I’m not an advocate of replacing a proper TV with watching shows on a computer, but sometimes watching TV on a computer is useful. Many options exist, including network programming—old and new—on Hulu.com, or live sports on ESPN3.com.
I’ve been playing with a third option, and it is pretty sweet and flexible, if somewhat flawed. This TV-watching gadget is called EyeTV Hybrid, and it’s a USB device that plugs into your computer and lets users tune in over-the-air channels and cable fare. For standard TV you need to attach an antenna—sadly, it doesn’t ship with one—and to get cable you need to connect the EyeTV Hybrid to your cable hook-up.
I’ve used it with an antenna hook-up and cable, and the picture quality that came into my laptop was great. I attached a $10 antenna from RadioShack to the EyeTV Hybrid and I received very sharp digital pictures from 39 over-the-air channels, more than expected. (That’s largely due to the number of stations that are now multi-cast programming over the same channel, a wonderful benefit of the recent digital TV conversion.)
With cable, the channel selection was disappointing. I get only the very basic channels and none of the premium channels for which I pay. I suspect the reason is because I’m bypassing the cable box. Further, attaching EyeTV Hybrid to your TV is cumbersome, as you need to unhook it from your cable box (or TV) and plug it into your PC.
“What’s the point of doing that?,” you may wonder. The answer is that EyeTV Hybrid also acts like a DVR, allowing you to record programs, schedule recordings and even import shows to an iThing—iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. If you don’t have a DVR, this is a great product. Software that can access program schedules and provide available channels in your area is included.
Considering the free video options the Internet has brought us, EyeTV Hybrid from Elgato is pricey at $150. But if you’re a TV junkie, and want to record your favorite network shows to watch later, it’s appealing. – Eric Benderoff