Audio Visual: Dragged into the 21st century…

Well, I think the time has finally come to replace our aging TV. I’m not entirely sure how old it is, it was my Nan’s old TV before she died, but I’m guessing it’s around 10-15 years old.

Anyway, now seems like the right time to be buying a TV: High-Definition (HD) is becoming common, the analogue signal is going to be turned off in a few years – but, more importantly, apart from that I don’t think there are going to be any massive changes over the next few years.

Couple that with the fact that me and Phil do, in fact, watch a fair few DVDs (we’re not avid film buffs but we usually have a DVD out from LoveFilm), plus the fact that most of the TV we watch is widescreen (we usually watch on Freeview. Doctor Who etc. are now widescreen), I think we have a reasonable case for a new TV.

At this point, you might be thinking “Do you really need to justify it?” Well, yes, yes I do. That is the way I am: I may want a new TV, but I won’t actually be able to buy one until I can reasonably justify it to myself. Especially when we have a working TV, albeit a rather old one.

So… this weekend, I think we might be popping up to the shops to have a look at TVs. (And maybe even come away with one!)

But this leads me onto another issue – HD: we don’t have HD freeview at the moment (and most Freeview isn’t HD anyway, to be fair). Virgin do a V+HD box, but I’m not sure about getting cable. We also don’t have a Blu-Ray player, although our DVD player does do upscaling (it’s one of the HD-DVD ones, before HD-DVD was discontinued).

So I’ve been debating what to do: to buy a new Blu-Ray player, plus maybe a cable and V+HD subscription… OR buy a media centre PC which has a Blu-Ray drive and a TV tuner.

The advantages of a media centre PC are obvious to me: you can upgrade it, the software is easily upgradable, you can stream files from anywhere on your network, etc.

But, given my legendary indecision, I’m not so sure now: given these energy-conscious days, I don’t really want to keep the PC on all the time. I’d want to be able to only turn it on when I wanted it, and have it ready in a short space of time. Also, I want something very small and quiet.

I’ve found a good candidate for that – the ASRock ION. But, you hit the slight snag that they’re not really upgradeable: that kind of takes away one advantage. As for streaming stuff over the network… I have a laptop at the moment which has HDMI output. Streaming stuff isn’t really an issue, I can just carry my laptop down to the TV and plug it in. No probs.

So, in general I’m kind of leaning towards getting a Blu-Ray player and perhaps a V+HD box at some point in the future. But hey, this is my, all opinions subject to change… probably in the next 20 minutes.

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One thought on “Audio Visual: Dragged into the 21st century…

  1. A media centre PC is an intriguing idea, and one that I played with for a while when I had a spare Mac Mini knocking around. But, as you say, you want it turned off most of the time and have it switch on almost instantly when you need it. You could put the computer to sleep perhaps, or hibernate it, and that might speed up startup times. But you’re still left with the problem of it being a computer, trying to find some way of controlling it without the keyboard and mouse it’s expecting, and having to put up with it crashing every now and then.

    I would recommend that until computer technology becomes truly instant and completely reliable, you stick to a dedicated hardware system instead. So get your HD TV and hook it up to what you’ve got, and upgrade the other hardware as and when you can afford it and when it’s actually going to be useful.

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