EyeTV 3.0.2 (3953)
Developer: Elgato Systems
Price: $80; $40 (upgrade)
Requirements: Compatible TV tuner peripheral (see Web page for list). Mac OS X 10.4. Universal.
About two years ago, I reviewed EyeTV as part of my review of Elgato’s EyeTV 250 peripheral. Since that time, the EyeTV software has gone through a number of minor updates and one major update, to version 3.0. The new version brings with it a number of changes, including some very useful features and some unfortunate new problems.
In this review, I’m going to focus on the question of whether it’s worth it for an owner of a previous version of EyeTV to upgrade to the new version. Readers who don’t already have the EyeTV software will find that it comes with Elgato’s TV tuners; it isn’t necessary to purchase it separately.
You can’t have a major upgrade without some sort of facelift to the interface. EyeTV’s Program Guide gets some minor improvements. The sidebar on the left of the window is now organized by category, separating Library, Smart Guides, Playlists, and Channels into separate sections. While items can be moved around within their section, the sections themselves unfortunately cannot be reordered. Also, copying some of Apple’s latest eye candy, EyeTV has added a Cover Flow–like option for flipping through the contents of playlists. But list view gives more information about more programs at a time, so I don’t see the appeal of using Cover Flow here.
The editing window—used primarily for cutting commercials out of recorded programs to save hard drive space—has also been changed, but entirely for the worse. The editing controls now cover up the lower fifth or so of the screen, hiding from view part of the recording you’re working with. I can’t imagine Elgato’s rationale for this change: why would it be desirable to have part of the screen obscured while editing?
The Editing Window
The program-viewing window has gotten a very nice improvement. When skipping forward or back, or when hovering the mouse over the lower part of the screen, a display comes up showing how far into the recording you are. You can click in the program’s time line to jump directly to that point in the program.
The Playback Window
EyeTV 3 adds several new features, by far my favorite of which is Smart Guides. Smart Guides let you tell EyeTV to automatically watch the schedule for programs you like, and add them to the recording schedule without the need for any user action. It’s incredibly useful for shows which are not shown in a regular timeslot, or for making sure you don’t miss the return of a series that’s on hiatus. Automatically-recorded programs can be optionally added to the playlist of your choice, to help keep things organized. Though I haven’t tried it, they can also be exported to an iPod or Apple TV. The only problem I’ve had with Smart Guides is that it’s easy to end up with multiple recordings of the same program. It’d be nice if Smart Guides were smart enough to not record something if it’s already been recorded.
Smart Playlists are another new and worthwhile feature. You can tell a playlist to populate itself with all the episodes of a particular show, all recordings made in the past week, all recordings with a particular actor, etc. There are lots of options to choose from.
EyeTV also now responds to Apple’s remote control. Well, as best it can. It only works if EyeTV is the frontmost application, and its functionality is limited by Apple’s incomprehensible stinginess with buttons. For example, there is no way to turn off your EyeTV with the Apple remote: you must get up off of your comfy sofa and walk all the way across the room to the computer. Similarly, it is possible to mute EyeTV with Apple’s remote control, but you have to navigate to a submenu to do so.
With only one Mac on my local network, I haven’t been able to evaluate EyeTV 3’s new ability to share recording libraries with other local Macs. Each Mac needs to have EyeTV 3 installed in order to take advantage of this feature, but Elgato’s software license allows you to install EyeTV 3 on multiple computers, so long as it is only used with one TV-tuning peripheral. I was surprised when I learned that: it’s unusually consumer-friendly.
It’s a shame, but a lot of things that annoyed me in EyeTV 2.5 haven’t been fixed in EyeTV 3.0. New features are great, but I wish Elgato had spent more time making old features work right.
First up, something that happens to me quite often: I’m recording a program and watching it at the same time. At some point during the program, I pause it while I go away and do something else; as expected, it keeps recording. I return a few minutes later and resume viewing. Here’s the problem: when the program is done recording—even if I’m not done watching it—the viewing window jumps forward to whatever the channel is showing at that time. So I have to close the TV window, open the recording, and navigate my way back to the part I’d been in the middle of watching. I don’t understand why EyeTV can’t keep showing the recording I’m watching.
