The TV Mini HD: Revisiting HDTV on the Mac

by Erica Sadun

HDTV. About a year and a half ago, it was new and exotic stuff. I wrote a MacDevCenter article about watching HDTV on your Macintosh. I discussed buying an HDTV tuner card, installing it on your Mac and watching free-to-air ATSC HDTV broadcasts. Recently I had a chance to revisit HDTV by testing a Miglia/El Gato "TV Mini HD" receiver, an ATSC-tuning USB 2.0 unit with plug-and-play HDTV reception.

The Mini is the product of an interesting merger between Elgato, known for its EyeTV hardware/software offerings, and Miglia, which I previously only knew from its Analog-to-Digital converter boxes (along the same lines as the Canopus A/D converters). The "mini" name is apt. The shiny metal box is smaller than an index card and only about an inch thick and will set you back approximately $249.


2006-09-07 11:40:27
Great series of articles. Really helps us make informed decisions. This is the forward edge in Apple Consumer Computer usage; for people who use their computer but don't want to be "computer people".

People are putting (displaying) their iMacs in the living room more and more and not relegating them to the "computer room".

rock on!

2006-09-07 11:42:47
Is the software Universal?
2006-09-07 12:07:50
Until they make a QAM/cablecard version I think this product is useless to most people.
2006-09-08 07:25:20
Is there a way to determine ahead of time if you will get a good enough HD signal over the air using the included antenna?
Erica Sadun
2006-09-08 07:45:53
MattyD: Check out Antenna Web to see what free-to-air signals are available in your area.
Erica Sadun
2006-09-08 07:46:45
Shawn: As my screen shots show, I was using QAM tuning with digital cable. The only drawback is that it was all manual. No clean TitanTV interface.
Erica Sadun
2006-09-08 07:50:18

From Elgato:

EyeTV 2.3 is a Universal application. It requires a Macintosh computer with PowerPC G4 (500MHz or faster), PowerPC G5 or Intel Core processor, and Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later. We recommend Mac OS X 10.4.7 with all software and security updates installed.

2006-09-11 05:53:03
Hey... It's Felicity!!!
2006-09-11 06:54:13
A very timely review for me ! Just a couple of questions ... did you notice any considerable delays if you were doing other stuff while watching TV in a small window ? Also, how much disk space did a 1-hour recording show take on your hard drive ? Thanks,
Erica Sadun
2006-09-11 06:59:47
Nitin: When doing other stuff, I definitely had to use a small window on my G4. Also, I tended to tune into the non-HDTV versions of the channels for that. Also, since I had only really been interested in the iPod recording, I stopped my recording test only after a few minutes and it was already in the mid-10s of megabytes. I didn't actually measure the disk space/time thing. Sorry!
Erica Sadun
2006-09-11 07:00:16
Anonymous: I'm pretty sure it isn't Felicity. That was Smallville.
2006-09-11 07:33:51
Since I don't have digital cable, I'm curious to know if you can you set it up to receive channels from both air and cable and set it to grab the highest quality feed from air for the hd channels and cable for all the rest?

Also, do you know if the software is Universal?


Erica Sadun
2006-09-11 07:42:20
FL: Software is Universal.

I set it up for both cable and air. You just have to switch between the sets of channels. It's a simple pop-up and you need to attach the proper cable or antenna.

To "grab the highest quality feed" from air, you just tune to the HDTV channel. It does not tune and play normal free-to-air TV.

Erica Sadun
2006-10-18 20:16:01
Schyler, yes. I could only get about a third of my channels to work consistently.
2006-10-18 20:16:08
DId you have trouble getting a substantial amount of unencrypted channels when hooked to digital cable? My question stems from my innability to access more than 15 of the 300 channels detected. As per Miglia's website, I expected to be blocked from HBO, but this is ridiculous and makes the product almost useless to me.
2007-02-22 06:07:17
So, what was the DIY version? I have a G5 and don't want to pay cable for the few shows I watch. I have thought about getting a zenith indoor antenna for the tv but it's not hdtv. I need my mac or my tv to be hdtv.
2007-02-24 18:45:56
Hi. One question if anyone can help me. I have an antenna and the usb unit for a windows machine. It is Pinnacle actually. The software it´s for Windows. The question is, if I plug the thing to my Mac, is there any software available out there, that will make this work on my mac? I mean, having the hardware, is it possible to use it with a different software than the one it originally came?
Philip Burnash
2007-03-13 16:46:02
I can't get all my cable channels, WHY?
2007-03-14 18:35:00
I know someone already mentioned using Antenna Web to see what free-to-air signals are available, but I was wondering if anyone had experience with not receiving all the channels listed for their location. I have a bunch of channels listed, some 50+ miles away. What is the usual distance that the included antenna usually reaches? Thanks!
Erica Sadun
2007-03-15 11:47:12
Hey Dave, 50+ miles is pretty far away. Most of the signals I receive are within about 15 miles and the best ones are well under 10. I'm not sure if my experience is typical or not.
2007-08-08 05:44:45
You said playback was "smooth and watchable" on a G4 733. Was this also true of recorded material or did you have to reduce the HDTV recordings to 480p or even 480i for playback?
I have a Powerbook G4 Titanium - 1 GHz and wonder if it has the goods to playback these files.