Streams satellite TV over network
Supports HD and SD channels
Compatible with PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad
iPhone/iPad app costs extra
Unreliable Wi-Fi connectivity
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Elgato already makes a satellite TV tuner called the EyeTV Sat, which allows you to watch satellite channels on a PC or Mac. However, the EyeTV Sat needs a USB connection, which means that you must keep your computer right next to the EyeTV Sat and the LNB wall-socket that provides your satellite feed. Not much use if you want to use your computer in another room, or to let another family member use the tuner on their computer too.
Now, for a rather hefty £200, Elgato has released the more versatile Netstream Sat, which can connect to your home or office network and stream the TV signal to any computer on the network – regardless of which room it's in.
There's also an EyeTV 'app' that can be used to watch TV on an Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch – although, rather annoyingly, the app costs an extra £3.
Build and connectivity
The Netstream is a neat little device shaped like a square silver lozenge, measuring 119mm on each side. Tucked around the back of the unit you'll find the power socket, an Ethernet interface for connecting to your network, and a single LNB connector for the satellite cable.
Unlike the EyeTV Sat, the Netstream doesn't have a CI slot, so you don't have access to additional pay-TV channels. There's no remote control included either, but that's not really necessary as your computer and the Netstream are unlikely to be in the same room together.
It supports both DVB-S and DVB-S2 broadcasts, so it can receive BBC HD, BBC One HD and ITV HD along with all the standard-definition Freesat channels. Just remember that you'll need a fairly powerful Mac or PC – preferably with a 2GHz processor – and a fast network connection to stream HD content.
Having just a single LNB connector means that the Netstream Sat can only stream TV to one computer at a time, although it is possible to switch the TV signal from one computer to another if you want to.
However, the Netstream Sat also has a USB port on the back that will allow you to connect an optional tuner module, the EyeTV Free. This will allow the Netstream to stream two different channels to two computers at the same time. This was not available for testing at the time of writing, but will cost around £90.
Once you've plugged in the power and Ethernet cables you then need to install the software provided. Elgato has a strong background in the Mac market, so it includes its own easy-to-use EyeTV software for Mac users.
If you're using a PC then the manual states that you can either use the Windows Media Centre software that is included as part of Windows 7, or use the copy of Terratec's Home Cinema software that is also supplied with the Netstream Sat.
Sadly, the Windows Media Centre on our Windows 7-powered laptop simply told us that it couldn't detect a TV signal and refused to proceed, so we moved on and installed Terratec's Home Cinema software instead.
Luckily, Home Cinema was able to automatically detect that we had the Netstream Sat connected to our network and we were then able to install the software and start scanning for channels. The scanning process took 23 minutes, but was trouble-free.
The Home Cinema software isn't very elegant, but it provides a useful range of features, including the ability to record and timeshift live broadcasts, and a handy 'Mode' button that allows you to quickly switch between live TV, recordings and radio channels.
The standard Freesat EPG isn't supported and standard DVB data wasn't picked up either, but Home Cinema does allow you to use the online tvtv service instead.
The EyeTV software for the Mac provides a similar range of features, but has a much more elegant interface, including features such as a graphical preview of your recorded programmes (similar to the album artwork display in Apple's iTunes). It managed to pull in up to four days' worth of DVB EPG data and supports tvtv.
Up to this point the Netstream Sat had worked perfectly well, but had only been used with computers that were connected to our network via Ethernet cables. If you've got a wireless router then Elgato says you should also be able to stream the TV signal over your network via Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, this is where things started to go wrong as we were unable to stream the signal via Wi-Fi using our normal BT HomeHub2 router – even though the router's Wi-Fi features works perfectly well with other streaming video services such as the BBC iPlayer or LoveFilm.
We had similar problems with a second router from D-Link and only managed to get the Wi-Fi streaming working on our third attempt with a Belkin N+ wireless router. Even then, the Wi-Fi transmission was rather erratic, with noticeable stutters and jerks on both SD and HD channels.
We had long discussions with Elgato in a bid to sort out the Wi-Fi problems; it even sent someone to analyse our network setup, but to no avail.
The iPhone and iPad only work via Wi-Fi, which means that the erratic Wi-Fi performance produces poor results on those devices too.
We found it was possible to stream the TV signal to our Mac using Ethernet cables and then use the EyeTV software on the Mac to relay the signal via Wi-Fi to our iPad, but that's a clumsy way to do things – especially as you pay extra for the app.
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Cliff Joseph is a former Editor of MacUser magazine, and a freelance technology writer with 30 year’s experience in the industry (and old enough to remember when Apple was close to going bust…).
His first job involved using Macs for magazine sub-editing and typesetting, which led to the realisation that these computer-thingies might actually turn out to be useful after all. After a few years specialising in the Mac side of the market, he went freelance and embraced the wide world of digital technology, including Windows PCs, digital audio and hi-fi, and networking. Somewhere along the line he also developed a bit of a gaming habit and has stubbornly waved the flag for Mac gaming for far too many years.