Freeview on a USB Stick (19th August 2012)

If you already have a decent Freeview aerial for your TV the you can plug this into a USB stick which turns it into a video stream that your laptop can display. You also get the program guide (EPG and can record shows (PVR). Some of these sticks even have dual tuners so you can use two channels at once.

There’s currently a very large Toshiba HDD & DVD Recorder (RD-85DT) at one end of my computer desk. Replacing that with a little USB dongle would be a lot neater!

PCTV nanoStick T2 (290e) for £60

It supports Freeview HD and the Toshiba box doesn’t. There are only 5 HD channels in the UK at the moment but that’s only going to grow. HD looks spectacular when streamed from the BBC Sport website onto my Dell U2410 monitor.

Nature documentaries and Formula 1 would probably be on Freeview HD but MotoGP is probably only available that way from the BBC Sport website.

It got the ‘Ultimate’ award from Expert Reviews. There are many interesting nuggets from Revoo reviews. It seems to be the best show in town. The remote control looks eminently sensible, too.

Having only one tuner means you can’t record one channel whilst watching another, AFAICT.

August DVB-T210 for £60

Another HD option for the same price as above. Claims to have the full 14 day program guide rather than the 7–8 days most of these systems provide. Very low system requirements compared to my laptop is a good sign, too.

Climax Digital DTV300 for £20

A single standard definition tuner but is wildly popular on Amazon! Compatible with Windows Media Centre, which is already on my laptop with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

The cheapest popular option by far, so a good place to start. I also like how the aerial lead would plug directly into it, without a further connection for an adapter.

Current System

Fiona gets Freeview from a communal aerial in the loft. We feed this into a cheap signal booster and that feeds into the Toshiba box. Signal is good enough to receive all Freeview channels plus DAB radio and even some ‘Red Button’ services.

It’s heavy enough for the rear third to hang over the edge of the desk, like an architectural cantilever. The top is flat and a few small items live there: