25 September 2006

Computer AV, HTPC

Whatever you call it....

not quite ready for prime time

OK, so seriously, I'm going to try to be a better blogger. I think that the whole buying a house, moving, travelling (blah blah blah) thing is a good excuse for the past month, but the future will be different....

I've spent far too much time over the past two weeks trying to get our new AV system up and running. As most of you know: a) we had a fantastic home theater in California, and b) every piece of it besides the TV (which is now on my dad's wall) was stolen out of our storage unit. So I was starting from scratch, and the very first task – attaching the wall mount to the brick and mortar wall – was daunting.

My grand plan was to include only the following elements:
The idea was that the Mac Mini would run the entire show. It would be the stereo, the Tivo device, the DVD player, and the 'digital hub' that Steve Jobs is always going on about. It's a great plan.

But in practice it's not quite there. The deal-breakers are as follows:
  1. EyeTV is so cool, especially its integration with the Apple Remote, and it would work great if one wanted to throw it on one's laptop and record Studio 60 once a week. But it is not yet ready to replace a Tivo for daily recording and watching. Why? A) It won't start a recording if you're watching a DVD through the Mini's Dolby Digital output. We have Veronica Mars right now people, so that's what we are doing every night. B) The firmware on the DTT Freeview tuner isn't quite right, so despite our very strong signal, some recordings were all stuttery, skipping, rubbish.
  2. The new Apple DVD drives incorporate a firmware that won't let you get around DVD region coding. Our cheap-ass Toshiba DVD player is multi-region, and this is essential for our translantic TV viewing tastes. The only workaround is to set the Macbook to region 2 and then rip the discs for viewing on the region 1 Mini. That's a pain.
So...for now...we've picked up a Freeview Box PVR and will be testing out new versions of EyeTV as they are released. Their tech support seems genuinely interested in making the product better, so that's promising.

But there is good news to report. I'll sum it up as follows:
  1. Plasma rules!!! Don't buy the LCD hype. And don't buy the HD hype either!
  2. The YSP800 is genuis, and I can't believe that it works.
  3. The Mordaunt-Short is the best bass for the money I've ever spent. Unbelievable, non-boomy lows in a quality box, all on the cheap.
OK. That's all for now, it's already too much, and I didn't even get started on connecting cables, wall mount brackets, shipping woes, HD resolutions....


Jack "the mainer" said...

So, Sam, when you say "on the cheap", what exactly does that mean?

Sam said...

The sub retails for £300, but I got it for £132 delivered. Spending less than about $150 on a sub just isn't worth one's time, so I consider this about as cheap as one can go. And the quality...wow...