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Elgato EyeTV Hybrid USB TV tuner for Mac

All you need to make a Mac a media centre?

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Running the software for the first time involves the customary channel search. In Reg Hardware's notoriously TV-unfriendly office, I didn't find many, but at home the bundled antenna was able to pick up rather more, though by no means all, of the channels pumped out over the Freeview network. Removing the antenna and hooking up the feed from the aerial in my roof yielded the full, 75-strong list. Again, that's good news for the set-top Mac Mini users.

Whatever aerial you use, the channels EyeTV can detect are listed in the app's Channels pane. You can re-order the channels and uncheck ones you don't want to view when you're surfing through the list using the on-screen remote control.

Other panes include Program Guide, which provides a horizontally scrolling programme schedule. Elgato's bundled a year's subscription to the online EPG (electronic programme guide) TVTV, which will cost you £14.90 if you want to continue with it past year one. EyeTV will also pick up over-the-air EPG info it it's available. US- and Japan-specific online EPG services are supported too, and apparently the software supports remote scheduling instructions sent via your EPG services.

elgato eyetv hybrid digital and analogue usb tv tuner
Click for full size image

Adding a programme to your recording schedule locally is just a matter of clicking on it. EyeTV will extend the start and end times by up to 30 minutes to ensure you don't lose part of your programme because an earlier show has over- or under-run. You can record programmes on the fly using the virtual remote.

All the other customary DVR features - pause, rewind and fast-forward live broadcasts; a chase mode for watching recordings already in progress - are present and correct. You can set up any number of favourite-channel folders, each selectable from the remote control. And the software's smart enough to adjust the window size automatically to suit the broadcast aspect ratio. In all, it's very nicely done.

elgato eyetv hybrid digital and analogue usb tv tuner
Click for full size image

Recorded programmes are stored on your hard drive in an internal format that essentially packages the broadcast MPEG 2 stream with EyeTV-friendly metadata. You can extract the video data and play it in an app like VLC, but it's not ready as is for burning to DVD for playback on your living room DVD player. You can at least archive the EyeTV files, and the app ties in to Roxio's Toast, if you have it, to streamline the disc burning process.

Likewise, EyeTV will convert recordings into an iPod-friendly format, though not as yet to 640 x 480, the resolution introduced by the latest 5G iPods. Conversion complete, EyeTV even slots it into iTunes ready to sync across to the player next time you connect it.

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