A digital hub should act as the center of your digital world — not only storing pictures, songs, and movies, but also letting you access them from beyond the confines of your Mac. With the EyeHome, Elgato Systems has taken a good step toward integrating your audiovisual elements with your TV, but the product still has room for improvement.
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The EyeHome is a compact silver box (about the size of a small cigar box) that connects the Macs on your network to your TV and stereo via Ethernet (although you can use a wireless 802.11g bridge). The box connects to your TV via composite, component, or S-Video ports, and it includes a Toslink digital-audio port for sending sound to your stereo.
On each Mac you want connected to the EyeHome, you must install and launch the EyeHome preference pane — a simple, one-click procedure. On a dual-867MHz Power Mac G4, this preference pane consistently took around three minutes to launch — with more than 15,000 songs and about 2,000 photos — and it consumed more than 400MB of RAM. On a G4 iBook, the launch was much faster and the RAM usage was more modest.
The EyeHome integrates well with Apple’s iLife apps — it can access photos from your iPhoto library and songs from your iTunes library. But if you keep your photos in a program such as iView Media, you’re out of luck. When it comes to video, the EyeHome can decode and play MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and DivX files stored in your user’s Movies folder, but forcing people to keep all movies in that folder is inconvenient. The exception is content created by the EyeHome’s sibling, the EyeTV — the EyeHome does find the folder where those files are stored.
The EyeHome can be a bit quirky. For example, the unit’s green light is on when the power is off, and it vanishes when you turn the power on. Using the remote to navigate is more difficult than it needs to be: commands are unintuitive, and many buttons serve double duty. And the EyeHome’s cool extra features — such as letting you use the remote to type in a URL and displaying Web pages on TV — are frustrating to use.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The EyeHome is a great concept, but it’s still half-baked. You might get a lot out of it, but it shouldn’t limit you to particular applications or file locations.