Macworld: EyeTV 200, EyeHome turn Mac into media center

Elgato Systems on Tuesday introduced two new products to Mac users that will help strengthen their abilities to turn their systems into full-blown media centers: The EyeTV 200 and the EyeHome. Both products are expected to ship this month.

The EyeTV 200 is Elgato's the second-generation of the company's flagship digital video recorder. The EyeTV 200 makes it possible to watch television on your Mac, pause live television, "time-shift" by rewinding and fast forwarding, and record TV programs to your Mac's hard drive, which can then be archived to optical media using Roxio's Toast 6 Titanium software.

The EyeTV 200 features FireWire 400 connectivity and MPEG-2 based video encoding, solving the two most frequent requests made by users of Elgato's original EyeTV, a USB-based MPEG-1 digital video recorder. MPEG-2 video produces much higher quality results than the original EyeTV was capable of producing, although that comes at a sacrifice to disk space -- while the original EyeTV used up 650MB per hour of recorded video, EyeTV 200 gobbles up about 2GB per hour instead.

The system is crafted in a brushed metal shell that's complementary to Apple's latest pro hardware, and features a wireless remote control. And since it's FireWire based, the use of additional power supplies is unnecessary for most users who have the conventional 6-pin FireWire 400 interface that's on most Mac hardware. The EyeTV 200's backplane is also populated composite, S-Video and coaxial cable video connectors, and RCA audio inputs.

The hardware has seen significant improvements, and EyeTV's software remains easy to use. Elgato continues to partner with TitanTV developer Decisionmark Corp. to provide users with program guide information, and they noted that a future software upgrade will soon provide users with the ability to remotely control and program their EyeTV boxes over the Internet.

Look for EyeTV 200 for US$349. It should be released in January. It will require a G4/500MHz or faster, built-in FireWire, Mac OS X v10.2.8 or higher and 256MB RAM.

Elgato told MacCentral it will continue to sell and support the original EyeTV as well.

Also new from Elgato is the EyeHome, a device that provides a way to share the digital content you've already got on your Mac on the family entertainment center. Connecting to your Mac over Ethernet, the EyeHome hardware device communicates with server software that you install on your Mac. One button activates the software, which requires absolutely no configuration -- and the software can be installed on any Mac on your home network.

Once the EyeHome talks with your Mac (or Macs) over the network, you can view iPhoto libraries, listen to iTunes music, or view EyeTV snippets you've recorded and movies in your Movies directory directly on your television, using an included remote control. What's more, you'll have access to playlists and slideshows you've set up in iTunes and iPhoto as well. The EyeHome works independently of the EyeTV, though it certainly gives you an effective way of watching what you've recorded on using your EyeTV, should you have one.

EyeHome supports most popular video formats, including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and DivX, popular photo formats like JPEG and PNG, and audio including MP3 and AAC formats.

The EyeHome interfaces with your television and home entertainment center using composite, component and S-Video connectors, as well as RCA audio and digital optical outputs.

Look for the EyeHome to hit stores in January for $249. System requirements call for a G4/500MHz or faster, Mac OS X v10.3 or higher or Mac OS X v10.2.8 with QuickTime 6.4 and QuickTime for Java 1.4.1. You'll also need Ethernet connectivity to your Macintosh, or, if you're running a wireless network, a third-party Ethernet-to-wireless network adapter.

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