The Hottest Gadget of the 2009. It’s Called MediaCenter

Now, as much as I love new technology, when it comes to costly gadgets like AppleTV or PS3, you usually don’t find me forking over a ton of cash to get one the first day. I’m sorta an early-adopter, but not really, and especially not if adopting means forking over a couple hundred bucks. But I got a GREAT deal on this new gadget, called a MediaCenter, so I decided to try it out.

First off, MediaCenter is the first device that truly starts to unify  two of the “three screens” I’ve referenced in previous posts. It sits in my living room, connected to that big-screen TV, but it also acts a lot like a PC. It’s primary functionality is that it lets me record Live TV, pause, fast forward, rewind, and – most importantly – record. It’s basically a TiVo – but for a ton less money.

Secondly, MediaCenter is a way to watch online TV – it has a library of it’s own channels, but you can also use MediaCenter to watch any online video off YouTube, Hulu, ComedyCentral.com, or the million other sites out there. I have Netflix, and I tend to procrastinate, so I never seem to have a movie on hand when I want one – it’s always stuck in the mail. But now that Netflix let’s you WatchInstantly via Netflix Streaming, I’m totally covered. Only problem: I gotta watch these streaming movies on a 15 inch laptop screen.

Well, no more. MediaCenter solves this problem, because it has a full-fledged browser built-right-in so I can watch Netflix streaming movies, but do it on that big-screen tv of mine.

The best part is, MediaCenter was a fraction of the price of any similar gadget. So, where can you get your own MediaCenter at this great price?

That 3 year old PC in your garage. That’s right, any PC running Windows Vista Home Premium or the new Windows 7 Beta has MediaCenter built-right-in. It’s one of those hidden gems that nobody seems to talk about.

On Black Friday – after being a Seattle yuppie for over 2 years, I finally bit the bullet and bought my first TV. I got this enormous 46″ LCD TV so I could assert my manhood, but I’m sitting on the couch staring at it thinking “why did I buy this? We don’t have anything that even plays HD quality video….” So Jameel took an old PC and turned it into our new MediaCenter. He installed Windows 7,  Internet Explorer 8, and because Win7 is designed to work on netbooks, the 2 year old PC had more than enough power to handle it. He bought a massive harddrive off Amazon for $50 and installed it, so we’d have plenty of room to record days worth of TV (unlike TiVo, they sky’s the limit, if we fill this harddrive up we can add another one), and away we went. We dumped a bunch of movies on the hard-drive. He set MediaCenter to record all our favorite TV shows – House, 30 Rock for me, and The Office for him. And if the first couple weeks go well we’ll probably get rid of TiVo and stop paying that monthly subscription fee to them.

For the past twenty years, the thing that sat on the coffee table in front of the TV was a remote control. The remote control was our window into the world of entertainment. But today, I’m sitting with my feet up on the coffee table, blogging on my TV. There’s now a friggin wireless keyboard on my coffee table.

Here’s where it starts getting crazy…

We pay Comcast $33 a month for Cable. Another $25 for DVR + HD. Another $33 for Internet. And another $33 for phone. Jameel already things I should start doing all my phone calls via Communicator (a professional-grade version of Windows Live Messenger that we use at work, that works with my bluetooth headset over the internet). So that’s $33 a month that we can stop paying.

Now, we were sitting here thinking – what exactly do we watch that doesn’t come on network television? We both love Daily Show & Colbert Report – but you can watch those online. We both love Entourage & Californication, but we don’t pay for those channels anyway. I love MadMen, which comes on AMC, but I’m hoping to figure out a way to watch that online next season. Which leaves us with network TV shows that I can get with an antenna for my HDTV, or online. So that’s another $33 (Plus that $25 for HD & DVR), that I can stop paying Comcast. Plus there’s whatever Jameel pays TiVo every month. Maybe it’s just $5. That’s $33 + $33 + $25 + $5 = $96 in savings per month. $96. Per month.  Now that’s a lot of Vodka. Even for me.

So there you go. The hottest new gadget of 2009 – something you already own. You’ll never hear a pitch like that from Apple.

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