PC TV cards sometimes have built-in radio receivers; which is great for desktop PCs but not so good for notebooks. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise - after all, portables aren't always used in environments that are conducive to radio use.

If you are unhappy with this state of affairs, give Avermedia's competitively priced USB radio some consideration. It allows you to get radio on a notebook as well as a PC, by hooking up via a USB key and providing a plug-in radio aerial.

Although you could pick up a portable FM radio for about a fiver, if you so choose, the cunning thing AverMedia has done is to provide a simple plug-in product that can also be used to schedule and record programs in WMA, MP3 and WAV, as well as other formats.

If you've ever set up a TV card, you'll find the process for getting started with the MR 800 pretty similar. Plug it in, slip the antenna and line-out cable (which AverMedia has spliced together to fit in a single jack pin) into the USB key's bulge and the other end of the cable into a line-in port on your PC. Unlike TV cards, though, the MR 800 is a dead cert to work anywhere you'd reasonably expect to get radio reception.

On a notebook you'll probably need to use the microphone input instead, which can affect the sound quality. To get a signal you'll need to stretch out the antenna cable then install the software to initiate channel scanning and set up any timed recordings or playback you wish. Once you've identified your favourite FM stations, you can click on their frequencies to assign them an appropriate name.

MR 800 USB Radio: Specs

  • RF input 87.5 to 108MHz FM band
  • antenna input via earphone
  • earphone output with L/R
  • 8x2 LCM display
  • 7x25x82mm
  • RF input 87.5 to 108MHz FM band
  • antenna input via earphone
  • earphone output with L/R
  • 8x2 LCM display
  • 7x25x82mm

OUR VERDICT

Far less hassle than adding TV reception to a portable PC, AverMedia's USB radio is a good-value, compact plug-and-play product that extends the entertainment possibilities of your notebook without fanfare.

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