When I initially received the package, I wasn't all that sure what this thing exactly does. Actually, I have never heard of a thing like this before. But simply put, this is a device that receives a TV-signal (PAL B/G or SECAM B/G) and outputs it to a VGA monitor.
I can imagine that some of you already is protesting, claiming that I'm talking about a TV-card. Well, this is far from a TV-card, even though the functions are very similar. First off, it's an external device, secondly it is totally independent of a computer - if you so desire. Confused yet? Well, let's look at the specifications and then try to figure things out (copied from trust.com):
Trust Combi TV-PC POP View + remote controller
- Standalone TV tuner with video and VGA output
- No software or drivers required
- VGA output for monitor with selectable sources for PC, TV or PC+TV
- VGA output with Picture On Picture (POP) function for combined PC+TV view
- Selectable size and location for POP TV window
- Auto scanning and storage of all TV channels
- Status indicators for power, TV mode and PC mode
- View television, even when PC is switched off
- Full function remote control
- Clear OSD (On Screen Display) menu with control for brightness, contrast, color, hue, sharpness, position, bass, balance, mute, autoscan, etc.
- Basic function buttons also available on POP viewer
- Sleep time and Pre Auto Switch On setting function
- TV system support: PAL B/G (Euro model) and SECAM B/G (for Greece)
- Input signals: antenna, Video, S-Video, VGA, PC audio and video audio
- Output signals: VGA, video and audio
- VGA output supports resolutions 640×480 / 800×600 / 1024×768 @ 60Hz&75Hz
- Product size (H×W×D in mm): 40×200×150
The contents of the package is quite what one might expect, nothing extra, just the essentials. As a nice thing, I noticed the remote control, which I, somehow, had overlooked before. But, otherwise, nothing of special interest - let's skim through the contents, and then continue...
The contents of the box
- Combi TV-PC POP View
- Remote control
- 2 x AAA batteries
- Audio cable 3.5mm jack to 3.5mm jack stereo
- VGA cable (15 pin) to mini DIN (8 pin)
- Power adapter
- Multi language user's manual (UK/DE/FR/IT/ES/PL/NL/PT and GR/DK/SE/HU/CZ/SK)
S-video in, video in, audio-r in, audio-l in
antenna, tv out, stereo out, VGA out, PC audio in, VGA in
So, I took the stuff out from the box and started eagerly putting things together. Frankly put, I have to admit that I was quite lost with all the ports and wires included. This made me a bit ashamed, as I'm one of those persons who keeps the manuals shut until I'm totally lost with things, and have probably already broken something from assembling it wrong.. So, I humbly searched for the finnish segment in the manual, and after failing to find one was left with the UK version. After some shrugs and winces, I got the wires put together in the right ports, the right way. It would not have been all that difficult, if I had turned to the manual from the start. It's not all that easy being male.
Automatic channel search
Anyways, things assembled, I started working the channels. The automatic channel tuning worked nicely and found all the channels available. I noticed that the sound rattled at some frequencies, but it was quickly fixed by lowering the sound volume from the computer (PC audio goes through the device). This, however, leads to the fact that you have to turn your audio system up quite a bit because Combi can't amplify the sound all that much. Fortunately, I didn't notice any noise yet, but people with high-end audio systems might hear some static. But that's enough of that. Besides some brightness and contrast adjustments, the thing was ready for use without further configuration.
Without further ado, with tension I turned my computer on. With some mild astonishment, I noticed that the normal computer view was working just fine and was visible even though Combi was turned off. The sounds, on the other hand, don't work with powers off, which I find as a mild miss, but it's not all that a big of a problem. I noticed some possible softening and mild blur of the image in my Sony 17" Trinitron screen, but this doesn't worry me that much, because I replugged Combi to my tertiary monitory quickly afterwards, which rarely is used in precision-requiring tasks.
Because I use the screen in question almost exclusively for visualizations for my music, I have been using the POP view for the most part. POP (Picture On Picture) is a function where the computer screen is in the background, and the TV screen is rendered on top of it. There's three different sizes for this window, and it can be moved around on the screen. Also, when using POP, you can choose your sound source between the TV feed and the PC feed with the press of a button.
Fullscreen view + three sizes of the POP window
The three sizes of the POP window are somewhat oddly minimized. Especially subtitles are shown as obscure lumps of pixels. But anyhow, who says you have to watch the screen continuously in the window. Just keep the window visible at all times, and once you note something interesting, you can turn POP off and press the source-button, so you get a fullscreen TV-screen, ignoring the PC-source entierly. The menus are more elaborate in this mode also.
The device itself has a small selection of buttons, but they're ample enough to access all the features you actually need. The remote control has some additional buttons, but they're more like shortcuts to features behind the menus, or they display information on-screen. The usage of the remote control was left as a bit of a mystery for myself, atleast, because I have the Combi system about 20cm from my keyboard, so it's no problem for me to use the buttons on the box, thus leaving the remote useless. Afterall, a 17" screen is nothing one would want to view from a distance, although someone might be forced to place the main unit in a place hard to reach - the wires don't reach everywhere. Besides all this, the remote control felt bad in my hands; it was too wide to get a decent grip of and it was too light, so I was worried I might fumble with it, and accidentally drop it on the floor.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. Twice during the test period, for some reason, my monitor wasn't in PC usage at all. The only thing that fixed it was a reboot of the computer. I'm guessing that the fault lies in the fact that I watched TV via the unit before I had turned the computer on.
A second miss is the absense of TeleText. All modern TVs have it, and it's somewhat of a commodity nowadays that one expects to have and has grown used to. Of course, I do have a program installed showing all the incoming TV-programs, but sometimes I might want to read something else, too, from there.
As a small last nag, I might mention that it's quite a change listening to CD-quality music streaming from the speakers, and then suddenly witching to a TV-stream. The sound seems to rattlie and be filled with static. This, however, is in no way the fault of Combi, but it's just a matter of normal poor-quality TV-audio.
|Trust Combi TV-PC POP View
+ Ease of use, once set up
+ Picture on Picture
+ Stereo audio to your computer's speakers
- No TeleText
- Low volume
It's been three weeks, and I have used the device with a happy mind. It's not a miracle we're talking about, but it's no waste of metal and plastics either. The system specifications promise one TV-tuner which uses your PC-monitor in advantage, and that it does with success. Naturally, this is much cheaper than a brand new TV, and you can get much out of the Combi TV-PC POP View if you are an owner of a computer, especially if you are using a multimonitor system. Not to speak of if you have a computer monitor gathering dust in a dark corner somewhere. But, if you own a TV already, you might want to think twice before buying this device.