KWorld PVR-TV 300U Dongle
My first TV tuner card crashed during channel changes, which could have been the Win 95 operating system or some lousy drivers. Not the best experience for about $200. Either way, I was sold on the concept of TV on a PC, just not on the implementation. Flash forward ten years and the computer stores have shelves filled with TV tuner options. I'm partial to the Hauppauge cards for desktop use, but when I'm portable, everything boils down to size.
The PVR-TV 300U Dongle from KWorld wins in the size department for form factor, at about the same size as a large thumb drive, with no external power requirements. Its ability to encode video to MPEG-4 keeps file sizes down on my hard drive, which is a big deal when I'm traveling with a limit of 60GB on my hard drive. And the price is an affordable $40-60 depending on who currently offers the best deal.
I see two obvious markets for the PVR-TV 300U. On one hand, if you're traveling and you want something to watch, simply jack in the hotel cable and record shows directly to your laptop (in many cases this includes in-room movies). On the other hand, if your primary machine is a laptop this gives you PVR functionality without needing a bunch of extra junk to haul around. A third less likely market is for inputting alternate video sources like a camcorder, DVD player or video game console (portable Xbox 360 anyone?).
The tuner ships with software for recording shows and tuning them in locally on your laptop (or any PC). The interface isn't much to look at, but it gets the job done and handles channel changing without the lag sometimes associated with PVR apps. Support for both analog and digital cable signals makes it versatile and as I mentioned above, if you can tune in a channel like one of the in-room movie channels at a hotel, there's nothing stopping you from recording a movie to watch on the flight home, except for maybe the price. While I wouldn't replace my existing tuner setup for Windows Media Center or Beyond TV with the PVR-TV 300U, it makes an effective second and highly portable TV tuner at an incredibly reasonable price.