The New Year brings with it many things, and technology updates - once the Christmas bills have been paid off - is one of them. As it happens, I've updated two things: my TV and Bastard, my PVR. I haven't updated to Sky+ because while I'm just about okay with paying £99 for a new box, I draw the line at paying £60 to have some bloke turn up with it and plug it into an aerial socket.
Anyway, I, in common with a sizeable percentage of SE London, judging by
- the number of nice people down at the recycling centre bringing in old TVs and giant cardboard boxes marked “Sony Bravia”
- the number of not-so-nice people who have left old TVs and giant cardboard boxes marked “Sony Bravia” lining most of the pavements in the neighbourhood
have bought a Sony Bravia. The reasons for this are threefold. Firstly, my clapped out 28“ Matsui CRT widescreen TV that I bought in 1999 was starting to do an odd thing to the picture. Mathematicians call it an affine transformation, Mac users call it the ”Dock Genie“ effect - everyone else, particularly in SE London, just calls it ”f*cked“.
Secondly, Sainsbury's have been selling 26” Sony Bravias for £349. They don't deliver, so that saves them from WEEE - the gits - but it does make it all a bit cheaper. Everyone else appears to have been going for 40“, but we wanted something smaller than before and less power hungry, so 26” works out well.
Thirdly, the adverts have claymation bunnies in them.
On the whole, after a week of use, I'm quite impressed with it. It has six input sockets - two SCARTs, two HDMIs, one PC and one component. That's enough for my DVD, Sky box and Apple TV. In fact, the HDMI socket means I've been able to get rid of not only a SCART-sharer but also an RGB converter that enabled my Apple TV to work with SCART. I've also been able to get rid of a multi-plug. The HDMI connection also means I get the best possible high-def picture out of the Apple TV, which is actually really good, I now discover.
Word of advice though: plan ahead and don't get an HDMI lead from Currys at the last minute. You can get one online for about £2. Go into Curry's (Lewisham branch), which chooses not to mark the prices of the cables on the shelves, and you won't find out until you get to the till that they're charging £45 for a metre long cable. I spotted a two-metre one behind the till that cost £30 (still a rip-off) and was asked if I was sure because the other one was “more powerful”.
As I said, plan ahead and maybe sue them for fraud later on.
Anyway, everything's nice and tidy behind our new TV - it even has a built-in cable tidier and a strap with a screw that you're supposed to ram into the TV stand in case the TV topples off.
The picture quality isn't fantastic compared with a CRT. Look close and it's quite fuzzy. Sit at sofa distance away and it's very good though, particularly with high-def stuff and things that are digitally sourced rather than come in through the SCART sockets. The remote control's a bit intimidating though.
The Sony has all sorts of whizzy features, too. There's a “Theatre” mode designed to optimise movie playback. Tried it with Pan's Labyrinth, now I've joined Lovefilm, and I have to say, I didn't notice the difference. It also has built-in Freeview and a Smartlink function for controlling a video/DVD recorder. Since I don't have a regular TV aerial connection and I don't have a DVD or video recorder, I can't test them though. They look good, mind.
So far then, I'm glad I made the upgrade.
Eye TV 3.0
I've also updated Bastard my PVR. This is a Freeview stick powered by EyeTV and is occasionally a bit flaky. Hence its nom de plume.
Version three seems very stable so far and has recorded everything I've asked it, too. It's got a new Leopard (OS X 10.5) look which uses the iTunes Coverflow function and has a QuickView plug-in, too.
Better still, it also has smart searching and recording functions. You set up a search of the built-in programme guide (eg “Title: Ashes to Ashes”) and as soon as it spots a new entry in the guide, it adds it to the smart search folder at the side. And you can set it up to automatically record anything that pops up in that search. So if you're on the look out for a particular programme, don't know when it's going to be on and can't be arsed to keep scanning the schedules, this is just perfect. So far, though, it hasn't spotted anything so I can't tell you if it actually works. It'll be great if it does.
It does other stuff, too, BTW, but that's the main reason I bought it.
Incidentally, if you have a Mac with an Intel chip and buy Leopard, get yourself 2GB of RAM because it absolutely flies where once it did dawdle. It's like I have a new Mac. And it only costs £16 for 1GB over at Crucial with free delivery. Avoid buying your HDMI cable at Curry's and you can buy 2GB.
- March 17, 2008: Review: Philips DVP 5960
My review of the Philips DVP 5960 DVD player with 1080 upscaling