Equinux Tizi.TV Review : Mini USB TV Tuner For Mac
Are TV Tuners for Mac done and dusted, an obsolete technology in an age of Online tv and catchup services? Equinux doesn't think so, releasing Tizi.TV for Mac, an almost impossibly small usb TV tuner for free to air broadcasts. Granted there's many an option to catchup on a missed tv show. Hulu, BBC iPlayer, SkyGo and not to mention programme networks own websites (easily accessed via UnoTelly) could signal the end for TV on a PC but not quite yet. Nothing quite beats sitting down at a set time for a show yuo want to watch.. Yet. And if you want to enjoy TV of your Mac Tizi TV steps in to help with that.
Great things can come in small packages and the Tizi.TV comes in what seems to be a defacto standard Apple style box, presenting a view of the tuner when opening. Speaking of that tuner, it's small, Really small. Coming it at around the same size as 2 micro usb Bluetooth receivers and thin enough to attach to an Apple keyboard with a decent amount of clearance still.
Sometime back I looked it's wireless cousing the Tizi Wifi which was great apart from an inability to be used with a rooftop aerial. Thankfully Tizi comes with a IE to MCX cable to let you do just that. There is a small screw on aerial that does work for the road warriors out there.
MCX connectors are often wobbly affairs and if it's not tight you will loose signal quality. My now aging Terratec TV tuner suffers from just that. Here everything attaches together with a satisfying click and just the right amount of force needed to pull apart.
Tizi For Mac Setup
Setup was a surprisngly brisk affair. Tizi will use your location of your computer, once you've given permission of course, to do a quick scan for stations in my area. This always worries me as that's something which needs to be maintained if it's pulling data fro a server somewhere and given the unorganised state of freeview here in the uk....
Quick completed in a mere 40 seconds as advertised on the packaging. From experience I know it caught pretty much all of the channels in my area and it dealt well with offline channels which don't come on untill preset times (more about this later).
Tizi.TV Options And iPhone Remote
Normally programs can overdo a feature setup, presenting a bewildering array of options and de-interlacing or combing options, features which to normal people means nothing.
As you can see options are minimal including the option for their Tizi Remote iPhone App. Tizi remote turns your iPhone into a feature based remote control, allowing scheduling of recordings as well as seeing a brief program synopsis. Tizi.TV and Tizi Remote have to be running with both iPhone and Mac on the same Wifi network. One feature that is sadly missing is remote recording so if I'm at work I could schedule program to record although that might be a struggle if the iMac is already asleep.
All other features are self explanatory apart from Online features which seems to be sparse in what you can actually do. What exactly is the live viewing rates? I'm none to sure on crowd sourcing, or at least where I live in the middle of nowhere.
The features befit hardware and software which retails at £39 It's a far cry from cheap tv tuners of yesterday when everybody jumped on the bandwagon and the market became flooded with cheap Japanese imports with no updates.
Watching TV on Tizi
After the channel scan you are good to go and with all Freeview tuners the quality is what you'd expect. Some channels are poor compared to others but that's not the fault of Tizi more of the meagre bandwidth some channels use. Quite why the freeview consortium when with the aging Mpeg2 instead of Mpeg4 is a mystery.
The viewing area is mouse aware and any movement brings up a menu bar at the bottom for recording, pausing and editing clips and on the side your scanned channels.
Channel navigation has a feel of an iOS app with fluidity I've not seen in many other TV apps. Scrolling up and down on the channels lets you breeze through the channel list (which can be reorganized). Left to right (and vice versa) on the actual viewing area goes through the channels one at a time. There's almost a feeling of a crossover from iOS to mac as this sort of navigation really isn't out of place on an iPhone / iPad / iPod.
Tizi Programme Guide
My previous tv tuner used EyeTV3 for listing and channel information, presenting channels in order that you'd find on a TV. Granted it was a sluggish, clunky affair a far cry from how we all get used to the silky smooth iOS scrolling. No such worries here with the Tizi.App as scrolling is a fluid affair which makes sense.
Two views are available, a channel overview and a more traditional program layout. Channel lineup can be adjusted to your individual preferences but but be warned it's a horrific affair, dragging one channel at a time into the order often requiring the small wait as your cursor meets the top of the dialogue box. As the box isn't re sizable, removing that second-or-so wait it becomes an effort. It's a shame this one area wasn't thought about more, feeling like an afterthought more than anything.
