Fred Wilson is out with a post describing the evolution of his home entertainment set up. After putting together what sounds like an expensive “over the top” Creston System, he now has a set up with three separate entertainment systems with lots of goodies with Mac Minis as the centerpiece to the strategy.
From Fred: “The thing I didn’t realize when I set up this system is how much a difference the mac minis would make. We use them to play DVDs, we use them to play video we buy or download from the web, we use them to power screen savers on the displays when we are listening to music, and we use them increasingly to listen to music from the web.”
Scoble also says that he just bought a Mac Mini for his living room as well.
At present I’m sort of at a crossroad with my own home entertainment system and will be significantly revamping it in the weeks ahead.
What my set up looks like today is this. In my attic I have a PC which is connected to 3 drobos and a few more external USB hard drives (the drobos and external hard drives basically hold my very extensive media library). This attic PC is connected to a gigabit ethernet network that is deployed through the house.
In the living room I have a Media Center PC, an XBox 360 and a HDTV DirecTV 4 tuner TiVo.
In the kitchen I have a small LCD HDTV connected to a second DirecTV non HD box and then my MacBook Pro floats around with me in other rooms where I’m constantly connected both with a wi-fi network in the house as well as ethernet connections in every room.
So today I use the Media Center PC to grab my music and photos from the attic drobos over the network. I use the XBox 360 to play games (and also to watch DVDs since the DVD player on my HP Media Center PC is simply horrible and only works about 5% of the time). And I use the DirecTV TiVo to record television and watch things when I want.
I also recently signed up for Netflix (which I love) and use this to get new DVDs for viewing and for the “watch now” feature on the Media Center PC.
One of my biggest problems today is in the living room. I’m using a two year old 43″ Pioneer plasma HDTV. The two biggest problems with the Pioneer plasma are that it is horrible with the inputs (no HDMI and only one component HDTV — a big hassle to have to physically switch cables when going from the TiVo to the XBox 360) and that it is only 720p HDTV.
So step one in upgrading my entertainment system was to replace this plasma. So last week I ordered a new Panasonic TH-58PZ700U 58 inch 1080p Plasma HDTV The set has had really good reviews, is 1080p, and has hdmi inputs as well as multiple other inputs. This new HDTV will sit in my living room and I’ll be moving the old 43″ Pioneer to the bedroom.
I also over the weekend bought an XBox 360 Elite. This will be connected to the new plasma and I’ll move my old first generation XBox 360 up into the bedroom with the Pioneer where I can use it to watch Netflix DVDs and get MCE content from my MCE machine in the living room using the XBox 360 as an extender.
So this is where I am at today.
And this is my dilema. With this new system do I push forward with a 100% Media Center strategy including a new CableCARD Media Center PC as the hub of the system and XBox 360s as extenders? Or do I move forward with a dual Apple/MCE strategy and follow Fred and Robert’s lead and buy Mac Mini’s or Apple TV for the various plasmas in the house and use these?
On the one hand the MCE strategy really appeals to me. Primarily because having everything enclosed in one system would seem at first blush to be simplier. Simply buy a CableCARD PC to replace my attic PC. Dump DirecTV and TiVo. Use this machine to stream all of my photos, music and HDTV to the various XBox 360s in the home. Each HDTV would have a built in DVD player on the XBox 360, could play games, and could get all my media. I also wouldn’t have to pay for extra cable or satellite boxes to connect up to the various displays in the house.
My hesitancy in pursuing this strategy though is two fold. One, CableCARD PCs are still in their infancy and I’m not sure that set up will be as rock solid as my current HDTV TiVo set up. Two, my current Media Center PC cannot handle my large digital library (about 100,000 high bit rate mp3s and 60,000 or so high res JPG image files). iTunes (by the way) handles my large media library brilliantly. Unlike MCE (powered by Windows Media Player) my music experience with iTunes on my MCE machine is flawless. Never a delay when I want to hear music vs. up to 5 minute delays to load music on my Media Center software.
So the negative to going with an Apple based system is that Apple doesn’t incorporate premium HDTV DVR functionality into their system. So I’d have to stick with my HDTV TiVo having a three prong system (Apple Mac Mini or Apple TV, HDTV TiVo, XBox 360 MCE setup).
Anyone have any suggestions or advice?