus mastering with PNP capability
  • Support Color and Picture adjustment
  • Video source and video standard selection
  • Stereo audio input and output
  • Support NTSC broadcast standard
  • Remote control
  • PC 97 & 98 standard

Specs

Input Signal

  • 75 ohm coaxial TV antenna input
  • FM Antenna Input
  • S-Video input
  • Composite (RCA) video input
  • Remote sensor

Output Signal

  • Audio output (loop to sound card

The Manual

The manual sucks too. A lot of times companies can slide by with the fact that there's little information that actually needs to be given: this is such a product. Yet the fact remains that such oddities as "…It caused by resource of motherboard. As we know, the resource of slot that near CPU is the same with other device that on board of motherboard. (sound card, modem, VGA…)." While one can usually make out what they're trying to say, it's obvious that their translator did a horrible job

Installation

This part was painless. I've never had a simpler install "except for my ViRGEdx video card, which is now so old and was at one point so standard that the optimal drivers are installed when the OS is installed). The only issue I had was that it was tight-fitting trying to get the card into the slot, due to the ports sticking out the back, as they were so high up on the card so as nearly to stop one from being able to slide the card far enough back to slide it into the PCI slot. The manual says that the two potentially offending ports could be taken off, but I found this to be difficult to the point of failure - I simply couldn't do it. But I got it in anyway, and the software install was done in short order.

The Software

The included software is rather straightforward and should be self-explanatory, except perhaps for the buttons at the bottom which, unfortunately, do not have a name-description next to them. The good news is that they shouldn't have to be used that often, as they are used for the varying TV options, shown below:

There are a number of other options, such as brightness contrast, etc, though those are extremely basic and straightforward. The unfortunate thing about the included software is that it doesn't have the ability to record into mpeg1, 2, or Divx, nor was there any equivalent form of audio compression (such as mp3) available. While the ATI TV Wonder VE doesn't claim to have the aforementioned features, it does, and that makes a world of difference to those who record from TV.

Usage

The remote...is abysmal. Firstly, the feel: it's ultra light, and cheap. If I were to spend as much time reviewing this product as Phoebe spent in designing the remote, I would not have written anything more than the introduction. It's really That BadTM.

The buttons aren't well spaced, or shaped. The volume up/down is the same size and shape as the channel up/down - not usually an issue, as they tend to be arrow based, or the two control types tend to be orthogonal to each other. Nevertheless, Phoebe found a way to deviate from the norm, and screw it up: not only are the buttons the same size/shape, they are also equally spaced from each other, thus making it easy to get the volume down confused with channel up, and vice versa. Surprisingly, this is not so much of an issue, because the buttons don't work half the time anyway.

The remote receiver is a piece that is connected through a jack into the back of the card. However, either that, or the remote itself (both?) really, really sucks. I tried new batteries, and pressing the buttons in varying ways, but it just didn't work consistently. All the buttons worked, but the problem was getting it to recognize that I had pressed a button. Changing volume or the channel sequentially isn't a big deal, because you can just push up and down a bunch of times. But it doesn't work out that easily for jumping from one channel to another. In this case, it becomes very difficult to be able to get the card to acknowledge that I've pushed, say, the numbers '1' and '2' in the right order. Often times I end up pushing them repeatedly, and ending up with a channel I hadn't expected (such as 11, or 22). The only work-around I found was to press the channel number button enough times for it to change, and then press up or down enough times so as to get to the desired channel. Not a nice, or viable, option.

However, what is nice is that by double pressing the TV/FM button, it will switch from one to the other, and behaves the same way to go from full screen to windowed mode. The power button will turn the software off, but unfortunately, it doesn't turn the TV (or radio) on. Bummer.

The actual usage of the TV is similar in concept - click on the button you want, and it does what the words next to the buttons say they will. One problem is that the lagginess of the remote is reflected in the software as well. I haven't any idea why software would be made as such, because it takes a full second (maybe more) to even change the channel up, or the volume. Even the resizing of the window is laggy. The good news is that it is very easy to move the screen around, as there is no zoom (like the TV Wonder has), which means you can just click anywhere on the image and drag it around.

Radio

The above is the radio interface, and is straightforward just as the TV one is, with the exception of the red button. The red button is NOT the record button. It is instead used to save the pre-programmed buttons to specific stations that you set. The scan is a digital one, and can go up/down in increments of .05 MHz. Such fine adjustment is a welcome change from my stereo!

The remote works similarly for the radio as for the TV, where the volume is still the volume, however, the number buttons don't do anything, while the channel up/down selects the preset stations after you've selected them.

The included antenna is rather long, and I ended up merely taping it to the wall, which has worked out beautifully.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Price. It can be found for ~$50 USD.
  • Radio: Great reception (far better than my stereo), and preprogrammed stations is nice.

Cons

  • Image quality: for the most part, it was similar to the TV Wonder, though a few channels came in weak.
  • Documentation: While not really needed, it's nice to have a quality manual around, and this product does NOT have it.
  • Responsiveness: This product is, for lack of a better term, LAGGY.
  • Remote: The remote absolutely sucks. Not enough bad things can be said about it.

Conclusion

For all my ranting, this card isn't ALL bad. The software, while easy to use and intuitive, is slow and unresponsive. I have ended up using ATI's software instead of the included software, as it will change channels and volume much much faster. However, that means I lose the remote control - one of the major draws (in theory). I love having radio. The radio is arguably the best part of this card. Of course, the TV part is heavily lacking due to the remote's lack of….everything. For anyone who channel surfs, this card is NOT for you. For those who turn the TV on and leave it there, or listen to the radio a lot, this card is an option, but the cons should be heavily weighed too. I would call this the FM Master + TV Slave, not what Phoebe called it.

SLRating: 6.5/10

Re-Printed From SLCentral