Home Theater System Follow-up

We have had some time with our new Home Theater System and we have learned the good and bad.

To review quickly, we have the following setup:

PlayStation 3
AppleTV
Mac mini
Yamaha RX-V1800 Receiver
Knology Cable with 8300HD Cable Box
Pioneer KURO PDP-6010FD 60″ 1080p Plasma HDTV

(current shipping model Pioneer PDP-6020FD 60-Inch Class KURO Plasma HDTV)

I used all HDMI cables between all devices.

So, how is the system being used different from originally planned?

PlayStation 3: The PlayStation 3 just sits.  I don’t find us watching it at all.  We don’t go out to movies rental stores so we only have a small handful of Blu-ray movies.  I think this is due exclusively to having a 20-month-old daughter.  I will have to say that we have watched Ratatouille many times and not due to our 20-month-old daughter.  I didn’t expect to play games on the PlayStation 3 and I am not as expected.  The biggest complaint about the console is the lack of an IR remote.  I know that you can put something together using a PSX/PS2 Controller to USB adapter and an original DVD remote control for the PS2 with external IR receiver.  The bluetooth remote doesn’t function like a normal PlayStation 3 Wireless Controller, which would be nice.

Like I said, we don’t seem to be renting movies and we don’t generally purchase movies.  This could be the AppleTV covering our rental needs.  I may need to take the step to add an IR control capability to integrate the console into our system.

AppleTV: The AppleTV gets more attention based on the built-in screen saver, which will animate through our photos.  Everyone who comes by our house will say something about this capability.  We have rented a few movies, but our viewing habits don’t really work with a 24-hour rental.  (We have a 20-month-old daughter, which determines our viewing habit.)  If we could watch it over a longer period of time, I feel that we would rent more movies.  This is not to say that we don’t watch movies on the AppleTV.  I have converted all of our movies (DVD and VHS) into a format compatible with the AppleTV.  We listen to music with the AppleTV with the help of Remote iPhone software from Apple.  The Remote works for movie, pod casts, music, and more.

We mainly watch or listen to our pre-recorded movies, pod casts, and music.  I think if the rental period was different we would rent more.  I find that I am controlling the AppleTV from the iPhone application Remote more so than the included IR remote, because it is so much faster and costs only 99¢.  I do need to train the Yamaha RX-V1800 Receiver remote to control the AppleTV and Mac mini, which would remove the need for those remotes.

Mac mini: The computer has had limited usage, because a 60″ of screen is still not large enough to read the screen from across the room, but I still use it for digitally recording movies from the cable for iTunes.  The bluetooth keyboard and mouse are a pain, because of the limited usage.  The batteries always need replacing by the time need to use the computer if they are left in the ON state.  Turning the keyboard and mouse off adds steps into using the computer, because you have to wait for the computer to detect the devices.  I have replaced the keyboard and mouse with a standard USB setup.

I do like having a computer in the den, and I expect its usage will increase as our child grows.  A resolution change to the computer would improve the visibility of the screen from further away.

Yamaha RX-V1800 Reciever: The receiver has generally been perfectly fine.  I would like an audio decoder setting that auto tracks the source and picks the best decoder setting.  It could exist, but I have not found it.  All receiver are too much in the sound affect like making the movie or music sound like you are in a stadium, which I am at a complete lose for why.  The receive has a “feature” of turning OFF/ON the television.  I say OFF/ON, because the receiver remote is helping you by sending the OFF/ON signal to the television during the turn ON and turn OFF process.  This is bad, because it is a toggle command which will bite you every time the television is already off when the receive tries to help turn it off.  Bummer.  I have not fully programmed the universal remote that came with the receiver.  I think programming it could over cover many shortcomings of operating the overall system.  The lack of “Guide” and “DVR” controls associated with the cable box is the biggest capability missing, but I believe that I could program this ability if I had more buttons.  We only watch the recorded shows on cable box with very little live action so these functions are very important.  The remote works fine for live action control of the cable box.

I think this receiver is working out as I hoped, but it could be contributing to the television’s delay in syncing to cable box signal.  I plan on changing out the HDMI cables with component cables to see if that improves the syncing delay.

Pioneer KURO PDP-6010FD 60″ 1080p Plasma HDTV: The plasma screen has worked out great except for the syncing delay as stated above.  The screen does present a problem that any system will have in terms of duplicate features throughout the system.  The television and the cable box can scale the video image (that is standard definition to high definition).  The receive can too if the source is in component video format.  First, what unit does the best job?  Second, how to fix the scaling after someone touches more than one remote to scale that is scaling on scaling?  Also, you may need to pick the device based on things other than quality.  The receiver can only scale component, but I have an HDMI cabled system so it is out of the end solution.

I think the plasma screen has worked out well.  I still need to mount it on the wall, because we have a small child loose in our house.

What would I do different?

I think I would set aside more time for the setup and configuration.  There are many features that could be better if I had spent more time configuring the system, but how many hours can you stop everything to setup and program an audiovisual system.  A better study of usage habits would improve the process of selecting equipment and system configuration, but you can only guess as to how the system will be used in the end.  I would suggest planning for making adjustment after everyone gets use to the system.  Everyone will have features that they do and don’t like about the system.  This adjustment will allow you to address many of the things that are not liked or improve access to commonly used features.

Word of Warning

When you talk to people, you should understand they know nothing.  The cable company is just selling what they have.  They really don’t know what they have.  The “Best Buys” of the world are full of people that know nothing and all of their displays have a great signal from the back room that is making all the displays look their best.

You have to take what everyone says with a grain of salt including this, because your situation is different from mine.  Many of these capabilities and standards are still evolving and stabilizing.

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