Friday, February 20, 2009

My Latest Wish List

It's been a while since I've posted. I've been a weird combination of too busy and too lazy to post or read posts. Maybe the following will give some folks ideas if they have the same interests as I do.

Of course world peace is at the top of my wish list, blah, blah, blah, but on to something I can buy. Usually the things that pique my interest are gadgets, especially things that allow me to watch more TV. I am totally addicted to visual entertainment. To keep my fix satisfied, I’ve been researching some options. Let’s talk about the different ways you can watch your favorite videos, when or where you want.

I currently have DirecTV and don’t see that changing any time soon, but if I did, I would switch to Dish Network so I could get their new Slingbox enabled HD DVR. I have the middle of the road internet speed and I don’t have a multimedia phone so I wouldn’t get as much benefit out of it as some other folks but I think it is an awesome combo. Here are 2 good reviews:;lst

I would get the most use out of a portable / personal media player (PMP) device. The main requirement for me is the ability to have a fairly easy way to get the video I want on to the device. I don’t know how to do bit torrents and that kind of stuff so I have to rely on hardware solutions. I have found 3 options to do this.

I could buy the iPod Touch and a cool little device called the iRecord. This versatile piece of equipment can take your DVD, VCR, or DVR output and record to an iPod or USB drive in MPEG-4 format. The biggest drawback is the cost. The iPod Touch ain’t cheap in the first place, but spending an additional $250 makes this option a little hard to swallow. I did get a free 4th generation 8GB iPod Nano from Harley Davidson for doing a test ride back in December, but to me, the screen was too small to watch videos all the time. I was able to sell it last week for $120 and deposit that money for future fun.

The Cowon A3 has direct audio / video inputs so no separate DVR dock is necessary. It gets great reviews for the sound and picture quality. It accepts tons of formats so I think downloads and podcasts should be easy. The biggest knock is the joystick interface. The unit is not a touch screen and according to reviews, navigating through the screens can be less than precise. It also doesn’t do wifi or browsing but that’s fine because I think I would mainly use it offline anyway.

On paper, the Archos 605 seems to be the best for features and price. It has a few advantages over the Cowon A3. It has a slightly larger screen that is touch controlled and includes a kickstand for tabletop viewing. It can sync up to Dish Network DVRs and is internet capable. I’ve tried the Archos before but I couldn’t get it to work with the required DVR dock to use it how I want so I had to return it. As the current reviews reflect, I wasn’t the only person having problems, so I didn’t want to go that route again.

I decided to go with the Cowon A3-60SL w/ 60GB of memory. I had enough credit card and PokerSavvy points to get it through Amazon with a case for less than 10 bucks out of my pocket. I was originally going to get the 80GB model when they were priced more similar, but with free shipping on the 60GB model, it wasn’t worth the extra dollars. I should have it next week and will begin loading it with shows off of my Tivo.

Most times you just can’t beat watching videos on the big screen. We don’t all have extra computers or an Xbox hooked up to our TV as media servers. I don’t even have a Blu-Ray player yet, but when I do, I want one that will also stream Netflix (Hulu would be nice as well). I see some Samsung and LG players do Netflix for a small premium over their regular BR players. I am not normally a fan of combo units and I know Wil wrote his take on the Roku, stand alone Netflix player, but this integration makes sense to me. It is adding simple functionality to a desired device and reduces the number of wires (Ethernet and TV / Stereo connections) for very little additional cost. It’s not excessive like putting a TV in a refrigerator door and it is probably more robust than the TV/DVD combos that were more expensive than buying the 2 components separately. Most people recommend getting the PS3 as a Blu-Ray player even though I don’t play games. It loads the fastest, easy to upgrade, and if you purchase the Playon Media Server software for your PC, you can watch Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, and YouTube. I found 2 good reviews for the setup.

I would have to think hard about making this purchase. It looks like this would total about $450 once I bought the PS3, DVD remote, and Playon software. That also opens up the need to bump up my internet speed a little and I would have to use a HDMI to DVI connector because my HDTV doesn’t have an HDMI input. Hey, maybe a new TV is in order as well. It will probably be many months to a year before I decide to go any of these routes and by that time I’m sure there will be something new out that I’ll want. Until next time, I'll keep getting distracted by the shiny.