The package is simple. The 500 comes with the box itself, which is slightly larger in all dimensions than a paperback book; an IR remote control and batteries; a CD; a quick-start card; and a standard 6-wire FireWire cable. The back of the box has antenna-in and -out jacks (the purpose for the antenna-out jack is unknown. As delivered, it has a plastic cover on it), two FireWire jacks and a DC power input jack (there is no power supply, um, supplied, and DC power input is optional. They do not recommend you plug bus-powered devices into it if the EyeTV device itself is bus-powered). The front panel has a window with the IR remote control receiver and a status LED. The box is light for its size and liberally perforated with ventilation holes, but in extended use I couldn't detect any heat.
The installation procedure is simplicity itself: You connect an antenna to the antenna jack, you connect the FireWire cable between your computer and the box, you insert the CD into your computer and drag the EyeTV application from the CD to your Applications folder (or anywhere else you want it). The first time you start the EyeTV application, you'll get a setup wizard that will ask about your EyeTV hardware, discover it, and begin the auto-tune procedure.
This is the first place that EyeTV stumbles ever so slightly: The purpose of the auto-tune procedure is to fill in the channel list used for the channel up and down buttons and for the channel list drop-down menu. It takes a couple of minutes to complete, but the first time I did it, the EyeTV missed a station that I knew it should have found. When I repeated the procedure, it found that one, but missed a different one. Finally, the third try yielded 28 streams (I have a good outdoor antenna in Santa Clara, CA, aimed at the Mt. Sutro tower). Elgato should add some way of manually adding or deleting channels (I don't really care about non-English language and home shopping channels).
The other thing to keep in mind is that this receiver is designed strictly for over-the-air reception, and for good reception, you'll very likely need a good outdoor antenna. If you get cable TV, then this isn't for you.
The software integrates well with TitanTV.com, which provides program-guide information. You can click on shows on the TitanTV web site and watch the EyeTV tune to the correct channel or set up to record the show. Recording shows is more or less on a timed schedule basis - it's not quite up to the standard of a TiVo season pass. But the software does poll Titan for schedule changes (if you allow it).
Once you've recorded a show, an iMovie-like editor lets you locate the commercials and cut them out, although the job of finding and marking them is a manual procedure. Once you've marked them, you can compact the show, which permanently removes the marked sections, reclaiming the disk space they were taking.
And speaking of disk space, the CPU and hard disk requirements for digital TV content are enormous. 1080i shows can take potentially 20 GB per hour. An episode of CSI:Miami, after being compressed to 41 minutes, takes 11 GB. A 41-minute episode of The Tonight Show takes 8. Simply displaying these streams at full size in a window takes about 75% of the available CPU of my wife's 1.6 GHz single-proc G5. I wouldn't recommend buying one of these for a machine less powerful than that. The software will scale the image down if it needs to, so it won't outright fail on lesser hardware (and you will be able to access multicasted streams), but the big selling point of this box is being able to watch 1080i shows at full size on your 23" cinema display. If you want to do that, you'll need some serious processor muscle.
All in all, I give this product a big thumbs-up. Digital TV will truly revolutionize broadcast television over the course of the next few years just the way color did for our parents and grandparents. At $299, the EyeTV 500 is a great way for Mac owners to get started without spending a lot, but still enjoying all of the benefits (and breathtaking pictures) Digital TV has to offer.
Thanks to nsayer for this review. Have an interesting review in mind? Slashdot welcomes feature-length submissions.