Elgato must be the number one expert in digital terrestrial TV solutions. A couple of years back I took a look at the competition and I was not at all impressed by what I saw. Elgato’s EyeTV, on the other hand, is an elegant application that gets regular if not frequent updates and new features. Over the course of about a year, Elgato’s USB stick DTT receivers got smaller and more beautifully designed. And now they released a network tuner, the Netstream DTT, which has ‘Dual’ in its name because two Macs can view different TV channels simultaneously.
First of all, the “EyeTV Netstream DTT Network Dual Tuner” as it goes through life, works with Windows and with Mac OS X. Windows users have to be content with a combination of Windows 7 Media Center and Terratec Home Cinema software, which offers “many of the same features as EyeTV 3”, as it says on the box. Mac users in this case have all the luck: they get EyeTV 3 with the Netstream. Also in the box are a DTT rod aerial and a s=very short Ethernet cable.
The Netstream DTT Network Dual Tuner is a flat square, rather heavy metal box with an interface for the aerial and for Ethernet at the back. There’s also a small reset button. The bottom reveals a recess for attaching the Netstream to a wall using one big screw. Before I reviewed the Netstream, I took one of my own Ethernet cables so that I could place the box in front of me. The Netstream can be controlled through the EyeTV software or using a web browser based management interface.
The first installation on my system failed, and I immediately knew why: as most network device, the Netstream assumes you’ve set up your LAN with an IP-address in the range of 169.254.x.x. I have a firewall installed and my LAN uses a completely different network mask and IP-address range. The first thing I had to do therefore, was to change the IP-address of the Netstream DTT Network Dual Tuner from within Safari.
That was as simple as it gets, and after having changed the IP-address to one my network switch knows about, the Netstream was instantly recognised by the EyeTV software. The setup of the device further went as if it were one of the Elgato USB DTT receivers.
Signal quality was another matter. Because you can place the Netstream DTT wherever you want, it’s much easier to place it where the aerial rod (if that’s what you’re using) has a really bad reception. This was the case with my initial placement. The same flexibility of placing the Netstream ensures that you can get the best possible reception, even with the non-amplified aerial. After some trial and error, I got the same excellent reception I’m used to when using Elgato equipment.
The biggest boon from using the Netstream DTT Network Dual Tuner is from the “dual” part. I could view a show on one channel and be recording a documentary on another channel using another Mac, with that one Netstream DTT device. If you have a Wi-Fi router that you connect the Netstream DTT Network Dual Tuner to, you don’t even need cables except for the route between the Netstream and the network router.
As I don’t have a wireless network –what’s the use of having Gigabit Ethernet, if you’re going to be networking at less than half this speed?– I tested the Netstream with Ethernet cabled connections throughout. This means I can’t say how the signal suffers from the wireless transmission inside a building.
The Netstream shows his correct setup with a green LED behind the black front bezel. If there’s an error, the LED will colour amber. The EyeTV software’s Preferences allow you to switch to your default web browser in order to further manage the Netstream DTT Network Dual Tuner. In the browser you can see signal strength and quality, firmware and software version, device serial number, how many channels are in use, and the list of channels the software could detect.
Furthermore, in the Network tab you can set IP-address and whether the address should be automatically fetched using DHCP or be fixed with a Manual entry. In the Channels tab, you can download your channels list as a M3U file (a multimedia playlist).
After having played with the Netstream DTT Network Dual Tuner, I find this dual tuner a great way to get digital (Freeview) TV on your Mac. Especially when you have one of the 27 inch iMacs in one room and a MacBook for viewing wherever you are, Elgato’s Netstream tuner is an absolute topper. It costs 250.00 EUR, and this price doesn’t ‘automatically’ justify buying the Netstream instead of two EyeTV DTT Deluxe sticks at 90.00 EUR each, for example.
However, I don’t find the price exaggerated if you keep in mind the additional comfort and manageability of the device.