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If you are out and about and your favourite TV show is on, you can either miss it, have your PVR record it, or watch it live. You do not need to bring your television though: all you need is a notebook, an extra USB slot, and the Compro VideoMate Hybrid Stick.


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This USB stick will allow users to watch digital and analogue channels, listen to FM stations, record TV shows (using its recording software and your hard drive), and capture analogue video from Composite and S-Video sources.

In addition to the U2600F, the box includes a remote control, an I type to F type converter, a Start up guide, an FM antennae, a digital TV antennae (rabbit ears), a USB 2.0 cable, an Installation CD, and a 3-in-1 video/audio input cable.

Before installing anything, you must make sure that your PC or notebook supports the minimum system requirements of the device: Pentium III (1.7GHz), 512MB of RAM, USB 2.0 ports, sound card, graphics card that supports DirectX 9.0, Windows XP SP2, and 150MB free disk space. However, the company has stated that in order to ‘use all the features of the VideoMate U2600F, your PC must have at least a 2.6GHz CPU With SSE 2 support for recording, 1GB of RAM, sound card, Windows Vista, updated drivers, and 150MB of space for installation.

 


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Setting up the unit is quick and easy. Users would only need to connect the U2600F to the computer, install the software and drivers from the Installation CD, and restart. A shortcut for the Compro DTV4 software and Compro FM2 software will be on the desktop, allowing you to instantly watch TV or listen to any FM stations.

The unit’s autoscan feature will run as soon as the program is launched for the first time. Depending on your current location, the included digital TV antennae may be able to pick up all the channels. In our North Sydney office, we were able to get all the channels and watch them without any problems.

The control panel resembles the controls on a VCR. You can change channels by pressing up or down, record a show by pressing the record icon, and adjust the volume of the show. A number pad is also available in case you want to manually input the channel you want to watch. At the bottom of the control panel are icons that allow a user to channel surf, take screenshots, view the EPG, turn on closed captioning, add a window, and repeat playback recorded files. The DTV4 also has a display window that displays the signal strength of a channel and the audio level.

 


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The EPG displayed all the upcoming shows on a channel and allowed us to record the show once or weekly. But since the U2600F only comes with a single tuner, you cannot watch a show while it is recording a pre-set show or a show that is manually recorded. The unit will save the show on your hard drive in MPEG-2 format. The unit can also record from other AV sources such as a video camera by simply hooking up the 3-in1 AV cable, changing the input on the DTV4, and pressing record.

In addition, the unit also comes with a channel surfing feature that displays a 4×4 grid of channel images to give you an overview of current shows, a PIP/POP mode that displays various channel windows at once, and a video desktop feature that displays the video on your desktop screen.

If you want to listen to music, the U2600F also comes with a built-in FM tuner and program (called ComproFM) that acts as a radio. Users can also use this to record audio clips manually or automatically.

Overall, the Compro VideoMate is a great little unit to have on the go – it allows you to watch digital channels, record a show (manually or automatically), and will give you your TV fix anytime. It is available now for $149.

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