Digital TV adaptors have become a popular way to watch Freeview television in the UK, and the last few years have seen the size, and price, of these adaptors shrink considerably.
Latest addition to the line is TerraTec's dimunuitive Cinergy T USB XXS adaptor. This USB dongle is remarkably tiny, smaller in fact than most flash memory sticks! It simply plugs into a spare USB 2.0 port, with a supplied mini antenna acting as aerial. Alternatively you can use a roof aerial thanks to a small UHF plug adaptor, also in the box.
Initial trials with the Cinergy T XXs were less than satisfactory using TerraTec's Home Cinema software. It's a rather old-fashioned, clunky interface - and far from intuitive to use. This wouldn't be so bad if the picture quality had been up to expectations.
Instead, colours were washed out, grainy and soft-focused, and screen flickering and video stuttering didn't help the experience. The electronic programme guide (EPG), a vital part of any home entertainment package, underwhelmed us with its pixellated fonts.
Perservering with the TerraTec Home Cinema software, we found picture quality could be improved slightly by selecting the Microsoft MPEG2 decoder in preference to TerraTec's default video decoding codec, found within the program's options settings.
Thankfully, there are two principal solutions that make this adaptor worth recommending. Just as we were giving up on this unit, Elgato released Eye TV 3 software for Mac, now with support for the Cinergy T XXS adaptor.
A moment's use with this software showed that there's nothing wrong with TerraTec's latest TV adaptor as such - only with TerraTec's software used to run it. Pictures were now as rich and clear as from any full-sized unit, with no glitches to trouble TV viewing.
And for Windows users, there's always Microsoft's Windows Media Center, which will also recognise the Cinergy T XXS once its driver is installed, showing picture quality that approaches that available from Elgato's EyeTV 3.
While the supplied Home Cinema software may not impress, the core TerraTec hardware works very well as a highly compact TV adaptor that can be carried anywhere. Use with Elgato EyeTV 3 or Windows Media Center software for best results.