There's never been a compelling reason to have a portable TV. Do we really need another way to rot our brains? Flo TV certainly thinks so. The Qualcomm-developed technology began appearing on a handful of mobile phones last year and offers live and previously aired content from a variety of networks including Comedy Central and the Disney Channel. Flo TV's new Personal TV (PTV) is a direct-to-consumer device that streams content without the hassle of having to deal with a mobile-phone carrier. But does someone with an iPhone or even a DVR need another TV-related gadget? It may be difficult to justify the $250 price tag, but when such a handy little device works as advertised, it's hard to say no. Six months of free service doesn't hurt either.
Built by HTC (makers of the Sprint Hero, the Verizon Droid Eris, etc.), the PTV features a large 3.5-in. touchscreen, built-in speakers, an adjustable stand and instant access to programming at all hours of the day. At 5.5 oz., it weighs a tad more than your standard BlackBerry or iPhone. Changing channels is as easy as swiping your finger up or down on the screen. There's also a dedicated menu button that can bring up the entire programming guide should you wish to peruse your options.
For whatever reason, the speakers are placed on the back of the device, making it difficult to distinguish between audio streaming from your PTV and people chattering nearby. Headphones can solve this problem if you're tuning in, say, at your cubicle or in the back of a lecture hall. Battery life is estimated at five hours of TV viewing, but we here in TIME's Techland managed to squeak out more than eight hours on our first go-round. Mileage varies based on signal strength and battery conditioning, but we were impressed nonetheless.
The mobile Flo TV service, which costs $15 a month, is quite good when signal strength is optimal, with very little buffering. However, when pulling up the programming guide, the audio checks out for a second and then resumes without a hitch until you switch channels. Certainly not a deal breaker in our book, but if you're a compulsive channel surfer, there's a chance it could become a nuisance.
There are currently only a few channels that are simulcast, meaning you can watch, essentially in real time, breaking news on Fox News Channel or select sporting events on ESPN. So if your favorite game is delayed, your PTV won't miss a beat. Can you be sure that your DVR will actually record all that you want it to? Is there an app for that?