Another feature missing is to zoom out to see more of the guide. Even on a 21" iMac there was still a little too much scrolling that could of been easily avoided with an ability to zoom out allowing more for the programs to be shown.
A tap on any program will show more information and find repeats, however as it uses the Free To Air program data it'll only be searching the next 7 days.
Recording and Playback.
Being a single tuner device it's a one program at a time affair. Other TV tuners would allow recording of two programmes using a single tuner as long as it was all on the same multiplex but none ever really made that clear and I guess why it's not an option here.
Recording can either be done till the end of that specific program on screen or indefinetly. It does default to Record To End Of Program to stop any disk space wastage.
Recordings start from the point you press record and not anything in the buffer. So you could be 10 minutes into a show, press record and you'll record from that point on and not what's in the history.
Thanks to a tip from Equinux
You can rewind to record from timeshift or open the live editor & click a blue flag to save a whole show:
Recordings are done in their native format, verified by VLC, in MPEG 1/2 using native resolutions such as 720 * 576 which makes converting with the likes of Jaksta or Handbrake video converting a breeze. You could be slightly disappointed there no option for automating a conversion into iOS friendly .H264 formats but there are enough guides on the web on how to do that
When a recording is due the guide will show a red bar across the line of the guide signalling something is recording. All fairly simple stuff but worked out to be as fuss free as possible.
Advert Removal, Sharing & Exporting Recordings
Ad removal is basically extract and merge but nicely coupled together. Removing adverts is a simple matter of selecting a region and pressing remove adverts. It's almost like having a mini editor built in to make things easier. It's the closest mac users will get to advert removal unlike our PC counterparts (FYI.. MceBuddy is the ultimate for this)
Clips can shared via Vimeo, E-mail, Message and a handy dandy Airdop system built in. If you decide to trim or extract from a recording that's easily shared and best of all it ties in with your mac's settings. So if you've setup a twitter or Vimeo account already it'll pick those settings up.
Some Missing Features.
Overall you'd be forgiven there's not really much missing here but after using it for a few days there are a few missing features:
- No wake to record. Tizi has to be active to record any schedules you might have setup.
- No way to keep the program running in the background. Closing the main viewing window closes the app completely. When running you have to mute the sound to "background" the app<
Equinux Tizi.TV Overall
There is a lot to like about the Tizi, small and perfectly formed along with a decent TV guide and built in video editing to boot.
- Neat small tuner that's sensitive enough even for my remote location.
- Comes with aerial adaptor for indoor use (Hurrah).
- Nice looking guide and navigation feature set.
- Well supported..
- Obviously no HD support
- Single Tuner
- Channel Re-organisation is hard work
- No wake from sleep feature (Yet)
The Tizi.TV tuner and software redefines what an affordable TV tuner should be like. Decent hardware coupled with some great software with enough features to keep everyone happy.
The Twitter Chat.
Equinux were on the ball via their twitter account.
Online features for now are limited to video sharing on the first release set. Those viewer counts are for Germany only for now until stats are verfied for effectiveness.
You CAN mute the TV window to background(ish) the app but you can't close the video window and have the app running in the background
For the initial released we focused on live editing and sharing, but – stay tuned (no pun intended…)
It was all going smoothly until
Here in the UK we have time share channels which means they dont' start broadcasting to a certain time. Tizi wisely sets a 1 minute buffer safe zone so if your program starts early you catch the start. however it doesn't appear to work with non broadcasting channels and simply locks up.
So here's my problematic scenario
BBC 3 starts broadcasting at 7pm and I want to record something that starts at 7pm
At 6.59pm it dutifully changes chanel however it's not actually broadcasting and that's where the problem starts
Now the program has completely locked up. Trying to stop the recording does nothing apart from send CPU usage through the roof and starting a battle with force ending the app.
A restart results in the same issue displaying Tizi.tv cannot display this channel. You can't do anything at this point apart from view the guide. Frustrating as it seems to have locked Tizi to that channel
Granted this might have JUST BEEN MY SETUP. yet it's worth including in a review just in case. Equinux have responded to my support enquiry (not sent from an essentialmac email address as testing support is something I'm keen on)