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November 4, 2009 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it crazy and/or overkill to consider getting a 27 inch imac to replace my tv?

I have a 10 year old 27 inch Sony CRT that still works well, but I'm running into its limits for adding peripherals (DVD player, xbox, etc.). I know I can probably get a mac mini or other small form factor pc plus an HDTV for less, but I'm really intrigued by the imac's possibilities. What little tv watching I do is usually Hulu, streaming Netflix, and dvds. I am not interested in Blu-Ray capabilities, as I see the format becoming obsolete sooner rather than later.

--2560 x 1440 resolution led lcd.
--can add a tv tuner via usb if I really wanted to.
--a built-in computer and dvd player (convergence!)

--may not be able to connect the xbox without some kind of adapter voodoo (although Crossover+Steam is possible).
--there are some issues reported regarding flash playback( = Hulu problems), which may be indicative of other system issues.
--diy repairs and upgrades may be difficult.

I don't really need a bigger display. My wife and I will be sitting > 8ft away, but not by much, and any HD resolution will be better than what I have now.

I'm looking forward to your pros, cons, and even any alternatives you might have.
posted by malaprohibita to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The high resolution (1440p) isn't necessarily a good thing. Content maxes out at 1080p for even Blu-Ray, and I doubt you'll find anything streaming that's better than 720p and most is 480p widescreen. Scaling the picture up is what tends to cause stuttering problems and such with things like Hulu. I have issues just doing 1080p on a fast HTPC, and Flash is better on PCs.

Plus it will be pretty much unreadable from the couch in computer mode.
posted by smackfu at 2:30 PM on November 4, 2009

I don't watch much TV so can't advise you about TV on an iMac, but if you're considering an iMac 27", read Reports of Flash playback issues in new 27-inch iMacs surface first. You may want to postpone a purchase until more is known.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 2:32 PM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, Truncated. The Flash issue is definitely on my list of caveats.
posted by malaprohibita at 2:34 PM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: The World Famous: that's part of what I'm trying to work out. If it's just gadget lust, I certainly don't want to rationalize the purchase, but the (admittedly limited) research I've done leads me to think that a monitor makes for better viewing. Plus, I'd like to stay away from CCFL backlighting, if that makes any difference.
posted by malaprohibita at 2:43 PM on November 4, 2009

You're going to be much, much happier with a sub-$1K HDTV. Spend the extra coin on a companion Mac Mini.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:50 PM on November 4, 2009

I would be concerned that the glass on the iMac's screen will have lots of glare from that distance.

How about a 27 inch LCD ($430) and a Mac mini ($600)? Should be a good deal less expensive than an 27 inch iMac.
posted by gregr at 2:56 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hmmm, now we're talkin'.
posted by malaprohibita at 2:59 PM on November 4, 2009

Nthing a mac mini setup. A mac mini with maxed out ram will end up being around what, 700 dollars? That gives you about a thousand dollars to flux out a TV, at which you can get a decent 40" for roughly that. Or get a 27" and throw in a blu ray player / ps3 / new stereo components / whatever with the savings. I have a mini set up with ~4tb of drives pumping into it through plex and am loving every minute of it.

While the 27" you do have the advantage of plugging in an external display via displayport, but a TV has the advantage of... being a TV.
posted by CharlesV42 at 3:14 PM on November 4, 2009

Uh, if you get an iMac, how are you going to upgrade it? If you get an ordinary display you can replace the computer every few years. You used the same CRT for 10 years. How useful is an iMac going to be in 10 years?
posted by delmoi at 4:48 PM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: A good point that's been on my mind, too. Thanks delmoi.
posted by malaprohibita at 4:50 PM on November 4, 2009

Also, (depending where you live) if you get a TV with NTSC/ATSC tuners, you'll be able to pick up over-the-air signals and even HD.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:15 PM on November 4, 2009

To add to the chorus of "HDTV + Mini": the TV will have many, many more inputs than the iMac would have. So you could plug in a Wii, a Blu-Ray player, the old VCR, a friend's cool Japanese console thingy he got at the trade show, and so on.
posted by ewagoner at 5:53 PM on November 4, 2009

