So, if you're an a/v junkie, a gadget junkie, a general geek, you probably have heard of sonos, who make an advanced wireless music player.
However, Apple has a very nice set of products:
- On the order of $500, Mac Mini, with DVI and digital audio out, full Mac functionality; it's a full Mac but useful for all kinds of things. Small enough to fit anywhere
- On the order of $200-300, Apple TV. Wireless stream audio/video from any mac (including the mini mentioned above). Rent movies and such directly from itunes. Store locally. Outputs up to 720p (which is not as good as 1080i/p; it will output TO a 1080p screen, but the video caps at 720p).
- Airport Express/Airtunes - this is a little wireless router the size of a Macbook power supply, can be had for $80 refurb. Connect it to an outlet and plug a mini-TOSlink optical audio cable into your speakers/receiver, and it will allow any itunes library on that wireless network to output to those speakers wirelessly.
- With the App Store for iPhone out, control all this from your phone. You hated remotes anyhow
Right now, I am coding and blogging down in my theater room, outputting my itunes to an airport express connected to my theater receiver, which is then pumping the music out over my Onkyo 7.1 speakers. Sounds good. I could rock the block without getting out of the chair.
I'm thinking if I got a mac mini, I could hook up 2 TB drives, one on firewire (primary), one on USB 2.0 (backup), and rip my whole DVD collection onto it and share it so any itunes in the house could play it. I'd probably connect it to the upstairs TV near the big window that faces the valley, where I could rig up an HDTV antenna and get a usb tuner. I'm still looking into it, but it looks like there are DVR solutions that will run on a mac mini. Then I can put an apple TV in the bedroom and downstairs, and be able to stream captured video off the mini, plus my entire music/movie library.
The only downside is that I can't rip Bluray discs, but I'm mostly renting those right now anyhow. And standard-def DVDs sort of look trashy on my projector, because it is outputting 1080p to a 100" screen, and at that size, DVDs actually look fairly awful. (Which is to say, Blu-ray is a theater-like picture, or better, to my eye; but standard def DVDs are weak.) And I honestly scoffed at HD, initially convinced I couldn't see the difference. Nothing like a 100" screen to change that opinion.
Anyhow, comparing to a Sonos, a combo of AirTunes + Mac Mini + AppleTV in some appropriate setup looks, well, vastly superior to me. Apple getting 1080p output and DVR functionality into a Mini would be a big win. A *really* big win if they had some easy plugin device (or a beefy enough cpu) to handle HDTV encoding. (I figure 99% of people would be happy with encoding one stream and decoding another; many would even be fine with recording tv while watching live, or playing back old, but not both)
It's not a perfect solution, but the relatively cheap Mini/ATV/AirTunes/iPhone combo delivers a LOT of functionality for a relatively low price, it seems. Certainly, I'm quite happy with my first step. Once Kathy is done closing her warehouse down and we can reorg the house a bit, there's a good chance I'll get the other components. (I'm always filing on an extension for my taxes, so I'm stimulus-free so far, but I'll file soon. It would probably be relatively stimulating to blow it on apple, even though the mfging is done in China.)