DVBLogic TVButler USB Tuner Review
A faithful and trustworthy servant
What is the TVButler?Put simply, the TVButler, AKA the DVBLogic 100TC DVB-C/T/T2 stick is a USB TV tuner that plugs in to the back of a variety of devices with the intent of delivering free to air broadcast content. It comes in varieties allowing for terrestrial broadcasts (DVB-T/T2), Cable (DVB-C) or Satellite (DVB-S/S2) at a base price of 59 Euro, or you can pay 99 Euro for the version that comes with the TV Source software license and that’s probably what we’d recommend unless you’re an advanced user. The TVButler is compatible with a variety of hardware platforms including Android, Windows, Mac OS, Linux and a number of NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices from ASUSTOR, QNAP, Netgear, Synology and Western Digital. DVBLogic also provides a variety of software options – some of which you pay for – beyond a basic TV Server, as well as affording numerous ways you can actually watch and/or record broadcast TV content.
Design & ConnectionsThis will perhaps be the shortest ever ‘Design and Connections’ section published in an AVForums review, to date, as the hardware involved is so minimal. We’ll assume that most folks have clapped eyes on a USB stick before so the appearance of the TVButler will be a familiar one – its defining feature being a terminal in which to insert the business end of an RF/Coax cable. Note, we’re testing the DVB-T/T2 version but the others all look much the same with a shiny black plastic casing and the TVButler logo printed on it in silver. The only other things to mention are that, in the box, you also get a USB extender, used if the USB input on your target device is not easy to get at or doesn’t have enough space. You also get a very tiny portable aerial but that proved completely useless in our (valley based) location, some 25-30 miles away from the transmitter.
Hardware doesn't get much more simple
SetupThe first thing you’re going to want to do is establish your backend setup and that means downloading, installing and configuring the DVBLink Server software on the device you’ve chosen to act as host. DVBLink Server is free and available for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Raspberry Pi and the various NAS device manufacturers noted in the introduction. In our case, we installed on a compatible QNAP NAS but the process should be similarly straightforward, regardless of platform. DVBLink Server is the absolute core component of the DVBLink suite and must be installed if you want to use any other elements of the software. Of course, you don’t have to use DVBLink software, if you don’t want to, and the TVButler DVBLogic 100TC USB device can be used as a ‘regular’ USB tuner with a number of alternative softwares. For instance, we had it running perfectly happily as part of the PLEX DVR back-end offering, although it’s not yet compatible when using an NVIDIA SHIELD TV as the back-end
Initial set up is browser based. In our case it was just a matter of entering the internal IP of the NAS followed by the default port number of the TVButler, which is 3987 but it can be changed to whatever suits you. Following that, provided you’ve connected the TVButler, it should be recognised in the menus whereupon you can set about scanning for services. We’re on Winterhill (North West England) and the scan took no more than five minutes and there were no problems in picking up all the available (157) radio and TV services from the seven available multiplexes so it seems like a very good quality tuner is used. For the easiest integration in the DVBLink Server infrastructure we would recommend installing the DVB Link Source (49 Euro) software alongside the server software but, again, this is not obligatory and you can take a more hands-on approach if you’re confident. DVB Link Source supports SD and HD video, multichannel audio, EPG information, teletext and subtitles.
Another optional extra, at 25 Euro for a 12 month license, is DVB Link TV adviser which provides full and rich EPG information and recommendations for your favourite TV channels. It includes information for 300+ channels, broadcast in the UK and supports various extra metadata features including: name, a short description, start time and duration, episode title, season and episode number, actors/directors/writers/producers/guests, thumbnail, genre, release year, premiere and repeat flags. There's also the TV recommendation functionality which is based on as many of the metadata elements as possible. This is definitely not a necessity and, if you do want a more information rich experience, it can be done by using an XMLTV grabber for free but if you are coming from a platform where these elements are taken for granted, you may well consider it a decent investment. Note: PLEX provides most of this, inclusive of the PLEX Pass monthly fee.
Once you’ve tuned in all your services, you can select which ones you actually want to use – let’s face it there is a lot of filler/content you’re not going to want to see on the FTA spectrum – and then arrange them by channel name, multiplex, channel number etc. You can then set up various parameters, including ones that govern your recordings. In our case, since we chose a NAS as the host – which seems the most logical option to us – it was just a case of opting for the desired folder of a shared drive volume plus tweaking the padding settings to allow for late starts and over-runs. Once you’re happy with the settings you can save and exit and never really have to worry about the whole process again although, of course, you’re free to tweak whenever you like.
