Watching telly on a computer is easy. But now that often homes have several PCs or laptops, how about trying the Elgato Netstream digital tuner, which can plug into a wireless network and stream live TV around your home?

Elgato has built its reputation on solid-performing digital TV adaptors, originally for the Mac platform but now with drivers enabling easy use on Windows PCs too.

Up until recently, these TV tuners have all been of the direct-attachment type, originally using FireWire, and now all via a USB 2.0 port. While this allows one computer to easily function as a TV, it does restrict you to siting your PC near to a wall outlet or extension cable for a roof-top aerial.

A portable antenna is always included in the box, but it’s of limited use in the UK unless you live close to a TV transmitter.

The Elgato Netstream introduces a new way to watch television in the house, as it carries television over your local network. So rather than plug into a single computer, it connects to your network router via an ethernet cable, distributing its TV channels to anywhere in the house that your network reaches – whether that’s a wired or wireless network.

The Elgato Netstream is a twin-tuner device, enabling two different programmes to be watched on two different PCs. It's powered by an external power plug, and just needs a network cable and antenna to for operate.

Unlike similar solutions with two separate tuners, such as Elgato’s own EyeTV Diversity, it only requires one antenna. That’s handy, but also creates a fractional drop in signal sensitivity for each tuner module.

While it saves having to find two aerials or use a Y-splitter cable, since the RF feed must be shared between the two tuners, good reception strength is beneficial here.

Elgato Netstream

Elgato Netstream sits on the network and just needs DC power and an aerial connection

As well as streaming two different channels to two PCs, you can watch one channel while recording another on the same computer.

If another PC then tries to ‘tune in’ over the network, a message appears that both tuners are in use — although with the help of a four-digit admin PIN code, you can overide someone else’s viewing and take control of a tuner.

So you could have your media centre PC in the lounge viewing BBC One, for example, while a laptop elsewhere in the house tunes into E4.

It does not multicast though: two computers both tuning into Channel 4 will use up both available tuners, and a third user who simply wants to watch the same channel will be unable connect.

That’s live TV — but what about recording? With Elgato’s software for Mac especially, recording is a cinch. Then to watch programmes recorded on a different PC, you just switch on Sharing from the app’s preference panel.

You can also enable access for iOS devices, with the help of a £2.99 app from the iTunes App Store. We’ll be covering the impressive capabilities of this app in a separate review.

NEXT PAGE: watching and recording TV with the Elgato Netstream >>

Note that due to a lack of the necessary chipsets required for the task, the Elgato Netstream will not receive the latest high-definition broadcasts from Freeview HD.

The UK uses a novel DVB-T2 transmission system that is not a popular international standard, and at present at least there are no Freeview HD solutions available use with personal computers.

With Sweden, Italy and now South Africa coming on-board to start broadcasting using DVB-T2, such tuners ought to become more plentiful in the future.

Sotware options

For Mac users, you can make the most of the Elgato Netstream with the usual EyeTV 3 software. This lets you watch live programmes and check TV guides, as well as record television or setup recordings for the coming week.

It’s also straightforward to archive recorded TV programmes, either by exporting in their native MPEG transport-stream format or recompressing to, for example, MPEG-4 for portable devices.

For Windows users, you can use either Windows Media Centre built into Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Ultimate, or use the supplied Terratec Home Cinema software.

Alternatively for any platform, including Linux, you can access the Elgato Netstream server interface through a web browser and download an m3u file of your local channel listing.

You then use VLC or similar video app to select and play any channel from this list.

Elgato Netstream interface 1

Elgato Netstream can be setup over the network through a web browser

Elgato Netstream interface 2

Once setup, you can export an m3u file that allows tuning-in by other video player apps, such as VLC

Elgato Netstream in use

We found the same great picture quality as you’d see on a typical USB Elgato DVB-T device, and a smooth artefact-free picture through VLC too, once deinterlacing had been switched on.

Whereas EyeTV usually plays Freeview TV with a glitch-free uninterrupted video and audio stream, we found the Elgato Netstream was not always so flawless, sometimes showing fractional jumps.

Whether connected through a home router or directly to an Apple Mac mini’s ethernet port, the Elgato Netstream could not play entirely consistently, introducing a few micro-pauses in each hour of television viewing. Sometimes these seemed random; other times, the launching of, for example, Safari was enough to cause a sub-second micro pause in the TV programme.

After trying two samples and applying several updates to EyeTV 3 software, as well as a firmware update to the hardware itself, we now assume this issue is unavoidable for the Elgato Netstream.

Some viewers may not be troubled by such occasional blips, but if like us you’ve become accustomed to the usual Elgato digital TV experience that’s free of any perceptible dropped frames, it's still a little unsettling.

We've been auditioning the Elgato Netstream since its first release earlier this year, and while this aspect has been improved, at present we’re still seeing sporadic glitches.

NEXT PAGE: our expert verdict >>

Elgato Netstream: Specs

  • DVB-T tuner
  • 10/100Mb/s ethernet
  • aerial input
  • DC power supply
  • Elgato EyeTV 3 (Mac) and Terratec Home Cinema (Windows) software
  • desk aerial with magnet/suction base
  • 23 x 119 x 119mm
  • 262g
  • DVB-T tuner
  • 10/100Mb/s ethernet
  • aerial input
  • DC power supply
  • Elgato EyeTV 3 (Mac) and Terratec Home Cinema (Windows) software
  • desk aerial with magnet/suction base
  • 23 x 119 x 119mm
  • 262g


Try as we might, we couldn’t get the Elgato Netstream to deliver the same smooth playback as the company’s other adaptors. But the advantage this network-attached system offers over a direct-connected adaptor is profound. The streaming of live television, in unadulterated MPEG-2 broadcast quality, to a computer of any type in the house is a fantastic asset, with two TV tuners to help allay domestic programming conflicts. In spite of its flaw, we can't help but like this product, but would love it even more if it could play as well as the USB versions.