My New Hybrid

No, I didn't buy a new car. This hybrid is an analog/digital TV receiver for my Mac.

I've had my eye on Elgato forever. They always seemed to have great products, but I never really had a need for any of them. For many years, I relied on my trusty ReplayTV. My ReplayTV is in my top 3 of best purchases of all time, so Elgato had their work cut out for them. I had to put the ReplayTV in early retirement when I got rid of cable. The ReplayTV can't record HD and I can't get an analog OTA signal worth recording, so it is temporarily useless.

I do get decent signal quality on a handful of ATSC HD stations. I really missed having a DVR, so I decided to give the eyetv hybrid a try. I especially like that the hardware is a dongle that I can use on the go with my MacBook if I like. It's a nice small size and has a coax connector built-in. You can hook up other analog sources with the included break-out cable.

Bottom line is that I'm loving the product so far, but it isn't perfect.

The Good
* It records the full HD stream! Hope you have lots of disk. A 1 hour show will gobble more than 6 GB.

* It can automatically encode for iPod, and more importantly for me, Apple TV. When you setup a recording, you can choose to have it export in h.264 for Apple TV. This is great. eyetv will even throw it in iTunes for you with the correct show type (TV) and descriptions that it copied from the TitanTV guide data.

The only problem with this functionality is not Elgato's fault. Even a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM is taking nearly double the length of the show to encode. If you want to use the hybrid like a DVR and pick up a show while it is recording, you'll have to do that at the computer. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a Mac hooked to your TV rather than an Apple TV. If you record a night's worth of primetime television, the last show won't get done encoding until after midnight.

* The TitanTV guide is nice. I find it to be just as good as the ReplayTV guide and there's even a full screen mode that the software can run in which is very ReplayTV like.
* You can configure the keyboard to skip how ever many seconds you like forward and backward. The default 7 seconds back and 30 seconds forward is just how I like it. 7 is enough for the "what did they say?" moments and 30 forward let's you jump commercials with ease.

The Bad
* At first, I had my antenna positioned poorly. Hiccuping HD is one thing, but the software would actually get stuck if I fed it poor signal quality. It would tell me there was no signal, but if I changed the channel to something else and then back, it would start working again. This is annoying when watching live TV. It is death when you setup a record. I came home to find the Bears game didn't record a lick. I wasn't a happy person. I think I shouted something like "The Replay would never do this s**t."
* I'm still trying to pin this down, but when watching live TV and changing channels, the viewing window was creeping on me. The window will auto-size between widescreen and 4:3 content. When you stay on one channel, it will shrink and grow in a fixed location. When I was surfing, it would shrink from one channel, and then grow when I changed the channel, but to a different location than before. I need to watch this closer to figure out exactly what's happening.

I bought my eyetv hybrid from Amazon. They've since dropped the price.

No comments: