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8-step guide to watching TV on your PC and mobile

Entertainment today... and everywhere

What better way to relax than to curl up in front of a good TV show? PC Advisor explains how you can get your daily fix on your PC, wherever your travels might take you.

TV over IP on your PC

Being able to view TV programmes on your computer isn't actually new. In fact, TV tuners on PCs have been around for as long as the multimedia PC concept. That's at least as long as PC Advisor has been around – a mighty long time indeed.

Many PC graphics cards feature a built-in TV tuner. Yet very few of us bother to make use of them – unless we've specifically chosen or bought a standalone TV card.

This is understandable, of course: many of the programmes you want to watch are now available online, either at the broadcaster's site, via iTunes or on YouTube. Failing that, if you miss an episode of 'Doctor Who', you need only wait a matter of hours before seeing it pop up on BitTorrent.

But you can't find everything you want online via a catch-up TV service. And there's no reason why you should have to wait around for a programme to appear on iPlayer in order to view it.

The best time to watch

For a start, many programmes work best when viewed live, or at least at the time they're originally broadcast. The most obvious examples include live sports tournaments and live reality TV broadcasts.

The Formula 1 grand prix and series such as 'The Apprentice' or 'Big Brother' simply aren't the same when viewed a few days after they first aired. Who wants to discuss whether or not Lewis Hamilton could have taken
that first corner better and got ahead of Massa from the get-go, two days after you know the outcome?

A TV tuner can add to the range of programmes available, too. Freeview cards are now fairly common and can be bought as USB dongles with mini antennae that you plug into a laptop, while the first Freesat cards are also beginning to appear. (Freesat's a slightly trickier case, as it's delivered via satellite, but it will soon be as easy to access from a PC as Freeview is.)

USB TV tuners such as those from Terratec and Pinnacle give you almost instant access to live television on a laptop – weather permitting, you could even marvel at the Olympic athletes while sunning yourself in the garden.

Other options are the now fairly well-established Slingbox and Sony LocationFree devices. Both allow you to access whatever you'd be able to see on your home TV or entertainment setup via an IP address that accesses your home network over your broadband connection.

The advantage with these hardware options are that high-definition (HD) content is supported and you pay nothing beyond the initial cost of the set-top box.

If you want a really portable option, Sony's LocationFree can be played on PlayStation Portable games consoles, while a PDA and smartphone version of the SlingPlayer software, SlingPlayer Mobile, lets you pass a dull commute watching Breakfast News or other live TV shows.

NEXT PAGE: Mobile TV > >

  1. TV on your PC
  2. TV anywhere
  3. Internet telly
  4. TV over IP on your PC
  5. The best time to watch
  6. Mobile TV
  7. Mobile TV, part II
  8. Other options

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