How to create a Mac powered digital home

Watch and record TV on your Mac

Apple may not build TV tuners into its Macs any more (hello black Performa 5400), but that shouldn't stop you from watching and recording your favourite shows on your Mac.

Aside from watching streaming content via the internet using BBC iPlayer and others, there are a growing number of TV solutions for you. The biggest name has to be Elgato, which makes a range of analogue TV, hybrid analogue/digital TV and digital TV tuners for the Mac.

These usually slot into a spare USB port and include a coaxial socket so that you can pipe TV signals straight from your TV aerial into your Mac – our pick is the EyeTV DTT Deluxe (£60), an impossibly small digital terrestrial tuner that can be slotted into the USB port next to the MagSafe power socket on your MacBook or MacBook Pro.

All Elgato TV tuners ship with its EyeTV 3 software, which includes a searchable electronic programme guide (EPG) and enables you to record programmes using the H.264 video codec so you can share them with other members of your household. Alternatives to Elgato include the Miglia TVBook Pro Express (£85 online), which uses the Express Card slot on the MacBook Pro, or the spanking new PCTV nanoStick Ultimate (£50) from Pinnacle – a USB tuner bundled with Mac-friendly software.

Where does Apple TV Fit in?

Ostensibly a media adaptor on steroids, Apple TV is Apple's first serious assault on the living room space. Available in two flavours – £199 for 40GB and £269 for 160GB – it's been designed to be hooked up to a flat panel TV via HDMI (for the best possible picture quality). It can be used either to receive steaming music, movies and photos from other Macs in your home network, or to store them in their entirety onto its built-in hard disk.

Apple, of course, would like to source most of the content from the iTunes Store. However, there's little to stop you – legal and copyright issues aside – from also using it as a depository for ripped CDs and DVDs, copied to it from your main computer.

Perennial bugbears include the lack of a built-in optical disc drive (what, no Blu-ray?) or even a built-in TV tuner so that you can turn it into a personal video recorder. For what it does do, Apple TV works very well. But we hope and suspect that Apple has bigger plans for this device. Only time will tell.


First published in MacFormat, Issue 203

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