Elgato EyeTV Mobile Tuner for iPad/iPhone Now Available

Elgato launched its EyeTV mobile dongle for the iPad and iPhone Monday. The Elgato EyeTV Mobile listing on Amazon (opens in new tab) showed that it was “out of stock” as of Monday afternoon, but early Wednesday--as I was writing this article—the Website indicated that 12 were available.

While there are other options for receiving U.S. Mobile DTV broadcasts, the Elgato EyeTV mobile is the only device, other than the MetroPCS Samsung Lightray, that includes the software and keys necessary to decode the free Dyle mobile DTV service available in many TV markets.

The launch of the EyeTV was announced by Dyle and Elgato on Monday.

Salil Dalvi and Erik Moreno, co-General Managers of MCV, commented, “This is an exciting time for us as we, together with Elgato, continue to expand Dyle mobile TV to a broader group of consumers, who can turn their existing smartphones and tablets into a handheld TV set.”

Markus Fest, CEO of Elgato added, “We're thrilled to bring Dyle mobile TV to the iPad's beautiful screen. Users will be able to enjoy a broad range of TV shows and events on-the-go without ever touching their data plans.”

The device includes pause/resume capability and access to a detailed program guide. The device can pick up unencrypted Mobile DTV broadcasts, as well as encrypted Mobile DTV signals, from more than 90 stations in 35 markets.

I had an opportunity to test one of the prototype dongles, and was impressed with the receiver sensitivity and the software. While riding around the Los Angeles area, I did observe a few bad spots, but the picture recovered quickly when the signal returned. Overall, reception was very good. Just as there are spots where your cell phone stops working, there will be spots where you won't get Mobile DTV. While some reviewers (read below) complained about the picture quality, I didn't find it to be objectionable--certainly not when compared with what you are likely to get over a mobile Internet link. As the number of devices available to receive mobile DTV increase and more people buy them, I also expect more stations to start broadcasting Mobile DTV, either on their own, through Dyle (the Mobile Content Venture) or with the Mobile500 Alliance.

On-line reviews were mixed, although it wasn't clear how many of the reviewers actually had experience with the device. Some only added comments to other reviews. Padgadget.com had a posting by Emily New Accessory Brings Free Broadcast TV to iPad, No Wi-Fi Required.

She writes, “Users can pause a live TV stream and watch up to nine hours of TV on a fully charged iPad. The tuner comes with two different antennas a miniature telescopic antenna for great reception on the go, and a rod antenna for areas with poor reception. The unit, which retails for $99.95, includes an EyeTV Mobile TV tuner, miniature telescopic antenna, rod antenna, and USB cable. The unit’s complimentary iOS app is available as a free download on the App Store.”

Her only negative comment?

“The only down side? A user whose device includes a lightning connector will have to fuss with the pricey adapter to plug the EyeTV tuner into his iPad dock.”

Tech site Gizmodo was more negative. Leslie Horn writes Dyle’s EyeTV Sounds Like the Worst Way to Watch TV on Your iPad. Horn complained about the cost of the adapter, limited content (mostly Fox and NBC) and the picture quality--“several rungs below HD”. Horn, however, recognized this was the first dongle on the market for the iPad and iPhone, and noted that “Because EyeTV does at least sound promising, and perhaps the next iteration--or the next next iteration--will be better.”

The Gizmodo article is largely based on a Allthingsd.com article by Peter Kafka, Dyle Brings Legal, Live TV to Your iPad, With Many Strings Attached. Kafka also complained about a rights blackout that means you can't watch NFL games on Dyle, although the Olympics and the World Series were available). On the picture quality, he said, “The picture looks okay on an iPhone, but by the time the image gets blown up to an iPad-size screen, it’s quite grainy.”

Look for more devices soon that will allow reception of mobile DTV. Keep an eye on Dyle.TV and Mobile500Alliance.com.

Of course, I'll also be covering the new devices as soon as they are made public in my weekly news reports.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.