What is a USB TV Tuner?

R. Kayne

A USB TV tuner is a device that allows a person to watch television programs through a desktop computer or notebook. It has input ports to connect to the outgoing ports on a television or entertainment center receiver. The digital or analog video signals travel through coaxial or composite video cable respectively to the TV tuner, which translates them as necessary to view on the PC. The device uses an available USB port on the computer.

USB cables are used to connect devices -- such as TV tuners -- to computers.
USB cables are used to connect devices -- such as TV tuners -- to computers.

This type of tuner can allow a person to simply watch TV or manipulate the data in various ways. Every one has its own hardware specifications and software, so not all products are equal in functionality, ease of use or picture quality. Most allow live TV to be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded, and some models come with software tools to burn incoming programs to DVD, along with advanced editing features. Some allow the user to pull still images from streaming TV and convert them to various graphic files or use them as desktop wallpaper.

A digital TV signal can usually reach set  up to 70 miles away from broadcast towers.
A digital TV signal can usually reach set up to 70 miles away from broadcast towers.

A USB TV tuner can be a useful tool for converting old videocassettes to DVD, which can save space and make it easier to archive the videos. Home movies recorded to videocassette can also be transferred to a hard drive or DVD.

One of the nicest advanced features is the USB TV tuner that can act like a personal video recorder (PVR) to automatically record shows to a hard disk. From there, they can be viewed at a later time, then deleted or burned to DVD. Some USB TV tuners can record two programs at once and allow the user to watch one program while recording another.

Each tuner lists its minimal system requirements. The faster the computer and the more memory and hard disk space available, the better. Though some USB TV tuners might be backward compatible to the USB 1.1 standard, the user might lose quality and necessary speed for certain operations. An available 2.0 USB port is a better choice.

Prices range according to manufacturer and features. An external USB tuner is handy because it can be quickly moved between computers, or attached to a USB multiswitch hub for shared accessibility. Internal TV tuner cards are also available. Before buying, consumers should read reviews to make sure the model they have in mind will perform as expected and includes all the desired features.

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Discussion Comments


The USB tuner is only feeding the TV signal to the computer. If Germany broadcasts US TV shows, you can see them with or without the USB tuner. If there are particular shows you want to see while traveling abroad, you might check to see if they are available streaming online. Visit the network's website and check.


can I pickup tv channels in the USA while I am in Germany?

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