EyeTV 250

The EyeTV 250 is Elgato’s follow-up to its successful EyeTV 200 (   ) product. Like the 200 model, it is an analog TV tuner with a built-in MPEG encoder (digital cable or satellite subscribers need to go through their converter box). It lets you watch live TV on your Mac or schedule recordings, which you can easily archive to DVD or your video iPod.

The EyeTV 250 requires a single 500MHz G4 or greater and OS X 10.4. Since the unit has a hardware MPEG encoder — unlike Elgato’s other product, the EyeTV Hybrid (   )—the computer processor is only minimally taxed when recording even the highest quality MPEG-2 video.

Whereas the EyeTV 200 was a FireWire device, for the EyeTV 250, Elgato chose to go with a USB 2.0 interface. Though the move to USB doesn’t affect the quality of TV recordings, the 250 now requires an external power supply rather than being bus-powered. It’s not a big deal, but I never seem to have a free electrical socket.

The EyeTV 250 can record TV programs as either MPEG-2 (for DVD) or MPEG-1 (suitable for Video CD). These recordings can be edited with the included EyeTV 2 (   ) software to remove commercials and unwanted material. You can even pick a specific section of your recording to export. EyeTV 2 is tightly integrated with Toast 7 (not included), making it easy to make DVDs of your recorded TV programs. The EyeTV 2 software also has a button for single-click video iPod export.

Elgato includes a breakout cable with S-video and composite RCA video connectors with the EyeTV 250. Using this cable and the included VHS Assistant software, you can create digital backups of your old VHS home movies. You can also plug in a gaming console so you can play games on your Mac’s monitor. Normally, this would be difficult with a device that contains a hardware encoder, which usually adds a delay while rendering the screen. But Elgato lets you turn off the hardware encoder while in game mode, so there is no delay.

Elgato’s EyeTV 2 software is the premium TV recording software available for the Mac today. EyeTV 2 works seamlessly with TitanTV to schedule recordings. You can even access program schedules from within EyeTV 2 (the previous version of EyeTV required you to go to the TitanTV Web site). In a recent update, Elgato added a Front Row-like full screen mode for their software. You can now navigate, schedule recordings, and play video from your couch, all via a supplied remote control, or with an Apple Remote.

Macworld’s buying advice

The EyeTV 250 is a great personal video recorder for Mac users. This is a particularly useful unit if you have a slower Mac, as the hardware encoder ensures high quality recordings without stressing the computer’s processor.

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

EyeTV 250

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