TV ON YOUR MAC
Companies like Elgato Systems with their EyeTV family of products, have brought the iPod like ability to time-shift your content consumption to the broadcast TV space. For decades, the Mac masses were relegated to converting old VHS tapes or, of late, ripping DVDs (for back up purposes only of course) in order to consume their media when and where they wanted. With the advent of EyeTV and now, TubeStick, the ski is the limit, literally. In fact, with the TubeToGo iPhone App by Equinux, you could literally be flying 30,000 feet in the air while watching the latest The Daily Show with John Stewart (WiFi enabled flight required).
With TubeStick Hybrid and its related software products, Equinux has shifted the paradigm within this space. With the addition of an online social networking component and the ability for the millions of iPhone/iPod Touch users to view their recorded content from almost anywhere, Equinux has thrown down the gauntlet to any and all would be challengers.
Everything you need to get started, sans the broadcast signal, is in the box
The TubeStick Hybrid provides the ability to receive both digital and analog signals in a small USB device. The TubeStick Hybrid can receive free over-the-air digital broadcasts, digital (QAM) and analog CATV (NTSC) channels. With the included adapter and cables, you can connect the TubeStick Hybrid to your video source via S-video, composite, or through the included antenna.
The included hardware is matched up with The Tube application which allows you to select the video source, program, pause, record, and publish (for viewing on your iPhone/iPod Touch remotely) your broadcast content on your Mac. Included with The Tube application is the ability to connect and chat with other users and participate in a social network of Tubers (this may not be the designation of choice). When you add all the features up, it is a very attractive package at this price point. For additional information, jump to the product page.
The TubeStick hardware is easy to install. Depending on whether you are using an over-the-air antenna, cable, or satellite, everything you need is included in the box:
Once you have connected the hardware, you need to install and update The Tube software and then select your video source:
You will need to instruct The Tube to search for local channels in your area:
Once your channels are locked in, you can begin to surf for your favorite shows:
REVIEW’S NOTE: The included screen caps are not a representative sampling of the reviewer’s favorite shows, but rather, the result of being late at night and the channel with the best signal reception.
Once your channels are locked, the application will ask you to download the program data which makes programming the software to record your favorite shows, a snap:
The Tube software gives you two additional options, via your iPhone or iPod Touch, to view your content. The first option is to watch your locked in TV channels via your iPhone/iPod Touch using the Live TV App.
I found this to be a great option for moving around the home WiFi environment while continuing to watch live TV. The video and audio quality was excellent. There were a couple of instances where the iPhone App would lock me out because it identified the free over-the-air content to be encrypted. The content was able to be viewed without and problem within The Tube application running on the Mac, so it was the iPhone App which had the problem. Nothing a little debugging won’t fix.
The second option is to view your recorded content anywhere you have a WiFi connection via your iPhone/iPod Touch using the TubeToGo App
Once I set up the TubeToGo preference,
any recorded program was automatically encoded for the selected device (iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, iMovie) and uploaded to my designated server (local, FTP, MobileMe, and or iTunes Library). After recording a couple of shows, I cruised down to my local Starbucks and watched a little Friends while sipping a Peppermint Mocha. My content, where I want it, when I want it, what a concept.
The other signal source I connected to the TubeStick was my Dish Network box via the composite connecter included in the package. The video and audio is great. The problem is a lack of programable recording (more on this later). You can record manually if you want to stay and turn off the recoding once your show has ended (kind of defeats the purpose of RECORDING). Of course, if you are a Cable TV subscriber, you will have full compatibility and programability with the TubeStick Hybrid.
One of the interesting features of this product is the Talk/Chat option which promises the ability to connect with other Tube users in an online social networking environment. While this feature sounds great in this twitterfied world of online social interaction, it is either down, not implemented, or in limited release. The bottom line is that I could not get it to work. Hopefully, Equinux is working the bugs out even as you read this review. It could provide enough differentiation from the EyeTVs and Slingboxes of the world to give the TubeStick a leg up on the competition.
MAKING A GOOD PRODUCT BETTER
The TubeStick Hybrid and its related software products combine to provide a very nice solution for in home and mobile consumption of your broadcast content. However, there are a few additions and tweaks which would give this product the finishing coat of wax it needs.
A little debugging is needed on the Live TV App to insure that whatever live channels can be viewed on The Tube can be viewed on the Live TV iPhone App.
Adding the ability to manually program The Tube to record content from the composite source would really improve the usability of the product for satellite users. Considering the fact that this is simply a video and audio signal from standard composite cables (no digital program data involved), a simple script to turn the record option on and off at a certain time would suffice.
Some attention to the Talk/Chat option would provide a substantial bang for the buck. This option would, IMO, sway many consumers looking for this type of product toward the TubeStick Hybrid.
Finally, the ability to import content into The Tube (which could then be added to the published library for viewing via the TubeToGo App) would make this a complete solution for the modern consumer of digital content.
I am very impressed with the TubeStick Hybrid. The combination of hardware and software at this price point offers consumers a great value. Equinux has done a great job designing a product that allows the consumer to consume his/her content when and where they want it. This product is only a few tweaks away from being the preeminent choice in this semi-crowded space. As it is, I am awarding the TubeStick Hybrid an outstanding and hopeful rating of 4.5 out of 5 on our MyMac Rating System