Here’s the deal. I want my Mac to control and manage what I watch on television. What I watch on television—TV shows, movies, news—I want available on my iPhone or MacBook.
Apple TV doesn’t cut it. Yet. How about a Mac mini, EyeTV, a cable connection, and a TV. So far, I can’t make the math justify the complexity. What we need is another of Apple’s revolutionary devices for TV.
Digital Video Recorder—By The Numbers
Apple is wise to call Apple TV a “hobby.” It’s great for what it does, but what it does will not replace what most of us do already, or, it doesn’t to what we want to do.
What do we really want? Personal control of television and movies.
Here’s my math. Eight years ago we moved into our newly remodeled condo. From the cable company we rent a digital video recorder. A DVR. Even at $9.95 a month, it’s a very good way to watch TV. But that’s all it does.
That’s almost $120 a year, almost $1,000 over eight years, and all the DVR does is time shift TV shows and movies, and compress time—the fast forward function helps cut down an hour TV show to 40 minutes.
The cable company DVR doesn’t make it easy to move TV shows or movies to a Mac or iTunes for playback on iPhone or iPad or iPod touch or MacBook. I’m paying a hefty monthly fee for the content, another monthly fee to watch TV when I want, but I’m still tethered to the cable box and television.
Set my DVR free!!
EyeTV By The Numbers
The math just doesn’t add up in my favor to accomplish my goal of complete TV when and where I want. That may open the door to a future Apple product.
First, EyeTV. For my example, I chose EyeTV HD because it gets closer to my objective of Mac management, and video on mobile devices. Kiss $200 goodbye.
EyeTV HD is what you think it is. It’s a $200 box that records HD TV from cable and satellite TV. It’s a DVR that connects to your Mac. Fortunately, EyeTV HD’s hardware comes with EyeTV software, arguably the most Mac-like of any non-Apple app.
The EyeTV app lets you watch, record, pause, rewind live television on your Mac—just like the cable company’s DVR. TV shows and movies can be exported to iTunes for playback on an iPhone or iPad or iPod touch (or, a Mac).
$200 is a nominal investment but must be added to your Mac. Since EyeTV HD isn’t wireless, it must be tethered to a Mac, and tethered to the cable company’s cable.
Mac mini By The Numbers
A base Mac mini is $700 and comes with two gigabytes of RAM and a 320 gigabyte hard disk drive. An extra two gigabytes of RAM and a 500 gigabyte hard disk drive adds an additional $200. Either price point makes for a whopper DVR.
What the Mac mini, EyeTV HD, EyeTV app provides is a highly capable, and expensive Mac DVR.
Capable? H.264 video from TV shows and movies that moves seamlessly from Mac mini to iPhone to iPad to iPod touch to another Mac.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Mac mini (with AppleCare at $150) will last for three years of regular use. $700 for the base Mac mini, $150 for AppleCare, $50 for additional cables to the TV, $200 for EyeTV HD.
The Mac mini DVR solution is $1,100 for three years, or about $30 a month. The DVR rental from the cable company is about $10 a month. The Mac mini DVR solution does more and costs more. The cable company solution does less, costs less, but comes with free replacement service, while a broken Mac mini might have to wait in the shop for a repair.
Should the Mac mini last longer than three years, then the monthly cost of ownership drops accordingly. Also, if the Mac mini is substituted with an older, unused Mac in your home, the monthly cost of ownership can drop significantly (though the hardware restrictions and support issues remain).
Back To The Future
The Mac mini, with EyeTV HD and EyeTV app, can be a powerful DVR which puts TV shows, movies, and videos on all your devices—and your television. But it’s not without a cost and extra layers of complexity beyond the cable company’s monthly DVR fee.
What if Apple sold a $199 DVR device about the size of a thick iPhone 4 which had built-in EyeTV-like software and a cable TV connector and would wirelessly sync or play recorded TV shows and movies to your Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch?
Would you stand in line to buy one? I’m ready.