A road trip to Holland convinced Hugh John of the value of Elgato's mobile TV gadgets
Elagto is on a roll. Its EyeTV mobile device topped the Sunday Times' Top Ten Gadgets of 2011, and it has just announced its first gaming product, the Elgato Game Capture HD (see bottom of page) for simple recording of sessions for gamers to share them on YouTube (some games channels record billions of hits!).
So it could be easy to miss Tivizen, a sleek, compact black box (think small pack of playing cards or iPod touch) is EyeTV’s sibling and can transform your iPad and iPhone into an on-the-hoof television set. It also works with desktop Macs and Windows PCs.
Unlike the EyeTV mobile, however, which plugs directly into the iPod/iPad dock, Tivizen doesn’t need a physical connection to the host device. Some kind of magic?
Not really. The Tivizen contains a mobile TV tuner that receives a DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial) – essentially any Freeview channel – signal and then, using its own wi-fi transmitter, rebroadcasts that signal to whatever compatible device you are using. It can also connect via USB cable to a Mac or Windows PC or laptop.
I took the Tivizen with me on a trip to Holland, driving from London to Dover, Calais and then through France and Belgium to Voorthuizen, a small, rural Dutch village. The Tivizen was more than equal to the task, picking up a whole range or TV and radio stations when tested in towns, motorway service stations and the beautiful Dutch countryside.
There’s no doubt that when it comes to viewing experience, ‘bigger is better’ and although the image quality on my iPod Touch was perfectly acceptable, it was a considerably more enjoyable watching TV on the much larger iPad screen.
Battery life is good for three hours and there is USB back-up too
The slim unit, finished in fashionable piano-gloss black has a 6-inch (15 cms) swivel-mounted retractable aerial, an on-off switch built into the side and, on the base, a mini-USB charging socket for the lithium battery which, says Elgato, is good for three hours. It’s possible to keep an eye on remaining power and signal strength via two on-screen icons. Serious power users might want to know that the battery unit is removable and additional batteries are cheap and readily available. The other option is to plug the Tivizen into a power socket using any regular mobile phone charger with a mini-USB connection.
There are, inevitably, limitations, largely determined by the size and effectiveness of the antenna, the location of the Tivizen and the strength of broadcast signal. My unit, performed better out of doors or near a window when indoors. Not so logically perhaps, one of the strongest signals seemed to come from the BBC Parliament Channel – ideal for any teacher or student wanting to listen to parliamentary debates.
Replaying the recorded clips couldn’t be easier. The main menu offers a choice of Live TV, Guide, (a full guide of programs), Settings and Recordings. Hit this last button and you’ll be shown the list of recordings made and offered a choice of Delete or Play.
The file sharing option incorporated in iTunes 9.1 or later means that transferring Tivizen files from your device to a PC is a relatively simple procedure – once you’ve found file sharing in iTunes. iTunes identifies programs that can share files between iPod and iPad and desktop or laptop computer. Click on the Tivizen icon, select the files you want to transfer and the location you’d like them to end up at.
The final step, should you want to edit these movie clips, is to convert the files from EyeTV format to a more accessible standard. Conversion programs which worked for me were VLC, DivX Converter and Corel’s Video Studio 4 Pro X4.
A word about software. The default program for Tivizen is Elgato's own Tivizen app which works perfectly on Apple mobile devices. This allows for recording, timeshift playback and (via iTunes) transferring recorded files.
When it comes to USB tethering to desktop computers, Apple and Windows users don’t quite get the same deal. Elgato’s long and fruitful link with Apple means that the Mac software, EyeTV, has more options. EyeTV on the Mac, says Lars Felber, Elgato’s product marketing manager, has a built-in editor that can actually trim and cut a movie.
In EyeTV's Recordings section select the movie you'd like to edit, then choose Edit from the Action menu in the top left corner of the main window. PC users taking advantage of the USB, as opposed to wi-fi connection, need to download a completely different software progam from Terratec .
The latest Tivizen software update features an EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) menu with up to seven days of detailed TV listings and a "home network mode" option. This allows integration into your existing Wi-Fi network rather than hooking up to the hotspot created by Tivizen, the principal benefit being that it is now possible to stay connected to the internet and watch TV at the same time. If you’re on the road and can’t access any stored networks Tivizen can switch into the regular hotspot mode and, when you return home, will automatically join the last used network. Clever stuff!
Tivizen is unquestionably a really useful device for teachers or students on the move and Elgato has shown, in the short time the device has been on the market, a refreshing willingness to identify areas where an already impressive piece of kit can be further improved. The introduction of Home Network Mode and EPG has certainly given Tivizen more functionality and usefulness.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4
Game Capture HD is Elgato's first development for the gaming market and allows for simple recording and sharing of games play. While aimed at passionate gamers who share videos of their sessions online, it will also be useful for those using games for learning.
Current methods for recording games are not easy and this is where Elgato has brought its Mac, simple-to-use approach to bear. The device simply records the action by sitting between the console, and XBox or PlayStation3 for example, and the screen, connected by just one cable (USB or HDMI).
The product also has its own dedicated website, www.gamecapture.com, where you can find a selection of beta-tester demo videos, product-availability information and additional news.
Elgato Game Capture HD will be available in early June from Elgato (www.elgato.com), Amazon, and selected retailers for £179.95 including VAT.