Review: The TVMini HD by Miglia - Macenstein

Review: The TVMini HD by Miglia

Posted by Lab Rat

As a bona-fide tech geek, I recently decided it was downright ludicrous that I had not yet jumped on the HDTV bandwagon. After all, HDTV is no longer the wave of the future, it is the wave of the present. Unfortunately, working as a lowly lab assistant here at Macenstein doesn’t pay all that well, so the odds of me buying an HD television set are pretty slim. However I DID just drop a boatload of cash on a new 23-inch Apple Cinema display for my Mac Pro, and its wide-screen aspect ratio was just begging to test drive some HD footage.

Miglia’s TVMini HD is an amazing little device that when combined with Elgato’s EyeTV software (Macenstein rated 9 out of 10) delivers a stunning High Definition TV viewing experience on your Mac.

The TVMini HD works in one of 2 ways. First, if you have digital Cable, you can connect the Mini HD to your setup to receive Clear QAM broadcasts; the free digital broadcasts most cable providers make available of local digital television channels. These often include HD versions of your local affiliates, such as ABC, NBC, etc. If this is your plan, it might be a good idea to check with your local cable provider to confirm they broadcast Clear QAM in your area. There is even a chance that you don’t need to subscribe to digital cable, as sometimes standard analog cable provides the Clear QAM as well.

I am a DISH Network Satellite TV subscriber, so the cable route was not an option. Luckily for me, the TVMni HD can also be used to receive over-the-air MPEG-2 transmissions of digital TV via ATSC broadcasts. This is actually preferable to me, as very often the over-the-air HD broadcasts are less compressed than those delivered via cable and satellite providers who need to cram as many stations as they can into their limited bandwidth.

Some celebrities look good in HD, some don’t.

Set Up

Miglia did an excellent job designing the TVMini HD. The device is small, measuring not much bigger than an iPod (although about twice as thick). Despite the small form factor, it handles the task of MPEG-2 decoding flawlessly. Since the unit does most of the heavy lifting, the system requirements for live video viewing are quite sparse. Miglia claims you only need a Mac with a 500MHz G4 chip (and USB 2 port) to watch HDTV on your Mac, although to actually record any of the programming, we recommend a system made in the last year or two.

The included EyeTV software from Elgato makes setup a breeze. We reviewed the EyeTV 2 software previously, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The main thing you need to know is that the software is very intuitive. It comes with a free program guide provided by Titan TV which is updated over the internet based on your zip code, and scheduling a recording is as easy as finding the show in the guide and clicking on it. There is a 1-click export to iPod feature as well which Elgato recently updated to support Apple’s new full-screen sizes, so your high-def recordings will look great even when squished down to standard def sizes.

Miglia ships the TVMini HD with a pretty nice remote. We found its smaller size and button layout to be superior to the remote Elgato ships with its EyeTV 250. And unlike the 250, this remote’s silver colored styling actually compliments the design of the main unit.

Getting reception

Miglia ships the TVMini HD with a cute little telescoping antennae that is great for picking up over-the-air HD broadcasts, assuming you live directly under the network’s transmitter tower. For the rest of us, odds are you are going to have to bite the bullet and invest anywhere between $30 and $200 on an antennae of some sort. The size and type will depend totally on your distance from the station’s towers and how clear a line of sight you have.

The included antennae is cute, but that’s about it.

I live in the NYC metropolitan area, about 10-15 miles outside the city. Using the stock telescoping antennae, the TVMini HD picked up 3 digital TV stations (all PBS variants) but nothing High-Def. The signal also dropped out almost once every 20 seconds or so, making for a frustrating viewing experience. After a trip to my local Radio Shack, I returned with an amplified indoor/outdoor antennae for about $35. With this, I was able to see 7 stations, but I still had the same drop out issues I experienced with the stock antennae. So I bit the bullet, went to Radio Shack online, and ordered a beefier $90 outdoor antenae. This particular model is round and about the size of the satellite dishes I already have on the top of my house. After a somewhat frustrating aiming experience (accomplished with me on the roof talking via cell phone to my wife who was monitoring the signal strength using EyeTV’s Signal Strength monitoring utility) I was able to lock on my local affiliates, for a total of 18 digital stations, including HD versions of all my major networks (does the CW count as a network?).

