Here we have the OnAir Creator connected to my computer at home. The green LED indicates that the unit is receiving power, while the red LED indicates a weak signal. I elected to sit the unit down flat on my table, but you could also use the included vertical stand to save a little desk space.
I first tested the OnAir Creator using an analog signal, as I do not have HD service at my place. The analog signal looked just as good as the Hauppauge PCI tuner in my work system. I use two 22" widescreen LCD monitors with my work system. When watching analog TV on these screens, I usually do so in windowed mode, simply because the resolution of analog is so low compared to the 1680 x 1050 resolution of the monitor. Running at full screen, especially when sitting so close to the monitor, just looks bad. But, from a distance of 6' or more, it looks pretty good.
The cable in my room runs through a splitter (one line goes to my TV, the other to my computer), so the signal quality is slightly less than it would be coming straight from the wall, but it still looks just fine for analog.
Next, I tested the OnAir Creator using an HD signal. For this, I had to make a trip to Josh's house (my apartment complex uses a cheap, proprietary cable service). Once at Josh's place, I proceeded to connect the Creator to my laptop and test out the HD capabilities of the unit... and this is where I ran into issues.
To make a long story short, when I switched from analog to HD signal, the video feed and audio would lag pretty bad. I tried everything I could think of and concluded that maybe I received a defective unit. I spoke with AutumnWave and they promptly sent over a replacement, which did the same thing. At the end of the day, it turns out that the co-processor on my laptop was not properly installed. Once this was fixed, the Creator worked properly.
Coming from my place where I don't have HD, I am still amazed at how much better HD is over analog signals. The two aren't even comparable. HD has such a high resolution (up to 1920 x 1080) compared to the maximum resolution of standard definition TV (720 x 480), so you get a much sharper and more detailed image.
The AutumnWave OnAir Creator performed exactly as anticipated in our testing. For the most part, the Creator is pretty much identical in function to the OnAir GT that we reviewed back in February.
There are a few differences, such as the inclusion of a hardware MPEG2 encoder chip, whereas the GT used a software encoder. The advantages of a hardware encoder are that it uses less CPU processing power than its software counterpart. During analog testing, the CPU usage of the Creator program hit a maximum of 7%. Digital TV is unaffected by a hardware/software encoder, as it is already encoded when it leaves the TV station.
Also, the Creator requires a power adapter, whereas the GT is powered by your computer's USB port. Again, this points back to the hardware encoder chip, which requires more power than the USB port is safely able to supply.
Another difference between the Creator and the GT is a lack of included antenna. During my review of the GT, I found that the antenna really should have been larger in order to pull in a stronger signal. AutumnWave included a smaller antenna for portability reasons, which is understandable. The Creator, however, does not come with any antenna. The reason for this is because most users probably won't be taking the Creator with them on the go. But, if you do plan to do this, you can always purchase an antenna to use.
As for general usage of the Creator, it worked very well. The included remote control is a nice addition and has eight programmable buttons that you can set to perform any function you want. The remote can also control other media programs, like Winamp and Windows Media Player.
Software installation and usage was identical to that of the GT, so my thoughts there haven't changed any. The overall layout was pretty simple to understand, lacking any flashy GUI that you will find with most other software. This was just fine with me, but some people may like fancy GUI layouts. The good thing is that if you don't care much for this software, you can always use a 3rd party program like SageTV (my personal favorite).
The Timeshift function works as-advertised, both with analog and HD signals (the GT only allowed for Timeshift with HD signals, again, due to not having a hardware encoder chip).
Be prepared to use a lot of hard drive space when recording shows in 1080i HD. I recorded several sample clips to try back at home on my 22" widescreen (which looked fantastic). A 2-minute recording consumed 229 MB. At that rate, an hour long show would require nearly 7 GB of space.
As of writing, the AutumnWave OnAir Creator retails for $249. The price is a bit high, but if you are looking for a HDTV tuner with a built-in hardware MPEG2 encoder chip, this might be just up your alley.
OCIA.net has awarded the AutumnWave OnAir Creator our Seal of Approval.