October 9, 2006

Watching TV on your Mac

Watching TV on your computer has been possible for many years but recently the landscape in Australia has changed with the introduction of Digital TV. Digital TV offers superb picture clarity and better sound. Along with the change to Digital manufacturers have been shrinking the size of the TV tuners to a point where today, you can get a Digital TV tuner the size of a small USB memory stick.

I’ve been testing Elgato’s Eye TV Hybrid ($279) – a tiny USB stick that at one end plugs in to any free USB port and the other end to an antenna. Once plugged in you load a piece of software called EyeTV 2 (Mac OS X). EyeTV 2 (www.elgato.com) is the engine that drives the EyeTV Hybrid stick and lets you rewind, fast-forward and pause digital TV. Additionally you can schedule a recording and EyeTV 2 will record the program to your hard drive for viewing later.

The EyeTV Hybrid is unique is a unique product in the market as it allows you to watch and record Analogue TV and Digital TV plus comes with a break-out cable for composite video and S-Video, enabling you to connect a set-top box for premium channels, digital cable or satellite.

Once you’ve recorded your program EyeTV 2 also lets you export clips or entire programs to other devices like your video enabled iPod. If you’d like to back up your content you can also export to an external storage device or burn to DVD.

In Europe EyeTV 2 comes bundled with a subscription to use an EPG (Electronic Program Guide). In Australia you’ll need to sign up to IceTV. IceTV are working on complete integration with EyeTV but at the moment you’ll have to settle for a Mac OS X widget that lets you few the TV guide and schedule recordings at the press of a button. The IceTV widget is easy to use but full integration with EyeTV 2 would be better. According to IceTV tight integration with EyeTV 2 is coming soon and should be available by December. Additionally IceTV are launching a package called PIMP that lets you schedule recordings remotely via your mobile phone.

I’m addicted to EyeTV, it’s a great piece of software that will be very familiar to any Mac user. It is reliable and stable. The convenience of being able to watch TV on my computer is great given amount of time I spend in front of my computer. Also, the DTT stick is so small that I can travel with it when I am away from home. An IceTV subscription rounds the package out nicely as scheduling recordings is only a couple of clicks away.