Playback & RecordingsThere are a multitude of methods – and multiple devices – by which you can view live content and recordings from the tuner, which adds to the flexibility of the TV Butler. For those using a PC it’s recommended you download and use the free DVBLink Viewer software but you can also use a browser in tandem with VLC but that does feel a bit clumsy in this day and age. DVBLink Viewer is a fairly slick little piece of software that gives you full control over live channels, recordings, and setup on your desktop; you do get the same interface and range of options in the browser but it’s not as quick to respond and we found that it would buffer if we had lots of browser tabs open, which is understandable, but there’s no need to suffer when you have the option of DVBLink Viewer.
There are also apps for iOS, Apple TV, Android and Android TV which all have a similar, and slightly outdated feel, in terms of the user interface but all (caveat we haven’t tested Apple TV) seem to function very well with the DVBLink Server at the back-end. The mobile apps are simply named DVBLink, while their TV counterparts are called DVBLink Theatre. They all feature options for automatically picking up the DVBLink server or manually configuring the IP address and Port Number. There’s also the option to enable transcoding, at the server, to reduce bitrate which is handy if you have lots of traffic on your network. The Android TV app also features an option to enable/disable deinterlacing or leave on auto. You will find that Android TV boxes vary quite a lot when it comes to the deinterlacing of video so experiment to see what works best in your setup. The DVBLogic Theater app also features an option for video output that should be set at 50 (Hz) for UK and European users; you might find that your device will automatically switch to the appropriate refresh rate but you can’t bank on that.
Inevitably, there is also a DVBLink add-on for KODI and this is probably our preferred option as, provided the device you’re running supports the feature, it will automatically adjust the video refresh rate to complement the framerate which guarantees smooth playback. Also, and again its device dependent, you can get much better video deinterlacing and scaling than is afforded by the apps as well as a more attractive EPG. The setup procedure is only marginally more complex and the results are definitely worthwhile if you’re watching through a TV. There is a fully working version for the latest version of KODI (17/ Krypton) although if you’re using an Android box, the SPMC fork is probably preferable, especially in terms of its deinterlacing capabilities
There is another app for Android TV in the shape of TV Mosaic which works when the TVButler DVBLogic 100TC DVB-C/T/T2 stick is plugged directly in to the USB port of the Android TV box. Set up is incredibly simple, although you might need to reboot your device if you inserted the stick while it was powered on and, if you’re using a device running Nougat (Android 7.x), remember to grant the TVButler its necessary permissions – the pop up menu to do so can disappear very quickly so you might need to delve in to the Settings Menu. We used TV Mosaic with our NVIDIA SHIELD TV and Minix Neo U9-H with the latter providing better performance, thanks to the fact the Minix firmware will automatically adjust the refresh rate, whereas with the SHIELD it needs to be done in either the app or system settings. TV Mosaic is also a prettier concern than the DVBLogic Theatre app although it doesn’t allow for recording, only pause/time-shift.
The final way by which we accessed the TVButler was via DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) with the TV Source Software acting as server. We were easily able to access both live channels and recordings from our Samsung Smart TV, Windows PCs, a Roku 3 and many other ‘smart’ devices we have around the house. Like TV Mosaic, you are unable to set recordings but you can pause for a short period. You don’t get an EPG, however, but it all works well, provided your home network is up to streaming the content.
- Super easy set up
- Accessible on a multitude of platforms
- Well priced
- Solid supporting software
- KODI 17 support
- Apps look a little outdated
- Website could confuse with the range of software available
DVBLogic TVButler USB Tuner Review
Should I buy one?The DVBLogic TVButler is an affordable and easy way to distribute, view and record free-to-air television around the home. With just this simple USB tuner, some basic hardware and your choice of supporting software you could replace your Freeview Personal Video Recorder(s) and enjoy a lot more flexibility in to the bargain. You can hook the TVButler up to a Windows PC, Mac, Raspberry Pi, Linux machine or a Networked Attached Storage device and turn it in to a TV server or it can be attached directly to an Android box and used independently as a simple tuner. The base price of 59 Euro gets you the tuner only and you then provide your own software, e.g. TV Headend, to take care of the serving capabilities or, and this is what we’d recommend to novice users, you pay 99 Euro and receive a license for DVBLogic’s own software.
Initial set up is browser-based and very straightforward. Once that’s done you can then choose your own front-end software, dependent on the device you’re using and the requirements you have. Our preference, for front-end prettiness, flexibility and the fact it’s free would be KODI (or variants of) but DVBLogic also provides its own free alternatives for all the various platforms, although we think they look a bit dated and could use a redesign. Alternatively, if you’re the owner of an Android TV box, you can connect the TVButler directly and use the TVMosaic app to take care of tuning and EPG duties, although that means you lose the ability to make recordings but you can pause live broadcasts for a short period.
All-in-all, and at this price-point, the TVButler is a compelling and versatile option that comes Highly Recommended for cord-cutters or those that are just looking for more freedom in their TV viewing.
Ease of Use9
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.