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Q: Is DLNA ready for living-room action? A: Almost.

This afternoon I was to prepare tonight’s Indian meal and decided to put on some music. I like it nice and loud perhaps as a reminder of my teenage years or maybe because past 40 hearing drops, who knows. Anyway I was alone at home so the time was right.

My new Bravia 5500 series TV is hooked up to the stereo system with an HDMI cable and connected to my home network. An Apple Time-Capsule acts as an Ethernet hub for all my sitting room devices (TV, BlueRay, multimedia hard disk, PC’s). The family Vista PC with the MP3 collection was switched-on so I decided to try and listen through the TV. I’d seen demos at shows, checked I could do it myself when I got the TV six months ago, but this time it was to actually listen to music rather than play with technology.

The whole operation took about twenty seconds and lo and behold everything worked first time.

I hit the big ‘Home’ button on the Sony TV remote, scrolled to the ‘music ‘ section, and bingo: the PC appeared. So I selected it and started playing the first MP3 I came across. It was a Mozart piano concerto and sounded brilliant.

With my wife and three kids adding to the collection, there are tens of thousands of files of absolutely every kind of music imaginable. The DLNA client on the TV found its way to the root of the music collection that is managed by iTunes on the PC. I could navigate by genre (with the typical issues like having to choose between ‘classical’ or ‘classique’ as we live in France) or by subdirectory. In this case it’s a matter of luck with some explicit names, but many meaningless ones.

I wanted to listen randomly to titles and found that option on the TV. It seemed a shame not to use the 46” screen with its 1920*1080 resolution, so tried to get a slide show of family photos to display at the same time.

I selected the current music as background and used the TV remote to navigate to my photos (again simply pressing the ‘home’ button).
I selected ‘all photos’ and got the slide show working. As the default setting must be file date I got stuck watching our oldest digital family photos I’d forgotten about.

I was now getting a bit behind schedule for the dinner party preparations.
The Mozart piece I’d selected lasted about 20 minutes, so after that time I realised that I was not getting what I wanted, namely to watch my photos and listen to my music.

One can only set one piece to accompany a slide show and there’s no option (yet) to have a slide show accompany music (which was actually my state of mind).

So I gave up on the music and decided to satisfy myself with the photos alone. But as the photos were in chronological order, I soon ran out of the small 200Kb files from the very early digital cameras. As I got to a more current 3MB file size, the loading times became unusable at about half a minute. I presume the TV’s chipset is a bit underpowered for high-res photos. I haven’t and don’t want to investigate the technicalities of this slowdown. I just want it to work.

Another limitation was that you can either see the whole picture, in which case part of the screen isn’t used as the camera uses different aspect ratio or have the photofit the screen exactly by being cropped. Mac and PC based photo software has got us used to much nicer solutions with the best of both worlds were photos either scroll across the screen or zoom out so you can see all of them.

My initial feeling of elation at how it all worked was waning so I went back to the music and got the tandoori paste around the chicken in time (oh and btw I usually just grilled the meat, this time I tried slow cooking in the oven wrapped in silver foil, follow by a quick grill on one side to dry and brown it – it was much more succulent than usual).
So my tupence worth from this mixed experience is:

• DLNA already works in the living room, not just on trade show demos
• You need a powerful device to manage big files or HD and current TV for example don’t yet pack enough oompf
• The embed software on TV’s just isn’t user friendly enough

I am left with the feeling that there still is room for various flavours of set-top-box technology to flourish, including an Apple TV or a PC under the TV. But I wonder how long for until the set-makers get it right.

(This blog was first published on Videonet

1 thought on “Q: Is DLNA ready for living-room action? A: Almost.

  1. […] honesty when I told him about the inconclusive DLNA tests I had done in my home (see here). He said that 2 years ago we were only half way to usability for the end user, and that now […]