KWorld SA290-Q DVI External ATSC/QAM TVBox DVI Edtion Review
June 12, 2009 has already passed as the date where the transition from analog to digital television will be completed. Channels have stopped being broadcasted over-the-air in analog form. Millions of older televisions should have already been converted to ATSC (the new digital standard) through use of converter boxes. The American government had already given reminders of this date and provided applications to receive $40 coupons. But if you still haven’t gone out and purchased a converter box, today I will be reviewing one converter box that you can purchase online through e-tailers. Today I will be reviewing the KWorld SA290-Q DVI external ATSC/QAM TVBox DVI Edition.
As a Canadian, our digital switch date is in 2011 but folks who pick up channels in the US (Buffalo stations) will notice that they can no longer pull in analog signals from the US.
Today I will look at another solution for all you out there who haven’t made the switch, want to be able to watch digital television in the comfort of your computer and/or don’t want to spend big bucks on a new HDTV set just yet. Previously we had taken a look ATSC cards from Pinnacle and AverMedia and today I will be reviewing the KWorld SA290-Q DVI external ATSC/QAM TVBox DVI Edition. The product is unique because it can work two ways. One way is through your computer monitor through either DVI or component connection but a great thing is that you can use the converter box on your old tube TV through an RCA cable (yellow, red, white). Read on to see how the KWorld SA290-Q performs and if it’s one of the solutions you need to weigh in your considerations.
About KWorld (From Kworld website)
“Since its establishment in 1999, KWorld Computer Co., Ltd. has gone through a dramatic transformation within these past few years on the ultimate mission to become the leader of digital entertainment provider. From an OEM oriented-company to a brand-focused corporation, KWorld founder has foreseen the infinite possibility brought about by the birth of the concept of multimedia and how it would revolutionize the interaction between consumers and computers.”
Wikipedia explains KWorld to be…
“KWorld Computer Co. Ltd (traditional Chinese: 廣寰科技股份有限公司) is a Taiwanese technology company that specializes in TV tuner cards and boxes. They are a consumer audio/video developer and provider who's market focus is PC based peripherals. The company offers analogue, digital, hybrid, satellite TV tuners, and video/audio capture/editing cards and boxes.
KWorld develops TV tuners for PAL, NTSC, and SECAM analogue television systems and for DVB-T, DVB-S, ISDB-T, DMB-T/H, ATSC, and IPTV digital television systems. KWorld also develops video capture/editing and audio capture/editing devices for both Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems.”
Overview and Product Features
Supports Digital Free-to-Air Vestigial TV, and Unencrypted QAM Cable TV
YPbPr Supports 1080i Video Output
Supports MP3/JPG Playback
Power Smart Function
The KWorld SA290-Q comes in an attractive looking corrugated box design. Unfortunately it isn’t environmentally friendly as the size of the packaging is overkill and contains wasted space. Thankfully the items inside are well protected.
With such a versatile device that can allow you to watch digital television with your computer monitor through DVI connection and at the same time act as a converter box for your old tube television through component or composite connections, you expect that there are no surprises.
But the surprise here is that KWorld has chosen to exclude two crucial items from the bundle. I am very disappointed that KWorld did not include at least either a component video cable or composite RCA cable. I would have expected them to include both since these nowadays are very inexpensive items, especially a composite RCA cable. If you are planning to use the KWorld SA290-Q as a converter box for your old tube television, then be prepared to head out to purchase either a component cable or composite RCA cable if you don’t already have one lying around collecting dust. Such exclusion for a product that comes in a big box makes the bundle incomplete.
If you’re planning to use the KWorld SA290-Q with your computer monitor, you’re set with the included DVI cable and 3.5mm audio cable for the monitor’s integrated speakers. Or you can utilize either a component video cable or RCA video connection to do the same thing.
Another awkward decision by KWorld was to include a little portable telescopic antenna. Frankly if this was a portable ATSC tuner for a laptop, I would understand but this is not a portable unit. It would have been better to include a bigger antenna such as a log periodic antenna or silver sensor clone (it could fit in the big box).
Let us now look at the actual product shall we?
Now the unit measures 196mm (L) x 128mm (W) x 34mm (H) and is constructed from a plastic shell. The shell seems to be all one piece as I couldn’t figure a way to open it up to show you the internals. The product being plastic is very lightweight and the problem with this is that the KWorld SA290-Q has no rubber feet on the bottom of the unit to prevent it from moving or even falling of the television. Again, KWorld should have had rubber feet on this product.
