Two Aerials, Two Channels 

Michael Fereday takes a television capture device on his travels but finds home is best.

It must be admitted that the title "Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity" hardly flows off the tongue.  However it is by the performance and ease of use that this Terratec piece of kit should be judged in its designated operational area of providing television facilities on the move rather than its mouthful of a title.

Opening the box reveals a varied collection of items that can be used in conjunction with the main USB stick that is coloured predominately white with grey trim and dual aerial input sockets.  You get two magnetic aerials with detachable suction pads; a remote control device with a couple of AAA batteries; USB extension cable; a couple of converters for use with a standard aerial cable; and software CDs.  At this point you might be wondering why you get two aerials and two converters.  The reason for this is two-fold.  Enabled by the product's Diversity technology, it can handle two channels at one time - either recording both or watching one while recording the other.  When this dual channel capability is not required then Diversity can automatically switch to provide a boosted signal by combining the reception from the two aerials.

Setting up the kit is fairly straightforward although, perhaps, the minimal instructions were not as informative as they could have been.  After inserting the installation CD into a drive, you need to plug the USB device into a vacant port and the appropriate drivers will be installed.  This turned out to be a two-stage operation rather than the one indicated in the instructions.  Next you need to install the Terratec Home Cinema software - there is also an option to install DirectX 9.0c for those with equipment capable of taking advantage of this software. 

The first time you run Home Cinema, it will offer to scan the airwaves for television and radio reception.  However, before this process starts, I would suggest attaching one or both the supplied aerials - an action not mentioned in the instructions, probably because it was such an obvious step.

My first attempt at scanning, using the default settings of "Free-to-Air" and "Normal" intensity identified 15 television channels and 15 radio stations.  Switch the intensity setting to "Finest", a much slower operation, increased television to 21 hits and radio to 19 hits.  These were hardly numbers to impress especially when attempting to view the various television channels.  Picture break-up and complete freezing were common occurrences even when using the two supplied aerials and despite trying various locations.  At times the only way out of the picture freezing syndrome was to close down and then restart Home Cinema.  Matters improved slightly when using the supplied USB extension lead as this removed the tendency of the USB device to lean at a slight angle when connected directly to my laptop.

Exchanging one of the supplied aerials with my roof top aerial, using the converter provided, resulted in a far superior performance.  Rescanning resulted in 49 television channels being detected plus 27 radio stations.  Not only did I gain access to many more content providers but there was also far better quality with regards to both picture and audio.  The reception achieved really encouraged further exploration of the facilities offered by Home Cinema.

I quickly discovered that I need to change the audio setting, from the default to my original audio device, in order to get sound with any recordings.  I could record two channels simultaneously by selecting from on-screen listings of programs and times  An EPG (Electronic Program Guide) facility is provided and you also get an initial free subscription to the service.  Unfortunately when recording two programs at once, there was a distinct difference between the two channels.  While one was of good quality, presumably using the roof top aerial, the other, having to make do with the indoor aerial, suffered from picture break-up and shuddering.  Maybe if I had access to two roof top aerial, this would not be a problem.

Teletext was another area which totally failed to impress.  Whenever I tried to access this feature, I was met with a black screen without any expected text or options to set a home page.  However I was able to use the time-shift feature; alter the screen aspect; switch between full and window mode; plus capture still images.  Switching between the three modes of television, radio and recordings was just a matter of clicking a button.  The supplied remote worked without any problems.  Bundled with this kit is a version of Ulead DVD MovieFactory 3.

As a travelling companion for your laptop, the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity has failed to impress.  Given access to a roof top aerial, hardly the type of kit normally available when on the move, the product can provide most of the promised features but not all.  This kit has been priced in the region of £85 and requires a 2GHz processor with 512MB RAM, USB 2.0 port, DirectX support running Windows XP/SP2.

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