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El Gato EyeTV review: El Gato EyeTV

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The Good Lets you watch and record TV shows on your Mac; offers TiVo-like time-shifting features; lets you edit programs and archive them.

The Bad Frequently needs to be restarted; poor reception with indoor antenna; two-second lag when switching channels.

The Bottom Line A good buy for cable or satellite users, this mini TiVo brings television to your Mac at a reasonable price.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Support 8

Review Sections

EyeTV is the only way to get television with personal video recorder (PVR) functions--think TiVo--on your Mac. With EyeTV, you can record your favorite shows, skip over commercials, pause live TV, edit programs, and--if you own Roxio Toast 5.0 Titanium--burn your shows to video CDs. EyeTV has a near-cult following, but we were disappointed in its slow performance, frequent need to be reset, and poor image quality with an antenna. EyeTV also costs $100 more than the PC choice, SnapStream Personal Video Station, and doesn't offer as many features. But it's still cheaper than TiVo, and it's a good choice for playing couch potato in front of your Mac. Installation is actually the one area where EyeTV bests SnapStream. While SnapStream requires the separate purchase of a TV tuner card, which then needs to be installed and configured, EyeTV comes with an external TV tuner that's easy to hook up. Simply plug it into your Mac using the included USB cable (EyeTV needs a built-in USB port, not an external hub); connect your antenna, cable box, or satellite dish; and install the software. It's a no-fuss, two-minute process.

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EyeTV's Programs window displays your scheduled recordings and shows you've already saved.


When you first run the software, it scans for television signals and helps you sign up for a free account with &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Etitantv%2Ecom">TitanTV, an online TV schedule you can use to quickly set recordings.
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EyeTV's controller works like a standard PVR remote, letting you pause live TV or replay the last seven seconds of a program.
EyeTV's onscreen controls, which are shaped like a remote control, make it easy to perform basic PVR functions, such as pausing live TV and recording programs. Use the Skip Backward button to replay the last 7 seconds in a live or recorded show and the Skip Forward button to advance 30 seconds into a recorded show.

This version of EyeTV adds the ability to edit recordings; this is especially useful because EyeTV records shows only in the MPEG-1 format, which can't easily be edited with iMovie. Recordings can be saved as video CDs, but only if you also have Roxio Toast 5.0 Titanium installed. EyeTV can be controlled with a Keyspan Digital Media Remote, a feature we didn't test.

EyeTV covers the basics, but we wish it had more. SnapStream offers advanced features EyeTV doesn't, such as displaying quick previews of what's playing on every channel or transferring videos to handheld devices.
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We didn't get good reception in our testing, using an indoor antenna. Only one VHF channel came in well enough to watch.
EyeTV's performance was slow and often irritating. The external tuner lacks a power button, so when it locks up, which happens frequently, you'll need to unplug the USB cord and reattach it. That could quickly become a nuisance; in our tests, a few minutes of channel surfing or a few failed attempts to tune in a station crashed EyeTV every time. Sometimes restarting the EyeTV software was enough, but often we had to unplug the external tuner.

When flipping channels, you'll experience a two-second lag while EyeTV loads a buffer for the channel. It's a tiresome delay not found in SnapStream.

Also, our reception--even with a new, separately powered indoor TV antenna--was quite poor. We could tune in only one VHF station out of six. A company representative told us that EyeTV uses the same Philips TV tuner component that's in more than 90 percent of all TV sets (meaning the reception troubles may not be the program's fault). However, when we used the same antenna with SnapStream on a Windows XP system in the same location, we received four VHF channels and much better image quality.
EyeTV's support is adequate. The product lacks a printed manual, which is a pain, but it does come with an Acrobat (PDF) version. The company doesn't offer phone support, a shame for a $199 product, but you can request support via e-mail. In our tests, a tech-support person answered our queries in half a day, and he even offered his phone number so that we could call him to discuss performance problems.

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