The Elgato EyeTV Diversity - a twin-tuner digital TV USB adaptor - now gains cross-platform support with a new driver released for Windows 7.
Playing Freeview television through a PC is a straightforward matter these days, as any modern computer should have a processor fast enough to decode the MPEG2 broadcast video in real-time. But the user interface is a more difficult aspect to master.
Looking across all platforms, the best experience we've found is with Elgato's own EyeTV 3 software for Mac. It provides the cleanest, smoothest upscaled picture and an intuitive interface for pausing, recording and playing digital TV.
With the Elgato EyeTV Diversity adaptor, a USB stick little larger than most Flash drives, two internal TV tuners can be configured in two ways.
The Elgato EyeTV Diversity's twin tuners can be used separately, allowing you to watch one station while recording another; or the two can be focused on a single TV station, gaining much improved reception quality in fringe areas.
Elgato EyeTV Diversity is actually the name for radio reception technology which exploits the benefit of diverse antennae, by processing their resultant - but subtly different - signals for best overall performance. In the case of the EyeTV Diversity, one aerial is plugged into its end via a familiar UHF socket, while a second aerial connects to the unit's side, using a mini-RF connector. From the EyeTV program's preferences panel, you can choose whether to use the twin tuners individually or combined.
We found signal strength, and ultimately signal quality, were noticeably improved when used in diversity mode. Even using the baby desktop aerials supplied, reception was possible in areas previously out of range.
For Windows users, a small download for the necessary driver means you can use the Elgato EyeTV Diversity within Windows Media Center, in relevant versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, and without any more software. Unfortunately, Elgato's clever diversity technology is not available to Windows.
But you do benefit from automatic programme guide updates and a neat UI that even puts a playing broadcast behind overlaid transparent graphics while navigating menus.
Processor requirements for smooth use are quite high, and we found that even the premium Samsung N510 Ion netbook would suffer a few seconds re-tune lag when flipping between channels. For older programmes broadcast in 4:3 ratio, such as many US TV shows, Windows Media Center was unable to switch when required, resulting in a distorted picture. And exporting your recorded video is not easy, thanks to Microsoft's insistence on using a proprietary format.
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