Home networking changes home entertainment
Guest Blogger: Ted Kritsonis
Ask anyone you know what router they have, and it’s likely that they won’t really know. The router, for all intents and purposes, is not the sexy piece of gear that turns heads when people walk into a room, it’s the functional device that ensures everything in its wavelength looks and plays nice.
Take that impression and apply it to how your router can augment your home entertainment setup, and you may have started a small revolution in your living room.
Consider this: television didn’t really change all that much for decades. After colour became ubiquitous in the 60s and 70s, there was no change in both screen resolution and aspect ratio. Colour saturation and TV sizes certainly improved, but the whole evolution of home entertainment has only really become radicalized in the last five years.
The biggest reason why is because content is way more free flowing than it’s ever been. Who says you have to stick to physical media like DVDs and Blu-rays if you don’t want to? Maybe you’d prefer to rip your whole collection and stream it from your computer to your TV using a game console or media player. I know I did, and I’ve been doing that since 2006-07.
But the difference between then and now is speed, range and power. The routers of that time just couldn’t offer the kind of pipelines today’s units can. Gigabit Ethernet, Wireless-N, and now 3×3 technology (courtesy of the E4200) have all helped make it more than possible to stream just about anything. Media players like the Apple TV, Western Digital Live TV Hub and Asus O!Play are dedicated set top boxes devoted to playing back media content to an HDTV.
If you have a network attached storage (NAS) drive, basically a big fat hard drive that is connected directly to your router, then you’ve got a home server that feeds you the content you want on demand. But routers now also increasingly have at least one USB port in the back specifically for plugging in an external drive so that users can access it from anywhere in the home network. Why not watch a movie in the upstairs bedroom when the router and drive are nestled in the basement? Convenience and simplicity at its best.
Use a switch or a hub and you can plug in even more devices and storage drives to increase the scope of the home entertainment setup. Media players and game consoles are increasingly supporting third-party content services like Netflix, Vudu, Facebook and more. Why go out to rent a movie when you can just browse and pick from the comfort of the couch.
The fact is, today’s consumer isn’t willing to wait to watch something they can access already. It’s the same reason I don’t have cable or satellite, but instead use a combination of digital antenna (for free over-the-air HD channels), a NAS with a media player and my iPad or laptop. And even with all that, I still have shows I need to catch up on.
All of this is possible because your Internet connection is being distributed better. Ever notice a difference between the router your Internet Service Provider (ISP) gives you and one you can buy off the shelf, like the lineup Linksys offers? The difference is obvious once you start to see how much faster downloads and transfer rates are when you’re moving files around from one device to another over the network.
But you also see it when streaming wirelessly to your TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone or whatever other device you’re looking to watch from.
A good home network requires a good Internet connection to start, and a good Internet connection requires a good router. A radical home entertainment setup requires all of the above to make it what it truly should be.
Ted Kritsonis is a technology journalist and video personality covering the wonderful world of consumer electronics. He writes, blogs and appears in a number of publications in Canada and the U.S. including the Globe and Mail, WhatsYourTech.ca, CBC.ca, Huffington Post Canada and Digital Trends. Ted does this and more from the comfort of his home in Toronto using an E4200 for maximum performance. Follow Ted on twitter: @Teddy__K or at: http://whatsyourtech.ca