I actually agree that the TV/mini combination will serve your needs better, but something no-one here mentions is that the mini is a far slower and less capable machine than the imac. So in terms of using it as a computer, the imac has it all over the mini.
posted by carterk at 8:42 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Will you be sitting in front of the imac using it as a computer? Because then the 1440 display will be nice, and you may or may not like the big pixel effect of computing on a TV. As a pure TV play? I doubt it. I think even at 8 feet you might enjoy going bigger than 27, you can get a 32" 1080p LCDs for < 500 USD.
posted by Wood at 8:47 PM on November 4, 2009

Would noise be an issue? My older MacBook Pro eventually has to ramp up its fan speed when playing full-screen video. I don't know if a new iMac will stress out so much, or if it'd be even audible at TV-viewing distance, but something to consider.
posted by serathen at 3:36 AM on November 5, 2009

Best answer: We use a smaller iMac as a television, but it's primarily because we didn't feel like moving a dedicated TV across 5 states and making space for something that only gets watched for 4-6 hours a week. So the iMac is a gaming and writing platform first and a video platform as a distant second.

1: If you want to play games written for MSWin, dual-boot is really your best option. Crossover has very limited support and I've never been satisfied with performance of what they do support. VMWare, Parallels, and VirtualBox are great for anything that doesn't require 3D support, but I've also not been able to get any of the games I'm interested in playing working.

2: The iMac actually is quieter than the mini it replaced. I get more optical drive chatter than fan noise.

3: Some iMac upgrades are easy, some are annoying, and some are impossible. Easy: RAM. Annoying: Hard drive and possibly CPU. Impossible: Video, possibly CPU. If you really want a DIY-friendly SFF system, I can endorse Shuttle's product line. The mini though was much harder to upgrade.

4: Connecting a console gaming platform will require a TV tuner/converter like the EyeTV. I've not tested it.

I think though that I agree with the general consensus that if you just want something as a media player/recorder, that you can get more bang for your buck with a good TV and a mini, console, or a SFF system running MSWin or Linux.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:24 AM on November 5, 2009

Unless you're married to OSX or really hurting for space (and don't want to build your own machine), don't bother with a Mac Mini. Instead, you could either get something much cheaper that will do the job (here's an example), or you could spend the same amount on something much beefier (particularly if you're interested in building the machine yourself).
posted by sinfony at 8:26 AM on November 5, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I think I know which direction I'm going now (sans imac). If I take the plunge into something soon, I'll update.
posted by malaprohibita at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2009

Just adding another vote for going with a Mac mini. I love being able to take my tiny mini into the Apple store's genius bar if there's ever a problem. Granted, I've only done that once, and even then, I didn't really have to... but that's some pretty damn good tech support considering that it's free.

Also, I couldn't imagine preferring a glass screen. Reflections suck.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:34 PM on November 5, 2009

Response by poster: Update: I picked up a 32 inch Sharp 700un led tv. It will probably take me six weeks to tweak the damn thing, but overall I'm really impressed with the quality. The pc component is going to take some more research. I like the idea of the nettop/xbmc combination referenced by sinfony, I just wish it had a dvd player built in. I do have a few spare computer parts lying around, so I might attempt the diy route. Or not. We'll see.
posted by malaprohibita at 6:50 AM on November 8, 2009

You could always pick up a USB DVD drive. It'd look a little funny, since it's probably the size of the computer, but cheap and easy.
posted by sinfony at 11:45 AM on November 8, 2009

Response by poster: Update 2: I bought a mac mini a little over a month ago, and I'm not sure even that was the right choice for me. I never use the dvd drive, hulu and netflix don't look that great (though they look awesome on the xbox 360 with PlayOn and Netflix live), and I just don't know if I'm taking advantage of its potential. All in all, I think it might have been overkill. Certainly a cheaper form of overkill than purchasing a 27 inch imac, but perhaps the Acer Aspire Revo would have been the more practical solution. I may sell the mini and get one of the new Revos (or similar) when they come out.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2009

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