Elgato EyeTV for DTT (für DVB-T / pour TNT)
Price Point: €149.00 (€ 149 US$ 180)
Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) is growing in popularity in Europe. While the UK government is planning to switch off analog television transmissions by 2010, the German government is pursuing the matter much quicker. If an area is covered by DTT, analog transmissions will be switched off.
In my living room I use a Grundig DTR 5460 HD. It has a twin DTT receiver and a 80GB hard drive. So what more could I ask for? A lot! Some dimwit at Grundig decided to only include a USB 1.1 port and every so often I record a program that I’d really like to archive. Downloading it via the USB 1.1 port is not practical – still the desire remains…
Elgato’s EyeTV came to the rescue and it does a fabulous job. I have had it for about one month now and I couldn’t envision living without it any longer.
The package for Elgato EyeTV for DTT contains the Terratec Cinergy T2, a small passive antenna, a USB cable, a remote control, a one page quick start guide, and a CD containing the software and documentation.
The Terratec Cinergy T2 is a small box of 7.5x5x2.5cm (3x2x1 inch), so it won’t take up much space on your desktop. The USB cable is about 50cm (20 inches) in length, and the passive antenna’s lead is about 1m (just over 1 yard) long.
The small box has a build in infrared receiver, which makes this product also suitable to take your Mac mini to the living room. The remote control is of good quality and works from 10 yards away (the most clear line of sight I could establish, though I would never sit that far away). What I like best about this remote is that it isn’t just a standard remote bundled for the sake of including a remote, but rather designed for use with the Terratec Cinergy T2 and the EyeTV software.
All in all, from the hardware side of things, this is a very good, reliable package. The inclusion of a passive antenna at this price point is my only gripe. As DTT coverage is still in its infancy, many will find themselves in a weak coverage area and could benefit from an active antenna, which of course is available from major electronic stores at an additional cost.
With a product like this the quality of the TV reception is the main question. With DTT however the quality is greatly determined by the software used and the channels you view. DTT puts several TV channels on the same frequency by bundling data streams. The TV signals are transmitted in MPEG-2, which determines much of the quality.
A standard PAL TV signal will take up about 3-5 Mbit/s and the network can decide to give one of their channels more bandwidth than another, so reception not only depends on how many channels are broadcast in one program package (about 3-4 seems to be the standard in Germany), but also the program content and the networks decision.
As for reception, you either got it, or you don’t. If you got it, you get a good quality picture, within the parameters outlined above.
When judging the quality of TV reception, please remember that blowing up a standard PAL signal, which comes at (720 x 576 pixels), to a 17” display running at 1024×768 or above, will degrade quality as each pixel has to be blown up to cover the higher resolution of your monitor at full screen.
In addition, while the hardware plays a big role, the best hardware, with best antenna, etc. will not deliver good results, if the software isn’t any good. This is where Elgato’s EyeTV comes into play.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Elgato’s EyeTV is the staple for TV on the Mac and my first impression of the EyeTV software has been very positive indeed.
Installation couldn’t have been easier, thanks to a very well designed setup assistant. You select your hardware, your country of residence, the scan starts. Five minutes later you it’s all done and ready for you to watch some TV on your Mac.
The Live TV Window can be resized to take up as much of your desktop as you’d like, including full-screen mode. But if watching TV was all you could do, the money would have been much better invested in, well, a TV set. But there is so much more, mainly the PVR (Personal Video Recorder) functionality.
EyeTV constantly records the program you are watching so you can rewind, pause, or archive what’s playing any time. So when you are watching soccer with your friends and you’d swear that one player was offside and everyone else says you are nuts, you can just rewind and know for sure. Obviously there are more useful applications, should you not be a soccer fan. 😉
If you’d like, take a look at the Teletext, which is transmitted with most channels in Germany. With the advent of the Internet I thought this service would disappear, but it is still there and I can’t see it go away anytime soon.
The real strength of the software is scheduling a recording and exporting it. EyeTV let’s you add a recording, by entering it manually. Very straight forward. The nicer way to do it is via the Internet TV guide service of TVTV. A one-year subscription to TVTV Germany / UK / Netherlands / Switzerland / Austria / Italy / Spain and France is included, after which you’ll pay €19 a year.
