Thursday, 22 March 2007

The future of television? Part 2

Apple TV has started shipping and, as you'd expect, it's been followed by a glut of reviews (and "unboxing" photo galleries). The influential Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal has cast his vote, and he is very much in favour. But the kids on Slashdot aren't so sure. Many of them claim it doesn't do what they want, and they already have a modded XBOX or an XBOX 360 doing that for them.

But while there are plenty of products out there that stream windows content to a TV (such as the much-vaunted Media MVP), nothing out there quite does it for me as a Mac User. I download lots of DivX content from the web, and want to play it on the new HDTV I intend to buy this summer. I've talked about the pros and cons before. Does it meet my needs?

Theoretically, Apple TV will fit right into my new setup. My hope was that it could somehow be hacked to play DivX content, but this seems increasingly unlikely. I was under the mistaken impression that the product had Quicktime running under the hood, and if you can install a universal plugin (such as Perian) on Quicktime to run DivX files on a Mac, perhaps the same would be true of Apple TV. But alas this isn't the case.

Apple TV only supports a few codecs - H.264, MPEG-4 or Apple Store content. So, if I want to watch my DivX content on Apple TV, either I have to convert it, or download it in one of these formats in the first place. Converting formats takes time and usually results in a drop in quality. What will my compressed DivX files look like when converted and then spread across a big screen? I'm sure there'll be artifacts a go-go. And as for downloading content in these formats, there isn't much of it out there - yet. This could of course change if Apple TV is successful.

I imagine by controlling the codecs so steadily, Apple can also control the quality that the Apple TV spits out, as well as tempting people into content bought from the Apple store (obviously). But it really is a drag that the product seems to offer everything I'm looking for, except for one crucial component.

Fortunately the main benefit of being completely skint is that I can spend loads of time researching my options. Also this gives the hackers time to try and find an Apple TV solution (get to it, boys!). Incidentally, DivX themselves are working on a hardware solution. But in the meantime, if anyone is aware of a great option that meets my needs, please do let me know.

By the way, I can share the results of my home theatre research here. Some great sources for information include hometheater.about.com, as well as avforums. And this guy knows his stuff, he gives some very clear advice and guidance. After reading loads of reviews and doing heaps of research, I've decided to go with the Sony Bravia KDL-32S3000U, which hasn't come out in the UK yet but which was announced in Las Vegas in February. A set of receivers announced at the same time also look pretty tasty. I'm generally not a fan of Sony, but in this case they seem to have the best product.

Check back for my reviews when I eventually have cash to spend...

No comments: