Bungee DVD
Another PVR option for Canadians
Bungee DVD
Pinnacle Systems
Windows Me/XP
The most glaring problem with DVRs for us Canucks is that they're not available north of the border, except as part of a Bell ExpressVu satellite-dish package. Unless, that is, you have the Bungee DVD.

The Bungee DVD is Pinnacle System's DVR -- a tiny, lightweight purple box that forgoes the built-in hard disk and uses yours. It's fiendishly simple, really: the Bungee DVD plugs into your USB port, and the television coaxial cable plugs into the Bungee DVD. Presto, you're all set for television on your PC. (You can also connect composite and/or S-Video cables, if you want to watch or record from your VCR.)

Well, okay, I kind of glossed over the installation process. The thing is, I should be able to gloss over it; it's not terribly complicated, and under ideal circumstances should only take a few minutes. But I came across two minor problems that can make it take a little longer. First was the time I wasted flipping through the documentation to see if I should install the software or the hardware first. Faced with ambiguous instructions (and uncomfortably small type), I decided to wing it. (Just so you know: you run the setup program first and plug in the hardware when you're asked to.)

Second was the diagnostic procedure, which makes sure your system is up to par before it installs the software. I discovered that the video card in my test computer had some DirectX function disabled, which prompted me to go through the diagnostic program with a fine-toothed comb. It's quite a simple program, and very clear... unless something goes wrong and you click the "Details" button to find out more about your particular problem. In almost all cases, I found that the supposedly detailed messages were merely rehashes of the original problem descriptions, with a few more words thrown in.

Moving over to my alternate computer -- a 733-MHz Pentium III with a working video card -- installation was a breeze, getting an image was automatic, and changing settings was trivial; right-clicking in the television display gave me almost everything I needed, including a 16:9 window option for letterboxed movies and programs.

The images themselves were colourful and clear, with a negligible amount of artifacts. When hard disk space became low or if I started working on the computer at the same time, the image would stutter every once in a while. The stuttering never interfered with any recordings in my tests, though.

Cue Steven: "Sweet!"

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