Picture Quality

Well, all I can say is “WOW!”. I have always found my satellite picture to be superior to my friend’s and family’s cable signal, but the TVMini HD takes it to a whole new level. I don’t have an HDTV, but when viewed on my Apple Cinema Display, the picture was breathtaking. I found myself watching shows I don’t even like just because it LOOKED so good.

This level quality comes at the price of hard drive space. A 1-hour HD show can eat up over 5GB, so factor in the cost of extra hard drive space (if necessary) if you are contemplating HD recording.

Additional features

One thing I did not expect (knowing relatively little about digital television broadcasts in general) is that not only did I get my local ABC station, I actually got THREE of them! Apparently each station has enough bandwidth to broadcast multiple channels over the same frequency. So ABC broadcast their HD stream, plus an all news channel, and a third channel with additional programming. It was pretty much all horrible, but it was there, and it looked GREAT!

Another thing I had heard about but didn’t fully appreciate is just how startling it is to see some celebrities under the unforgiving eye of high definition. While one would expect some personalities like Paul Schafer to be anti-HD, even today’s hottest actresses, such as LOST‘s Evangeline Lilly seem quite a bit less glamourous in High Def.

Even TV’s most beautiful women suddenly have such human features as pores and laugh lines.


I have no issue with the performance of the TVMini HD nor the EyeTV Software. They combine to form as close to a perfect High Def viewing/recording experience as I can imagine. My only qualm would be that it would be nice if you could somehow also record non-digital terrestrial broadcasts using the TVMini HD as well. I suppose the addition of S-Video and RCA jacks would bulk the unit up and likely require an AC power brick as well, making this unit less portable (and probably add another $100 or so to the price). But honestly, how many people are really going to use this in a portable situation? As I mentioned previously, you need to have a pretty good line of sight and be pretty close to the transmission towers to use the included travel-sized antennae. Including the option of recording via composite inputs, such as the EyeTV 250 has, would make this a must-have device for any Mac-based home theater. (Note: the EyeTV 250 only records standard def TV, not HD).


The TVMini HD is truly an amazing piece of hardware that has opened my eyes to the wonders of High Def television. I now spend even more time in front of the TV (well, computer) than before, something I would not have thought possible. If you already have digital cable, you will find the TVMini HD a very straight forward HD recording system to set up. If, like me, you are planning to rely on over-the-air HD transmissions, it might also be a good idea to plan to spend a little extra money on antennas and a little extra time on your roof to set it up, but the results are worth it.

The TVMini HD by Miglia

Price: $250

Pros: Delivers amazing performance, great picture, uses the amazing EyeTV software for recording, no additional fees, easy setup for digital cable subscribers

Cons: Would be nice if it could record from multiple sources, recording over-the-air HD will require an extra investment in both time and money, a little pricey (although not as pricey as buying an HDTV)


3 Responses to “Review: The TVMini HD by Miglia”
  1. giant says:

    how does the TVMini HD compare against elgato’s Hybrid device? seems as though they do just about the same thing…the good thing about the TVMini is that it comes with that big remote, which the Hybrid doesn’t have…anyone else can chime in on this?

  2. Do the Freddy says:

    I actually think HD will be good for the young girls out there who are obsessed with matching the flawless looks of today’s stars. Now they can begin to see that a lot of the people are more makeup and lighting than genetics.

    off topic, I know…

  3. Rick says:

    I bought one from J&R a few months back for $130. I love it. The picture on my 23″ ACD is phenomenal. I would love to know how to install an outdoor antenna to see if I can get more stations.

    I don’t know about the hybrid device mentioned above, but I do read quite a bit on these gizmos and I don’t recall hearing anything bad about any of elgato’s stuff.

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