Elgato EyeTV Hybrid review: Elgato EyeTV Hybrid

The TV tuner stick is compact, but beware: we tilted the coax cable up and nearly cracked our tuner stick in half. It's cumbersome to keep plugged in on the average laptop, which is why we'd recommend it as a desktop/set-top computer solution only. It seems perfect for Mac Mini or iMac owners who are hungering for live TV recording and place shifting (live TV pausing) and don't own a DVR or a cable set-top box.

Streaming to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch
We tested the EyeTV app on an iPad, and found it worked pretty well, all things considered. The $5 app streams the live TV connection from a local computer over Wi-Fi, and even allows channel surfing. It's a lot like the SlingPlayer app, with a similar quality of resolution. The app will also stream recorded shows on the EyeTV-connected Mac or PC in question. While the TV content was put into a narrow box that didn't fill the screen, it also streamed with some loss of frame rate, and at a delay from the live broadcast.


When the Elgato app is opened, a list of available channels is displayed to browse through. Selecting a channel will change the tuner back on the computer and begin streaming the channel in question. It wasn't instant--streaming took over 10 seconds to buffer and play on our iPad. Changing channels was an awkward process; we had to go back to the channel listing, select another channel, and begin buffering/streaming again. Another option on the app is to play back recordings made back on the computer with the EyeTV device attached.


The best function of the iOS app, in our opinion, isn't simply its live TV streaming: it's the ability to pause said "live TV," much like a DVR. The EyeTV 3 software sets a buffer on your Mac's hard drive for live pausing, which could be the best news yet for sports fans who have cut the cord on cable but haven't invested in an antenna-friendly DVR.


A recent update to the app adds Apple AirPlay functionality, allowing that streamed content to be sent to a nearby Apple TV and played on an HDTV. While this would be a ridiculous proposition for live TV (which is, presumably, already hooked up to the live TV source in question), it's an interesting but convoluted wire-free solution for playing back that DVRed content on your home entertainment center or to a secondary TV in the house, provided you've got an Apple TV.

Other EyeTV products
The EyeTV Hybrid is one of several products in Elgato's line. They all have very similar names and, frankly, it's sometimes hard to tell them apart. Here's a quick cheat sheet.

EyeTV Hybrid: This is the USB TV tuner product reviewed here.

EyeTV One: This is an older version of of the EyeTV Hybrid. It's cheaper because it can decode digital but not analog TV channels. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same as the Hybrid.

EyeTV HD: The EyeTV HD is a supersize version of the EyeTV Hybrid. It's a standalone box that converts video from your cable or satellite box so you can view, record, and pause TV programming on a Mac. It includes an IR blaster for changing the channels on a cable/satellite box as well, so you can set recordings when you're not at home.

EyeTV 250 Plus: The EyeTV 250 is a step-up version of EyeTV USB products that includes a built-in MPEG-2 hardware encoder. That allows it to encode analog video sources without taxing a PC's internal CPU.

Conclusion
With TV content flooding the Web and becoming increasingly offered through apps, some may say the PC TV tuner is already a relic. There's some truth to that, but there's still an audience for those who want to get free over-the-air content without paying monthly fees to the likes of Netflix or Hulu.

For those people--if they're Mac owners--the Elgato EyeTV Hybrid works, and its recording functionality could be something of a killer app. As mentioned above, we think the best-use case is probably an antenna household with an under-the-TV Mac Mini (or similar small form factor PC) or a bedroom iMac (or other big-screen all-in-one PC), both of which would add much-needed DVR functionality, electronic programming guide, and streaming capability to the over-the-air TV viewing experience. The one caveat is that pesky $20-a-year TV Guide service that kicks in after the first year's free service--but that's less than $2 a month. However, for cable-cutters and Mac owners, this could be your best bet for a flexible DVR with iOS app support.

For cable households, the EyeTV Hybrid will be less appealing, given that it's limited to unencrypted channels. Good alternatives for cable users include the EyeTV HD, Slingbox, or Monsoon Vulkano.

While we normally don't split our scores, in this case we'd say Mac users should consider this product a 7, Windows users, a 6. We're splitting the difference and saying it's a 6.5 overall. Make your decision accordingly.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Elgato EyeTV Hybrid

Part Number: 10021020

MSRP: $149.95

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Interface Type USB 2.0
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