04:13 PM

Review: 3 TV Tuners For The Mac

If you've got a Mac, want to make it an entertainment center, and don't want to invest in an Apple TV, here are some TV tuners to check out.

Plextor ConvertX PVR PX-TV402U
There’s no mistaking Plextor’s ConvertX PVR for a mini Mini. If not for its size (1.28 by 7.24 by 6.10 inches) or its rounded sides, the silver coloring alone would make it stand out. It’ll sit on top of a Mini, but while its power and USB connections are out back, its AV inputs are up front.

Plextor ConvertX

The physical connections were a snap: Cable, power, and USB cable all plugged neatly into the back and out of sight. However, the software was another matter. The ConvertX shipped with an older version of Elgato’s EyeTV (version 1.6). When I was done with the software install, I was left with a light TV image that had a herringbone pattern overlay. A few more attempts to auto tune the channels into submission were fruitless.

At some point after the last try, a pop-up box appeared on screen to announce that an upgrade to EyeTV (to version 1.8; the current version is 2.4) was available. After the upgrade, I tried what Elgato calls an "intense" auto tune, but when I noticed it was taking more than three minutes per channel, I quickly cancelled it and went back to the standard "quick" auto tune.

Interestingly, this time around, the results were outstanding. Picture quality was clear as a bell on all channels, not a herringbone or a ripple to be seen. In my side-by-side comparison with the TV's native image the ConvertX's picture was slightly more yellow. The only actual problem that remained was with TitanTV, the EPG Plextor provides. It wouldn’t recognize my zip code and couldn’t provide a channel lineup as a consequence. Without it, scheduled recordings became difficult (although not impossible if you have a TV Guide handy). Perhaps not surprisingly, this problem too resolved itself in much the same way that the picture quality did -- after a half dozen tries it decided to work.

Plextor’s ConvertX PVR PX-TV402U for the Mac is priced from $129 to a somewhat stinging $221. That makes it the low cost leader in the roundup by $5. It’s not a bad deal, even if you encounter the same problems as I did -- and they were, after all, resolved.

In fact, although Plextor’s ConvertX provided the most initial grief, it turned out to be the best performer of the trio once it settled down to business. Unlike the other two, it doesn't have a remote -- however, if you’ve set up your Mac with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the whole issue of a remote becomes one of impression rather than practicality. Like Goldilocks, I found the ConvertX to be “just right.”

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