AutumnWave OnAir GT Review

by Reads (8,543)

by Kevin O’Brien

Traveling HDTV junkies will be happy to know that they have yet another USB HDTV tuner on the market to pick from. As a little box-shaped device, the AutumnWave OnAir GT looks like many other external tuners. Inside, however, it uses one of the newest LG tuning chipsets available. An advantage to this is the ability to pull in weaker stations, a feature that many average tuners lack. To test the OnAir GT, we thought what better location than our home office which has never had any tuner successfully pull in digital stations. Read on to see if this tuner stands up to its advertising claims.

 

  • Supports HDTV resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 (ATSC)
  • Watch Digital (ATSC), Analog (NTSC) or Digital Cable (unencrypted QAM) TV
  • The latest 5th-generation LG Electronics tuner/demodulator offers unsurpassed metro and fringe area reception with virtually no multi-path problems.
  • Included Accessories: Remote, A/V input (composite and S-Video) cable, carrying case, telescoping antenna, USB Cable

 

 


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Setup

To get the OnAir GT working on your notebook or desktop, users have two options for software installation. You can use the included driver disc, or you can grab the latest software listed on the AutumnWave website. Usually the latest drivers and software released from companies include bug fixes, or corrections to the software. Many times the included driver disc may be outdated by the time you recieve it, leaving the support website as the best choice if an internet connection is avilable at the time of setup.

First step is downloading the drivers and HDTV program from the AutumnWave Support website found here.

Download the latest driver and program packages listed. At the time of this writing the current versions are 3.2.0.2 for the driver and v3.20P2 for the HDTV Program. Once on your computer, install the driver package first, then the program. Plug in the HDTV tuner, and let windows detect the hardware and link the drivers as necessary. Now you can open the program and get ready to start watching some TV.

Upon starting the program for the first time, you will need to program the available channels. Right click in the large black viewing area, and open the "Channel Manager." Next click on the "Scan CH" button and select the checkbox next to the type of channels you want to find. If you have your home cable hooked up to the tuner, select both options for cable, and if you are using an antenna, use both options for antenna. Click "Start" to begin the scanning process, and when it is finished you will be able to click "OK" to fall back to the channel manager. Now you can view your channel lineup that was strong enough to be picked up, and enjoy some TV.


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Reception

Since reception quality was a key thing with this tuner, and considering our office has never picked up any watchable channels in the past, we really wanted to see if this tuner could beat our "Office" test. We were pretty surprised the first time the channel manager was fired up; it found 13 digital channels with the 11" included antenna! Now some of these stations required some physical tweaking of the antenna to have steady video, but the majority worked. To give you an idea of tuner performance, we are going to compare available stations in our area to stations we actually were able to pick up:

As listed on Antennaweb.org, these were the available stations and distances from our address:


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Available Channels with Stock Telescoping Antenna:


Analog channels (view large image)


Digital channels (view large image)

Available Channels with Terk HDTVa Antenna:


Analog channels (view large image)


Digital channels (view large image)

Just to see if the amplifier included with the Terk antenna would help with the stock antenna, we ran another scan with the amp hooked up to the very small telescoping antenna.

Available Channels with Stock Antenna and Terk Amplifier:


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As you can see, turner performance was almost perfect, picking up everything we could have wanted. I think the most surprising fact was the stock antenna actually worked in an area that wasn’t friendly to past tuners.

System performance

USB tuners tend to task the processor and system as a whole during use, which means heat output as well as greater power consumption. A ThinkPad T60 draws roughly 17.44 watts while on battery power, and when the OnAir GT was connected the battery usage jumped to 28.92 watts … so you probably only want to use this tuner when you have access to a power outlet. Below are Task Manager screenshots of the system activity during 1080i HDTV playback, and another during 480i analog playback.


1080i (view large image)


480i (view large image)

Support

Out of a number of products I have reviewed over the years, this item had some of the most extensive online support I have ever seen. The AutumnWave website provides frequent program and driver updates, as well as an extensive FAQ for troubleshooting. They also have a very active technical support presence on AVSForum, with a support thread answering almost any question someone may have about the tuner. Currently that thread has reached 2,136 replies spanning dates from 7/5/2006 to 12/11/2007. You can view it here.

Conclusion

Overall I don’t think I could be more pleased with this tuner. It hit all of its advertised marks, had awesome reception, and wasn’t too hard on my system during use. Compared to a few of its competitors, it is one of the more expensive models, but considering how well it picked up stations during my use its hard not to recommend.

Pros

  • Excellent reception with stock antenna and with aftermarket HDTV antenna
  • Sleek basic design, not too flashy
  • Great online technical support

Cons

  • Pricey, starts at $179.99

UPDATE: Use coupon code NBRGT08 to save $20 off each OnAir GT from AutumnWave.us

 


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