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Improving your Home Theatre with the iPad

by on October 12th, 2010

Whether you’re looking at a full home renovation or just re-wiring your existing home theatre setup, now is a great time to start thinking about how you can further integrate your iPad into your life. The iPad is a great device to remotely control multiple devices regardless of your budget. Let me outline a few options to get your creativity going.

The Quick, Cheap and Dirty

Got a spare computer or some extra components laying around? Then you’ve got the beginnings of a home theatre PC (or Mac, if that’s your flavour) that can last for quite a few years. [That's pretty much how I started my first living room setup.] The extra components needed are a TV-Out card [can be co-ax, component or VGA], and a wireless network card. From there, install your favourite remote desktop [VNC] software on both your PC and your iPad, and you’re more or less good to go! Simply use your remote desktop viewer on the iPad and start controlling.

Pros: Versatility, true DRM-free media and cheap-cheap-cheap
Cons: Finnicky to setup

Estimated cost of this setup? Between Free to $50 depending on what you’ve got laying around.

Hooked into the Applesphere?

If you’re like me, you live and breathe the iLifestyle, buy movies and music from iTunes in your sleep, and appreciate clean and compelling UI. In this case, then I would definitely recommend getting the new Apple TV. Having used it for the past week or so, I must admit that it fits my lifestyle like a glove. Open up Apple’s Remote app from the iPad and you’ve got full control of the Apple TV on your screen. It even allows for directional control akin to a touchpad, as well as a full QWERTY keyboard for when you’re searching through your library or Netflix. It taps directly into your iTunes library and grabs your HD video content, podcasts and music. It also allows you to stream Netflix content, as well as podcasts and streaming radio stations.

There are a few drawbacks though. Firstly, you’ll need your iTunes library open at all times [which means keeping your computer on]. Also, you’ll need a TV or a receiver that’s HDMI compatible. If you can get over that hurdle, though, then this solution is definitely something you should consider.

Pros: Integrates seamlessly into iTunes, inexpensive [kinda], works great with the Remote app
Cons: Requires HDMI and iTunes running on the network, you’ll really need the Remote app

Estimated cost? $119 + tax if you already have everything else

If you have more money than you know what to do with

For the true audiophiles who are happy and willing to invest in a new system, then you’ve got plenty of options. On the low end, AirPlay compatible audio receivers are starting to come out. Marantz is launching their Melody Media receiver shortly [Electronista], and Denon will be releasing firmware updates [Engadget] to support AirPlay. So if you’re looking at upgrading your home theatre setup in the near future, then you may want to hold off until these options are released.

If you’re thinking of making major home renovations, though, then integrating iPad home automation should be a consideration. There are a number of dedicated home theatre solutions from Crestron and Sonos, and there areeven more full-fledged home automation solutions as well. Simply start by searching for home automation in the App Store.

Pros: Your home and your media, controlled at the tips of your fingers

Cons: Can get very pricey, not really a great multi-tasker

Estimated cost? Depends on how deep you want to invest. The Marantz system starts at $800, and full home automation can get expensive depending on what you want out of it.

I hope this has gotten you started thinking about different ways to further integrate your iPad in your media lifestyle. I know I’ve omitted a few options such as the Ryz Media’s My TV Remote. With such a versatile device, I’m sure more options and solutions will be available shortly.

Have you been using your iPad to remotely control other devices as well? If so, we’d love to know how you’re doing it and what you think! Leave us a note in the comments below.

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Posted under: Accessories, App Store

  • Darlene

    Great article!

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    Thanks! Much appreciated.

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