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GBA TV Tuner Review

Thanks to EAGBAdvance for the review. Get yours from Lik Sang

Review - GBA TV Tuner
( Added July 17th 2002 - By Eric)
Introduction

Suffice to say, we've all been eagerly anticipating the release of a TV Tuner for the GBA. In fact, according to our poll, the majority of GBA owners would rather buy a Tuner than a Camera. Well, the wait is over, thanks to the smart folks in the R&D department somewhere in Asia, we have in our hands a TV Tuner for the GBA - unofficial and unsupported by Nintendo of course, but wonderful all the same and all ours to review.

Purpose Of The GBA TV Tuner

Simply speaking, the GBA TV Tuner is an attachment that allows your GBA to receive and decode TV signals and to display them on the GBA's screen. In other words, with the Tuner, your GBA is miraculously transformed into a hand-held TV. Cool?

Features Of The GBA TV Tuner

Looking at the specifications and feature list, I can't help but be amazed. The GBA TV Tuner is really a marvel, and has enough or even more features than what you would get with a regular TV. It employs a Philips tuner module, the same type that you'd find in high end TV cards for the PC, and as such, you can expect pretty good quality reception - dependent of course on the strength of the TV signals when used outdoors. In point form, here is a simplified list of the GBA TV Tuner's features (see here for detailed specification):

1. Power Supply:
Runs on 4 standard Alkaline/Rechargeable batteries or DC via supplied adapter.
2. Signal Receptors:
For outdoors, there is an attached 68cm telescopic antenna. For indoors, there's an 'Antenna-in' jack which accepts an RF cable adapter.

3. Audio:
Built-in mono speaker or 'Ear-phone' jack with independent volume control.

4. Audio/Video capabilities:
Able to output TV transmission to standard monitors. Also accepts audio-video input and allows GBA to serve as a monitor instead.

5. Controls:
On-screen display to control brightness, contrast and color as well as audio-video/monitor selections. On-screen command list too.

6. Tuning:
Manual or automatic tuning and scanning with the ability to store up to 99 channels.

7. Resolution:
240 X 160 (same as the GBA screen for full screen viewing).

8. Accessories supplied:
AV adapter cable, RF adapter cable, and screw-in ball-socket stand.

Phew! As you can see, the feature list is long, but don't worry, the GBA TV Tuner isn't that difficult to use.

Using The GBA TV Tuner

The tuner is designed to slot into the GBA like a regular cartridge. You don't have to do anything else to your GBA for it to work. Just remember to add fresh batteries for your GBA since the Tuner does not supply the power for the GBA's screen. As you can see from the picture below, the GBA is secured to the Tuner by a spring stopper which also serves as a quick release. Once you've got it attached, you can slot-in the batteries for the Tuner, or plug in the supplied DC jack. Next, extend the telescopic antenna if you're using it outdoors, or plug in the RF antenna cable from your in-wall socket if you're using it indoors.

Tuner Front View

The Tuner will not work if you don't slot in a GBA cartridge. This is because the Tuner uses the boot sequence from the cartridge to start the Tuner interface. Anyway, now that you're ready, turn on the GBA and you will see the regular GBA start-up screen, followed by a blue screen which flashes the Tuner's region information. Immediately after that, you will be met with a screen full of static. Once again, don't panic, as you will now need to either automatically or manually set your channels.

To do this is simple enough, as the Tuner has an on-screen menu list that will show you all the commands, and be prepared, because there are many. Basically, the operation of the Tuner entails pressing the correct button combinations on the GBA. For example, to do a fast tune, you will need to simultaneously press the Select, Start and Left shoulder button. When you do this, you will be prompted on screen if you would like to continue with the fast tune. It takes only a short while to get used to the menu system, so no worries there.

Depending on the number of channels you have, the Tuner will take some time to scan and store all the receivable channels. When that is done, you can then sort through all the channels and choose which to store or delete and in what order you'd like them displayed.

I must admit, the picture quality is pretty sharp, thanks to the GBA's high resolution screen. The picture below doesn't do the Tuner's reception quality justice (in the real thing, I could even read the tiny scrolling text at the bottom of the picture), although you should note that I was using an in-door cable antenna which has the best possible reception strength. When I brought the unit outside and used the telescopic antenna, however, the quality of the reception was dependent on the signal's strength. So, if you're in a lousy place surrounded by tall building and mountains, expect lousy reception. Also, you need to be stationery, as the Tuner will only picks up snow if you're walking around or using it while travelling in a vehicle.

Screen Shot


A big surprise was the rather loud sound supplied by the tiny built-in speakers. No doubt it's only mono, it was still good enough to hear clearly. But if you want, you can also hook it up to an active speaker for more power.

Seeing as how the Tuner could also be used as a monitor, I plugged it to my PlayStation for a test. Well, it worked, but I don't see why anyone would want to do that, unless the TV is busted. Still, it was fun, just to see the amazing graphics that the GBA is still incapable off. I also tested the TV output on my computer. You can do this if you have a capture card, and I'm glad to report that it worked beautifully. Once again, this feature is pointless if you already have a combination TV/Capture card, but it's nice to see what the GBA Tuner is capable of.

All in all, the Tuner was dead easy to use.

Pros Of The GBA TV Tuner

As I've mentioned, the GBA TV Tuner is one hell of a gadget. It's such a fun add-on and really extends the capabilities of your GBA. Now more than ever, it's easy to play a game or watch TV anywhere and anytime you want.

Tuner & GBA


It's also a well constructed piece of kit, and one that doesn't require any kind of modification to your GBA to use (except maybe for one which I will elaborate later). It's designed to blend perfectly with the GBA and for just $65 bucks, is well endowed with all the bells and whistles of a regular TV. Just look at the feature list and you'll understand why.

Cons Of The GBA TV Tuner

Sadly, the only major fault that I could find with the Tuner actually isn't its fault at all. You see, the Tuner is only as good as the GBA's screen, which as everyone knows, is sadly inadequate under certain lighting conditions. Using a regular GBA to test the Tuner indoors was an exercise in optical futility. Outdoors in the sun was better of course, although adjustment had to be made to get the best viewing angle. In the end, I used a modified GBA which had the Afterburner internal lighting kit installed (expect a review for the Afterburner soon).

As you can see, it's unfair to penalize the Tuner, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention this. So if you really want a great experience using the Tuner, make sure you have a modified internally lighted GBA to use it with. Of course, it's still fantastic with the regular GBA, provided you have good lighting.

Final Comments

I love the GBA TV Tuner, so enough said? Well maybe not, as most of you know I'm rather biased when it comes to any sort of GBA gadget and add-on. The Tuner, however, is one gadget which I'm pretty sure will delight nearly every GBA owner. To some it might seem impractical, but to others it's a must have add-on, one that is feature packed and reasonably priced enough to warrant my endorsement and five star rating.

** Currently, only the PAL version of the TV Tuner is available which supports the PAL B and PAL I mode for Europe, Australia and some other countries. This version will not work in the US or Canada.

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