It was hard to ignore the hype from Moscone yesterday… Skinny MacBook, Time Capsule, yada, yada…
Not to mention IPHONE, IPHONE, IPHONE!!!!
But I’ll be honest, the only thing I care about that was announced/release yesterday at Macworld is EyeTV 3 from Elgato Software. Why you ask…
I’ve been using a Mac Mini as a DVR for going on a year now primarily for the ability – which my DirecTV HD DVR lacks – to share the programs once recorded. While previous versions of EyeTV got the job done… EyeTV 3’s new features and UI not only get the job done… but make it a pleasure and well worth the $40.00 cost of the upgrade (EyeTV 3 is $40 for an upgrade from EyeTV 2 or $80 for the non-upgrade version).
Here is my Mac Mini with an external 500GB drive for HDTV recording storage side by side with my DirecTV HDDVR (the ugly black box is an HDMI switch).
More after the jump…
Prior to EyeTV 3 I used the export feature to re-encode the raw MPEG to h.264 (AppleTV format) and added the recordings to an iTunes library to allow the recorded show to be shared on multiple tv/computer screens. This approach has several downsides:
- The encoding process is VERY cpu intensive – even adding Elgato’s Turbo.264 usb device did little to alleviate the CPU hit – although it did speed the encoding dramatically. Since this made recording/watching and encoding for sharing at the same time an impossibility – I was forced to write a custom AppleScript which did the encoding for iTunes overnight. Not the worst thing, but I wasn’t thrilled about not being able to watch programs right after they were recorded.
- h.264 dumps 5.1 channel sound. 720p is nice, but what is a great picture without surround sound?
- Storage space X2 – I had to have enough space to store the full lossless MPEG AND the h.264 – that is about 7.5 – 8 GB per hour of recorded HDTV.
- Managing the iTunes library – deleting what you don’t want anymore specifically – is a major pain.
The good news is EyeTV 3 has saved me!! It now includes the – iTunes like – ability to share the “library”. Now any Mac in the house that has EyeTV 3 installed can play back any recorded show from any other Mac with EyeTV 3. I now no longer need to mess with iTunes at all to simply share a recorded show.
Here is a screen shot of my MacBook Pro accessing the recorded show from the MacMini DVR
For that alone I’m happy with my upgrade!!!
Elgato, however has gone much, much further. One of the big issues with EyeTV was that it had no Season Pass (ala TiVo) like functionality. You could record the same time/channel every week, but you would end up with repeats. In terms of raw DVR functionality is was my biggest gripe. It was just so much work to manage EyeTV to get what you wanted. EyeTV 3 solves that problem as well – with Smart Guides. Smart Guides work much like iTunes Smart Playlists in that you can define criteria – search parameters – for what guide data is included.
For example – only non-repeat episodes of “Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles”
Now I have a list of the specific show I want excluding repeats. By selecting options I can record all of them – and define how many I keep at any one time.
Presto – I have the functional equivalent of a TiVo Season Pass!!! You can even create a Smart Playlist which will contain all of the episodes of Terminator.
Last (so far) – Elgato has done something sure to make my wife much happier. EyeTV 3 contains a dramatically updated on screen interface. EyeTV 2’s on screen remote interface was – at best – cluttered and confusing. EyeTV 3 features a revamped interface that is clean, well ordered and highly functional for use with a remote control. This is a huge improvement.
The main menu has 5 intuitive entries:
- Details – which shows information about the currently playing show
- Recordings – a list of recorded shows organized by playlist
- Channels – a list of the available channels and the current show on each channel
- Guide – the interactive program guide
- More – All of the other EyeTV features (most of which you’ll never need from a remote)
This is a vast improvement over previous versions – and makes watching EyeTV content as comfortable and functional as any DVR on the market.
I finally feel comfortable that my Mac DVR stacks up well with any DVR on the market. The only remaining hurdle for Elgato is to include CableCard support in their devices.