Wandering the aisles Dixons lately, you may have noticed that the flat-panel TV section is almost as big as the old CRT section. If, like me, you don’t have the cash for a flat-panel TV but already use an LCD with a Mac, Miglia has a prefect solution. Using the Alchemy TV card, it’s possible to watch TV on your Mac.
The ability to have a TV tuner on my Mac isn’t one of those things that I’ve been champing at the bit for – but watching TV is only part of the allure of the Alchemy TV card. There are lots of practical uses for it.
The way it works is straightforward. You install the card in an empty PCI slot, so you’ll need a Power Mac. It has six connectors: RF-in, radio, composite video, audio-in, S-VHS-in and audio-out. The first two are where you plug in your aerials, which you’ll need to do to get a picture or listen to the radio. The rest (with the exception of the audio-out) are for connecting analogue video sources such as VCRs, camcorders or games consoles.
The software is basic – a TV tuner that can record to hard disk. But it can be enhanced if you buy the Keyspan remote control. That way, you can sit on the sofa and channel-hop, just like on a real TV.
That covers the TV thing – you can watch it in a window or full screen. But there are more practical things you can do with it from a creative perspective.
A major bonus is the ability to plug in a VCR and record your tapes to a digital format. That means you can get your old fading wedding video on to DVD, which could be worth the price in itself. You can also record TV, which might be good if there’s something you want to keep in a less fragile format than VHS. So if you’re appearing on Stars in Their Eyes, it might be a good investment (if you want to remember it, that is). Recording radio to MP3 is also a possibility, though I’m struggling to find a reason to do that.
There’s a piece of third-party software available that lets you use an analogue video camera and the AlchemyTV card with iChat. Perhaps not a reason to buy the card alone, but with the other benefits, it all starts to look like a good buy.
The AlchemyTV card is a versatile piece of kit; most people will find at least a couple of uses for it – and it’s an appealing add-on for a desktop Mac. I can see these flying off the shelves when Euro 2004 rolls around.