As the Digital Transition gets closer and closer (in fact it is supposed to start rolling out today – February 17, 2009), many Americans may be shut out of receiving over the air television reception. If you are fortunate to own a relatively new Apple computer, then this problem can be easily remedied using the product we will be reviewing today – the EyeTV Hybrid.

Elgato is a company with years of experience creating software and hardware for Macs to watch and record SDTV and HDTV. With the EyeTV Hybrid they have created a pretty powerful PVR tool in a small package. The EyeTV Hybrid is a USB based TV tuner stick that allows reception and capture of HDTV, Analog and FM radio signals. All you need is to connect an antenna or your TV cable directly into the EyeTV Hybrid to receive HDTV and standard TV in digital (ATSC, Clear QAM) or analog (NTSC) formats and of course, a Mac.

Besides the hardware, Elgato includes the robust EyeTV 3 Software which turns the EyeTV Hybrid into a fully functional PVR (personal video recorder). EyeTV 3 has many of the same features found in stand alone PVRs such as the TiVos and Media Center PCs. What sets EyeTV 3 apart from the others is the ability to export recordings to your iPod, iPhone or Apple TV. Also, if you have other Macs on your local network, you are also able to access recordings over Wi-Fi.


Arriving in a white cardboard package, here are some package shots and the unboxing video.
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The EyeTV Hybrid hardware is a larger than an average USB stick and features a coaxial connector opposite the USB connector and a mini-USB connector on the side. The device is silver and grey with the Elgato and EyeTV Hybrid logos on the front. Aesthetically, the design matches up perfectly with the newer silver model Macbooks and Mac desktops. It measures 8.2 x 3.2 x 1.5 cm and weighs a mere 30 grams.

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To protect the USB connector, Elgato provides a smoke grey cap which I know I am bound to lose since I carry my EyeTV Hybrid and MacBook Pro all around.

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Inside the package we find the EyeTV software/User’s Guide on a CD-ROM, an infrared remote (batteries included), a USB extension cable, a video cable (with S-Video and Composite inputs on one end and a mini USB connector on the other) and a Quick Start Guide. In addition to the EyeTV 3 software, Elgato also provides a free version of Toast 9 Basic.

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Specifications:
EyeTV Hybrid
EyeTV Hybrid turns your Mac into the world’s most affordable flat-screen HDTV. And because it receives both analog and digital TV, EyeTV Hybrid is an ideal solution for the digital transition.
But EyeTV Hybrid does more than just TV. Thanks to the included EyeTV 3.1 software, EyeTV Hybrid is also a digital video recorder (DVR) with a comprehensive Program Guide and editing capabilities. It’s a DVR that can put your television recordings on a Mac, iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV with one easy click of a button, and can export them for use in other Mac video applications. What’s more, EyeTV Hybrid receives FM radio. All this, in one small TV tuner stick.
Unique Features
Award-winning HDTV Tuner stick
State-of-the-art chip technology for world-class TV tuner performance
Receives both unencrypted digital and analog TV, by antenna or cable
Receives FM radio
Watch TV on your Mac
Rewind, fast forward, and pause live TV
Search two weeks of Program Guide data supplied by TV Guide. Includes one year of free TV Guide data, which can be renewed for only $19.95 per year
Record hours of television and edit out unwanted content
Record an entire season with Smart Series Guides
Organize recordings in Smart Playlists
Export recordings into iTunes in one easy step & sync automatically
Share recordings with multiple Macs in a local network
Access recordings via Wi-Fi on an iPod, and iPhone™ and selected SmartPhones
Store your recordings on an external drive, or burn to disc using Toast® Basic (included)
Enable family-friendly viewing with Parental Controls
And much more…
Ready for the digital transition
Enjoy stunning quality HDTV on the high-resolution display of your Mac with EyeTV Hybrid. EyeTV Hybrid receives unencrypted digital and analog TV by antenna and cable, so it not only turns your Mac into the world’s most affordable flat-screen HDTV and DVR, it is also an excellent solution for the upcoming
Digital Transition in February.

Superb quality digital TV recordings
EyeTV Hybrid records digital TV in one quality setting, Lossless. The digital stream is recorded unaltered for full quality digital content as encoded by the broadcaster. EyeTV also supports closed captioning and Dolby Digital sound.
EyeTV Hybrid can record from a cable or satellite set top box, video recorder or camcorder, using either composite or S-Video connections (learn more). In the US, additional support is offered for set top boxes (learn more).
EyeTV Hybrid processes analog video using the encoder built into the EyeTV software together with your Mac’s processor. As a result, the quality of analog recordings depends on the power of your Mac.
FM Radio
Tune in to local FM radio on your Mac and record broadcasts to enjoy later on your iPod or iPhone.
Made for the Mac
With its clean lines, matte aluminum finish, and surprisingly small size, EyeTV Hybrid is the premier accessory for the Mac. It features a USB 2.0 interface for the streaming of superior quality, uncompressed TV content and requires no external power supply. EyeTV Hybrid has a standard F connector and does not require an antenna adapter.

