Review: EyeTV HD a must-have for watching TV on your Mac
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Review: EyeTV HD a must-have for watching TV on your Mac

Add the new EyeTV HD from Elgato (http://www.elgato.com) to my list of must-have accessories to turn my 27-inch iMac into a true multimedia viewing/creation system. It joins the Kanex HD (which lets me watch Blu-ray movies on my Mac) and the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000A (a combo video/still camera with some Mac specific features).

The US$199.95 EyeTV HD is the world’s only made-for-Mac DVR solution that provides full access to premium cable or satellite TV content. With it you can watch record, edit and enjoy cable and satellite in high-definition, including all your premium channels. Previously, the only way to do this on your Mac was via a somewhat awkward work-around using the Hauppage HD PVR (you can read how to do this at http://www.macsimumnews.com/index.php/archive/elgato_hauppauge_enable_hd...), but the EyeTV HD is a muuuuch smoother and elegant solution.

To use you connect EyeTV HD to the outputs of the cable or satellite receiver with the included component cables, and to the computer via USB. It's USB powered so you don't need an external power supply.

Then position the included infrared channel changer cable nearby. The EyeTV software setup assistant takes you through a configuration process. It's not as easy as using EyeTV with previous TV tuners, but it's worth the few extra steps if you really want to use your Mac as a television.

After EyeTV successfully powers on your cable box or satellite receiver, the next step is to determine how EyeTV HD will send the simulated key presses, specifically to change channels.

You have a few options: always send four digits; always send three digits; and send only the required digits. Not all options will work with every cable box or satellite receiver, so some experimentation may be needed.  Start by using Always send four digits, and if that doesn't work later in the EyeTV Setup Assistant (when you Test Channel Changer), then come back to this window and try the other options.

If some remotes expect that you press a button before or after typing in the channel number, then you can activate one of these options: send button before digits or send confirmation after digits. For each of these options, you can choose from one of the these extra button presses: OK/Select, Enter, Menu, Standby, Sleep and Power. For example, if your cable box remote requires that you press Enter after choosing a channel. Then you would select Send confirmation after digits, and select Enter.

The final test will check to see if your choices for the Remote Sequences actually allow EyeTV HD to change channels. EyeTV will let you choose some channels from the list you downloaded earlier. That list would be for your Zip code or Postal code, and your service provider.

EyeTV HD records in the H.264 format for a high-definition digital picture. The H.264 format sports a compression ratio that produces a smaller file size when compared to MPEG-2 recordings. H.264 can match the best possible MPEG-2 quality at up to half the data rate, according to the folks at Elgato.

The EyeTV HD includes an infrared remote and channel changer cable (IR blaster) for automatic control of the receiver. The only drawback to this (though I guess it's unavoidable) is that the IR blaster must be positioned just right in front of your cable/satellite receiver for it to work.

Once you're set up, you can watch cable or satellite programs on your Mac with ease. But wait; there's more.

Additionally, EyeTV HD can capture video from analog and digital sources such as a VCR or a camcorder. EyeTV HD includes component inputs for HD sources, as well as S-Video and composite inputs for standard definition sources. You connect the video source to your computer using the included breakout cable, then watch and even record the picture on your computer as an EyeTV recording.

EyeTV HD also comes with Toast Basic disc-burning software so you can archive your favorite movies and TV shows and save space on your hard drive. EyeTV 3 includes one year of free data from TV Guide, with optional renewal for US$19.95 per year. Smart Series Guide functionality requires a TV Guide subscription.

What's more, EyeTV HD includes a dual-format capture mode that records in iPad and iPhone formats at the same time, allowing users to stream live and recorded TV to an iPhone or iPad using the optional EyeTV app via an optional EyeTV app. It's available for US$4.99 at the Apple App Store.

iPad owners will be happy to hear that you can export EyeTV recordings to the iPad, when using EyeTV 3.4 software (or above). You use the "iPad" option by choosing Export from the File menu. You can also use the iPad button at the top of the Recordings section in the EyeTV Programs window. Depending on your choices in the General Preferences, you can set each Schedule to export to one of the following options: iPod, iPhone, Apple TV or iPad.

EyeTV HD requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or higher and a Mac running a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better.

Rating: 9 out of 10

-- Dennis Sellers

 
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