Sunday, July 23, 2006

Product Review: EyeTV200 Falls Short

I bought this product in order to edit some VHS video material (baby ultrasound), and view a bit of TV on my 20" iMac while I work. I used it for a week, before deciding to return it.

In Japan, there are several products available for Analog to Digital conversion, some with TV tuners, some with Mac compatibility. Most of these are under ¥30,000, but the EyeTV200 is sold for ¥40,000. In fact, this is higher (¥10,000) than what you'd pay outside Japan for the same model - if you can find it. I say 'if', because ElGato has phased out the EyeTV200 and replaced with the newer EyeTV250. So the 200 appears to be obsolete everywhere but Japan. Go figure.

This product is easy to set up and use and comes with EyeTV Software version 1.8X from ELGato. It comes with a firewire cable, and short antennae cable so you can attach it to VCR or antenna connector. Setting up the TV channels is also easy for both antennae and cable.

Unfortunately, the EyeTV200 cannot 'descramble' cable signals, so it only works with BS cable channels, at least with JCOM. Actually, it finds all your channels, but you get a snowy video feed for non BS stations (no pun intended). However, you can take your analog signal from your cable box and feed it to the EyeTV200. This leaves the EyeTV200's remote somewhat useless, but you can change channels with your cable box remote.

Another shortcoming is the software. The included EyeTV software (EyeTV 1.8x) will not allow you to save to mpeg4 format and freezes. Also, it cannot save to the current format of iMovie, and you get an error message when it opens iMovie after you try to do so.

The EyeTV v1.8x is software also outdated - everywhere but Japan. You can go to ElGato's site to get the latest 1.8x (1.8.2, IIRC). And ElGato offers version 2.0 for purchasers for of the EyeTV200 since last year - except for in Japan. Roxio Japan runs the support site for the EyeTV200 in Japan. However, there are no free upgrades to EyeTV2.0 or much anything else other than FAQs on the Roxio site. They don't even mention v2.0, even as a purchase. I can't understand this.

Hardware-wise, the EyeTV200 has good and bad points. The converter box is lightweight, lowe profile, and is powered by the firewire data cable. However, box always draws power and gets quite warm, even when you turn it off with the remote. The only way to get it to stop drawing power is unplug the FW cable. The box also has the expected inputs for analog, S-Video, as well as antennae coaxial. There are no video outputs, unlike on other converters, but this may not be so important.

How does the EyeTV200 stack up with other video converters available in Japan?
Good question. I later purchased a Japanese-made I-O Data converter for Mac (GV-1394TV/M3) after returning the EyeTV200. It was less expensive (¥26000) and made by a Japanese company, raising my expectations. Unfortunately, the GV-1394TV/M3 came up very short. (Check back later for a review on this converter.) But I can't recommend either of these products at this point.

There are several other video converters available in Japan for Macs, all less expensive than the EyeTV200. Unfortunately, none of ElGato's more advanced products are available here, even the EyeTV250.

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