Review of the Elgato EyeTV App: Use the iPhone to Watch Live TV on 3G

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Who doesn’t like to watch TV, especially when stuck in a boring situation like waiting for a license in the DMV or an appointment in the doctor’s office? Elgato’s EyeTV app takes care of that, once it’s installed on the iPhone. You can use it to watch live television or shows you have recorded, provided you’ve got the EyeTV hybrid attached to your Mac. EyeTV and the iPhone combine to make life better than bearable in the most boring situations.

Setting Up EyeTV

EyeTV Hybrid

Setting up the EyeTV hybrid device on the Mac is fairly easy. You install the program from the included disc, follow the menu prompts and add a serial key number and you’re good to go. You also enter in your zip code so the free TV guide service (for a year anyway) can locate programs based on your time zone.

Of course none of this is possible unless the EyeTV antenna is in one of the built-in USB slots. Using a USB slot in a keyboard or a USB hub is not recommended due to the lack/inconsistency of signal strength. The EyeTV antenna is small, similar in size to the average USB flash drive and very much the same in appearance although it’s silver and a bit fatter than the average USB flash drive.

The EyeTV Hybrid Device and Your Mac (4 out of 5)

You insert the EyeTV antenna in the USB hub so that the program can see and use it, otherwise the program can not be set up.

The EyeTV antenna has a very small input on it for a micro-coaxial cable input to use with a cable from a cable box, satellite TV or a terrestrial antenna. Elgato does provide a coaxial conversion part, by the way, which in size becomes a bit of a monstrosity when connected to the coaxial input that’s on the back end of the antenna.

Speaking of monstrosities – the included remote control is huge in comparison to the antenna. It’s a sort of stubby version of a standard remote. For those used to working with the AppleTV remote, it’s a bit of a letdown, even if the EyeTV remote (which the company didn’t have to provide obviously) does come with a mess of buttons for every kind of control you could ask for. The remote is infrared-based so obviously it won’t work if the Mac running EyeTV doesn’t have an IR receiver. This seems to be pretty much iMac country and not applicable to my Mac Pro.

The second and final connection on the antenna is a micro-USB input (and I do mean micro). What’s its use? Beats me – until I read the manual which is electronic (say: PDF). That’s something that you have to get used to– companies only providing details on the program via PDFs – but then again that’s why we have iPhones so we can read them (or iPads if you don’t want to be too iPhone-centric).

What the Program is All About (5 out of 5)

Schedule programs

Running EyeTV lets you schedule recordings as well as play those made – this aspect being the one I’m interested in most keenly as it impacts the use of the iPhone. You can play files already saved on the hard drive from within EyeTV (sorta like a QuickTime Player being built into the program) and watch and listen to them with the same type of control as those you have recorded. By control I mean a plethora of choices from playback (i.e., fast forward, rewind, etc.) to locating and marking specific areas of the program.

Now where this all gets really good is putting the iPhone into play. Sure you can stream the videos to other computers in your home network (not an AppleTV though), but watching videos that have been recorded on the hard drive on the iPhone would be very nifty and useful. Nifty, because you wouldn’t have to fill up the storage space with videos that you didn’t plan to watch but had to have if you did want to watch them, and useful because it would let you pick and choose over time with ease.

Getting Ready to Rumble (5 out of 5)

Live TV

Now the EyeTV app lets you do just that - and what makes it worthwhile (as well as worth paying for) is that it can do its streaming over 3G, not just Wi-Fi. That means the next time I’m waiting at the dentist for my so-called appointment (she always calls me in late), I can just pop up a video from my Mac Pro on the spot and leave the troubles and drilling noise behind, if only for a while.

So let’s set this up for my iPhone 3G. The first thing is to download the app. This is no different than getting any other app using iTunes or the App program on the iPhone so we won’t bother going into details. The details we have to bother with involve setting up the app to use the iPhone and the Mac back at home correctly and safely. The procedure is not inconsequential but if you take your time and follow the instructions provided you’ll be fine (you can also go online to Mac-centric web sites like MacWorld for help and of course Elgato’s website as well). Once the app has been installed and you’ve properly programmed it, using it is fairly straightforward.

Preparing the Mac and iPhone (5 out of 5)

Turbo.264 HD

What’s interesting is that if you have Turbo.264 HD as I do (I use it for conversions because the hardware-driven USB device is both fast and independent of my Mac) you can add adaptive streaming to the list. Fancy word maybe, but what “adaptive streaming” does is well, OK you guessed it, “adapt” to the network transmission that the EyeTV hybrid device and EyeTV app are working with. I can’t say for sure that the quality is better than what I’d get without, but it does seem to have removed glitches and frame dropping that occurred previously when I wasn’t using the Turbo in conjunction. Turbo.264 HD isn’t a gift - you’ll pay a fair amount for it - but if you’re committing yourself to streaming it’s more than worthwhile to consider adding. Besides Elgato recommends using it when 3G is being accessed.

Now by “live TV” Elgato means what the EyeTV program on the Mac is seeing from the attached TV channel connection. But EyeTV also works with recordings already made - hence the different choices in the EyeTV apps menu. The EyeTV app lets you access, even turn on the EyeTV hybrid from afar and do such things as browse the TV program guide, view and edit recording schedules, start recordings or schedule them as desired - and of course play recordings.

Setting up the EyeTV app is fairly simple when it comes to working with your own wireless network the app provides details and help to get you going. You do have to be aware of firewalls and other bugaboos, but if you are willing to spend a few minutes without getting annoyed, you’ll soon take care of it. Since the EyeTV Hybrid manual is a PDF file you can stick it on your iPhone for referencing, but where is that multi-taking 4.0 when you need it?

Where things get a bit more involved is using EyeTV with the 3G cellular network. The process is a bit more complicated and I’m not ashamed to say that I sought help online and found details that outlined what to do from such sources as MacWorld and others. The bottom line is that the set up will work once you make your way through the necessary steps as well as parsing in those specifics that apply to your own particular situation.

Enjoying EyeTV on the iPhone (5 out of 5)


So with that all said and done, the best part is that rather than having to constantly stick files on my iPhone, after converting them to an accepted format of course, I can let EyeTV handle the heavy lifting and just pull the stuff I want to see once it’s on my hard drive and properly applied to EyeTV. Waiting in a dentist office as I did recently was a lot more entertaining when I pulled a movie I wanted to see. And, don’t ride me for this, grabbing a concert by the Police to listen to while in the chair with the drilling biz going on was better than having to start some dufus playlist that I couldn’t access once the drill descended. And yes my Dentist does have Wi-Fi but I was actually getting more success with the cellular as she has yet to upgrade to a fast connection.

Bottom line is that the whole mobile thing that the iPhone provides for content gets a big lift up. And for sure when Elgato ports it over to the iPad it will look even more splendid. But I’m more than pleased to be using it with my iPhone and if you go the EyeTV route, I’m betting you will be too.