08 August 2005

EyeTV for DTT (DVB-T)

I have just got the EyeTV for DTT system - EyeTV software for mac with a tiny (and I mean tiny) DVB-T receiver which plugs into a USB 2.0 port. The receiver is really not much bigger than a box of matches. It has an attachment for an antenna (included) or you can plug in your own coax. It actually matches the mac mini quite well in style (metal and shiny white, rounded edges). The EyeTV software makes it all work on a mac. Combined with a tvtv.co.uk subscription, it all seems to work neatly indeed.

I've been using a Pace Twin Micro Personal Video Recorder for Freeview. This does have the advantage of TWIN tuners - so I can watch something and record something else. However, for me this is a rarity. However, that's the limit of its advantages. The worst thing about this is that despite countless software updates, the thing still crashes regularly. This crash is usually as it's about to start recording a show - so you miss it, and any shows set up afterwards to be recorded. To reset it you must pull the plug from the socket - there is no other power button! Storage is limited to 10GB, though you can install a larger drive. Performance on the TV guide and Teletext is truly awful. Setting it to record a channel 5 program using the guide means waiting around 10 minutes for the info to come in.

Because of my wiring, the quality from the Pace is good, but not great - I am just using a composite connection. Football programs are not good at all.

The EyeTV/DTT is currently about £99 at the Apple Store inc shipping - so a little more than a standard Freeview decoder. But it is half the price of the Firewire EyeTV device, and also half what I paid for the Pace box.

I installed it with just one minor problem first time. I couldn't get the sound output at first, but that was my fault to do with my use of an external usb sound device. Once I sorted out the system preferences, I am now getting digital sound out to the hifi. The quality of the picture on the plasma screen via DVI out on the mac mini is truly excellent. Apart from sharpness, the key difference is in overall brightness and saturation of the picture. Realtime full screen display seems perfect - even when other things are running.

The tvtv subscription seems straightforward - all handled as part of the initial software install/registration process. It would have been nice if it recognised by my product that I didn't have Sky etc. But making it show only Freeview channels is comparably simple. It seems very easy to pick a program, and set it to record. And remember, I can do that from anywhere I am with a web browser, and the mini will pick up the timing. That was a big frustration for me with the Pace box.

This is not a thorough review - I've yet to test its record/playback features for instance. And, I'm not sure how I'll go about keeping my mini awake or regularly checking the internet for new recordings - it's usually in sleep mode when not used. But first impressions are very positive indeed.

(Oh, and of course, it's portable. So, I can also take it with me for a weekend!)

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