The Good The included Eye TV 3 software offers easy-to-use DVR functions for Mac users and makes the Elgato EyeTV Hybrid a useful way to add TV capabilities to a computer. Compatibility with EyeTV iOS app allows streaming of TV and recordings to an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, and newly added AirPlay support makes sharing video streams even easier.
The Bad Slow buffering from a computer to the iOS app makes it unwieldy for live programming. The iOS app requires a computer with the EyeTV Hybrid to be running and connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Input video cables are S-Video and composite only, and many digital TV and HDMI inputs won't be compatible.
The Bottom Line If you're a Mac user who's been looking for a way to add live TV and DVR functionality to your computer, the Elgato EyeTV Hybrid could be the solution you've been waiting for. However, in a world of ever-increasing streaming video options, you might find your needs for live TV recording to be ever diminishing.
Elgato EyeTV Hybrid
Once upon a time--before Netflix, Hulu, and Slingbox--TVs and computers weren't great bedfellows. If you wanted to watch TV on your computer--say, an episode of your favorite sitcom, or a news report--you'd need a TV tuner or a video capture device. The Elgato EyeTV Hybrid ($149 list) is an example of the former: this USB stick isn't much bigger than a standard thumbdrive, but it's a full-on TV tuner, complete with a coaxial jack on one end. It's compatible with over-the-air HDTV and unencrypted cable. What it does, essentially, is allow you to watch and channel-surf live TV on that computer. And it does more than that, too--the Mac-compatible EyeTV software can double as a programmable DVR (recording shows to the PC's hard drive), and stream video to an Elgato app available on the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad. But, let's focus on the live TV function first.
TV tuner on a stick
These days, computers and particularly iPhones and iPads are playing better than ever with TV content. Services like Hulu and Netflix offer large libraries of content, and cable providers are increasingly offering online sites and mobile apps for accessing streaming channels and on-demand content. While a device like the EyeTV offers fewer restrictions--you're not restricted to streaming video within your home network, for instance--it also requires a small but awkward USB dongle to jut out of your computer. And the computer itself can't be mobile--you'll be tethered to a coaxial TV cable. That setup seems more ideal for a desktop computer or all-in-one like the iMac, or a small TV-compatible companion like the Mac Mini.