Product: TV Tuner, DVR and backup functionality
Minimum System Requirements: 512MB RAM, USB 2.0, Mac OS X v10.4.11+
Processor Compatibility: PowerPC G4, G5 or Intel Core® processor
Version Reviewed: EyeTV v3.1 and Hybrid 2009
The EyeTV Hybrid is a superb TV tuner that brings DVR functionality to the Mac with incredible video quality. It, together with EyeTV 3.1, allows you to watch and record live TV, set up recording schedules, and export recordings for later viewing and archiving. Elgato recently started manufacturing these units in-house, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time, as it was developed side by side with the latest update to EyeTV, bumping it to 3.1. Let’s take a look at what’s new.
There are two things that were updated recently; software and hardware. Starting with hardware, Elgato now makes the EyeTV Hybrid themselves. Is that a big deal to you? Probably not, but it’s nice to know that Elgato isn’t relying on anyone else for these in the future. I talked with the developers about the device, and they told me its reception and display quality is superior to the older version. You might recall my recent review of the last version the EyeTV Hybrid. I loved the video quality of it, and honestly, I can’t tell the difference here. I am using cable, so I’m thinking the difference is more noticeable over the air with increased reception quality. But from my testing, the video quality is amazing (especially with digital cable), so you won’t be disappointed. An added benefit is support for FM radio…woo hooo!
On the software side of updates we’ve got EyeTV 3.1. The big switch that everyone is talking abou is TV Guide data; no longer are they relying completely on TitanTV for program information. You can still use it for a while (it will be phased out by 2011), and web scheduling currently only works with TitanTV, but you won’t want to. Yes, this means you’ll have to pay $20 every year after the first, but I think you’ll find it’s worth it.
TV Guide data makes TitanTV data look like it’s a few fries short of a happy meal. Seriously, look at what you get with TV Guide.
- 14 days of guide date – That’s two whole weeks!
- More detailed guide data – You get richer cast, ratings and genre information. This enables the Smart Series Guide feature.
- Pictures – Because information is one thing, but pictures seal the deal (coming soon).
I originally was annoyed by the thought of non-free guide data, but after using the new data I’ve found that it’s more than worth the $20 bill next year. For instance, with TitanTV, certain channels were not identified, and often these were the digital channels. You had to manually correct this so that shows could be recorded in HD, but then you wouldn’t have full show details included with the recording. In the end, you could still get it to record, but it was a pain. Consider 3.1 your morphine drip, because the pain is gone. In my testing, TV Guide recognized all of the channels that were previously unknown. And the show details are just that…extremely detailed.
Smart Series Guides are EyeTV’s way of recording an entire season of a television show. They are marketing this as a new feature, but it’s really an old friend in disguise. Basically, what they’ve done is taken the process of creating a Smart Guide and made it easier for those who aren’t search gurus. To create a SSG, search for a show and click the Record All button after selecting a specific episode. This will record every episode of a particular show on that same channel. Alternatively, you could have done this on your own by creating a Smart Guide (an auto-updating search) with numerous search conditions.
But the feature that has me the most excited is not that well documented or marketed, and I’m not sure why. When you record a program, the commercials are automatically marked for you. Best of all, it’s actually pretty accurate. I’m not sure how it does this, but I’m glad it does. You might have to fine tune exact timings before exporting, but it will get you very close. This will save you a lot of time if you export your videos and hate the idea of wasting space with commercials.
While I was at Macworld, I had the pleasure of talking with the guys at Elgato, and they told me that EyeTV is smart enough to record two shows at the same time if you have two tuners. I honestly didn’t believe it, so I had to try it out to just to check. Now I know better; if Elgato says it’s true, it’s true. Not only can it record two shows at once, it won’t yell at you for scheduling two shows in the future if both tuners are currently attached. Both record, and it didn’t kill my machine (MacBook Pro). Actually, it didn’t even cause it to slow down. I’m amazed, I really am.
The only thing I can think of to add to the EyeTV package would be an awesome iPhone app. I’d love to be able to watch live TV and schedule recordings straight from my iPhone, and not just in my home network. I’m talking about Slingbox and DVR-like functionality. Soon, Slingbox will have an app for the iPhone that will stream live TV over WiFi, 3G and even EDGE. I’d love to see that for EyeTV. Actually, I’d love to see EyeTV be able to connect to remote tuners. Let’s say you’re on a trip with your MacBook, but your Mini at home has the Hybrid connected to it. What if EyeTV could connect over the internet and show you live TV from home? Then I’d somehow have to find an extra “a” to tack onto its rating.
Overall, this is a fantastic update to both the Hybrid and the EyeTV software. TV Guide data is a huge asset to EyeTV that will make the viewing experience that much better, even if it isn’t free. Apple users are accustomed to paying more for quality, and I don’t think this is an exception. You really can’t ask for much more, and with Elgato, I don’t think you have to, because they’re always hard at work somehow making their products even better.
Buy EyeTV Hybrid