I was looking at the new Logitech Revue and Sony Internet TV and I was stunned…
According to Sony – they are the pioneers in “Internet TV” and the first ones to come up with Google TV. That was blast in the face of Logitech who announced and introduced Revue long before Sony. Also Sony is offering TV’s with internet connectivity for years now (quick reference) and I am using Yahoo widgets on my LG television for an year now.
These groundless claims, and the fact that nobody actually gets the purpose of use and of Google TV yet, were the push that I needed to write an article about my current setup, and how we don’t need to re-invent the wheel to ride a bicycle again.
I have a media center which can do almost anything that Google TV, XBox, TiVO and Blu-Ray Player are doing (and even more), takes less space, consumes less electricity, and the bottom price is a lot less than the combined price of all of the above.
I will start with the hardware that I have currently:
Disclaimer: I couldn’t find most of my hardware (it is been discontinued), so I’ve put up similar or better hardware here, just to prove a point. The price for my system was ~ $450 after stalking deal sites for my parts. I have a refurbished Logitech Harmony 750 which allows me to combine all of the remotes (TV, TV tuner and Computer remote into one) which I found on Ebay for $30
Ok, so now, let’s see what we can get for $640:
Boxee (Instead of $300 Google TV device):
It allows me to play my music, movies and shows. It support social interactions (when I like something I can share it with my friends), it has Pandora, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, VuDu HS and tons more. Oh yes, and Boxee has a build in browser too. Google TV has around 20 applications. Almost all of them can be found in Boxee. The only difference is that the 20 apps in Google TV look and perform 100 times worse. I use it to watch newest Digg, Wired and Engadget Podcasts. I also listen to Pandora and I watch “The Big Picture” there. It is a lot cooler than Google TV since I can see what my friends and other people like, and what are the trends. It is finding the new episodes for my shows too, so if I have let’s say only 2nd season of Scrubs on my HDD, it will add automatically the links to all of the new episodes on Hulu under the show folder.
XBMC (Alternative for Boxee):
The ultimate Media Center for PC (and Xbox). It has unmatched info on all the movies for my Blu-Ray discs, DVD’s and movies on my HDD. I use it mostly for watching DVD or Blu-Ray movies. I can browse by Actor, Director, Studio, Genre, etc. in my saved movies. The Music section is also great. They have really great visualizations, and you can have a sideshow of your pictures while listening to music. I haven’t seen better interface on any other media center.
Windows Media Center (Instead of $300 Tivo + mountly service fees):
I can say only this: “It’s nice! I like!”. This along with MCE Buddy is a perfect combination for anyone following a show on TV. With Windows Media Center Guide you can find exactly what is currently running (or is going to run in the next two weeks), you can sort by Genre, Actors, Type, etc. and you can schedule it so WMC (Windows Media Center) will automatically record every episode of it. It will even turn on the computer for you when there is a episode running. And here comes the beauty: after WMC records the show, MCE Buddy will get the episode, it will convert it into a smaller H.264/MPEG-4 AVC file now loosing the quality, and then… (here comes the big one, guys) it will remove the commercials for you. Yep, that’s right, in the next morning you will watch your commercial-free episode. MCE Buddy will move all the converted files into a specified folder for you too, so you will know which episodes are already converted. The quality of the converted file will be different, but a really good quality HD file, will be around 2Gb, so you’ll have plenty of space in your 1TB HDD.
Games (Instead of $270 Xbox S device):
Yes, you’ve guessed that right – contrary to what Sony is saying, PC can be used to play games! What a surprise! They were used to play games probably even before you were born too… I still remember playing “Karateka” (1984) and “Invaders” (1978). The first version of Doom was played on PC too. Nothing changed so far though – PC is still the perfect rig to play games on.
Let’s have a quick look on the myths about PC vs Consoles:
Claim: Games for consoles are better optimized and better looking.
Not so true: They HAVE to be optimized, since their processors are not fast enough. There are currently only 6 games on Xbox that support 1080p and around 30 on PS3. Guess how many of my games that I run on my PC are 1080p? Yes, you’ve guessed that right – ALL. Also, the quality of the graphics is a lot better too (that really depends only on your machine).
Claim: I cannot use controller on my PC and I cannot play from my couch just like I do on Xbox
False: Microsoft is selling the very same Xbox Controller for PC’s too. All you need is a receiver. The package retails for $50, but you can get it for around $25 to $30 from Ebay.
Claim: There are not a lot of PC games that support Xbox controllers
False: There are 213 PC games with confirmed native support of Xbox controller here
Also there are programs which allow the user to add Xbox controller to any game (Xpadder, SwitchBlade, etc.)
Claim: There are more games for Xbox and PS3 than PC’s.
True: Yes. The combined new games selection of all consoles is bigger than the one on PC. But the oder side of the medal is that the TOTAL number of game ever produced for PC is times and times more and I can still play every one of them on my box.We cannot say the same for playing a PS2 game on PS3, huh? A lot of game development companies are receiving incentives not to make games for other platform but Xbox, or PS3 or Wii. But a lot of the good games are on PC – Mafia2, GTA4, Dead Space, etc. The sad part is that I have friends who have all of the consoles (Xbox, PS2, PS3 and Wii), just so they can play all the games the want. Well, if you are into that, then maybe PC’s are not your scene.
I personally try to have less junk and cables in my living room, so having only one box instead of 10 is a big deal for me.
Conclusion – I really cannot see any reason to buy the devices mentioned above (combined price of $900 not counting the monthly fees), because I have one small enough box that delivers everything that those devices are delivering, and it is not restricting me how and that to do with it. Unlike those devices that box also gives me the ultimate freedom to change my OS, to install new applications (if I need video conference, I spend $20 for webcam and I install Skype, if I need karaoke, I just install karaoke software and if I need to develop on the same box, I can do that too.)
I do realize that we live in a crazy world where marketing is king, and the media can make you believe that every new gadget will change your world in 360 degrees, but I still think that the rationality in people is not dead, and they still can think on their own.