The device, which retails for $179 but can be had for less online, is a small, silver-colored box that essentially adds TV-style connectivity ports to your monitor and throws in some video-processing enhancements--2:3 pull-down and deinterlacing--to help smooth out the picture on your screen. If you want, you can also connect a computer and, using the VGA pass-through input, watch TV while working on your PC or Mac via the picture-in-picture (PIP) option. There's even a translucent PIP function, which allows you to compute over a ghosted TV image in the background.
We hooked up the AVerMedia TVBox 9 to a nearly six-year-old 15-inch LCD monitor, plugged our raw cable-TV feed into the cable jack on the TVBox 9, and within a matter of minutes, had basic cable TV showing on our screen. The included IR remote is nothing fancy, but it's quite user friendly, and the buttons are well laid out. You change channels just as you would with a normal TV; also, such features as a multichannel preview window, closed caption, and parental control are available with the touch of a button.
If you have a digital-cable or satellite box, just hook it up to the composite, S-Video, or component input--or tune to channel 3 or 4 and use the coaxial RF connector. But those with high-definition TV tuners or progressive-scan (480p) DVD players take note: While the unit supports resolutions up to 1,280x1,024, it will not accept an HD signal. Using the Source button, you then toggle to the TVBox 9's appropriate input and use your set-top box's remote to change channels as you normally would. If your monitor doesn't have built-in speakers, you will have to connect a pair of PC speakers to get sound. Along with a PC speaker output, the TVBox 9 also has analog RCA left/right audio inputs, as well as a standard 1/8-inch headphone minijack.
We ended up watching a lot of TV (CNN, some sports, and late-night shows such as Letterman and Saturday Night Live), and all of it looked OK--about what you'd expect from TV displayed on a 15- or 17-inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV. Movies played via a Panasonic portable DVD player didn't look too shabby, either. The folks at AVerMedia say its 3D Motion Adaptive Deinterlace, 2:3 pull-down, and progressive-scan output improve the picture quality. While all that video-enhancement circuitry isn't going to make a huge difference on a small-screen LCD or CRT, we were pleased to see the 2:3 pull-down effect on our Video 2000 test disc and in the telltale opening pan of Star Trek: Insurrection, making for a smoother picture.
All in all, this is a simple, useful product that does exactly what it's advertised to do. If you want something a little cheaper and don't mind losing the closed-caption/parental-control feature, as well as the progressive-scan and multichannel preview mode, the TVBox 5 is available for $79 less.