In my latest video I take a look at the GT Media HDTV Mate, a portable USB over the air TV tuner that currently only works with Android devices like Android TV boxes, TVs and smartphones. Currently it’s the least expensive ATSC 3.0 compatible tuner but unfortunately it doesn’t support the DRM encryption that broadcasters are using to lock down their signals. It can also tune into ATSC 1.0 broadcasts.
The hardware has a USB plug on one side (for attaching it to the host device) along with a coax connector on the other end for an antenna. Also in the box is a USB-A to USB-C cable for smartphone connection, and an extension cable for smart TVs or TV boxes. For devices with a single USB port, like the Onn box I used for testing, an additional adapter like this Smays hub will be needed. The device also features an SD card slot for rudimentary DVR capabilities, although I couldn’t get this feature to work in my tests.
The setup process involves scanning for channels, which took about five minutes in my case. The channel guide, while functional, lacks a polished interface. Channel tuning speed varies based on the device used, but overall, it was reasonably quick. ATSC 3 channels took slightly longer to load than ATSC 1 channels. On both my Onn Box and Pixel 8 Pro smartphone, playback was smooth, although a 1080i ATSC 1 channel exhibited interlacing issues.
The device worked well with my Pixel 8 Pro, offering a similar app experience as on the TV. The concept of a portable tuner like this is appealing, especially for situations like emergency response where cell networks might be down. No Internet is required to tune into unecrypted broadcast TV (at the moment anyway..).
The GT Media HDTV Mate is not something I’d recommend for a primary tuning device but it does offera viable portable solution for ATSC 3 and ATSC 1 channels on Android devices. While it has its rough edges, it demonstrates the potential affordability of ATSC 3 tuners. However, the future of such innovative products seems uncertain with the looming encryption and DRM requirements broadcasters wish to impose on consumers.