Note: 720p or 1080i HD features require an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Analog TV recorded and processed by a software encoder; quality depends on processor performance.

Technical Specifications
New!
EyeTV Hybrid comes with a state-of-the-art Xceive 5000 silicon tuner and next-generation demodulator technology for superior reception, including FM radio support.
Analog- /ATSC-Tuner
Frequency Range: 48-801 MHz (VHF and UHF)
Analog TV Standards: NTSC
Digital TV Standards: ATSC, Clear QAM
FM Radio

Input and Output
USB 2.0
Antenna input: Standard F connector
S-Video (via break out cable, included)
Composite video (via break out cable, included)
Stereo audio (via break out cable, included)
IR remote control sensor

Power Supply
USB bus power

Dimensions
82 x 32 x 15 mm
30g


Installation of the EyeTV Hybrid involves running the EyeTV 3 software installation package and then plugging in the device into an open USB port on your Mac. You can choose to receive the signal via a rabbit ear type ATSC antenna, connecting directly to a cable line, or through an external video source using an S-Video or Composite inputs.

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The EyeTV 3 software setup is quick and straightforward. It does involve setting up a TV Guide account which Elgato provides with a free one year subscription. The TV Guide feature provides an electronic programming guide for North American users. Here you find 14 days of guide data with a host of additional information about the programs and episodes.

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Once you complete the software installation, you will to activate your software, then scan for available channels and enter your zip code so the TV Guide software can pull down the correct program data for your location.

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That’s it, now you can watch and record some television or tune into your favorite FM station. You can watch both standard and high-definition programming; although the analog standard definition programming’s time is quickly coming to an end. To be able to view 720P and 1080i programming, you will need to have a Core 2 Duo or faster processor. The additional input features such as the S-Video and Composite allows the EyeTV Hybrid to connect to set top boxes, camcorders, and games consoles.

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The programming software is pretty straight forward yet very robust, if you want to just use the basic features, then the EyeTV Hybrid functions like a standard PVR, but when you get “under the hood” of the software that is where the real power is found. Want to stream your shows to your iPhone or iPod Touch over your wireless network, no problem. Wish to convert a recorded show to a DVD, use Toast in conjunction with the EyeTV software to do that.

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The Elgato provided remote is unimpressive and actually does not seem to fit the Apple style paradigm that Elgato seems to match up well with both their EyeTV Hybrid adapter and software. Fortunately, you are able to use the Apple Remote that ships with most of the latest Mac machines. Phew! In addition, the Apple Remote allows you to enter full screen mode which provides a look and interface familiar to Front Row users.

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The only restriction of the portable EyeTV Hybrid is the encoding is not done the device’s hardware but is software driven causing the Mac to provide the processing resources; thus the need for a Core 2 Duo machine for higher definition capability. Elgato provides EyeTV 3.1 as an update as soon as you get things installed. EyeTV 3.1 is the latest version of the software so you will have all the latest features at your disposal.

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Conclusion:

Using the EyeTV Hybrid to turn your Mac into a HDTV powerhouse could not be any easier. The image quality is on par with any high definition television. What sets the EyeTV Hybrid apart from competitors is the EyeTV software, which is one of the most powerful DVR/Video sharing/editor suites that I have encountered. With the EyeTV Hybrid you are not tethered to watching your recorded shows on your Mac; you can watch them on your Apple TV, iPhone, iPod and other Macs on your network.

The user interface is simple and intuitive and if you have used a Home Media Server or TiVo in the past, then using the EyeTV Hybrid will be a breeze. Another great thing about the EyeTV Hybrid is its portability. All you need is the USB dongle and your Macbook laptop and you can watch HDTV on your travels. If you love watching TV in all its High Definition glory, then the EyeTV Hybrid should be the next purchase for your Mac system.

Pros:
Compact portable stick design.
iPhone, iPod, and AppleTV integration
Receives Digital and Analog (soon to be gone) OTA signals
USB Powered
DVR function

Cons:
None

Grades:  
Overall score 10 10 thumb1 EyeTV Hybrid
Design score 10 10 thumb1 EyeTV Hybrid
Performance score 10 10 thumb1 EyeTV Hybrid