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Manufacturer: Elgato Systems
Min OS X: 10.4

Elgato EyeTV EZ
June 14, 2006 | Blake Buck

How many times has this scenario happened to you, the average Mac gamer? An ultra-cool game comes out on Playstation 2, receiving both critical praise and commercial success. You sit and wait patiently, visiting IMG daily, hoping for the announcement that it's coming to the Mac. Then, after months of waiting, the game is announced. You wait another eight months then gladly fork over fifty bucks for a game that's now twenty bucks on the PS2. Or if you're not so lucky, the game never comes to the Mac at all. You'll soon simply accept that this is the nature of the beast.

Well, Elgato Systems has decided to do something about it. They've created EyeTV, a family of digital video recorders (DVR) bundled with their EyeTV 2 software. More recently, Elgato has released the EyeTV EZ, an external TV tuner that plugs into your Mac via USB 2.0, allowing you watch and record live TV on your Mac, with a list price of $150. In addition, the EZ unit features AV and S-video inputs, allowing you to connect your favorite game consoles.

Yes, the EyeTV EZ allows you to play those gems that fell through the cracks on your Mac, such as Halo 2, Final Fantasy, God of War, Grand Theft Auto, and of course, Mary Kate and Ashley: Sweet 16 - Licensed to Drive.

The Hookup
The unit ships in a small white box containing the tiny EyeTV EZ external tuner, a USB 2.0 cable, a video cable, a remote control (with batteries!), the EyeTV 2 CD-Rom, and documentation. Setting up the unit is extremely simple, which is good, because I immediately throw away all instructions upon opening anything. I connect my TV cable into the back of the unit, my game system into the front, and plug the USB cable into my computer and I'm ready to go.

The software installation is a simple drag and drop to the applications folder. The first time you run EyeTV, the Setup Assistant pops up and guides you through the entire process. It configures your hardware, scans for channels, sets up a free TitanTV account, and you're done.

Since EyeTV gets all its listings from TitanTV, you won't have to worry about paying a monthly fee like you would with TiVo or another DVR service. Your listing are updated whenever you have an active internet connection, and can be easily changed in case you switch cable companies.

Now you're ready to watch Golden Girl re-runs to your heart's content!

TiVo for your Mac
Upon launching EyeTV, depending on how much of a stickler you are for video quality, things may look a bit fuzzy. This is normal, and is not because the EyeTV degrades the image quality. Standard television resolution (720x480) is actually quite low quality compared to your average computer screen (MacBooks: 1280x800). Regardless, the image quality ranges from fair to excellent, depending on the station and type of cable you have.

The remote allows you to navigate about the channels easily, though the sensor can be a little picky at times. With my EyeTV EZ on the floor (next to the cable wire), I had to move the remote close to the floor for the sensor to pick it up. And while the remote does support a good number of buttons and features, it can only do so much. For more advanced commands, you'll need the mouse.

The software supports a guide similar to most household cable boxes today through TitanTV, and allows you to pick what shows to record. This interface is very slick, and even supports a spotlight-like search box. I could queue up several of my favorite shows in just a few seconds.

Recording a show is extremely simple, and allows for multiple quality levels based on the speed of your Mac. My 1.25 GHz Powerbook G4 was able to record at both the Low (352x288 @ 1.5 mbps) and Medium (352x574 @ 4.0 mbps) settings fine, but stuttered heavily on High (720x576 @ 6.0 mbps).


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