Sasem OnAir USB HDTV - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 1004 Old 02-29-2004, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
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I just ordered the Sasem OnAir USB HDTV today.

My reasons for ordering? I have a Dell Insprion 8600 with widescreen UXGA resolution. And, an old... I mean ancient RCA analog TV. So, I figure, here's a way to experience full-blown HD for the price of the tuner. Also, when I looked at the current crop of LCD TV's, none of them had native resolutions of 1920 x 1080. So, the best they can do is downscale 1080i signals to 720. I decided to just wait on the purchase of an HDTV LCD until the resolutions catch up with the higher resolution HD spec. In the meantime, as I wrote... I have this gorgeous UXGA laptop screen not living up to its potential :)

Otherwise, I also have the Motorola OTA HDTV tuner. And, a Hauppauge WinTV USB. I can only get, of course, analog on the old TV set, and the WinTV only takes analog from the HDTV tuner. Nevertheless, the quality is still impressive... so I got hooked on HDTV and have been waiting to really see it.

OK... here's the deal. When I receive the Sasem, I'll write a detailed review. I can compare reception to the Motoroala OTA tuner; and I can compare analog with the WinTV USB. If the product is good, I'll be glad to share. If lousy or marginal, I'll also be more than happy to let everyone know how I feel about paying $299 for it!

Finally, I figure if the product is lousy, and if everyone who would have bought, but won't after my review, would just send me a couple of bucks... then it'll be win-win ;)

Seriously, I'll be back....
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post #2 of 1004 Old 02-29-2004, 06:09 PM
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After you receive the OnAir USB receiver we can compare notes. :D

I've been testing one for 2 months.
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post #3 of 1004 Old 02-29-2004, 09:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi Cliff. I read some of your other posts with interest. Comparing notes sounds like a great idea.
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post #4 of 1004 Old 02-29-2004, 10:21 PM
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rconn2,

Are you allowed to share where you purchased it from?

I'm shopping for a new laptop and would love to add this tuner and make my laptop a portable HTPC. Can't wait to hear your review.


Cliff,

Will you be selling them at DC? Are you able to share your experience with it yet?

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"The Following Message has been formatted to fit your screen"
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post #5 of 1004 Old 02-29-2004, 10:29 PM
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"Will you be selling them at DC? Are you able to share your experience with it yet?"

I really can't share much at this time. I think Kei at DC is waiting for them to make some of the corrections I provided in my eval report.

I'll just say this, get a really good antenna. I loaned my Channel Master antenna to the Fox engineer to try at his home and am now using a Silver Sensor outdoors with a CM7777 preamp and can't tune any digital channels with the OnAir receiver. I can tune all channels on 2 PCI cards and 3 STBs with the same SS antenna.
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post #6 of 1004 Old 02-29-2004, 10:46 PM
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That sounds really bad, Cliif. You make it sound like you'd need one of these:
http://community-2.webtv.net/GregBarker/UHFQUADSTACK/
or one of these (for the VHF DT afflicted):
http://www.starkelectronic.com/del937.htm
to get any picture at all. :(
You tried without the pre-amp already, right?
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post #7 of 1004 Old 02-29-2004, 10:51 PM
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A CM4226 antenna worked just fine with the OnAir and all my other receivers.
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post #8 of 1004 Old 03-01-2004, 05:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Unable to tune any channels with a SS and CM 7777? That's alarming... an HDTV tuner that has trouble tuning??? That's totally unexpected. Any ideas on what's causing the problem? I think Sasem says the chip is from Phillips. Do you think it may be your unit, or that it may have been corrected. If all I can expect is the same, then I should try to cancel the order and save myself the grief. Please advise if you can.
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post #9 of 1004 Old 03-01-2004, 05:59 PM
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I was able to tune all digital channels with my CM4226 and CM7777 preamp before changing out the antenna to a SS. Hope the tuner didn't go out, but will not know for sure until later this week when my CM4226 antenna is replaced.
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post #10 of 1004 Old 03-01-2004, 06:12 PM - Thread Starter
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That does sound odd. An SS and CM7777 is a powerful combination, and if you placed outdoors with no reception, then either the tuner is really bad, or went bad.

The SS is one incredible antenna... I get stations on it that I can't get with my balcony CM 4-bay... probably picking up signal echoes.

Well... at least there's hope you just have a bad unit, so I won't try to change my order. I've received an order confirm, but no ship date yet... just ordered yesterday.

