Help me bring my living room into the future!
November 9, 2009 8:14 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are finally getting around to getting an HDTV soon. When we do that, we want to adjust the setup in our living room to reflect the way we consume entertainment these days.

Part of this means the VCR gets chucked, of course. But more
importantly, we're trying to figure out the most cost-effective way to
get content from our 2 main online sources, iTunes and NetFlix, onto
the screen. And be able to run DVDs, and have a
basic-cable-for-the-broadcast-channels hookup.

The options, as I see them (and part of the reason I'm asking this
question is that I assume I'm missing something):

- Roku + basic cable. Great, except we can't buy shows from iTunes.

- AppleTV + basic cable. Opposite problem. Can't stream from Netflix.

- Cheap, web-connected computer + basic cable. Seems like a winner,
but involves more of an outlay (this is more or less what we do now,
except that it's my wife's laptop that gets laboriously hooked up
every time we want to watch something). Plus then there's a desktop
box sitting in our living room. And, assuming the setup wound up like
our current laptop hookup, we don't have remote control of the sound.

Is there an angle I'm missing? A way to optimize one of these options? Help!
posted by COBRA! to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A Mac Mini is really cheap, especially since you don't need the latest model for such low-muscle use. Plays NetFlix, iTunes, DVDs. Wireless bluetooth, Wifi-G or N, looks good in the living room, is very quiet and low-power.

The weakest link is the remote control, but if you don't mind experimenting with a bunch of shareware/freeware you can get good control with the Apple Remote (and occasional wireless keyboard/mouse) and some pretty slick control via iPod/iPhone Touch.
posted by rokusan at 8:21 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Many of the newer HDTV's are coming with netflix built in. I have this one connected to an ethernet cable and it streams netflix in hd great over a cable modem. It also will do "on-demand" movies via vudu (though at about the same price as your cable provider).

The new vizios are supposed to be great as well and may even connect via wireless.

It also will stream content from a networked fileshare. This may not work with DRM'd content though via iTunes. But one of those TV's with appleTV should do all you want.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:33 AM on November 9, 2009

oh also I know its not iTunes but the roku does Amazon as well. Could you replace iTunes with the Amazon offering?
posted by bitdamaged at 8:35 AM on November 9, 2009

Response by poster: Hmm. The big iTunes draws for us are current seasons of Mad Men and The Venture Bros; looks like Amazon might fill that gap. Awesome!
posted by COBRA! at 8:42 AM on November 9, 2009

A computer in the living room doesn't have to look like a computer. Plus, if you connect the computer to your TV with HDMI, you'll be able to remote control the volume with whatever remote controls the TV's volume.
posted by sinfony at 9:03 AM on November 9, 2009

Apple TV + aTV Flash

aTV Flash includes a Boxee install, which allows you to stream Netflix
posted by CorporateHippy at 9:32 AM on November 9, 2009

We stream video and other media wirelessly from our PC to our TVs via our Direct TV HD DVRs with Direct's wireless adapters. Vuze is also a great app for downloading torrents and then streaming those files to TV.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:38 AM on November 9, 2009

TivoHD won't give you all of this but it will give you Netflix, Amazon and Blockbuster streaming / downloads, and YouTube browsing. It will also play your iTunes music library over your home network. It won't let you watch video content from iTunes, though.
posted by galaksit at 10:03 AM on November 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Just to check, DirectTV and TivoHD would both involve new monthly service contracts, right?
posted by COBRA! at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2009

Yes, approximately $12/month for Tivo.
posted by galaksit at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2009

You would need to have Direct TV service to use their HD DVR, but your cable provider's DVR may have the same capabilities.
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2009

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