Similarly, but in some ways worse: if you’re watching a show that you’re not recording and you’re a few minutes behind realtime, and EyeTV starts recording another program, you immediately jump to the program being recorded and have no way to watch the ending of the program you were watching. Mind you, EyeTV did record the program you were watching; it was cached, and if EyeTV hadn’t started recording something else, there wouldn’t be a problem. I don’t see any reason why EyeTV shouldn’t be able to keep playing the cached portion of the program I was watching. (It is possible to watch one recording while recording a different program.)
Another annoyance I was disappointed to find hasn’t been fixed has to do with Channels Playlists: if you add a new channel to a playlist, it appears at the bottom of the playlist, and there is no way to move it into numerical order. If you want to keep your channels in order, you have to create a new channels playlist from scratch whenever you want to add a new channel (or delete one you no longer want).
EyeTV 3.0.2 has crashed my computer, forcing a restart, a few times in the two months I’ve been using it. What happens is, the screen freezes and the last second or so of sound repeats in a continuous loop. When that happens, the computer becomes completely unresponsive to keyboard and mouse, leaving me no choice but to force a restart. Because of this, I’ve become extra-careful about saving documents I’m working on before starting up EyeTV. And if I want to have some background noise while I’m working, I’m likely to use my real TV instead of EyeTV, just to be safe.
In addition, editing recordings in EyeTV 3 usually crashes the program. While editing a program, EyeTV will likely at some point stop responding to my mouse, I’ll see the spinning rainbow-colored ball, and then EyeTV will unexpectedly quit. The recording I was trying to edit is not damaged when EyeTV reopens, but that’s not much comfort. I haven’t found other reports of this problem online, so maybe there’s something peculiar about my system that I haven’t been able to think of. But whatever the cause, it never happened in EyeTV 2.5. In fact, that’s become my workaround: if I want to edit a recording, I fire up the old version of EyeTV, where the editing interface is better anyway.
It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a trial version of EyeTV 3. If there were, I would suggest that you try it; if you didn’t experience the crashing problems that I’ve had, upgrading would be an easy decision. Smart Guides and Smart Playlists are well-done features that are worth paying for, and the new editing window, though unfortunate, is not a show-stopper. Trying before you buy not being an option, however, I can’t recommend paying for an update that crashes my computer, however desirable the new features are. I sincerely hope that Elgato will fix the crashes I’ve experienced.
Reader Comments (8)
Thank you for a well-tested review. I agree with your conclusions whole-heartedly after testing the new software and going back to EyeTV 2.5. The editing window is a disaster.
As an owner with both EyeTV Hybrid and Turbo.264, I have noticed a marked trend in their software. I feel there are fewer options and less control than what should be available, especially when compared to previous versions. Turbo.264 has been my biggest disappointment, with EyeTV 3.x being my second -- especially since during the previous 5 years I was happy with Elgato's other products, including hardware and software.
One thing you might not have experienced is Elgato's "new" support system based on forums. It is basically a PR exercise, since any topic replies from Elgato staff spin any issue to their advantage (such as mentioning other features) and avoiding the topic subject. Of course, there are many other companies that have turned this way for tech support... but IMO it is not a good trend.
Elgato was once one of my favorite companies because I could trust their hardware and software to be top quality. Unfortunately, that hasn't been my experience in the last year.
There is one other niggle, and that is that the audio by default will be set to stereo, bleeding for example a commentary for the blind into the mix, even though mono was selected before closing the program. Stereo audio also sounds echoing on some channels without additional audio on a sub-channel. I've reported this to El Gato and they acknowledged it and are working on the audio.
In the list view for the Favorite Channel list, click on the small left most column header. It has no label until selected, then shows a triangle. Once selected, you can drag and drop the channels.
Works flawlessly for me - since 2007 on my 17" 2.33 Mhz MacBookPro - especially with a direct cable T.V. connection.!
Never had a crash.
Editing H.D. T.V. programs is soooo fine.
User friendly intuitive interface. Easy install, etc.
Differences in experience are almost CERTAINLY going to be due to what Hardware is being used and what the Mac's RAM / CPU config' is.
To dismiss these ads I must get up from the couch and hit Esc on the attached keyboard (it took me a while to figure this out).
Unchecking the preference in EyeTV to look for updates did nothing to stop these infuriating windows.
This is a problem makes me feel resentful towards the thought that I could fix this by actually upgrading. What assurance do I have that version 3 will not do this when version 4 comes out?
Thanks Paul for drawing attention to the problems relating to recording what you are watching with a delay. For a reference of the expected behaviour take careful note of how iTunes handles playing a CD while you are ripping it into your digital collection.
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