This week Apple unveiled their new Mac mini powered by the Intel Core Duo processor and using Intel’s core graphics, effectively giving it a significant boost whilst still retaining the attractive £400 price point.
Apple are now saying “Live the digital life” and implying that the mini belongs as part of a home entertainment system. They’ve even gone so far as to bundle it with their Front Row media center and an Apple Remote control.
Problem 1: Capacity
The mini, in order to achieve mini sizes, uses laptop hard disks which currently top out at 120GB. My iPod is 60GB and although it’s nowhere near full of music I can easily imagine adding my photo library and some video content will soon max out that 120GB. Then you’re having to use external USB drives.
Problem 2: Content delivery
If you have satellite or cable TV you may well be expecting this’ll be your primary source of video content but the mini and Front Row do not support external media devices, let alone TV guides or PVR/recording functionality.
Some people are putting Front Row against Windows Media Center which is quite amazing when you consider that Front Row lacks such basic video-feed functionality. Companies like TiVo have proven there’s certainly a market for it.
I can’t help but worry that Apple’s view of TV broadcasting is the same as it’s ideas on radio, i.e. it’s obsolete and that they should offer the content themselves.
Perhaps when they launch their updated iPod Video with bigger screen they’ll launch their fabled movie download service and expect users to acquire video and audio content exclusively through their store.
I’d be interested in knowing how they’ll squeeze high-definition content down my broadband line and onto a 120GB hard disk even with H.264 encoding.
Or maybe they’ll expect users to watch low-resolution iPod encoded video on their home TV’s. At 320×240 it’s quarter the resolution of existing TV.
On a high-definition system at 1280×720 you’d be utilising about 8% of your systems resolution capability compared with 44% utilisation on a PAL DVD.
Looks like Front Row and the mini won’t be part of my media center any time soon.
Apple have announced the fifth generation of iPod. Improvements include better battery life, a thinner enclose, better screen and now in both black and white.
But not everything is peachy. Gone is the FireWire support, the remote socket and there is still no sign of Bluetooth. Quite how you are supposed to switch tracks without pulling your iPod out your pocket I’m not sure.
The big hoopla is video on your iPod and I’m not impressed. When exactly could you watch video on your iPod? Not while jogging, driving or walking which seem to be the popular regular usage if the accessories are anything to go by.
Ignoring that, you can now watch a music video, Pixar short or (if you live in the US) a TV show on a 2.5″ non-wide-screen display at 320×240 resolution. They expect $1.99 for the privilege of viewing this tiny short content previously free elsewhere.
UK residents get an even worse deal with videos costing £1.89 – a massive 75% increase over the US with current exchange rates. And you thought the $0.99 to £0.79 increase of 45% was bad! American TV shows run around 24 episodes per season – paying £30 for a DVD edition hurts but £41.58 for DRM’ed low-res stereo videos with no resale value. Sign me up Apple! </sarcasm>
It’s like wide-screen and high definition never happened. If you have a TV or computer to hand you can play your DRM’ed media on a big screen but frankly 320×240 scaled up will look dire at 17″ and probably induce nausea above 32″. Unscaled it would be as big as this capture from Zorro 2.
Best of all the quoted time for battery life when watching video’s is up to whopping three hours. (I lied about stopping the sarcasm).
Better mobile video
Want to watch video on the move? Get yourself a portable DVD player, a small laptop or if it really must be hand-held a PSP.
The PSP has a bigger 4.3″ wide-screen display, UMD movie discs and 4-5 hour battery life. As a bonus you can play games, surf the web wirelessly, play music and check out a memory stick full of photos. For less than the price of an iPod Video.
Sony have also just announced Location Free TV client for the PSP that lets you watch whatever your own base-station at home is connected to.
The base station is a little pricey at $350 but does feature an RF tuner and two s-video inputs. It is also capable of sending IR codes so connect this baby up to your satellite or cable TV and a 200 disk DVD changer…
Universal dock & remote control
Apple do have a new remote control available real soon but it only works with your iPod while it is connected to the universal dock.
The universal dock is a good idea – one dock for all the iPods – especially useful for a family or individual with more than one iPod. What I’d like to know is if Apple will enable Macs connected to a universal dock to be controlled in the same way as the new iMac.
A direct heads up to media centre style interfaces of Windows Media Centre Edition, Sony’s PSP and the forthcoming Xbox 360 comes Apple’s FrontRow.
Big colourful icons, massive text – just what you’d want on your TV… but curiously only available on the iMac, now available with both 17″ and 20″ widescreen displays again as last seen on the iLamp model.
iTunes 5 has been out a whole month and Apple think the addition of buying videos justifies a whole new version number. Apart from this the only other changes seem to be a couple of minor cosmetics.
I guess they are desperately trying to catch up version numbers with RealPlayer and Windows Media Player. I wonder what other features they can add/borrow from other apps now that video has been nabbed from QuickTime and syncing from iSync. How much longer before it is renamed iKitchenSink?
- Goodbye eMac
- No sign of faster PowerBooks
- Hello iMac with faster CPU