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the case against the tv

by Rob Friesel

tvSince moving into our new home, we’ve been trying to sort out our home audio situation.  We listen to a lot of music1 around here.  Though we were feeling cramped, one of the nice things about our condo’s small footprint was the fact that that the music could be heard throughout the house without having to “go to 11”.  The iMac was hooked up directly to the stereo and one click in iTunes and we had music.

Though we love our new place, things are significantly more disconnected:  the iMac is in the office, the stereo is in the family room, and we spend most of our time upstairs (where there is but an old shelf system with a broken CD player but a working tape deck).  We’ve made due with the aux inputs and old iPod minis.  But it’s not quite the same.

Our preference would be to ape our previous situation as much as possible2 and some kind of wireless situation seems to be the way to go.  But wireless systems out there all seem either woefully inadequate or else require a svelte new lifestyle and lots of extra cash.

In that way, “oddly enough” an Apple hardware-based solution has seemed thus far to be the way to go.  Airport Express appears to be pretty close to ideal in many ways, at least for resolving the situation upstairs.  And while we’re looking into it, there is a certain appeal to the tv; that is to say it looks like it might be what we need for pushing music from the iMac, over the air, to the stereo in the family room.  And while we’re at it, it can tap into some movies3, and access to Flickr and our photos.  Sounds great.

There’s just one important (to us) question:

When I play a song via tv is it going to increment that song’s play count in iTunes (like an iPod syncing back to the mothership)? or is it going to give me the audio but that’s all (like iTunes sharing over WiFi)?

Thus far I haven’t found a straight answer to this4.  And as I look further into this, and as the answer to my question starts to look more and more like a “no” then the chief advantage of the tv seems to have gone out the window.

Without that synchronization of the play counts, ratings, etc., then there is effectively nothing that the tv can give me (at “just $229” USD, MSRP) that I cannot get from a shared-over-WiFi iTunes library and the MacBook (and/or Pro) we already have in the house.  And if we want to add video, a mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter is just $6.405.  And on further consideration, this may actually be a superior option:  the tv offers no integration with Netflix (for example) which otherwise streams just fine via WiFi to the laptop.  So in that case, it sounds like there are really no advantages6

  1. I dare say we constantly have tunes going. []
  2. I.e., and push all the music from iTunes, incrementing the play counts for each song, etc. []
  3. Alas, for an extra charge that I’d rather not get into. []
  4. Which I find super-hard to believe.  But maybe that ought to tell me something.  If it isn’t hyped in the marketing literature then it must not do it. []
  5. Though I could go to $70 if I wanted to get fancy and push the audio over HDMI as well. []
  6. Except maybe (just maybe) the small sleek footprint? []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

3 Responses to the case against the tv

Social Media Commando says:

Glad I read this!

I was checking out the apple tv at Small Dog Electronics in South Burlington this afternoon.

While the pretty packaging/idea was appealing, the price seemed a bit much unless I want to cancel my Comcast cable.

found_drama says:

Glad it came in handy! It is a lovely looking device and it has so much unrealized potential. That on top of some reports from a friend that the tv is pretty crashy… Well, sounds like it isn’t QUITE ready for prime time.

ALSO: The timing of your comment is funny too because I *just* ordered that HDMI adapter yesterday!

Andrew says:

My AppleTV never crashes. I use it to listen to music on the other side of the house. It increments the play count. Sometimes I watch videos.

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