Hauppauge WinTV-Nova-S-USB2 review
The launch of Freesat came and went this month without too much fanfare. An addition to Freeview, the terrestrial digital TV service that allows digital TV to be picked up through an aerial, Freesat offers a similar free-to-air service over satellite, but with wider geographical coverage than Freeview.
To receive the Freesat channels you can pick up a new box and satellite yourself or buy a card for an existing Sky Digital box and dish. Alternatively, you can pick up one of Hauppauge’s new USB digital satellite TV tuners to use with an existing dish installation.
The snappily-named WinTV-Nova-S-USB2 is designed to be used in conjunction with, or as a replacement for an existing Sky satellite system. There are two dish connections as a result – one in, one out – on its rear allowing you to have the Nova connected at the same time as a Sky box should you want to, plus a USB socket for connection to a Media Center PC or laptop.
After a rather lengthy setup – scanning for channels took an inordinate two hours on our test dish – you’ll find that, in addition to the core TV channels and digital radio stations available on terrestrial Freeview, there’s a raft of extras here too. It’s not technically speaking a Freesat certified product, but you can get most of the channels on it.
We spotted the BBC HD channel in amongst the shopping and specialist interest channels, which piqued our interest. Alas the bundled WinTV software wouldn’t allow us to tune into this, though the functionality is reportedly available via third party software.
You can even pick up pay TV channels from the likes of Top Up TV if you add the Hauppauge WinTV-Ci module and a compatible CAM (conditional access module).
Picture quality was pretty good with decent colours and stable reception, as you’d expect from satellite TV – it’s just as good as terrestrial Freeview with a solid signal. And the whole lot can be controlled with the bundled remote control so you don’t have to fiddle with a mouse and keyboard every time you want to change channel.
This not the perfect product, however. First on the list of woes is a lack of integration with Media Center. You can schedule recordings and timeshift (pause and rewind live TV) using the supplied WinTV software, but you can’t do the same through your existing setup – apparently Vista doesn’t support DVB-S products as yet. There’s also no EPG support at the moment, which makes recording a little tricky.
Second is the fact that one of the biggest advantages of free digital TV – the forthcoming HD channels from the likes of ITV (and others, presumably) – will not be receivable with this box. It doesn’t support the new DVB-S2 standard the new channels will be broadcast in.
Ultimately, that means the Nova is a bit of a niche product. If you’ve a Media Center PC you’re better off waiting and getting a DVB-S2 compatible product, and if you’ve been stuck with terrestrial analogue and want a Freesat system, a dedicated set-top box and dish setup will serve you better. The Nova may appeal as an alternative to Sky in areas with poor Freeview coverage – but it’s a sticking-plaster solution at best.