The construction as I mentioned is plastic and it does feel cheap being lightweight and all. Fit and finish is decent but scanning around corners revealed paint that was applied poorly and could chip off in the future. Considering the fact that the KWorld SA290-Q can be found at a price tag of around $100CAD and likewise in US currency, the product definitely does seem overpriced for what you are getting in return.
Overseeing the top of the product, we see the KWorld logo located in the middle, power on/off, menu button, channel up/down and volume up/down. These buttons on the device are plastic and give the clicking feeling when under usage. To the left we see the component video output jacks. The green connector you see can also be used as “yellow”, if you utilize a composite RCA cable.
Coming to the rear of the device we see DVI input and DVI output, line out and line in 3.5mm audio jacks, ATSC antenna input (F-Connector) and lastly the DC IN for power.
Coming to the front of the device we have a super bright blue LED that acts as the power on/off indicator, remote control receiver sensor and USB port in which you can plug in a flash drive and view photos or play MP3’s.
The KWorld SA290-Q comes with a mid-size remote control. It’s solid black in color and operates on two AAA batteries. This remote is far from the best I’ve used. It has an awkward feeling in my hand and I don’t like the way it functions or the way they chose to label it. First of all, the remote control is poorly labeled. There are buttons on the remote in which you will have no clue to what they mean. As a result, you have to study the manual's illustrations in order to realize what the remote's buttons do. There is a button that resembles a checkerboard that cycle through different resolutions. Another button with a half-black/half-white rectangle selects TV or PC source. I was trying to use the KWorld as a converter box for my old tube television and it wasn’t working. I did not realize that I needed to press the button with the arrow/circle icon that toggles between DVI and component/composite video outputs. If anything, this button should be located at the top left of the remote. You see what I’m saying? This remote makes simple things seem really complex and there is possibility of overlooking and screwing up settings without realizing what you have done wrong resulting in a blank screen leaving you confused.
The menu system looks so retro and primitive it leaves me in disbelief. It looks like something you would find in a VCR or maybe a really old computer BIOS setup screen. Another thing that left me in disbelief is how basic the whole menu system really is. I don’t think you will realize how basic this thing is until you use it (or read the owner’s manual online). It’s missing basic things like the ability to delete unwanted channels. What did I say? Yes you heard me, you can’t delete channels off the system, and it’s simply unbelievable.
You have only three main menus on this KWorld SA290-Q. You have display, channel and setup. That’s all! Under display you have ability to adjust the contrast, brightness, hue, saturation and ratio. They should have included a sharpness option as well.
You have the channel menu that selects terrestrial (over-the-air HD) or cable (QAM), channel scan, guide (EPG), close captioning and parental control.
The setup menu includes options to change OSD Language, turn on/off power saving, change the time zones for the clock function, USB (allows you to see pictures off your USB flash drive) and perform a factory reset.
Seriously, KWorld needs a few more menu options. They can include menus for component input and so forth. And they need to include more flexibility.
How it performs
You’ve read of me complaining about the KWorld SA290-Q on what it lacks but at the end of the day, the KWorld SA290-Q does one thing well. It’s a good performer in picture quality and has a consistently good ATSC tuner.
The picture is DVD sharp, nothing to complain about color rendition, and sound is digitally defined. This will transform your old tube TV and make it new again. When watching hockey or scenes with panning, there are no weird distorted horizontal lines, nothing like that. The picture doesn’t lag. It looks great and I’m glad to see that performance is up there. Changing channels you are presented with a channel listing and signal strength bar in the bottom of the screen. This information stays a little too long for my liking (about 10 seconds) and unfortunately there is no way to decrease the time.
Tuner quality is equally as impressive. The KWorld SA290-Q picks up the same number of channels that I can receive on my newer Samsung HDTV (with my own antenna) and gets about the same strength across the range.
There is one more thing I really dislike about the KWorld SA290-Q. That blue LED. Sure it looks cool and all but it’s not practical. KWorld should have included a night mode in the menu options that tells the blue LED to shut off at night because that blue LED is annoying at night when it’s always the brightest thing you’ll see. I suggest covering this LED with a piece of black tape.
At the end of the day, the KWorld SA290-Q is truly a basic ATSC tuner that can transform your old TV or old LCD monitor into a digital television station. There seems to be more downsides than upsides but the most important upside the KWorld SA290-Q has going for it is a great tuner and great picture quality. It works but is definitely not worth the asking price of $100 and leaves more to be desired for the price you are paying.
Pros and Cons