Is a Mac a viable Tivo replacement?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Wolfpup, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    Not sure which forum this goes into, but "buying advices" is about right...

    I can still transfer lifetime to a Series 3 Tivo (at least for another week or two). I love my S2 Tivo, but the S3 doesn't support Tivo2Go yet, and it's always possible it never will.

    Before I spend the money on the S3, I want to double check some other options.

    One seems to be buying a Mac Mini, connecting two HD tuners from elGato, and connecting a giant external USB drive to store the stuff on.

    Theoretically that sounds great (and fun!) but I'm not sure elGato's EyeTV software fully replaces a Tivo. I need 99.9% reliable recording, stability, and the equivalent of "Season Passes".

    Anyone know if this would work for me?

    EDIT: I forgot to mention, I'd also need this to be mostly controllable from a normal remote, at least where I could watch and delete shows-basically I'd hope to just leave the Mac Mini in my entertainment center and hardly ever do anything with a keyboard.
  2. skinnylegs macrumors 65816


    May 8, 2006
    San Diego

    I've fooled around quite a bit with Eye TV and Windows Media Center. They are both great products but I do not see them as a replacement for a DVR.
  3. Wolfpup thread starter macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    Darn. Well, thanks! Hopefully Tivo will get Tivo2Go on the S3 soon. It's supposedly coming later this year (and hopefully it'll work with the Mac right away now that they finally have support for the S2).
  4. CEAbiscuit macrumors 6502a


    Jun 28, 2006
    The Kitchen
    At this point, TiVO isn't a Tivo replacement. If you have HD your best best is to go with the cable company's DVR. The Tivo Model is way to expensive for HD...
  5. twoodcc macrumors P6


    Feb 3, 2005
    Right side of wrong
    well u could do this. i have an eyetv hybrid, so i record in HD all the time. works great. i think there is a remote for it also. not sure how good it would be without mouse or keyboard though
  6. Wolfpup thread starter macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    Hmm...I suppose I should consider Vista too :(

    I don't actually need anything now at all, I'd just be transferring service to an S3 now because it'll be the last chance to have lifetime on an S3.
  7. twoodcc macrumors P6


    Feb 3, 2005
    Right side of wrong

    have fun with that......but be sure to fully test it out before making a decision....if you can.....:apple:
  8. skinnylegs macrumors 65816


    May 8, 2006
    San Diego
    Here's a few things you should know before considering any Media Center (Windows or Mac) as a DVR/Tivo replacement.....

    All add-on TV tuner cards are anaolog. You simply cannot purchase an add-on TV tuner card that is digital. This means that your pristine digital signal will essentially get degraded to craptastic analog quality which is not acceptable to me. Furthermore, add-on TV tuner cards will not allow you to view your HD content from your local cable company. You can get OTA HD content but that is a different beast.

    That said.....times are a 'changin.

    You *can* purchase a *new* PC with a digital TV tuner card that essentially allows you to connect your cable and voila! I haven't fooled with these new setups 'cause I don't really want to purchase a new rig just to check it out. Bear in mind, all items in the chain (graphics card, TV tuner card, monitor etc.) must be HDCP compliant in order to view and/or record HD conent.
  9. twoodcc macrumors P6


    Feb 3, 2005
    Right side of wrong
    this is not entirely true. you can buy an add-on from EyeTV that will let you record HD from your cable company or whatever (i forgot the version). mine is just over-the-air, but you can get one
  10. skinnylegs macrumors 65816


    May 8, 2006
    San Diego
    'Ya know.....I've heard this as well. I have Eye TV Hybrid on my Mac which I use for casual TV viewing while getting my work done. It's hooked up directly to my cable so I wouldn't expect to get HD stuff anyway.
  11. Wolfpup thread starter macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    I think all tuners would have to have an ATSC tuner in them now. I know elGato's both do, and probably all new ones for Windows.

    I just use over the air. Right now I really only need NTSC, but I wouldn't buy anything new unless it handles both NTSC and ATSC.

