Regular readers know that we are working to reduce recurring costs in our household budget. Aren’t all baby boomers doing this to financially prepare for a more predictable retirement? We took another expense reduction step this week.
The solution was to acquire a small form-factor computer that was relatively inexpensive but had features that would allow it to be configured as a home theater PC. The small form factor was important so that we could physically move the box from one house to another and connect it to our TV wherever we happened to be – here, at the lake, or eventually at our condo at Long Branch Lakes.
I finally found what I wanted – a Dell Zino HD unit – newly arrived and discounted at the Dell Outlet store. It was delivered yesterday. We immediately put our oldest son (an expert in home theater technology) to work configuring it. Although he is still tweaking some things, I am extremely pleased as to how it performs. Streaming content from the web – even HD content- through the HTPC box looks fantastic. I could not observe any quality difference between the cable content and the streamed content. We used the Boxee software media interface and it also worked well. The Zino box looked fine on the TV stand – an inconspicuous 8″ x 8″ glossy black box.
This first test was using an Internet connection at full cable speeds. The next test will be at the lake, where we have a minimum speed DSL connection. Our son believes it should work OK for standard definition content but we may made need to upgrade our DSL speed to stream HD content. We shall see.
Because there is not a lot of free HD content online, we will probably investigate some subscription sources to find more, e.g ., Netflix.
This was a “spend money to save money” decision. By eliminating DVR and some cable and satellite channel subscriptions, our recurring costs will go down, providing a 6-12 month payback period on the cost of the HTPC.
Stay tuned for more on this cost reduction strategy.