With the Apple TV on the way, and the iPod video a firm favourite, it seems that the integration of digital television with Macs is big news at the moment. Of course, we’ve had digital TV on the Mac for a while now. Units from Elgato, Miglia and TerraTec – only slightly larger than a packet of chewing gum and with portable aerials – have delivered television playback and recording on our Macs for the past 18 months.
There is just one problem: the reception quality isn’t great. Even in London we found it hard to get a signal other than the BBC (which is especially comical as we’re 50 yards away from the ITN offices).
Elgato has taken the bull by the horns and addressed this issue with its new EyeTV Diversity, which features two aerials to provide better signal quality. The concept of diversity reception isn’t unique to Elgato. The technology is common in wireless microphones to prevent dropout and fading on stage; it’s also used in WiFi networking gear to compensate for interference. Essentially, it uses the two antennas to measure the differences in the transmitted wavelength.
And, boy, does this make a difference. Elgato is claiming 50 per cent increase in signal strength, but we found it closer to 100 per cent. With the EyeTV for DTT we got signal strength of 31 per cent; the Diversity provided 64.5 per cent – more than double that of the DTT.
As with most Mac antennas, the EyeTV Diversity is packaged with Elgato’s superb EyeTV 2 recorder software. Indeed, the only problem with this device is that there’s no real video transmitter currently available for the Mac (until the iTV comes out). This means you can’t stream recorded shows from Mac to television, although an iPod dock would enable you to plug an iPod into your TV and play back recorded shows that way. If you don’t have an iPod, you can always burn recorded shows directly to DVD from within the EyeTV 2 software.
We’ve always been big fans of Elgato’s TV solutions, and the EyeTV Diversity has solved the single biggest problem – signal reception. Everything else, especially the excellent EyeTV 2 software package, now shines. This is a quality product.