Please keep us posted when you find out more.
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post #11 of 1004 Old 03-01-2004, 06:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Ordering link:
http://forums.us.dell.com/supportfor...cending&page=3

But, recommend waiting till I receive and review. I'll do so as soon as I get.
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post #12 of 1004 Old 03-01-2004, 08:18 PM
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rconn2,

I've confirmed that the problem is the tuner on OnAir USB receiver and not the antenna. It can no longer tune analog channels from my cable system as it did before.
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post #13 of 1004 Old 03-01-2004, 08:42 PM - Thread Starter
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That's a big relief. An insensitive tuner would have been a show-stopper. Of course the question now is why did the tuner go bad and whether there's a quality control issue. Let us know if you find out anything more.

In the meantime, I just got a request to verify my ship address from Sun at Sasem. So, it looks like they're about to ship.
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post #14 of 1004 Old 03-01-2004, 08:59 PM - Thread Starter
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It's shipping today via UPS. I should receive in about 3 business days (so hopefully, by the end of this week).
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post #15 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 06:57 AM
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http://delltalk.us.dell.com/supportf...cending&page=4
Looks like Sun has a bit more to say about the USB HDTV and stuff, like MCE and QAM.
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post #16 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 07:41 AM
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CLiff, can you share anything about the QAM cabilities of this? Thanks.
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post #17 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 08:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by sting0r
CLiff, can you share anything about the QAM cabilities of this? Thanks.
I don't believe the QAM beta software is ready for testing. Anyway I have to return my OnAir USB for exchange because the tuner crapped out.
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post #18 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 05:48 PM
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Cliff....

What about XP-MCE? Their website indicates MCE support and seems to say that it works on USB1.1 for analog only, and all channels with USB2.0. I think something got lost in translation...can you clarify?

What about DIGITAL CABLE READY and CABLECARD?

QAM alone is cool, but that leaves the rest of the hundreds of encrypted digital channels out of reach.

Until you can tune 250+ channels instead of 3-6 local HD channels, I believe sales will be lackluster.

I'd hate to have to buy a new tuner to get all the DTV channels I pay for, and that fact stops me on the Sasem right now. I haven't seen a pic with a CableCard slot on it...is there one?
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post #19 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 06:16 PM
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â€What about XP-MCE? Their website indicates MCE support and seems to say that it works on USB1.1 for analog only, and all channels with USB2.0. I think something got lost in translation...can you clarify?â€

What part of “analog only†is supported by MCE don’t you understand? Or the fact that USB1.1 does not have the bandwidth to support HDTV data rate?

â€What about DIGITAL CABLE READY and CABLECARD?â€

You’re pulling my leg, right? Don’t you think that if this device was digital cable ready Sasem would be shouting it from a mountain top and in every post, plus would make mention of it on their webpage?
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post #20 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 08:01 PM
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On this page: http://www.usbhdtv.com/specification_01.html

It says "Supports only analog TV with DVD resolution (720x480) for USB1.x"

I see the new wording on the home page...it has been updated since I first viewed it several weeks ago concerning MCE compatability.

I am curious though why MCE doesn't handle Digital TV, as the mechanics of capturing the data is done by the tuner then passed through the OS and XP itself can certainly handle HDTV.

Is this a MS marketing "restriction" that can be overcome through drivers from the tuner mfrs?
or
Is this a genuine incompatability issue with MCE requiring further MS development?

Concerning DC Ready, Panasonic is selling retail HDTVs with tuner and card slot already. Obviously the chipsets and card readers are available.

I'd just like to hear from one manufacturer who will state the objective for tuning QAM if they are not also pursuing DCReady/Cablecard. Heck, just tell folks to get their HDTV OTA instead....

The picture of the Sasem isn't adequate to see if there is a slot or not.
And a look inside would certainly show if there were traces on the PCB for the addition of a card reader at some later date.

So if the chipsets and everything else are available for sale in a TV, they must work or it would be a HUGE risk for Panasonic, technical and PR-wise.

Either the PC Tuner guys are barking up the wrong tree with how they are pursuing QAM tuning since the giant manufacturers figured it out, or maybe the right chipsets are unavailable for sale to them for some reason?

Or maybe they are being pressured to withhold such existing (in the labs)products until a certain time?

Because if DC Ready products become widespread and the cable companies are ready to start handing out CableCards, that $10,000 3"-thick Plasma on the wall is gonna look pretty dumb with a phonebook-sized STB next to it.

