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EyeTV 3 review

Verdict:

Review Date: 15 Feb 2008

Price when reviewed: or £39.95 upgrade from EyeTV 2

Reviewed By: Alan Stonebridge

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

EyeTV has long been the king of TV applications on the Mac.

In the two years since the release of version 2, however, The Tube has grown to be provide real competition for Elgato and is now bundled with some TV tuners. During this time, Elgato hasn't rested on its laurels, instead introducing Turbo.264 hardware encoder support and wifi Access, refinement of which sits alongside several brand new features in EyeTV 3.

There's no major overhaul of EyeTV's appearance, but it isn't really necessary as the iLife-derived window layout continues to thrive here. The sources pane on the left even draws inspiration from recent versions of iTunes, dividing items into groups. The Library group contains recordings, schedules, channels and the program guide, while playlists and channel lists have their own groups too, as do the new shared libraries and smart guides features.

Shared libraries are other EyeTV libraries found on the local network, providing parity with the equivalent iTunes and iPhoto features. If required, they can be password protected. Recordings don't need to be converted to a specific format, so available network bandwidth becomes the key factor.

While the application windows are largely unchanged, users who operate EyeTV in full-screen mode with a remote control are greeted with some subtle but important changes to the on-screen display. Programme details, the channel list and other menus appear as overlays on top of the video, though the guide takes over the screen to retain clarity.

There's another overlay that works in and out of full-screen mode. When the mouse cursor is moved over the lower part of the video, a timeline pops up so you can quickly scrub through the programme. There's a slight glitch when viewing 16:9 content on a 4:3 display whereby the timeline doesn't appear beneath the cursor, but this should only affect a minority of users.

The Wifi Access feature introduced in version 2.5 now supports 3GP video, so you can watch recordings on a compatible mobile phone by hooking it up to your wireless network. It still caters for other Macs, PCs and iPhone and iPod touch, which can view prepared recordings in Safari rather than having to purchase multiple copies of EyeTV, though these are at a lower than broadcast resolution.

Quick Look support was also present in the previous version, though it requires recordings to be prepared for Wifi Access; unprepared ones merely show a still frame. Leopard users now gain a Cover Flow view of the library, but it feels like the most frivolous new feature. It's not very practical as the thumbnail isn't always representative in the same way as iTunes' album art or a file preview in Finder.

When searching, the Spotlight-style box remains for sheer convenience, while more complex searches are built with the same controls used for smart playlists in iTunes. Smart guides and smart playlists allow for complex searches of the programme guide and existing recordings, respectively. Criteria can be as simple as a specific programme title, or more complex like finding all of an actor's films released during the 1990s.

Results can be clicked in order to manually schedule recordings, but the real power lies in automatic recording. A limit can be imposed on how many recordings are retained, and they can be exported for iPhone or Apple TV, and added to a playlist. The counter next to each one can be used to keep track of new recordings.

With smart guides, series fans need not miss out on their favourite programme ever again. A subscription to the tvtv online guide is necessary to make the most of them, but that has the added advantage of remote scheduling through any web browser.

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