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Many of us at Mac|Life have cut ties with the cable company, and it feels great. There’s so much content available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, and others, that we only miss those 400 channels occasionally—mostly for sports and news. Reclaim live sports and news, and cut streaming service costs with the HD HomeRun. It tunes in over-the-air broadcasts or unencrypted (Clear QAM) cable channels, if you’re not ready to end that service.
Several key features make the HD HomeRun unique. The device connects to your network instead of an individual computer; you watch over Ethernet or Wi-Fi. And the HD HomeRun includes two tuners, so you can view and record two shows at the same time, even from different computers. When it’s working, the process sings, outclassing tuners you’d connect directly to a single Mac.
Elgato includes license codes to install its EyeTV 3 software on two Macs. (PCs can also join in, through Microsoft’s Windows Media Center.) Just attach the tuner hardware to an antenna and your Ethernet network, and fire up the software. You can even view program information through TV Guide, which is free for a year, but will cost you $19.95 annually after.
A world of TV can fit in the palm of your hand.
Use key commands, menus, or an onscreen remote swap station and manage recording. EyeTV also supports a Front Row–like big-screen interface, in case you’re watching from across the room. Like typical DVRs, the software buffers while you watch, so you can pause or rewind live programs (back to the point where you began).
Tuner management works fairly well. If you’re recording a show and click another live program, EyeTV opens a new window for the second station, kicking in the second tuner. Otherwise, you can use picture-in-picture to watch both tuners at once. The dual tuners occasionally fumbled in our tests with two Macs; the software sometimes told us both were in use on the opposite computer when they weren’t. In those situations, we got the second Mac working by simply trying a second time.
The biggest drawbacks are caveats more than faults. Most importantly, your hardware and network need to be solid for shows to play smoothly. 802.11n Wi-Fi occasionally worked for us but often faltered; our Ethernet network was always reliable. And when our 2GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook ran several background applications, the EyeTV software sometimes stuttered. It worked properly after rationing resources or connecting from a 2.66GHz Quad Core Xeon. And be sure you have plenty of available disk space, since an hour of TV can top 5GB.
The HD HomeRun includes many extras that compensate for our minor gripes. You can edit out commercials from recordings; export compressed, iPod- and iPhone-formatted shows to iTunes; and automatically record all upcoming episodes of your favorite shows. Just remember that your Mac has to be running for the software to do its thing.
The bottom line. The HD HomeRun includes crucial features—two tuners, and the ability to connect from multiple Macs—that beat competitors and offset minor pitfalls.
HD HomeRun Network TV Tuner
Intel Core 2 Duo or faster; Mac OS 10.5.8 or later; Ethernet; 802.11n Wi-Fi (for wireless Mac connection); antenna or Clear QAM cable connection
Two tuners let you record or watch two shows at the same time. Home network connection lets you watch from multiple Macs (or PCs). Exports recordings re-encoded for iPhone and iPod. Can remove commercials from recordings.
Depending on your network, Wi-Fi might not be reliable. Minor errors in managing multiple tuners. TV Guide software costs money after first year.