This is a seriously difficult production/distribution/inventory/marketing problem.
The timetable by which any of the industry players moves can negatively affect the others.
DCR Televisions will seriously impact STB manufacturers.
If cable companies advertise CableCards, exsisitng inventory of DTVs without slots become undesirable and inventory becomes potentially worth less than it was purchased for.
Selling DCReady TVs before the cable company offers the service frustrates consumers wrt the cable company.
...and so forth...

I just wish they'd deploy the technology or at least provide a clear roadmap so everybody could make solid choices.
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post #21 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 08:34 PM
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"Concerning DC Ready, Panasonic is selling retail HDTVs with tuner and card slot already. Obviously the chipsets and card readers are available."

BUT what bus does that TV have to interface with your computer?
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post #22 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 09:05 PM
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HDMI-HDCP, sadly with DRM.

Cliff, I get the feeling you're trying to say something without saying anything.....

Must be the "once you have the raw transport stream on the computer, you can do friggin' anything with it no matter how many interfaces we throw at you" issue???

Still, the Panasonic TVs have the tuners and the Cablecards working....

Match that half with Dvico's other half of moving the picture onto the computer and we're there.

I noted that CableLabs "OpenCable" certification process is just that, a "certification of compliance", not a licensing scheme that determines who can invent/build/sell a compliant device.

Basically, if you can buy the chipsets needed, you can build the tuner.
The Cable Company doesn't really even need to know what you plugged your CableCard into so long as you provide them with the Device ID# (apparently similar to the ESN of your cell phone).

From reading specs, I can't determine if CableCards are married to the device (e.g. Dish, DTV) or are transportable between devices, but I suspect they CAN be.

I think Dvico/Fusion and the rest of the HDTV card manufacturers might want to consider some "cooperative competition" and meet to discuss how to implement these technologies and accomodate the concerns of the cable companies. Otherwise, they will be marginalized as 4-channel toys while the rest of the consumer electronics move on.
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post #23 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 09:29 PM
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Quote:
I noted that CableLabs "OpenCable" certification process is just that, a "certification of compliance", not a licensing scheme that determines who can invent/build/sell a compliant device.
Sure, a device may be produced that is 100% compatible with OpenCable, but unless it meets the robustness rules associated with content protection the manufacture will not be given access to the encryption technology that provides the access control features that are so important to Hollywood. It's also worth pointing out that the POD (point of deployment) interface is where the decryption keys are accessed through the smartcard supplied by the cable company. The PHILA (POD Host Interface License Agreement) is the most restrictive part of the OpenCable license program and without agreeing to the requirement os the PHILA you can't access encrypted digital cable.

As of today there is no combination of personal computer technology that would even come close to meeting the minimum requirements required for OpenCable. End result being that there is little chance that general purpose computers will ever be able to decode encrypted cable even if the hardware is capable of receiving the signal.

There are groups working to implement a complete DRM (digital rights management) solution that will allow a PC to be certified by CableLabs for OpenCable, but such a PC would be little more than a really expensive set top box since the PC is prevented from running any software that might be used to manipulate the digital data in any way that isn't approved by the content owner. There have been more than a few discussions for DRM on the AVSForum, so do a search and find out more about what DRM is all about if you're really interested.
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post #24 of 1004 Old 03-04-2004, 09:39 PM
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Joe,

I know what it is about.

I guess I am just confused about all the efforts to build expensive HDTV cards that are never going to tune more than 4-5 channels, then further pursue QAM tuning where at best, people get maybe 1 channel IF the cable provider offers ANYTHING unencrypted at all.

Turn around and tune every channel available on your compliant TV and save it in whatever manner (or not) the content provider decided over the HDMI-HDCP interface.

And with "On Demand" availability of subscribed premium channels offered as part of the subscription....


Just seems like a lot of work for little return if the HDTV card guys aren't going for the whole enchilada......
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post #25 of 1004 Old 03-05-2004, 06:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Back on topic, I've received my OnAir USB HDTV. I'll post a more systematic and comprehensive review this weekend. But in the meantime, I'll just say that I'm generally happy with the product. And Sasem's customer service has been excellent.

Regarding some of the preceding posts, the OnAir is what the OnAir is. It should be comparerd to a product like the Hauppauge WinTV PVR USB. Except, the OnAir has an HDTV tuner -- and is currently unique in this regard.

