EyeTV W Review: watch live television on iPhone and iPad

The Elgato EyeTV W is an interesting device that enables you to wirelessly stream digital freeview television to an iPhone or iPad. It’s a light box, weighing in at just 44g, that combines a wireless freeview digital aerial (MCX connection) with a portable Wi-Fi hotspot router. This works with the EyeTV W iPad or iPhone app for streaming live television.

Our Elgato EyeTV W review tests the following:

  • Elgato EyeTV W video quality: how good is the video signal and Wi-Fi signal on an EyeTV W?
  • EyeTV W battery life: how long will the Elgato EyeTV run for?
  • How easy is it to setup and use the Elgato EyeTV W?

Elgato EyeTV W review

How to set up an Elgato EyeTV W

Setup was logical and blissfully easy. Elgato has clearly had a bit of practice here with its EyeTV range for Mac and iOS. You begin by powering on the EyeTV W, it then creates a custom Wi-Fi network called “EyeTV W” dedicated to transmitting the data. A nearby iPhone or iPad can then connect to this custom wireless hotspot and a bespoke app plays the digital television channels.

Once it’s up and running the iPad and iPhone are fantastic devices for watching video, with their high quality displays and persistent connection.

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When you first launch the EyeTV W app from the App Store (direct link) it asks you to switch to Settings > Wi-Fi and connect to the EyeTV W wireless network (created by the EyeTV W). Now all you have to do is tap Next and the Elgato software scans for digital channels.

EyeTV Scanning for Freeview channels

How many freeview channels did we get from an EyeTV W?

We were in luck with our scanning, finding 75 channels in our London location. We were pleasantly surprised at this because we often struggle to get a good signal in South London (it’s surprising how poor the signal can be in urban areas). We found the EyeTV signal dependable though offering persistently good quality with little signal breakup.  

Two aerials are supplied with the EyeTV: a small extendable metal one that clips to the side of the device, and a larger portable antenna with a plastic stand (there is also a magnetic attachment with a sucker device for attaching this to a window or suchlike). We advise using the larger aerial to do the initial scan and then switching to the smaller aerial for regular usage.

As with all portable television aerials your milage will vary depending on the signal strength around you. The EyeTV is a portable system though, which makes it fairly dynamic: you can easily move it up to a much higher location than your iPhone or iPad for a better signal.

The wireless range of the Elgato EyeTV W is listed as about 10 metres, which isn’t great but suitable for purpose. If you put the EyeTV W 10 metres up you’ll get a signal just about anywhere.

Once the scan is complete you use the supplied app to watch television. You can swipe the screen left or right between channels, or use the on screen guide. The on screen display and television guide are both first-rate, better than most of the freeview receivers we’ve used (Elgato clearly has a lot of history in this area). Once it’s set up the EyeTV W a really nice television system to use.

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EyeTV W watching television

Recording video on an EyeTV W

There are a few limitations to the EyeTV W. While you can record television programs, you cannot use the guide to set recordings in advance. Because you connect the iPad to a separate network you cannot use the iPad to browse the internet or use Twitter at the same time. This is somewhat disappointing because we often like to use Twitter and other social media services while watching television.

Having said that, some of the AirPlay speakers we have tested required convoluted manual setup procedures to hook up the speaker to the Wi-Fi router. There’s none of this faffing around with the EyeTV W.

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Another shortfall (perhaps a little more serious) to the EyeTV wireless system is that you cannot use it with AirPlay devices at the same time (because your iPad or iPhone is on a different network). So you cannot stream the television to an Apple TV, or even mirror your display. Hopefully down the line Elgato will widen support in the EyeTV so it can be connected to your home network somehow. And although Elgato has other options available for Mac OS X we’d like to be able to hook up a Mac to the EyeTV W as well as iOS devices.

EyeTV W creates its own network

The Elgato EyeTV W creates its own network, so you cannot use it to stream video to an AirPlay device like an Apple TV

How long does the EyeTV W battery life last?

One final test of the EyeTV was to see how long it would last a full charge. The specs say up to four hours, but we powered on with a full charge at 6:00pm. ran out of power at 22:27, so we got just shy of four and half hours. While this is a efficient amount of energy for day to day use (and you can always hook up the charger) it’s something to bear in mind uif tour taking the EyeTV W on a camping trip.

We think the EyeTV is a terrific system for watching live television on the iPhone and iPad. It’s an ingenious solution that works quickly with a minimum amount of fuss. Recommended.

OUR VERDICT

We like the EyeTV W: it’s a frictionless system for getting television on the iPhone or iPad, and the wireless nature helps get a better connection (which is often a flaw on these systems). It’s a simple system to set up and it’s small stature make it a portable solution for freeview on the iPhone or iPad.

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