That leaves us with the Apple TV, a media streaming device intended to facilitate streaming music, images, podcasts and videos from your Mac or PC to the large screen TV and audio system in your living room.
For just under £200 you'll get another little box and remote control to add to your living room media/entertainment array. Connect it up to your widescreen TV or AV kit and you can then sync or stream content from your iTunes library over your 10/100 Base-T wired or 802.11b/g/n wireless network and you can sync up to five computers to it. It has a 40GB hard drive for holding content locally and they say that translates to about 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs or 25,000 images.
Audio formats supported: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV. Video formats supported are H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store), .m4v, .mp4, .mov and MPEG-4. Image formats supported are JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF and PNG.
The downside is that you'll need a reasonably new TV, one that supports HDMI or component video. If anyone knows of an HDMI or component audio/video to SCART converter (at a reasonable price) I'd be keen to know.
My thoughts: a 40GB drive is pretty small these days and I think it'll outgrow that very quickly, especially if users take advantage of its ability to sync with multiple systems. It might be worth waiting for that 80 or 160GB upgrade!
Here's a few alternatives worth looking at…
If you already have an iPod and don't want to splash out on a High Definition TV, then it might be worth looking at the DLO HomeDock, which basically allows you to connect your iPod to your TV or sound system through a standard, three-cable AV connector or via S-Video.
The deluxe model, at around £130, also allows you to display the iPod library content on the TV screen, allowing you to navigate, select and play your songs or videos using the included 18-button remote control and it'll even charge your iPod as well.
…and there are a few more network digital media streaming devices worth considering out there…
- Netgear Digital Entertainer EVA700 (circa £150)
- Philips Wireless Multimedia Adapter SLM5500 (circa £145)
- Pinnacle Systems ShowCenter 200 (circa £110)
- Freecom Network MediaPlayer-35 (circa £160-190)
- D-Link MediaLounge DSM-520 (circa £180)
NB: The Freecom box above can connect to a Mac but it can only stream content from a Windows PC or direct attached media. It's also not wireless compatible.