There are many people who don't have digital cable or satellite -- I don't. So, the OnAir provides free OTA HDTV tuning capability (along with analog). And, it has S-Video and composite inputs. And... it provides that "wow' experience of seeing HDTV on a laptop (at a native resolution of 1920 x 1080 on my Inspiron 8600 with UXGA). Anyway, more later...
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post #26 of 1004 Old 03-05-2004, 02:35 PM
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It does sound like a great product, and I like the idea of getting the tuner outside the RF environment of the PC case. (plus of course the Laptop compatability)

I sent a suggestion to Sasem that they include a folding antenna for laptop use..something you could travel with and stick up in the hotel room window.
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post #27 of 1004 Old 03-05-2004, 08:36 PM - Thread Starter
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A portable antenna is a great idea, but I don't know how one would be designed. And, you'd definitely want a preamp. The Zenith Silver Sensor (SS) is an excellent UHF antenna. But, it's a little awkward to transport. Too bad they don't add a preamp to it (maybe driven by the power from a USB?), along with some rabbit ears for VHF. And, also a case. And... never satisfied are we? ;)
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post #28 of 1004 Old 03-05-2004, 09:17 PM
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"A portable antenna is a great idea, but I don't know how one would be designed."

I have a portable UHF antenna in the form of a mouse pad.
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post #29 of 1004 Old 03-05-2004, 09:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Well... maybe my review will be in bits and pieces. Here's some observations covering the couple of days I've had it:

1. HDTV tuning seems close to that of a Motorola HDTV STB (I A/B switch the antenna between the OnAir and the Motorola to compare).

-- The Motorola may be a little more sensitive or able to lock a station better. But, I'm not sure... I noticed that when the OnAir freezes or stutters on a station, the Motorola seems to pixelate instead, which provides a smoother effect. In other words, when there's a marginal signal, the OnAir will freeze while the Motorola will continue showing frames, but these will be pixelated or noisy.

-- The default and recommended Interlace setting for the OnAir is BOB. Sometimes the video would be jerky or "sticky". I changed this to WEAVE which fixed that and made things nice and smooth.

-- HDTV picture quality. When you get a good HDTV broadcase signal (i.e. CSI last night)... Wow! Incredibly crisp and clear.

2. Analog tuning seems very good. I haven't compared directly with a Hauppauge WinTV PVR USB2, but from past experience, the quality seems at least as good, and maybe better. It tunes better than my old RCA analog TV!

3. S-Video input. I use an S-Video output from the Motorola to the OnAir, and the picture quality is excellent. Comparable to what I remember using the WinTV.

4. Sound quality seems very good. I can't detect any problems. It's clear and crisp.

5. The software installed without any problem (on a Dell Inspiron 8600 running XP SP1). It is well designed. I like the Program's interface much better than those of PowerDVD or WinDVD. It's intuitive and works well. I can't think of any missing functionality. Well... come to think of it... it'd be nice to have a menu for seeing information about a station, i.e. 720p or 1080i. The Motorola doesn't provide this either. But, it'd be nice. Also, the HDTV subchannel selection could use some more refinement (but, I'm not even sure how I'd design this).

I've had 3 system lockups. But, I don't consider this a big deal. I've been using the OnAir extensively, scanning channels over and over to compare. I'm not even sure if it's the OnAir or the OS or graphics driver. It could be when clicking while scanning or somesuch... it's been a rare ocurrence.

The Time-shifting for analog works well and is very easy, simple and effective. I think it's easier to use than the WinTV.

Recording of Analog (as MPEG) and HDTV (as a transport stream) along with playback works well. I haven't encountered any problems.

All in all, I think the software is very good, usable, stable and functional.

6. The product itself looks very good and is well designed (as can be seen on their web site).

Compared to the WinTV, the OnAir seems to do everything about as well if not better (I haven't done a side-by-side comparison, but remember from experience). And, it provides ATSC (HDTV) tuning.

Compared to a Motorola OTA HDTV STB, the OnAir tuner seems roughly equivalent. Maybe slightly less sensitive (but, I'm not sure... there are lots of variables and signals change constantly). The OnAir seems to freeze more often on a marginal signal while the Motorola just keeps sending signal noisy or not (giving the impression of a better lock).

Conclusion (as of now): I like this product.
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post #30 of 1004 Old 03-05-2004, 10:55 PM
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"-- The default and recommended Interlace setting for the OnAir is BOB. Sometimes the video would be jerky or "sticky". I changed this to WEAVE which fixed that and made things nice and smooth."

The jerky video is 720p content and if you set it to weave you will have combing on 1080i and 480i channels. I recommended that Sasem provide an "Auto" mode that would auto switch between Bob and Weave just like DVD software.

"I can't think of any missing functionality."

I can. Only start and stop transport buttons work when playing D-VHS tapes. There is no control for a Radeon Gamma setting and the application resets gamma to 1.0 when starting the application or changing any input mode.
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