Most people don’t realize that you can usually get free HDTV if you use an antenna. Really, you don’t have to pay the cable/satellite company too much money for too little content– it’s probably easier to simply pony up that $15/month, but if you’re willing to do some tinkering, a gadget like the Laptop HDTV receiver is for you. And, be warned, it will cost you a bit of money up front, to the tune of $200, but in the long run, you’ll be saving money.
This little USB device lets you view and record over the air (OTA) HDTV signals. The magic of the device is the ATSC tuner, which lets it process the HD signals; that’s the same thing found in your fancy pants HDTV. If you’re using the tuner on a computer, the software lets you view and record (mmm!) that wonderful HD content as unprotected MPEG2 or AVI files. From there, you can do whatever you want with the files, maybe burn it to a DVD or just put it somewhere on your hard drive. To provide even more functionality, there’s a NTSC tuner built in, which lets you pull in standard definition content as well.
Because this is over the air, you’re going to need an antenna, and you’re going to need to place it well. The antenna and a 79″ cord are included, but it’s up to you to figure out where the best place to put it is. With a bit of experimentation, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
This nifty USB HDTV (and SD) receiver, as mentioned before, is $200, but just think how much ($0) you’ll be giving to the cable company. That makes it completely worth it.