Digital cable service typically is made up of a few different types of signals, all on the same cable line:
1) Unscrambled analog cable - “Basic Cable" is what many people are familiar with, offering up to 125 channels of standard definition analog content. This service will eventually be phased out.
2) Scrambled analog cable - “Premium Cable" includes channels like HBO, that can’t be viewed without a cable box. No EyeTV product can receive premium analog cable directly.
3) Unencrypted digital cable - “Clear QAM" is similar to basic cable, but in digital form. The channels are not scrambled or blocked, but only a small number of channels are available for viewing. Some channels may be SDTV (standard), and some may be HDTV (high definition). Typically, networks like NBC or FOX will be present, along with public access, shopping, local, PBS, and perhaps some radio channels.
4) Encrypted digital cable - “Digital Cable" is typically encrypted, or encoded so that you need a cable box (or CableCARD) to view it. If you have 500 digital cable channels that you receive with a cable box, then the majority of these channels will be encrypted. A Clear QAM tuner can’t receive encrypted digital cable; it can’t receive the majority of your digital cable channels.
Therefore, EyeTV products like EyeTV Hybrid (’08), EyeTV 250 Plus (’08) or HDHomeRun (all these products are available in North America only) only receive a few digital cable channels, those that are Clear QAM (unencrypted). You cannot use a cable box via Clear QAM, and you can’t receive most of your channels via Clear QAM. If you wish to use a cable box, you’ll have to use analog input (like composite or S-Video for those products that have it), and HDTV content won’t be available.
The channels a Clear QAM tuner can receive vary city by city, and some channels may be there one day, and gone in a few months. Essentially, your cable company reserves the right to encrypt and decrypt channels at will, but usually you’ll see the networks, and some other content.
That said, Clear QAM tuners can receive HDTV content, if available. For example, ABC may start airing HDTV content at 8PM nightly. That may be 720p or 1080i, depending on the channel.
ClearQAM also sometimes offers more than one channel on the same frequency. In that case, EyeTV can open up all channels on the same frequency, at the same time (or any combination of channels on that frequency).
If you use digital cable, please be aware of the strengths and limitations of Clear QAM tuners before purchasing EyeTV. You may want to contact your cable company, to find out if any of their channels are in Clear QAM format. You can also search the internet for such information - it’s common to find an article or message board post from people in your same city who are already using Clear QAM content. Unfortunately, no master list of Clear QAM service providers is available to Elgato.