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Digital TV on the go with the FLO TV Personal Television - the Gadling review



Entertainment on the go is very important for most travelers. Some may find their entertainment in a book or stack of magazines, others (like myself) tend to rely on high tech gadgets. For those of you that enjoy their entertainment from TV on the go, there is the new FLO TV Personal Television

The FLO TV Personal Television looks more like a PDA than a digital TV. There is a reason for this - the TV is made by smartphone company HTC. Nothing on the device reminds you that you are looking at a television - there is no antenna and no tuning knobs.

On the front of the unit is a single button, on the top you'll find power button and battery status buttons, and on the side are volume controls. The screen is a 3.5" touch panel, and sound comes from a pair of stereo speakers on the rear of the TV, where you'll also find a sturdy stand.

Coverage



FLO TV is a digital TV service that is available on select mobile phones on AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The FLO TV Personal Television is a stand-alone product that uses the AT&T network for its signals.

This obviously restricts the places where you'll be able to pick up a signal, and in the image above, you'll see just how limited this can be - signals can only be picked up inside major metro areas, and any time you consider yourself to be "in the middle of nowhere", you won't be able to use the TV.

Reception within the coverage area is very good - you obviously won't get the same HD experience you have at home, and the signal occasionally drops for a second or two when it switches between towers, but other than that it's great.

Channel lineup



The channel lineup on FLO TV is probably its strongest point - you get a decent selection of sports, news, entertainment and kids TV. Some channels are specially developed for mobile use, others are the same signal you'd get on your satellite or cable signal.
  • 2.FLO Preview channel
  • MSNBC
  • Comedy Central
  • ESPN Mobile
  • MTV
  • Nickelodean
  • Disney Channel
  • CNBC
  • Fox News
  • Adult Swim
  • Food Network
  • ABC Mobile
  • CBS Mobile
  • FOX Mobile
There is a price to pay for all this entertainment - $14.99 in addition to the cost of the unit itself ($199). Navigating the channels is nice and simple - you can enable a "swipe to change" and use your fingers to slide up or down through the channels, or you can press the front button and navigate through the guide.

Hardware



The FLO TV Personal Television feels well made - the device itself is mainly plastic, but the stand on the rear is made of metal, and allows the TV to be angled any way you want it. The touch screen is responsive, and channel changes take just one or two seconds, plus a couple more seconds for the device to "lock" on to its signal.

Within the menu on the device, you can set reminders to watch a show, enable parental controls and change the touch settings (for changing channels).



Behind the metal stand is a battery cover and a SIM card (hidden behind a plastic cover). During normal use, users will never have to remove that cover. The battery is rated for five hours of continuous use and charges using a MicroUSB jack on the TV. A MicroUSB cable and wall charger are included - but no car charger. Inside the box is also a small carrying pouch.

There is a single headphone jack - but no video output. I'll get back to this shortcoming in a moment.

Thoughts on the service



As a geek, the idea behind FLO TV excites me - being able to receive TV on the go is awesome. Despite its limited coverage area, being able to watch good quality programming on the go is fantastic.

The lack of a video output is pretty inexcusable in my opinion - it forces you to watch the 3.5" screen, no matter where you are. It would have been a great feature if FLO TV allowed you to hook the unit up to your hotel TV or in-car screen (there are automotive versions available of the FLO TV hardware).

Then there is of course the price - the $199 purchase price currently includes 6 months of service, but after that, you'll need to pay $14.99/month to keep watching TV.

Final thoughts

PROS:
Well designed hardware, great picture quality, compact, easy to control, good battery life
CONS: Fairly pricey subscription, no video output

Product page: FLO.TV

Filed under: Gadling Gear Review

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