Article by Kevin Savetz

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Copyright © by Kevin Savetz


EYETV, El Gato Software

What: TV-recording add-on for Macs. Details: Apple's "digital hub" strategy for turning a Mac into a multimedia appliance has been lacking a crucial component: television. EyeTV nicely fills the gap, using a combination of software and external hardware to let you watch and record TV programs on your Mac, much as you would with a TiVo or ReplayTV personal video recorder. Part of El Gato's system is a small gray box that plugs into your Mac's universal-serial-bus port, with composite and coaxial video inputs. You can watch live cable, satellite or over-the-air TV in a window on your Mac's screen, then pause or rewind it whenever you want. El Gato's software will continue to copy the signal to disk, allowing you to catch up later. When you do, a commercial-skip command can jump forward 30 seconds in a recording, and you can use built-in editing tools to snip out commercials or extract a favorite clip. The software's 352-by-240-pixel video resolution, roughly on a par with that of a VCR, isn't the sharpest image ever, but it's good enough for casual viewing, especially in smaller windows (you can resize EyeTV video from full screen to a tiny icon on Mac OS X's Dock). An included Web-based channel guide is slow and a bit clumsy but includes the convenient option of booting up your Mac to make a recording if it's not on at the time. Unlike TiVo and ReplayTV, this guide doesn't require a monthly subscription fee, but you will pay in disk space -- EyeTV needs about 650 megabytes for every hour of recorded video at the standard-quality setting, or 1.3MB in high-quality mode. This video tool kit does its best work when coupled with two other programs: Toast 5 ($89.95, www.roxio.com) saves your recordings to video CDs that can be played on most DVD players and computers, and the shareware program Watson ($29, www.karelia.com) provides a faster, more flexible channel guide. Bottom line: Although there's room for improvement, EyeTV is inexpensive, useful and fun. -- Kevin Savetz

Mac OS 10.1.5 or newer, $199 at www.elgato.com


Articles by Kevin Savetz