It is all very simple and straightforward. The TVTV website is completely customizable, so that you can select the channels you get and how they are displayed. You have the option to save searches and be alerted when matching programs are added.
EyeTV will check as frequently as once an hour for new recordings or schedule changes, and if that’s not frequent enough, you can manually update EyeTV anytime.
Now think about this function: You are traveling on business, you hear about a show you’d really like to record and all you have to do is go online, login to TVTV and schedule your recording. As long as your Mac is on, or will boot automatically to be online once a day (System Preferences > Energy Saver > Schedule) this will very nicely allow you to schedule recordings from away. Very useful.
EyeTV will also boot your Mac, or wake it from sleep to start a scheduled recording. It only requires a small setting in preferences to be set. This is outstanding – better than anything I’ve ever seen on a Windows PC. The only downside, EyeTV doesn’t shut down your computer automatically. If you have set your computer to sleep automatically this will conserve some energy, but still this isn’t quite ideal. This would be an ideal future feature for Elgato.
After your recording you can watch it, of course. Now, my Grundig can do that, however something my Grundig can’t do is allow me to remove commercials from the recording and save the program again.
The edit function is very basic and designed to appeal to the beginner. Unfortunately this sometimes makes for bad cuts, leaving a few frames from of the last commercial. The recording will be shown in a thumbnail view and you select the beginning and end of the section you’d like to remove. There is a fine setting, which shows more thumbnails for better cuts, but it just isn’t precise enough. I’d like a pro feature here, but most cuts are ok and it is only a minor annoyance.
Exporting, however, is where EyeTV really shines. With the latest software release 1.8.4 you can export your recording to your iPod with Video or PlayStation Portable (PSP), plus a variety of other formats. For this review I recorded a five-minute section of a program and then exported it for iPod. It took 40 minutes to encode the five-minute video, so if you are a Mac mini user, like me (PowerPC G4 1.42 GHz, 512 MB DDR SD Ram, MAC OS X v10.4.3), encoding last night’s soccer game of90 Minutes, would take half a day. I am sure that with the appropriate G5 or Intel equipped Macintosh, it would be much faster. The video file was then added to iTunes for me and the file (examined on my Mac, not an iPod, as I only have a Nano) had very good quality at 25MB for five-minute of video.
The most useful of these export functions (for me) is the integration with Toast 7 Titanium. Once you are done removing commercial breaks click on File > Burn with Toast and the file is transferred to Toast 7 Titanium, ready to be put on DVD. Before the DVD will actually be written, the file must be multiplexed. It is all done automatically and for a 110-minute film, this took about 7 minutes on my Mac mini. All in all, as simple as it could be.
There is an export option to iMovie within EyeTV, however export takes forever on my Mac mini, and the resulting file types are huge – I am talking of about 12GB for a standard length movie. So while this is a possibility, it is just not practical for anything less than a G5 or Intel machine with fast processors and larger hard drives.
4 out of 5 stars
Altogether this is a very powerful software package. There are a few features I’d like to see in future releases. If it is possible to power up your Mac, the software should be able to power down my Mac after a recording as well.
Another nice feature would be the option to schedule a power up, just to check for new scheduled recordings once a day, and an immediate power down thereafter. Obviously I can use the System Preferences to do this, but I really want a one-stop shop PVR solution.
The other feature, which would do with a little improvement, is the edit feature, allowing me to remove commercials with more comfort and accuracy.
Lastly a active antenna would be appreciated, just for those of us outside the big metropolitan areas.
Despite having said all that, I think that Elgato has a winner with EyeTV. If Apple’s Front Row was to offer a plug-in which enables EyeTV to work from FrontRow, I personally think they’d have a real winner.
So to sum it up in one line: This is a fabulous package of hardware and software and well worth the investment.
Power PC G4 (500 MHz or faster) or G5 processor; 256 MB of physical RAM (512 MB recommended), USB 2.0 port, Mac OS X v10.3.9 or Mac OS X v10.4 (or later); 2 GB of disk space required for one hour of recorded DTT TV; Internet connection required to use optional Electronic Program Guide (EPG). Intel Mac’s not yet supported.
Combined rating: 4.5 stars out of 5