The Elgato eyeTV Hybris USB TV Tuner is a nifty little device for watching live HDTV (or regular digital/analog TV, for that matter) on your computer. While it’s primarily geared towards Mac users, it will also work with Windows Media Center, either for Windows Vista or Windows 7. Not only will the eyeTV Hybrid pull in live TV, but it can also record external sources via its included S-Video/Composite video dongle. The best part? You can stream live video to an iDevice using the available eyeTV iOS app. The price is a bit hefty, though, at $150 (can be found a bit cheaper at a number of websites), but is it worth it? Read our full review to find out!
Included in the packaging is the eyeTV Hybrid, a remote control, USB extension cable, some software (CD), instruction manuals, and an S-Video/Compositie video dongle. This is basically an all-in-one kit for TV viewers!
Setup with your Mac is simple, and the software is really the heart of the operation. All you need to do is to use the included eyeTV software on the CD (you can also download it online fairly quickly, because copying the files from the disc can take over 15 minutes, while the download could take less than 5 for most people). Doing so will automatically detect all of the TV channels that are available to you from your TV service provider. eyeTV can also pull in TV Guide information, although you’ll need a subscription (you get 1-year for free) to do so. Also, eyeTV makes it easy to skip channels and start recording (since the software can act as a very good DVR). Don’t forget that you can use the remote to control most of eyeTV’s functions! Speaking of changing the channels, the eyeTV Hybrid is very fast at doing so.
Next, TV quality! TV quality will mostly depend on how well your TV service provider is bringing in the streams from various networks. For me, video quality was exceptionally good, especially when it comes to HD programming. I have a few dozen QAM HDTV channels, and some of them were in 1280x720p and 1920x1080p. The eyeTV software is able to detect the resolution, audio signal, video bitrate, frame rate, and a lot more. But, back to the quality. Some channels were pixelated, while others looked great. This wasn’t the fault of the eyeTV Hybrid itself, but more a problem of the TV provider (in my case, it’s Time Warner Cable). ESPN in HD looked fantastic (a 1280×720 channel), while HD Theater (a 1920×1080 channel) looks very pixelated. For a few raw video examples of what the eyeTV Hybrid can do with FOX HD and ESPN HD, click here and/or here.
If you’d like to use eyeTV to record TV programming, it’s a breeze to do. Recording of the video starts about 1 second after you click on the record button, which is considered to be very fast. Recording immediately stops when you tell it to. eyeTV also has the option to automatically convert your recordings (which are near-uncompressed MPEG files) for use on your favorite mobile device, such as an iPhone or Apple TV.
Overall, the eyeTV software is very simple to use and is the heart of the entire eyeTV Hybrid operation. It’s fully functional, feature packed, and is extremely easy to use.
Mentioned at the top of the post, you can use the eyeTV Hybrid to capture video from external devices when using the included S-Video/Composite dongle. You can use the eyeTV software to switch from the TV input to the external video input. This is useful for things like converting old VHS tapes to digital video, capturing video games from consoles, and a lot more.
The included remote control is most likely my least favorite feature of the package. It’s nice that they included one, but unless you have a perfect line-of-site to the remote control, it won’t work. If you’re using the eyeTV Hybrid on a Mac, such as a Mac Mini, where it’s stowed away in a cabinet or isn’t easily accessible, then you aren’t going to really be able to use the remote control. The included USB extension may help in some cases.
Optionally, you could use the eyeTV iPhone/iPad application from the App Store ($4.99, click here) to be able to watch live programming from your eyeTV onto any iOS device. It’s easy to setup, and is very feature-packed. You can schedule recordings, view the TV guide, and even watch video from either the Composite or S-Video inputs.
In conclusion, the eyeTV Hybrid is an amazing package for people who wish to watch TV on their Mac or PC. The eyeTV software is essential, and is easy and fun to use. While the price is a bit high ($150~), you won’t be disappointed with the quality and ease-of-use of the entire Elgato eyeTV Hybrid kit. Everything just works, and it works well. The eyeTV Hybrid is the best way to watch live television on your Mac.
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