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EyeTV app for iPhone released


Elgato, maker of EyeTV, has released EyeTV for iPhone [iTunes Link], an app that allows access to both live and recorded video content from any Mac running EyeTV 3.2 or later. The $4.99 app lets you view live and recorded TV on your iPhone or iPod touch over your local network, and it also allows you to access the same content from a remote WiFi location using a service called MyEyeTV. Unsurprisingly, just like SlingPlayer, access over 3G isn't possible.

Accessing either live or recorded TV over your local network is simple, and usually works well. Recorded content plays back almost immediately with barely a stutter to be seen -- the caveat to this is that all recorded content has to be rendered into a format the iPhone will understand, which can take a while if you have a slower Mac. Live TV takes longer to load on your iPhone and is far more finicky. I found the only way to get reliable, stutter-free playback on my iPhone was to close the EyeTV playback window on my Mac. Apparently the strain of displaying content on my Mac and simultaneously streaming it to my iPhone was just too much for a 2.6 GHz processor to handle.

You can set video quality on Live TV from 80 kbps to 800 kbps, and there's also a setting that allows you to always use highest quality when you're on a local network. Again, streaming over my local network almost always worked well, so long as I wasn't trying to play back content on my Mac at the same time.

Unfortunately, the app's functionality falls flat over a remote connection. I found that in order to get MyEyeTV working at all, I had to disable my firewall entirely; setting the OS X firewall to enable access to EyeTV and EyeTVConnect didn't allow it to work, with the application's preferences throwing up an error saying my router was incompatible. Since I use a Time Capsule with the wireless connection set up in bridge mode (having been through a similar song-and-dance routine from when I was trying to get Back to My Mac to work), I'm certain this isn't a hardware issue on my end. EyeTV's support forums recommended downloading the latest trial version of EyeTVConnect to get around the firewall issue, but even that didn't work for me.

I tried accessing my content from two different remote Wi-Fi networks. Although my iPhone was able to find my Mac, it was never able to access any content, recorded or live, on either remote network. Recorded content failed to play, throwing up an error that said the movie format wasn't supported; a curious error, since the same content played just fine over the local network and was automatically exported to a format that should work on the iPhone without issue.

The first of many delightful errors

Live TV consistently failed to play at all over remote networks, either throwing up "unsupported format" or "content not found" errors, or launching into the channel and backing out immediately before playing anything back. Once in a while I was able to get all the way to a screen that said "This channel is currently not available."


Why not?

Okay, now that's just mean.

After getting back home and re-launching EyeTV, I tried accessing EyeTV remotely over my own wireless network. Basically, the content on my Mac was sent out over my internet connection, then downloaded to my iPhone through my home wireless. This roundabout method was the only way I was able to get "remote" content access to work; it may also have worked over the other two networks after I re-launched EyeTV, but I wasn't about to drive back across town and find out. Live TV was still way too finicky. It never seemed to work on the first try, but if I changed channels and then changed back, it worked. Once I was actually able to get Live TV working, it played back without any stuttering, and the quality of the content was surprisingly good. However, after everything I tried, I never managed to get recorded content to play back over a remote connection, even though it played back without issues when I connected over the local network; the app always claimed the file was in an unsupported format.

EyeTV for iPhone includes functions for setting up recordings remotely and includes a programming guide, but I wasn't able to test either of these to any great extent because there's no New Zealand-specific programming guide for EyeTV. One forehead-slappingly obvious feature that's missing from EyeTV for iPhone: a remote control for the EyeTV itself. The only remote function the app has now is changing the channel, but that still launches the content on your iPhone. So far, there's no function to simply change channels, rewind, or fast forward content on your Mac, though Elgato hints this is coming in a future update.

What's the verdict? The bottom line is this version of EyeTV for the iPhone feels very much like the 1.0 app it is. The interface is a bit sparse, which from my perspective isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it makes it less confusing. Where the app fails to live up to expectations is in its actual performance. While video quality is great and easily on par with content offered through the iTunes store, actually accessing that content is a hit-or-miss affair that's often more miss than hit. Once Elgato shakes out the bugs in the app it'll definitely be worth the money, particularly if they can get remote access to be a little less rickety. From what I've seen on the support forums, Elgato is dedicated to getting this app working as well as possible, as quickly as possible. But is it worth buying today, as-is? Only if you're willing to put up with a fair bit of frustration. While the app is less than 25% of what SlingPlayer costs for similar functionality, EyeTV for iPhone needs a bit more polish before I can fully recommend it.

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