Every day, we're amazed by what our iOS devices can do. And being the lazy couch pota… err, inquisitive and culturally aware individuals that we are, we love watching TV on our iPhone or iPad, so our ears pricked up when we heard about the equinux tizi.
It's a mini TV receiver that lets you watch and record television on your iPhone 4, 3GS, iPad or iPod touch (third or fourth gen). Now it's not the only way to watch live TV on your device – TVCatchup and iPlayer are well established services, but they have their drawbacks.
Firstly, to get a consistent, watchable video, you really need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network. Sure, they work over 3G, but this is incredibly dependent on your signal strength, and will munch through your data allowance like nobody's business. Sling Media or Elgato also offer ways to watch live TV, but many of these require bulky hardware or for your computer to be running to watch on your iPad.
The tizi, on the other hand, is the only piece of hardware you'll need. It gets its TV signal from the airwaves and sends it directly over Wi-Fi to your iOS device. There's no need to be connected to the net or have a mobile signal – as long as you've got digital TV reception.
You link your device to the tizi's Wi-Fi hotspot (so no browsing the web over Wi-Fi during the ads, though you can over 3G) and it scans the airwaves for channels using the free tizi.tv companion app, which was at version 1.2 when we tested.
It's wonderfully easy to set up, although the channel search will take several minutes, but you only do this once unless you're in a new location. Like the unit itself, the aerial is tiny, but extendible, adjustable and robust.
However, standing just beneath our rooftop aerial (which provides us with a perfect Freeview signal), the tizi couldn't find a single channel, despite its signal level indicator light telling us it had good reception. We were distraught, and spent a long time trying the tizi and its aerial in different positions, but to no avail.
Back at Tap! Towers, we had little Five and various ITV and Channel 4 flavours. Now, not being able to latch onto the signal isn't in itself a crime, but we were disappointed by the misleading light. The app has a signal strength indicator too, but it's been hidden away in the Settings screen, partly perhaps because we often found it giving inaccurate readings – 0% despite a perfect picture, anyone?
Annoyingly, it wouldn't update in real time, either, which is annoying if you're trying to find the perfect position for the aerial. But when we did get reception, we have to say, the picture quality was brilliant, the sound likewise.
While we had to leave the tizi propped by the window, we were able to move several metres away without the picture quality deteriorating. But as we found, just because a bigger aerial can pick up Freeview signal doesn't necessarily mean the tizi will be able to. The only real way to find out is to try it for yourself.
Provided you can get reception, you can watch in portrait or landscape orientation. Clearly, you're always going to want to watch in the latter, and you can swipe between channels in this orientation, but you have to flip back into portrait to get at any meaningful controls, the channel list or the 'now and next' information – sigh.
Speaking of this programme information, tizi uses the data from the digital TV signal, just like your regular television. But it doesn't let you see beyond the next programme, so you can't find out what's on in the evening, for example – sigh again.
There's no option to add subtitles, either. The app also enables you to record programmes at the tap of a button (though not on a timer). The recordings are saved at full quality in the tizi app for you to enjoy at your leisure, or transfer to your PC or Mac using iTunes and watch later. Note that you'll need a codec that will play the MPEG-2 TS format, since even VLC didn't want to open our recording.
As we mentioned, the tizi unit is tiny – roughly the length and width of a credit card and slightly thicker than the iPhone 4 – so it's very portable. It has a removable 1050mAh lithium-ion battery that charges via a mini-USB port, so you can charge it via your computer or your iPhone's mains adapter. It took a little over two hours to charge from empty via a Mac's USB port and then played TV for just over three hours nonstop. The unit's battery indicator changes colour depending on the remaining charge.
Unfortunately, there's no way to connect an external aerial: this capability would have made the tizi appeal to far more people. As it is, it's a great option for watching TV where there isn't an aerial or Wi-Fi, or for if you don't have space for a Freeview box. And if you travel a lot, the tizi would be a great companion for whiling away hours spent on trains or in airports – reception permitting.
The tizi's a clever, impressive bit of kit. But with tweaks to the hardware and the app, it could be so much better. Oh, and don't forget you'll need a TV licence!
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview