EyeTV EZ

Elgato Systems is positioning the EyeTV EZ, a diminutive USB 2.0 TV-viewing device, as an entry-level EyeTV product to replace its short-lived EyeTV USB Wonder (   ; July 2005 ). By providing a remote control and new iPod support, the EyeTV EZ is a step above its predecessor.

Like the previous USB Wonder model, the EyeTV EZ is an analog TV tuner that passes uncompressed video to your Mac for a clear live image. And while the EyeTV EZ can also record a TV signal, it does not have a hardware MPEG encoder like Elgato’s more expensive EyeTV 200 (   ; July 2004 ). Thus, it’s not intended as a full-fledged Personal Video Recorder (PVR), just a simple way to watch TV. (It can also be used as a way to play console games on your Mac, as Game Room columnist Peter Cohen discovered.)

Easy setup and viewing

The EyeTV EZ is a stylish 125-channel, analog TV tuner built by Terratec. The device connects directly to an analog cable TV outlet or TV antenna. For digital cable and satellite users, the EyeTV EZ can be connected via a breakout cable to the analog-out port of the digital receiver (in this case, the EyeTV EZ cannot change channels). There is no power adapter, as the unit is USB powered.

The EyeTV software (version 1.8.4) is a breeze to install and configure. A setup assistant quickly tunes the EyeTV EZ to receive all available channels and registers the computer with the TV scheduling Web site, TitanTV.

Channel switching on the EyeTV EZ is almost instantaneous, and the picture quality is quite good. There is so little delay that you can even attach a game console to the box (again through the breakout cable) and play video games on your Mac.

In a pinch, the EyeTV EZ can be used to record what you’re watching. But how good that recording will look depends largely on the computer to which the unit is attached. Macs with a single G4 processor can manage only VCD-(Video Compact Disc) quality MPEG-1 (and not very good MPEG-1 compared to the original USB EyeTV). Dual-G4 and single-processor G5 Macs can record a respectable MPEG-2 signal that can be burned to DVD. Dual-G5 and quad-G5 computers can record high-quality MPEG-2, but even at the highest level, the quality is lower than that of Elgato’s own EyeTV 200, which has a hardware encoder.

Software supports iPod

The EyeTV version 1.8.4 software allows all EyeTV products to export video to iPod video format. Two default settings—an H.264 setting and a higher data-rate MPEG-4 setting—make export to an iPod effortless (the video loads automatically into iTunes). EyeTV also is well integrated with Roxio’s Toast 7 Titanium (   ; December 2005 ), making it easy to burn a DVD from any recorded program.

Macworld’s buying advice

The EyeTV EZ does exactly what is says it will do: it makes watching TV on a Mac easy. However, users who want a robust recording device would be better served by Elgato’s more expensive EyeTV 200.

[ Anton Linecker is a technical video consultant and writer based in Los Angeles. ]

EyeTV EZ’s Live View screen and remote make it simple to watch TV on your Mac.EyeTV EZ

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