Converging in the lounge room

Can all those bits and pieces of electrical gear go into one box?
 
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  • Updated:12 Jun 2008
 

01.Convergence

cartoon man and house

In brief

  • Convergence refers to the combining of a number of products – such as a CD player, DVD recorder and set-top-box – into one device.
  • The device can be networked so sound, video and data can be sent around the house. Browse our section on Networking for more comprehensive information on how to do this.
  • Set-up needs to be easier, costs lower and rights issues resolved.

Please note: this information was current as of June 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


The media centre

In the world of home entertainment, convergence means the combination of many products into a single device often called a 'media centre'. This is a computer that can:

  • play and record music and video.
  • play and record digital TV.
  • connect to the internet.
  • send music, video and data to various rooms in your house simultaneously.

In this article we’re looking at the relatively cheap option of using one system to manage sound and video, along with internet and computer gaming throughout your house. However, there's also systems designed to manage entertainment in a number of rooms, plus your home’s security and heating/cooling systems, but they tend to start at around $20,000.

However, centralised entertainment is not as easy as it sounds yet:
  • Combining all your separate components – such as DVD recorder and digital set-top-box – into one box requires a more powerful central processing unit (CPU).
  • Connections may be limited.
  • The quality of the output may not be as good as individual dedicated high end components.
  • Media centre computers can be expensive compared with normal home entertainment equipment.
  • If you want to put the computer in a room other than where you’re listening or watching TV, you’ll need more gear to do it.

DIY

You can build your own home entertainment system based on a conventional computer, but you’re going to need quite a bit of technical know-how to buy the right components and assemble it. One for the buffs really.

Ultimately, consumers will decide whether or not we have a one-box future.

CHOICE verdict

The signs are promising but some changes are required:

  • Setting up the devices needs to be a lot easier.
  • Legal and moral rights issues need to be solved. Who wants a CD that will play only in some players and not in a computer without compromising its security?
  • Pricing models need to improve. Would you buy a movie download that you can only watch for one day before it self destructs, when hiring the same movie on DVD – with extra features – for a few days costs the same?

Setting up the devices needs to be a lot easier.

 
 

 

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