The TiVo Killer?While touted as "TiVo for your Mac", the EyeTV EZ both surpasses and lags behind TiVo in a few ways. EyeTV's slick interface allows you to find what you're looking for quickly and intuitively, unlike typing in "S-A-N-F-O-R-D--A-N-D--S-O-N" on TiVo. EyeTV also has far more detailed options overall, especially in the recording and encoding departments.
TiVo on the other hand, has everything designed with the couch in mind, and you never have to worry about a mouse. In addition, one of TiVo's coolest features is its ability to recommend you shows based on your viewing habits, a feature nowhere to be seen on EyeTV.
Finally, TiVo (as well as Elgato's more expensive DVR's) is a hardware encoder. This means not only do shows record without having to worry about your system speed, but you can pause rewind, and playback TV at anytime, not just when you're recording a show.
But this is probably a good trade-off when you consider its effect on games...
Console Gaming on your MacBecause the EyeTV EZ features no hardware encoding, the video you're watching is near instantaneous from when it's transmitted. This makes the EyeTV EZ the DVR of choice for gamers (though the new EyeTV 250 supposedly features a "Game mode" for lag free performance). I tested three different systems and a wide variety of games on the EyeTV EZ and they all performed exactly as advertised.
The games performed comparably to playing on a television set, with a few key differences. First, the colors seemed slightly muted compared to a TV. Luckily, EyeTV features options to adjust color, brightness, contrast, and more. It even features several different options for image de-interlacing.
Second, while the lag is greatly improved over that of a standard DVR, there is still a very slight delay from when a button is pushed and the action is seen. This wasn't a problem in most games (such as GTA San Andreas or Zelda: Windwaker), but for games requiring twitch reflexes it could be difficult (such as Dance Dance Revolution or Samba De Amigo). The lag gets noticeably worse when recording a video, which added a roughly one second delay between my action its response on screen. This made capturing the below video quite difficult, but when you've got MAD SKILLZ like these, you make do. Overall, however, the delays were never a big problem.
Third, an s-video cable is an absolute must. Since EyeTV EZ can only input standard definition, you want to get the most of it. Check out the gallery for a side-to-side comparison of AV to s-video.
Finally, the frame rate is capped at NTSC standard 29.97 frames per second. This is a standard problem with all DVRs and tuner cards. Again, it only makes a difference on certain games, as many (most even?) games never get higher than 30 frames per second (like San Andreas). The novice gamer might not even notice the difference.
Here's a clip recorded using EyeTV of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Caution: Freebird and Mad Skillz nearby...
Great for what it isSo that's it! Elgato's EyeTV EZ is a fully featured DVR with a Mac flair. It would make an excellent addition to a Mac Mini for those looking for a media center Mac. While not as robust as TiVo, its remote does the job for most things, though a bluetooth keyboard and mouse on your coffee table never hurt either.
The unit's game playing abilities are above average for a DVR, and are great for those with limited space like college students. Plus if you squint really hard, it looks like you're playing Halo 2 on your Mac, which is sure to make any Marathon fanboy jump for joy.
While not a replacement to a television, the EyeTV EZ is easily the best DVR I've ever used, combining great hardware with fantastic software. The EZ is fairly inexpensive and can do most of what the more expensive models can. So if you're in the market for a DVR, EyeTV is the way to go.
Pros• Much smaller than most DVRs
• Much cheaper than most DVRs
• Excellent EyeTV 2 software
• Very little lag = great for console gaming
• Includes remote
Cons• Lacks full 'couch potato' functionality of TiVo
• No hardware encoder means no timeshifting of live TV
• Remote sensor can be picky