hardware

Imagine you’ve somehow managed to find the latest episode of your favorite new TV show miraculously appear on your hard drive despite it not airing in New Zealand until next year. Then imagine, that with the show being so spectacularly good, you don’t just want to watch it on your computer by yourself with those crusty old speakers your parents bought you for christmas 6 years ago. No.  There’s a giant share button flashing inside your head.  You want to jump in your car and race around to your mate’s place to watch it on his 55″ LCD screen in Dolby Digital Plus.

Unfortunately, the MKV file that you have is more than a gig in size so it won’t fit on that 1GB flash drive you have.  It’s also too big to fit onto a CD, not that you have a blank one lying around anyway, and burning it onto a DVD would just seem excessive.  Do you really need to unplug your entire external hard drive to take over to plug into his laptop along with a dozen other cables to connect it all up? Not any more!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the new Nokia N8.

Yes, it’s a mobile phone and has all the cool features all good phones these days have but for me, the single selling point of this phone is the fact that it has HDMI out. Not only that, it plays a wide range of media formats, including MKV.  By simply transferring an MKV (or practically any other media format you might have) to the phone you’ll immediately be able to start playing it.  No converting required.  You can either watch the gorgeous HD on the device itself or plug it directly into the biggest LCD screen you can get your hands on for a more cinematic experience.  

And if the 16gb of storage isn’t enough, you can connect any USB storage device directly to the phone and play content straight from it. 

The process to get content to play was seamless.  Copy some content from your computer to the phone, plug it into an HDMI port on the TV and there it is.  No lag.  No skipping frames.  Just crystal clear HD goodness all being played from a mobile device.

The Sony Bravia KDL-46EX700 is an IP enabled LCD television that provides a whole lot more connectivity beyond broadcast.

Sony New Zealand loaned us this device for a couple of weeks to see what their internet ready TVs look like.

Firstly, connectivity.  You can either plug an ethernet cable into the back of the set or grab a WiFi stick to plug into the USB port.  There are four HDMI inputs for all your DVR/Gaming consoles as well as a VGA port for your laptop.  This television has a Freeview tuner built in and it has to be said: the comparison in quality between TV One, TV2 and TV3’s HD content via Freeview vs Sky is significantly better.

It’s fairly simple to get set up and comes with a swivel stand if you’re not going to mount it on the wall.

The only problem I had with getting the digital tuner to work was with the wiring that the Sky installer had done in the roof.  It was a simple case of making sure all the multiple ins and outs up in the roof were all plugged in in the right order.  A few cables re-ordered along with a thousand cobwebs and we were ready to go.

One of the coolest features this TV has is the motion sensor on the front panel. Leave the room and after a set period of time, if no movement is detected then the display switches off.  The audio remains on but it means that while you’re not in the room the device will try and reduce your power consumption.  A pretty cool feature for anyone who is notorious for leaving the room for a minute to do something, leaving the TV on but not coming back for quarter of an hour.

When it came to the internet content on this television I was pretty excited.  However, perhaps I may have gone in thinking more along the lines of it being like a giant computer.  It isn’t.

There is no web browser so don’t assume you’ll be able to visit your favourite website on a giant screen.  If you want that, plug in your laptop.  Instead, this device comes with a bunch of pre-connected services.  Unfortunately, being in New Zealand we get to miss out on all the cool ones.  If we were in America, we could connect to NetFlix and stream movies directly to the television.  No such luck here I’m afraid.  There are plenty of other video content providers that have partnered with Sony whose content you can view.

Of course, there is YouTube.  When loading the YouTube content you’re given a list of most popular videos.  You can search but since you can’t connect a keyboard to it, you’re confined to using the remote which, unless you’re an SMS whizz, takes a bit of time to learn to use.  I was sceptical as to how the video content would upscale but was pleasantly surprised.  The HD content was awesome and streamed well.  However, it all depends on the quality of the video.  If it looks like crap on your computer, don’t expect to upscale it onto a 46″ LCD television and expect it to look any better.

Along with the various content partnerships you can also connect the television to DLNA enabled devices.  Unfortunately I didn’t have one handy to test this on.

Something else that wasn’t quite ready to test was the interaction between the television and Vuze.  With the networking capabilities of the KDL-46EX700, both Vuze and the television could recognise each other but unfortunately we weren’t able to stream content to it.  Vuze have been able to stream content via the DLNA protocol to other IP enabled televisions so it will be a matter of time before it’s possible here.

Sony also have a partnership with DivX which enables the viewing of DivX content on the television.

Overall, it’s a pretty good television with loads of potential.

The kind folk at Digital Pride sent us over one of their HD Homerun devices to try out.  I must say, I was a little excited at the thought of having a device you could connect to your router and basically stream HD television to any computer screen in the house.

Opening the box and pulling everything out the first surprise was just how small it was.

HD Homerun

HD Homerun

Normally these things are massive so it was nice to see it so small. There were two RG-6 coax cables to connect each of the tuners (yes, it has two tuners) and an ethernet cable to plug in to the router.

The CD in the box only had a PC version of the software which meant I had to download the Mac version from the Silicon Dust website.

During the install, the software discovered the device and all was honky dory.  A quick scan of the frequencies and making sure I had VLC installed and I was able to stream HD versions of TV One and TV 2 right on my desktop.

TV3 however was another story.  As the quality of TV3’s broadcast is higher than everyone elses, this cause some trouble with the default settings on VLC.  This post helped me sort that right out though.

The next step for me was to install the HD Homerun config on a laptop and see how it went over wi-fi.  Wandering around with the laptop streaming an HD version of the news is fantastic. Now my laptop has become a portable television!

The HD Homerun is a very cool little device.  I didn’t test it out with any recording software but effectively you could turn your computer into a PVR and record two channels at the same time.  It’s compatible with Windows Media Centre, MythTV and a host of others.

One great thing about it is that you don’t have to open your computer up to install it.  Being an external device means very few hassles.

So there you have it.  Freeview, in HD, being streamed across a computer network.  Fantastic!

For more info: http://www.hdhomerun.co.nz