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.
Eskape Labs is a division of Hauppauge Computerworks and the source of the MyTV.PVR USB tuner and similar Mac-friendly items. As with the Plextor PX-TV402U, there’s no mistaking the MyTV.PVR for a cloned Mini box. Although it's white like the Mini, at 1.25 x 6.25 x 5.75 inches it’s a bit smaller and has rounded sides. You can sit it on top of your Mac; its rubber feet should give it enough elevation to still allow the Mini to cool.
Installation was just a matter of following the Quick Start Guide (which, for a “quick start,” was fairly comprehensive). The process involved the usual shuffling of the MyTV.PVR application into the Mac’s Application folder and then running it. I had the unit up, connected (to TitanTV for its programming guide), and running in less than five minutes.
Unfortunately, there were some ripples on the TV screen. They weren’t intense, but they were noticeable -- and on every channel. The side-by-side comparison using the PIP image from the Vizio TV set showed no ripples. And as with the Plextor ConvertX, the color leaned slightly to the yellow side and wasn’t correctable using the available adjustments from within the software.
The MyTV.PVR comes with a really interesting add-on: an integrated FM radio. Eskape supplies a hanging wire antenna with which I was able to pick up the stronger signals in the area -- a real antenna would be the better listening option.
The unit's remote handles all of the TV and radio functions, making your mouse and keyboard nearly obsolete -- unless you want to quit the software. The "Power" button on the remote had no effect when I tried to use it to shut things down. Apparently I was ignoring an order of preference that the software had for doing things its way. I finally clicked the close icon on the application’s window, which worked -- but also brought up a warning box: "MyTV.PVR has quit unexpectedly." It’s a bit of a rough edge on a product I had expected to be more polished.
MyTV.PVR sells for $134 to $150 from a variety of sources you’ll find listed on Eskape Labs’ Web site. Should you want one? It’s the least expensive of the group and captures video in standard MPEG format that doesn’t need to be converted before it can be played elsewhere. However, it has the rippled picture quality of Miglia’s TVMax+ with a little of the yellow-tinged color thrown in from the PX-TV402U. It's up to you whether the advantages outweight the disadvantages.
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