The VideoMate Vista U890F from Compro is an analog TV and FM radio receiver in a USB 2.0 stick form factor. It includes a flexible wire antenna, a Microsoft-certified Vista/MCE remote control, a composite/s-video input cable, and a USB extension cable for those times when plugging the approximately 3 1/2 in. stick directly into your PC isn’t convenient. XP and Vista (32- and 64-bit) drivers and software are included.

I tested the U890F on a notebook running Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. The install was painless, and I soon had live local TV on my Vista sidebar. In fact, second only to the clock, it is the most useful Vista sidebar gadget I’ve seen. I was able to put video on my desktop and leverage the power of my notebook to pause and record video. The FM tuner also worked well.

The antenna is a flexible wire dipole similar to that included with most home stereos. From a portability point of view it’s a good choice but it is important to keep in mind that the antenna is essential to reception, and this one is not self supporting. Home users will want to fasten it to a wall, while travelers will want to carry a bit of tape to avoid having to drape it over objects.

My only reservation is that the U890F is an analog TV tuner, and analog television is being phased out in some countries. For example, in the USA, full power TV stations will be exclusively digital starting February 17, 2009, but the Canadian deadline is not until August 31, 2011.

The VideoMate Vista U890F retails for approximately (C)$60.

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