I really don’t watch that much TV…
…and yet I bought another OTA HD tuner for my Mac mini in order to record two shows airing at the same time tonight — Heroes and 24. Well, that wasn’t the only reason I decided to take the plunge on the second tuner/PVR device, but that was a big reason. Ever since I’d gotten the EyeTV 500, I have been relatively happy with its performance that I was considering getting another one, partially since the pesky “broadcast flag” issue kept hanging around and I was worried that future HD recording devices would be crippled, and partially just to have a back up around, in case there ever happened to be a time that two shows I wanted to record were on at the same time.
Well, when I found out that Heroes and 24 were both on at 8 PM tonight (CST), I went to Elgato’s site to check on pricing for another EyeTV 500. I was dismayed to find out that the 500 seemed to be discontinued. Luckily, another device, called the EyeTV Hybrid, was a worthy replacement for the 500. Its functionality and pricing were especially attractive. The EyeTV Hybrid looks like an oversized USB flash drive, with a coax input on the opposite end of the USB connector. It can handle OTA HD broadcasts via the coax input, as well as S-video, composite, and audio connections via a little break-out cable that is included. This means it can also handle connections to VCRs, video cameras, and set-top boxes for satellite broadcasts (IIRC). To top it all off, it’s only $149.99 (the EyeTV 500 I got was an open-box item from the Apple Store, and it was over $200). Awesome! 🙂 I was slightly worried about it because someone had posted that unlike the EyeTV 500, the Hybrid was affected by processing power, so lesser spec-ed Macs like the Mac mini would have choppy recordings or playback (can’t remember which, or if it was both). This sounded slightly suspect, since HD recordings are not compressed by the EyeTV device. They’re simply captured in MPEG-2 at the original resolution. But the hubby suggested that maybe the person who gave this feedback on the online Apple Store was referring to recordings via the break-out cable’s S-video or RCA connections. I have yet to try recording via this break-out cable, but I will try to do that soon. If I can ever get my TiVo working again, I have a few recordings on its hard drive that I want to digitize! The EyeTV 2 software makes it really easy to edit out commercials/unwanted footage, and then export to different formats.
Last Friday I picked up the EyeTV Hybrid. The installation couldn’t have been simpler. Since I already had the EyeTV 2 software installed on my Mac mini, it recognized the Hybrid right away. No drivers, no extra software to install…it was truly plug-and-play. I split the OTA HD signal with some random coax splitter that we had laying around, and connected the coax cables to both EyeTV devices, and I was able to tune each one separately, and record two shows at the same time, just as I expected I should. The only annoyance I have is that the EyeTV software doesn’t seem to have an easy way of switching between the two devices. Everytime I want to schedule a recording on a particular device, I have to go into the preferences page and choose which device I want to use. I couldn’t find a way to pick a recording device on the info page for a show, where you can choose whether or not to schedule the recording. And it seems that now the EyeTV Hybrid is the default device that the EyeTV software is using to tune to live TV, which is fine, but a little puzzling how it chose the Hybrid over the 500.
Live TV and recordings via the Hybrid look just as good as from the 500. The only problem with the overall setup (besides not easily being able to choose which device to record with, on-the-fly) is that when a show is being recorded, watching pre-recorded material is a choppy affair. This was always the case before, though. I think the EyeTV 500 is already kind of taxing to the Mac mini (though it doesn’t completely bog the machine when recording). So tonight instead of being able to watch 24 and record Heroes, we’re going to have to wait until both recordings are done before we watch one of them, because choppy playback is very distracting. Actually, tonight we’ll have to wait until at least 10 PM (CST), since Studio 60 is also on tonight, right after Heroes. It’s a jam-packed TV night — Prison Break at 7, Heroes and 24 at 8, and Studio 60 at 9. Sure, I could just wait until the next day and buy all of those shows from iTunes, but they wouldn’t be in HD. And why should I if I can just record them myself for free (not counting the cost of PVR equipment)?
Hopefully the two tuners work as they should tonight. It’ll be the first real test. I did do some short recordings in parallel and they seemed to turn out fine, so I wouldn’t expect any different during the real shows at 8. Fingers crossed! 🙂
Editor’s note: I’m not being paid to write this review; I am just a happy customer. I’ve written about the EyeTV 500 in a previous blog post. Sorry if this post sounded like a commercial. I’m just writing about my good experience with these Elgato products. This is why I’m not that interested in the Apple TV device. I already have a Mac mini set up as my media server/PVR, and it’s a more flexible solution than Apple’s device, though I might consider the Apple TV in the future for an easy way to stream my media from the Mac mini in the family room up to a TV in the master bedroom…who knows.