updated 04:30 pm EDT, Fri April 25, 2008
TV for Mac HD Stick
Almost every computer can play movies and TV shows stored on DVD, and with an Internet connection, every computer can download and play digital video files as well. However, what's missing is the ability to watch live TV on your computer and record your favorite shows. In the past, watching and recording TV shows meant buying a digital video recorder (DVR) and connecting it to your TV, ignoring your computer altogether. Nowadays, you can turn your computer into a TV and digital recorder by using Pinnacle's TV for Mac HD Stick instead.
This little device, no larger than a typical USB flash drive, plugs into any USB 2.0 port of your Mac. Due to power requirements, you can only plug the device directly into your Mac, or into a USB hub that includes its own power supply. (The device won't have enough power to run if you plug it into the USB port on your keyboard.) For added convenience, the package includes a short USB extension cord so you won't have the device jutting out from a Mac, blocking nearby USB ports.
Now connect the other end of the device to your TV source, such as a cable or satellite connection, and you effectively turn your Mac into a TV set. If you don't receive signals through cable or satellite, Pinnacle includes a separate antenna so you can receive analog TV signals instead. (Obviously this antenna will only be useful as long as over-the-air analog remains in service.)
The entire package consists of the Mac HD Stick, a USB extension cord, an antenna, a remote control, and a video cable
After connecting the stick between your Mac and a video source, the next step is to install the EyeTV Lite software for displaying and recording TV signals. To receive schedules, you'll need to set up a free TitanTV account, which the installation program creates for you. In less than 10 minutes after opening the package, connecting the device, and installing the software, you should be ready to start watching TV on your computer.
To control the EyeTV Lite program, you can use the included remote control, Apple's own, or the window that appears on-screen. Flipping through the available channels is as simple as choosing a station from a menu, or searching channels sequentially, backwards or forwards.
EyeTV Lite gives you several ways to view a TV channel. First is viewing it inside a window, which you can move around the screen. This can be convenient for doing something else with your computer, such as browsing the Internet, while still keeping an eye on a TV show.
Second is displaying a channel in fullscreen, effectively transforming your monitor into a dedicated TV. The third is picture-in-picture, which operates in both windowed and fullscreen modes. This lets you watch two shows at once, and switch the larger and smaller images at any time.
Since you may not always be sitting in front of your computer when your favorite shows come on, EyeTV Lite lets you schedule a time to record a specific channel. The number of shows you can record is limited only by the amount of hard disk storage available, and viewing a recording is as simple as browsing through a list of show titles.
Besides allowing you to record shows, the device also includes a cable that provides three separate connections (S-Video, composite, and stereo), allowing you to plug a camcorder, game console, or other device into the stick. Now you can transfer video from various kinds of external media onto your hard disk without extra effort.
Pinnacle's TV for Mac HD Stick is not only simple to set up, but intuitive to use at the same time. The product makes it easy to turn any Mac into a combination TV set and DVR.
One major drawback of the device, though, is its power requirements. Although it draws power directly from any USB port plugged directly into your Mac, occasional error messages pop up anyway claiming the device is drawing too much power, even when plugged into a Mac mini or a MacBook that's plugged into an electrical outlet. When this excess power error message appears, the only solution is to unplug the device if you want to do anything else on your computer.
If you can put up with this occasional annoying message, and you want to watch and record TV shows on your Mac, spending $129.99 for Pinnacle's TV for Mac HD Stick may be a worthwhile investment.