The Elgato EyeTV HD for HD cable and satellite TV, is more or less a Slingbox alternative for Mac users, but with a few extra tricks up its sleeve. The EyeTV will let you watch and record TV shows on your Mac. It will also let you remotely watch live TV on your iPad or iPhone. When it comes to recording TV programs on your Mac, no one does it better than Elgato. The Elgato EyeTV HD software is simple and straightforward and the hardware design itself is easy on the eye, with its silver finish and rounded edges, it actually resembles a Mac Mini.
The Elgato EyeTV HD can be connected to a cable HD or satellite TV source via component video, S-Video, and right and left audio, and cables are included for all of these connections. A small infrared remote control, and USB cable for connecting the EyeTV box to your computer are included as well.
Fortunately, setting up the EyeTV HD is pretty straightforward. You’ll need to connect the EyeTV HD box to your TV source and then in turn connect the EyeTV HD box to your computer via USB. Unfortunately the included USB cable is way too short, which means that your computer or laptop will need to be moved close to your cable box if you want to use the EyeTV – or you could just get a longer USB cable.
At first we had some difficulty getting out Time Warner Cable HD DVR box (Scientific Atlantic) to play nicely with the Elgato EyeTV, and it seemed like it just might not work with the EyeTV at all. However, it turned out that all we had to do was hard reset the Time Warner DVR , while the cables from the EyeTV were plugged into it, and then the EyeTV software was able to pick up a signal from our TWC cable box.
The EyeTV’s software itself is easy to use. It automatically provides you with a station guide in one window so that you can see whats on and also schedule recordings. A separate window contains the video feed of the TV show or movie that is currently playing. This window will automatically adjust according to the source you’re playing. So that for example, if you switch to an HD channel, it will switch to a large widescreen window. The EyeTV software also has a small floating control panel that offers quick access to volume, play and pause, forward and back, and record. This little control panel also displays the channel number and station.
For those of you looking for an alternative to Slingbox, the EyeTV doesn’t exactly compete toe to toe. It does let you watch TV remotely – even on your iPad or iPhone, but your Mac needs to be connected to your cable box and turned on in order for it to work. That said, the EyeTV HD does offer some neat features that Slingbox doesn’t have, and that includes the ability to record programs onto your Mac’s hard drive. Once those shows or movies have been recorded, you can export them for playback on your iPod, or iPhone, etc. This is ideal if you want to be able to watch TV shows at times when you know you wont have access to an internet connection, like during plane travel. On the other hand, when it comes to Slingbox, if you don’t have a working internet connection, you’re totally out of luck.
Using the EyeTV app, the EyeTV HD is able to stream live TV onto your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad over both Wi-Fi and 3G connections. The EyeTV app costs just $4.99. With the EyeTV iPhone and iPad apps, you can Watch live TV, change channels and browse through the program guide, start recordings on your Mac or schedule them for later, watch EyeTV recordings, view and edit your recording schedules and automatically launch EyeTV on your Mac at home as needed. One thing is for sure, $4.99 is a lot more reasonable than Slingbox’s own $29.99 app. Alternatively, you could also access your EyeTV and your live TV through any web browser by logging onto live3g.elgato.com. This is great for watching some TV while you’re at work. During your lunch-break only, of course.
Overall, the EyeTV HD is fairly priced at $199, although you can pick it up for as low as $169.99 on Amazon. It provides you with several new ways to enjoy your cable TV content, and heck, why shouldn’t you, when you spend a crazy amount of money each month on cable or satellite TV. Furthermore, when it comes to streaming live TV so that you can watch it remotely, the EyeTV HD provides users with plenty of options and good streaming quality. That said, our biggest issue with the EyeTV HD is that it is pretty inconvenient that your computer has to be turned on and plugged into the EyeTV at all times if you want to record, or stream and watch TV.
The Good: Watch and record TV shows and movies onto your Mac – with HD support. Watch live TV on your iPad, iPhone, or the web. Schedule recordings remotely. Playback quality is good.
The Bad: Included USB cable is very short. Your computer has to be on at all times if you want to use the EyeTV HD. Mac Only. Occasional cut-outs while streaming TV.