My Home Entertainment System
The ongoing changes to the way we consume media is a common subject for discussion these days. In recent years I’ve written about it on this blog and discussed the matter at length with my co-host Brian on the podcast. The focus of these debates has usually been about the cultural shift away from fixed viewing schedules, to watching shows and movies on demand. For many people TV has broadly moved from a shared cultural experience defined by broadcast times, to a more isolated experience. One has to be doubly aware of spoiler etiquette these days, as friends and colleagues may well watch the same show but be a season ahead or behind.
However on this occasion I want to talk about the actual hardware that we use to consume media. My PC, tablet and phone are all used to varying degrees to watch videos and TV shows but the television in the lounge still remains the focal point for shared, family viewing. Today I made some minor changes to our home entertainment setup to try and make it more flexible with regard to our viewing needs. I could have spent several thousand pounds if I wanted to ensure I was at the bleeding edge of home entertainment but frankly I did not see the sense in that. Much of the hardware that’s currently in place is perfectly adequate so there was merely a need to augment rather than replacement. So that is exactly what I did.
The 38 inch Samsung TV that resides on the wall in the lounge is somewhat old but it’s only real deficiency has been up to now, it’s lack of online functionality. The attached BT YouView box provides access to both digital terrestrial television and premium IPTV services. It’s also a DVR and has a range of optional on demand services. Until today a LG Blu-ray/DVD player was the third device in this humble home entertainment system. It’s only additional function was playback of video files via a USB flashdrive. However in recent months a lack of access to You Tube, along with multi-region support for both DVDs and Blu-rays has proven inconvenient. An increased use of .mkv files has highlighted a need for network functionality.
With all this in mind, I decided to replace the LG player with a newer Panasonic model. The DMP-BD83 has the multi-region support I was looking for, as well as internet apps including You Tube. The player has an ethernet port at the rear and also reads external HDD of up to 4TB. As of today the new player has been installed and as a result we can now enjoy multiple forms of entertainment in one location. The only logistical problem was sourcing an additional ethernet cable to the location. The existing one which serves the IPTV box is connected to the internet router via twin powerline adapters. Rather than add more of these I just bought a mini switch and split the existing LAN connection. I even kept the cable management tidy.
I must admit I’m happy with the results of this nominal upgrade. Both items cost a total of £75 and I was fortunate enough to have a spare 1TB portable HDD available to connect to the new Panasonic player. This has allowed be to consolidate all my current TV shows and movies in one place and free up space on my PC. I also linked my phone to the new setup and can now easily search You Tube on my Samsung S6 but view the results via the TV. Overall the ageing Samsung television has now gained full smart TV functionality without incurring the cost of purchasing one. Furthermore the setup is not especially difficult to operate which is beneficial for my significant other, who is not a major fan of technology.
The only weak link left in the current setup is the audio quality. I have toyed with the idea of buying a soundbar but can’t find one that is the right size for the shelves. For the present I’m considering a single all-in-one wireless speaker as an alternative. Perhaps Google Home will offer an appropriate solution when it is launches later this year. In the meantime, what is currently in place is sufficient for our entertainment needs. Perhaps the next television we’ll buy will be 4K compatible. Certainly I’m sure they’ll be more online delivery platforms to consider in the future. However we’ll cross those bridges, as and when we come to them.