Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watching Internet TV on my Projector with a Xbox 360

  In November of 2009 I bought a Xbox 360.  At the time I wasn't really planning on getting one, but I found a deal on Walmart.com that allowed me to buy it for $100 if I also bought an $100 gift card for Walmart at the same time.  Since that model of Xbox normally costs $200 and my wife and I shop regularly at Walmart, it was pretty much an easy decision.

  My expectation was that I'd use the Xbox for group gaming and maybe watching DVD's, but that second point wasn't a big deal as I already had a Blu-Ray player that could do that.  Turns out, I've only done a small amount of either of those tasks with this Xbox.  Probably 95% of it's use so far has been for watching internet TV.

  Currently, the Xbox is directly connected to my 720p projector by HDMI.  Although hi-def isn't needed for watching internet TV, it does make the interface look good.  The higher resolution is really nice for playing games in 4-way split screen with friends.  For sound, I am currently am using a nice set of Klipsch 2.1 computer speakers driven from the Xbox's stereo RCA outputs.  It's not surround, but the sound quality is plenty good for a now.  The speakers are on stands that I pulled from a neighbors garbage and get the speakers to a height that makes the audio sound like its coming from the screen.

  Since the ability to watch internet TV is not built into the Xbox,  I have to use third party software to make this happen.  I first ran a free trial, and the purchased a program called PlayOn.  It runs as a service on my home server and serves the internet programs to my Xbox as a windows media server type of application.  This program will server internet TV, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon movies, YouTube and some other miscellaneous sources.  Sources that require a login are configured from the PC.

  When I want to watch a program, I turn on my Xbox which takes roughly 10 seconds to boot.  I then navigate to the My Movies menu and from there I can see my PlayOn server.  Selecting it brings me to a menu that allows me to select what source I want to browse for movies.  Overall the process is pretty easy and intuitive,  my wife has no problems using this system to watch anything she wants.  Since the Xbox uses a 10 foot interface, this can all be done while sitting on my couch.

  As a side note, there is indications that Microsoft is working on adding the ability to watch internet TV directly through the Xbox.  This would eliminate the need for third party software.  There is no date on when this feature might become available, so it will probably be a while.

  Overall, I'm happy with this system for watching internet TV.  I have no plans and no interest in watching OTA broadcasts, so this woks perfectly for me.

~Phillip