    I don't have a way to use either a Mac Mini or Vista solution without buying them, so no real way of knowing if they can replace a Tivo.

    The best I could find on Microsoft's site was a screenshot of an interface showing selections like "recorded TV" or Live TV" or something like that. No walk through of how it works or anything.

    ElGato shows a single picture of a full screen interface, and it says it works with both Apple and their remote, but all the other pictures and all the descriptions are for a "desktop" style interface.
  12. weldon macrumors 6502a


    May 22, 2004
    Denver, CO
    Check out the HDHomeRun. It can do QAM (cable) or ATSC (OTA). Since it's a network device, you can stream the signal to any client that has a driver. That includes Mac (via VLC), Windows, and Linux. They just recently got both tuners working with MCE and Vista Premium/Ultimate.
  13. Veritas&Equitas macrumors 68000


    Oct 31, 2005
    Twin Cities, MN
    In my experience, my DVR through Comcast just plain works, and the majority of media center's either have crappy signals or are just too confusing. I don't think a Mac is really a viable Tivo replace...that being said, if you do use a computer as a DVR, Windows Media Center is much more viable option than any Mac setup you'll get.
  14. 9Charms macrumors regular


    May 19, 2006
    Vancouver, BC
    If you buy a mini, you can set up an OSX VNC server on it (takes like 2 mins). So you could then be sitting at your couch with your MacBook and control the Mini remotely with a VNC client like Chicken of the VNC.

    This is what I plan on doing. However, my setup will be a bit different. I have a Motorola DCT6416 hdtv box and will be recording content from that with a Mini Solo for later playback, or archiving. It's actually just my AppleTV replacement.

    Elgato has absolutely no guide for us Canadians, so anything they make is pretty well a non-starter, unless you plan on setting up recordings like you used to with a VCR (set date, time, channel, hope the network doesn't move your program's timeslot around).
  15. JAT macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN
    You will be able to sell that lifetimed S3 for probably more than it costs you, even 2 years from now. Just a thought.

    Another point about price....
    S3: $800
    Mini + EyeTV + EyeTV: ~$1400

    I love my Mini, but I also love my HDTivo. I'm using both right now!

    I think for TV, you can't beat Tivo. The one thing that gives me pause in recommending Tivo outright is the future possibility of saving an EyeTV recording to Bluray/HD-DVD. That would be cool. But as of right now, that's another grand out of pocket. Cheaper someday.
  16. Wolfpup thread starter macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    I finally bit the bullet and ordered the S3-only reason I'm doing it now is it's my last chance to transfer lifetime to the S3. I actually plan on unplugging it after the 3 month warranty is up, and waiting until next year to hook it back up (after my currently lifetimed S2's 1 year of service is up). Guess I'll sell the S2 then.

    Anyway thanks for the feedback!
  17. wongulous macrumors 6502a

    Dec 7, 2002
    There is some misinformation in this thread about analog conversion of digital ATSC signals. It's just not true if you're using a dongle like the El Gato EyeTV Hybrid device. It keeps it in MPEG video just like is broadcast over the air... hence DTV recording with the Hybrid does not require nearly the processor overhead of encoding analog TV signals (the CPU work of which the Hybrid hands off to your Mac's CPU, unlike say the EyeTV 250 that does its own encoding).

    There have been some reports of EyeTV's software working well with dual tuners--it is even an announced, though unsupported, feature from the EyeTV software maker--however it's also been reported that dual tuning can make video playback or recording choppy depending on conditions. I personally wouldn't want to chance it by going with a puny Mac mini with Intel graphics.

