Really Simple Mac Home Theater?

June 11, 2006 § Leave a comment

So, we’re finally moving back to San Jose
(actually, Santa Clara) after three years in Sacramento. One fun aspect of
buying a new house is the chance to create a home theater solution from scratch.
Of course, the goal is to build it around a Mac! While there’s lots of
resources, most of them seem to be fairly complex, often because they’re dealing
with legacy devices already in place.

The question I’m asking is — if
you’re buying everything from scratch already — what is the simplest possible
solution? [Read more] for my current working hypothesis, and please give me
[Feedback] if you have a better idea.

I’m starting with a few assumptions, which
simplify my problem but may make it non-reusable for others.
a. I want HDTV
(ideally 1080i)
b. I have several non-HDTV sets in the
house
c. I only want/need “Standard” cable
d. I want the smallest possible monthly payment,
even if it means more up-front
e. I want my Mac to be the gateway for all
content

This last is perhaps slightly
foolish, since low-end Macs presumably don’t have the horsepower to drive 1080i.
However, I have an Intel iMac that is a pretty good start, and I suspect at some
point Apple will sell something that does a better job at this. Of course, that
also means they’ll probably make a bunch of the stuff I buy today redundant, but
that’s life in the Mac world; there’s always a simpler, cheaper way
tomorrow!

Given all that, here’s what
appears to be the optimal buy for the video portion:

i. Comcast Standard Cable ($50/month, less during
promotion)
ii. Elgato EyeTV 500 digital tuner ($350)
iii. Bluetooth keyboard/mouse for my iMac ($120)
vi. [or just use Salling Clicker?]
vii. 300 GB External Firewire Drive (~$250)
viii. DVI to HDMI cable (~$100)
ix. 50″ HDMI Plasma monitor; i.e., HDTV “capable”, not “ready”
(~$3000) (or $8000 for
1080p)

The last would be a bit risky,
as that means I’d be reliant on the EyeTV (and iMac) as my sole tuner. Of
course, I might end up getting one built-in anyway (if the price is right).
Alternatively, I could be wrong about Standard Cable being sufficient if I have
my own ATSC tuner, and thus need to pay the $5/month for a Comcast HDTV
decoder anyway, and use Vidcan
Software?s $30 iEye Captain
with IRTrans? iRTrans USB
Module
(~$100) to change the channels on
schedule.

The key point, though, is
that I’d use the iMac as the primary channel switcher and sole video input, and
basically treat the TV screen as a giant secondary monitor. This probably means
I’m stuck at 720p for now, but if I understand correctly that
actually gives me better vertical resolution (if worse horizontal) than 1080i.
I also need to make sure it handles overscan properly, so I can use it as an
“actual” computer monitor.

I’m assuming
that audio is expensive, but straightforward — plug the Toslink Optical Digital Audio out into the
(pre-)amp, and thence into speakers, and away it goes. I’ll probably spring
for a Bluetooth headset sand as well, which could make
for fun conference calls and/or a Public Address system.
🙂

Key unanswered
questions:

? Do I need to pay for the $5/month box, or
digital cable, to get _any_ HD?
? Will that give me
all the
Standard channels in digital, so I can use
just
the digital-only EyeTV 500?
? How well will the iMac Core Duo drive the
TV I buy?
? Am I confident enough to route
*everything* through the iMac, so I don’t need a multi-channel amp or video
splitter?
? Can I control the TV, amp, and iMac with
a single device? Should I program a Universal Remote to take to Front Row +
eyeTV, or teach the iMac how to power up the other devices?
? Is Apple going to announce something the
week after I buy this? Should I wait until August (post-WWDC), since I’ll be
traveling most of July anyway?
?
? I’ll try to post back here once I
actually take the plunge. Meanwhile, [Feedback] welcome!
?
? References
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Really Simple Mac Home Theater? at iHack, therefore iBlog.

meta

%d bloggers like this: