Freeview on your laptopFreeview set-top boxes are getting smaller

01 March 2006

The Freecom DVB-T USB stick, £40 online, is not much larger than a cigarette lighter and designed to bring Freeview TV to your laptop or PC.

It plugs into the USB port and you can even use its basic electronic programme guide (EPG) to record programmes on the computer's hard drive, as you would with a PVR. However, it lacks some of the features you'll find on a conventional set-top box - there's no Teletext, subtitles, interactive features or full channel listing - and the EPG displays only one channel at a time.

It comes with a mini aerial that you sit on the desk beside it (or you can hook it up to a rooftop aerial) and a small remote control unit with basic functions.

We found it easy to set up, install the software and tune in the channels. We tried it out in both strong and weak signal areas with very mixed results. In a strong area with the aerial next to a window, it picked up all the channels and, although picture quality depended on the computer screen, it was very watchable, with only occasional momentary pauses in picture and sound.

However, in a weak signal area, the desktop aerial wasn't good enough and we couldn't pick up any channels at all - we had to connect it to a rooftop aerial before it would work.

Verdict Does the job, but suitable only for strong signal areas.