If you want to receive clear QAM or over the air ATSC 8VSB TV channels with your computer, the cheapest solution I could find was a small USB stick produced by MyGica (actually based on the drivers, the tuner is produced generically somewhere in China and MyGica is packaging / branding / selling it in North America). I was initially skeptical to its quality, especially considering the very low price (under $30 shipped) but I bought one anyway and I will review it so you can make an informed decision.
MyGica A680 comes packaged in a small box containing the USB stick itself, an infrared remote control (compatible with Windows Media Center), a mini antenna, a mini RF to F connector converter and the software CD containing the driver and a somewhat old software, Total Media 3.5.
Technical Specs / Hardware Description:
The tuner itself is very small, similar in size with a USB memory stick. The USB port does come with a cap to cover while you carry it, but I don’t imagine this will happen very often. The design is minimalist but attractive, quite surprising that a combo NTSC / ATSC tuner fits in such a small package.
* Input : 75 Ohm PAL-NTSC Connector
* Clear QAM Tuner
* Fully ATSC 8VSB Compliant
* Input Signal Level (Channel power) : 0 to -75dBm 0 to -75dBm
* Tuner Input Frequency Range: 48.25-863.25 Mhz
* External Connectors: PAL-NTSC F Type Female
* IF Frequency: 44MHz
The official description only states Windows compatibility, everything starting with Windows XP and up to Windows 7, both 32 and 64 bit editions. To get your MyGica A680B working with Windows 7 you’ll need updated software though (check here for the Windows 7 x64 drivers). On the attached CD, the manufacturer included an ancient copy of Total Media 3.5 (circa 2005-2006) which amazingly enough is still for sale at ArcSoft’s website for a whooping $79.99.
For such a little and cheap device, MyGica A680B actually impressed me. The sensibility was on par with its more expensive (hmmm, should I dare say competitor? SiliconDust HDHomeRun HDHR3) and detected more than 80 clear QAM channels from a Time Warner cable behind 2 consecutive splitters (5.5dB and 4.5dB attenuation). Quite impressive.
The only drawback I found was that A680B is extremely slow at finding channels, a full scan takes more than 30 minutes. The new HDHomeRun HDHR3 finished the full band scanning in less than 30 minutes. You won’t have to perform the whole process more than once though so it is not a big inconvenience.
After installation, ArcSoft Total Media 3.5 performed the channel scan and got most of the channels right. You can then start watching / recording right away, and the software also provides caption text.
MyGica A680B in Windows Media Center
If you want to receive / record clear QAM channels in Windows Media Center, you’ll need either Vista with TV Pack 2008 or Windows 7. I am using Windows 7 x64 edition and after installing the correct drivers, Media Center successfully detected the tuner. Depending of your cable provider, Media Center might announce that no channels ere found and you’ll have to go and enable them manually. Many channels might also be missing (a problem with Windows Media Center, not with MyGica A680B tuner) but you can always add them manually. If you get the dreaded “No channels were found” error, check my tutorial for getting rid of the error. Eventually, all the local channels were properly set and everything was peachy.
MyGica A680B is more sensitive than I expected and is able to detect more than 80 clear QAM channels from Time Warner in Los Angeles Area. While it doesn’t come with all bells and whistles its more expensive brothers bring to the market, it actually serves it purpose, especially considering the price and can bring DVR functionality to a computer in a very easy manner. Just be sure to have the latest drivers installed and you won’t be disappointed. Highly recommended!
The antenna is probably included just to provide another check box on the features list. I can’t get ATSC reception in my area on any of my TVs even with an external high gain antenna after all…
- 1920x1080i in both clear QAM 64/256 and ATSC 8VSB
- beside Digital, also supports NTSC analog TV but who needs that anymore?
- comes with Windows Media Center compatible remote control, but you’ll need your own infrared port
- Nothing, really. It provides an excellent performance for the price.
- The provided antenna is useless, but then again, I am sure nobody expects otherwise