When I was visiting my mother earlier in the month, I helped her upgrade her ‘home theater’ — I hesitate to call it that because her needs are not nearly so grand as replicating a theater viewing experience inside of her home. She just likes to watch the occasional movie and maybe tap into her granddaughter’s Flickr stream and that’s about it.
She had an old 30-in. CRT television that weighed about a ton, but I managed to kick it to the curb and bought her a new, inexpensive Vizio LCD television. Setup was a breeze, but of course her old DVD player was not capable of upconverting to the new TV’s greater resolution, so playing movies looked terrible on it. I went to the store with the idea of buying her a new, simple, US$50 upconverting DVD player.
Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me
Somewhere along the way though, I was distracted by a good price on a Sony Blu-Ray player, this in spite of my previously documented poor experiences with Blu-Ray. I know, I should̵ve known better, but I decided to give the format another chance, reasoning that it would let my mother take full advantage of her new TV. Like most Blu-Ray players, this one could access Netflix and other online video and music services, so I figured at US$160, it was a decent deal. I bought it, brought it home and set it up for her. Blu-Ray discs looked wonderful on it.
Then I realized that the device was actually only Internet-capable, that in order to access anything on the network at all, to say nothing of Netflix, the additional purchase of a Wi-Fi dongle was necessary. Unfortunately, the only dongle that works with that player costs US$80 dollars — that’s half the cost of the unit just to attach a USB Wi-Fi card to the back of the unit — bringing the total price of the unit up to US$240.
The next day I returned the Blu-Ray player and bought a simple DVD player instead, plus an Apple TV for US$99. Everything worked great out of the box, no additional gadgets necessary, plus now she has the full breadth of content that an Apple TV provides in addition to Netflix, all with a mom-friendly user interface. Of course, she can’t watch Blu-Ray discs but, having now fully learned my lesson regarding how customer-hostile the format is, I figure she’s better off without it.