In this down economy, people have been asking me (since I have a reputation as a gadget freak) what would be great gifts for this holiday season and would be ones with “a high geek factor and a low price.” The Flip Mino HD has been one I’ve recommended at $229 as has this Asus netbook at $329. Usually I’ve rarely had good luck with low-end products that purport to do big things that more expensive gear performs, but the two above are exceptions to that rule. So I was naturally skeptical when the box arrived for me to evaluate the $129 Pinnacle TV for Mac HD USB mini stick (more info on it here). I opened it up, installed the software, and waited the 15 minutes or so that it took to seek out all the possible stations in my area the included antenna could pick up. To say that I was stunned, surprised and delighted when suddenly a gorgeous high definition TV station appeared on my Apple 24” Cinema display, would be doing this little product a disservice! Every available over-the-air station worked flawlessly and it was easy to switch back-n-forth between channels. As I fooled around with it and viewed some content, I realized how much I would’ve loved having this device when the debates were going on (too often I had stuff to do at my desk and could’ve had live TV running watching them, instead of having to record the first half and watch it later).
After several days of using TitanTV (the online listing service) and trying out the personal video recording (PVR) functions, getting a signal became more problematic for some reason. Could be my location in the house (my home office is in front while most towers are located directionally behind my house) so I connected it to my in-attic antenna with the outlet in my office. Perfect once again (though I never did figure out why it was great and then intermittent).
A screengrab of a kids animated show on my local PBS affiliate and it was spectacular! Next, I brought the Pinnacle TV upstairs along with my Macbook Pro and tried it out with the included antenna. NOW I had zero trouble with the included antenna signal since our second floor is up high and with perfect sightlines to where the broadcast towers would be. As such, I’m using it upstairs often. This HD stick is certainly not a replacement for an HDTV or digital video recorder combination, but for traveling, in a home office, bedroom or spare room, it’s a remarkably good solution, especially for the laughingly small $129 price point. The Pinnacle TV for Mac HD USB mini stick is now on my strong recommendation list due to its “perfect high geek factor and low price.” That said, I’m also strongly recommending it for non-geeks since it’s so simple to setup and use. Check it out for yourself and see.