    I'm making a home theatre myself as well, with a 720p projector (Optoma HD70), an iMac with the best graphics card I can upgrade to (when I buy this summer), and definitely one but possibly an additional second EyeTV Hybrid (I'm thinking one for ATSC broadcasts and the other connected to the cable for free Clear QAM broadcasts... but I still have some research to do about my local cableco to see if they support that and if it would cost more or I'd need to get a stupid box of theirs or what). The best part is that I'm a newsgroups/torrents/gnutella/etc user so if I can't get the program recorded, I'll just download it, and I won't have to watch my downloaded programs/movies on anything less than my home theatre! (And nobody say anything about pirated movies, because my S.O. manages a video store and I get free rentals on anything I want anyway and nobody gets money from me watching a genuine rented movie versus a downloaded one.) Plus Front Row! And pr0n! ;)
  18. MacSmack101 macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2007
    Macintoshes are NOT suitable for such a thing as a DVR/PVR


    I just would like to let the whole world know that Macintosh computers are *NOT* suitable for DVR (Digital Video Recording). The reason is that Macs technically does not run fast enough to capture videos at least in Standard Resolution (320x240) at 30 FPS (Frames Per Second) with audio without skipping, MAYBE it could do like 1 or 2 frames per second satisfactorily. If you would like to convert a computer into a DVR go with a PC, get or build a Pentium 4 based computer system at 3,000 MHz (3GHz) with a 500 GB hard drive and you shall be OK.

    The following test and conclusions were gathered by using the following TWO configuration and comparing their results with each other:

    Configuration 1: The Macky Mac:
    Computer: Macintosh Quadra
    CPU: Motorola 68040

    Configuration 2: My custom Built PC Computer System IBM Compatible.
    Computer: ASUS Mainboard with a Socket 775 Pentium-D processor running at 3.6 GHz
    RAM: 4GB
    Hard Drive: 1TB (1,024GB)
    Video Capture Card: Hauppauge WinTV ATSC HD/Composite/AV/Coax Capture Card 1080I 740p.

    Configuration 2 BEATS the Macintosh Quadra by the MILES, and I mean by the MILES when performing the DVR tasks, even to load the damn DVR program on the QUADRA took forever!!! People, dont go with a Mac all together, its not worth it, only basic internet functionality and word processing is OK on a mac, if you want a full featured computer that you can do all that plus a DVR get a PC, a cheap Dell would do the job fine.
  19. zflauaus macrumors 65816

    Nov 19, 2004
    Note to others: Please don't feed the troll. Thanks.
  20. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Troll reported. And for people who didn't realise, he was comparing a P4 with a mac Quadra, which is a mac model from about 15 years ago.
  21. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    C'mon, can't you just see the tongue firmly in cheek from here? I thought it was quite funny. :D

    Still, if you believe it's genuine trolling then don't respond. Thanks.
  22. spjonesi macrumors member

    Oct 10, 2006
    Ok, so if you don't have a TiVo or never used one, you would have no idea. I've got a moto 8600 HD DVR and it is junk next to my 2 series2 tivos -except- that my s2 doesn't have HD. From the moto I often get partial recordings or some that just record a black screen (nice!) and the unit needs to be reset quite often.

    Until now it was expensive to get the S3...TiVo has released the new TiVo HD for $299. I'm having one shipped and a 750gb sata drive so I can get a few more recordings out of it.

    I've never used TiVo To Go or MRV because I want to watch my recordings on a TV, not on my computer. I can see that some would want that functionality, its is just that I do not need it.

    In short...nothing (to me) replaces my TiVo(s).

  23. Gav macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2007
    TiVo is a basic DVR thing right?

    It records TV, and pauses it... or am I missing something?

    If that is the case, then most computers (including Macs) can do it. Whether they are using Windows, Mac OS X or MythTV. You just need TV tuners and drivers.
  24. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    And once you upgrade that Quadra to 3.6 GHz, it runs rings around any P4! :p
  25. freediverdude macrumors 6502a

    Dec 26, 2006
    From my understanding, and granted I don't have much experience with the cable companies' DVRs, there really is nothing out there that completely replaces a Tivo. Yes, you can cobble something together with a computer and tv tuner cards and MCE that you would program like a VCR, or you can use the cable co's dvrs, which have rather clunky interfaces and not as much functionality. But you wouldn't get the Wishlist function or Suggestions function, and be lucky to maybe get a season pass function if your cable co dvr provides that one. The Tivo people just have the software/user interface and reliability down to a science on those Tivo boxes.

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