Until today I was using a Mac Mini for my home theater needs. But yesterday, as I read the blogs, saw the unboxing galleries, watched the dissection…I sent an emergency text message to my wife: “If I sell the Mini can we get an tv?”
Of course, her first reaction was, “What the hell is a ~68;acute-box.tv?” Ah, she doesn’t have the font installed on her windows machine at work.
“Well, baby, love…It’s this thing that’s sort of like an iPod for your iTunes video content! Isn’t that great?” I eagerly replied.
“But I just started school and money’s tight…besides, I thought you already had a ‘video iPod’…” was her response.
Huh…well, yeah I do, but it’s really an “iPod with video, noob”. This has HDMI. Component video. Settings. I ostentate. I must have it.
Finding my composure, I roll out “But on craigslist.org I see Minis going for $350 to $550. We’ll be up at least $50…see?”
“Oh, ok. Whatever. As long as you sell it first,” she cunningly added.
So I put it on craigslist. With a wireless keyboard and mouse, and EyeTV 500, and an $80 DVI video cable, I pulled $500 within a day. Granted I picked up the tv from the Bellevue Apple Store about 6 hours prior to finalizing the sale, but it was a sure thing.
I arrived home and sprinted toward the entertainment center and unboxed the little sucker. Now, while I think Apple does a great job with their packaging (I saved the packaging for the mini and delivered it to the purchaser with all the original inserts, including the stickers and in the Apple Store bag my tv came in), I couldn’t bear to bore you with another set of those pictures – I was eager for only one part of the experience: Settings.
My first disappointed realization was that there was no mini jack for sound output. I would have to bring out the bug ugly speakers with the RCA inputs and put away the sleek and small computer speakers I had been using. Fine. They sound better anyway even if they do look like a Frank Ghery architectural throw-away.
My second disappointment was the discovery during the setup phase that the tv does not support my 30″ Dell LCD that I use as a living room TV. 1080i, no. 720p, no. 480p (shudder), no. The odd 576p, 50hz? Yes. Huh? Ok.
My third disappointment: nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the documentation, the settings, the packaging, casing, does it tell me what the MAC address is. I use MAC address filtering on my network to block unknown network device access. I had to disable MAC address filtering and rely solely on 128 bit WEP.
And then, the big, big disappointment: the virtual keyboard for typing in your WEP key. If you’ve ever used a Sony PSP, you’re familiar with what a hassle that sucker is to configure with its virtual keyboard. Well, this one’s worse.
Four lines, first line CAPITAL letters. Second line lower case letters. Third line numbers and symbols. Fourth: more symbols. I had to enter the name of my network (it’s also not broadcasting its SSID) every time the connection would fail. Then I had to re-type the WEP key. After 3 tries I dropped to 40 bit encryption.
Success! But I come to the sad realization (yes, allow) that this thing is geared toward people who don’t secure their wireless. It’s picking up all of my neighbors’ networks, and if mine were unsecured I’d just select it and be done! And, yes, wireless security is closely related to the Iron Maiden, but is that now just the excuse? “Hey, we can’t make you secure and simple! We’ll do either-or. How’s that? An offer you can’t refuse?”
First thing it has you do is couple the tv with an iTunes installation on your local network. “Go to the computer where iTunes is installed and click on your Apple TV. It will ask you for a key. Type this one in:” I’m paraphrasing.
Run upstairs, connect the external hard disk and change the location of my iTunes music folder to the external (which had previously been attached to the Mini). It takes a while to update the new iTunes Library.
When done, I rush back downstairs and there it is! My shared library. It took some work, but I finally figured out how to not sync anything from my G5 upstairs with a 640GB RAID array to the 32GB (available) tv. But once I’ve got it, the thing works beautifully. Far better than the Mini ever did. Video is smooth, joltless. Switching between iTunes libraries is seamless.
I run through all of the settings, sweet, sweet settings and discover that the tv has settled on a 1280 x 800 resolution for my 30″ monitor, something that wasn’t available when it was asking me to choose a resolution. The MAC address is available under the “About” menu option so I can turn on MAC address filtering again.
Finding the logic between Synching and Streaming is a bit of a challenge. You only have about 33G to work with for storage since the rest is taken up by the OS. Every iTunes installation that you’re tuning ito is caled a “Source” so you don’t have a central spot to look at everything available. You have to switch to each source and then browse its content.
Overall, I really like this thing. I’d hate to buy one for my mother and her brand new 42″ plasma tv. She’s 1000 miles away and once sent me an email: “Hi tonyboy. this is your mother see im on the computer and sending you mail. does this make you happy?” The one and only email I’ve ever received.
This thing would be a nightmare for her. The networking is still as complicated as anything else (only now you have to do it with a virtual keyboard), and the concept of conecting to media servers is only slightly obfuscated with this interface. My mother would never get it.
You can see pics over here —-> PICS
And a video here —————> YouTube