Dude, I’m Getting a Dell!
I ordered a new Dell PC online today over at Dell. I’m still using my MacBook Pro as my primary every day computer, but I needed to upgrade my Media Center PC in my home which handles all of my digital photos and mp3 files.
I considered using this upgrade as an excuse to go 100% Apple, but there are several reasons that I didn’t do this.
First and foremost I think that Microsoft has a better strategy for home media than Apple both now and going forward. By using XBox 360s as extender units (I’ve got two installed now — one in the bedroom and one in the living room and a third for the kitchen on the way) I can effectively leverage my digital media collection throughout my entire home.
My mom actually gave me an AppleTV for Christmas, which I returned to Apple, as I’ve been more impressed by what I’ve seen from Microsoft in home media than Apple.
Why do I like the Vista Media Center / XBox 360 strategy better than AppleTV?
Well first off every XBox 360 has a DVD player in it. I know that may sound lame, but Netflix has become a fixture in my home media strategy going forward and I just didn’t want to buy an AppleTV for every room AND a separate ugly DVD player for every room. It’s totally lame to me that Apple does not include a DVD player with AppleTV. Personally I think they do this because they don’t want outside providers like Netflix to compete with stuff they want you to buy from iTunes. A DVD player takes almost no space (I have one on my MacBook Pro) and they are super cheap.
I’m especially surprised that Apple, who ought to understand design aesthetics, would not realize that for a home media strategy people would not want 2 boxes in every room, with one of the boxes being a big ugly black DVD player. Simplifying my home media strategy to one plasma and one box in every room makes better aesthetic design sense.
Another reason why I opted to go with Microsoft for the home has to do with my large media library. At present I have over 100,000 mp3s and close to that many digital photos. I’ve been testing out a loaner Dell PC over the past few weeks and found that Windows Media Player 11 combined with Vista Media Center on the Dell performed very well with my large digital media library. I was even able to seamlessly stream all of my media from my Drobos to my XBox 360 extender units with little trouble at all. iTunes on the other hand has been very difficult for me to use with my library.
I blogged about my problems with iTunes recently. My two big problems with iTunes are the incessant need to continuously analyze “gapless playback” and “album art.” These two “features” (sic) made iTunes pretty much unusable for me when accessing my media over my home network. Since I have over a TB of digital media, actually storing the digital media on my MacBook wasn’t really an option. Since AppleTV runs off iTunes, I had no confidence in AppleTV’s ability to effectively stream my digital media to AppleTV devices in my home. iTunes also does a crappy job at handling duplicate files in a large library.
The third reason why I went with Microsoft is that every XBox 360 extender unit is also a kick ass gaming machine. This is more for the kids than for me (although I do enjoy playing Lego Star Warswith the kids every now and again), but this is a nice added bonus that AppleTV does not offer.
As AppleTVs and a new Mac Mini go for about the same price as XBox 360s and a new Dell, I felt that the Microsoft strategy represented both better value as well as better performance for my home media goals.
The new Dell that I bought was the XPS 420 with the Intel Core2 Q6600 Quad-Core processor. This unit represented good value with a base price of $999. With the added memory and other enhancements, (with tax, shipping was free) my bottom line price was $1,358.31.
Special thanks go to bloggers Charlie Owen at Microsoft as well as Ed Bott for offering me guidance, advice and recommendations as I worked through my home media strategy. Both these guys are two of the top Windows Pros out there today and if you are using a Microsoft Media Center PC I’d recommend following their blogs. The Dell XPS 420 recommendation came from Ed who has been using this PC as his primary one and represents especially good value right now.
I’m going to write up a more substantive review (and maybe do a video tour) on Vista Media Center and my XBox 360 Extenders in the next few weeks once I get all the pieces set up and in place.
Also as part of my strategy going forward I will probably be abandoning TiVo and DirecTV. DirecTV has pretty much abandoned high def TiVo and Microsoft’s Media Center DVR (something else missing with AppleTV) can zap commercials as good as TiVo. Between Netflix, media that I can buy from Microsoft on Media Center, and free OTA network HDTV (I’ve also got a dual tuner Silicon Dust HDHomeRun Networked Digital HDTV Tunerfrom Amazon on its way to me in the mail as we speak) I think going forward I will be cutting the cable/satellite cartel out of my life (along with their $85 a month charge) for good.