LifeEdited: Home Electronics and Entertainment



Photo credit: William Hook via Flickr/Creative Commons

The term "green electronics" may be a bit of an oxymoron. While companies try to be responsible, there is still often a contradiction between high tech and low impact. Nevertheless, like most of us, the LifeEdited apartment and it's inhabitants have technological requirements, for both business and leisure. While it might not be green per se, the goal is to simplify the setup as much as possible, using a Macbook Pro for as many applications as possible and in keeping with the spirit of the project, digitizing as much media as possible.In addition to a Energy Star 30" Apple Cinema Display that LifeEdited dweller (and TreeHugger founder) Graham Hill uses mainly for work, he requested a digital projector and screen for home entertainment. This created a challenge because many of the components sit in different places, and it is ideal to use as few wires as possible.


Which service will best help cut cord(s)? Photo credit: br1dotcom via Flickr/Creative Commons

Best Options for Streaming Media

One of the most exciting developments in home entertainment is the advent of digital media servers like AppleTV ($99), Roku XD/S ($99) and Boxee Box ($199). Think of them as web-fed cable boxes. Both allow you to channel streaming media to your HDTV. All three stream HD video, have built in wireless, are fairly inexpensive and are very small. The Boxee features web-browsing as well.

The main disadvantage of AppleTV is being locked into an iTunes-centric media library (though online hacks for jailbreaks abound). Roku and Boxee, on the other hand are a bit more versatile offering more channel selections. The Apple has a slight edge because it can be integrated easily with other Apple products, such as an app to use an iPad for a remote (though Boxee allows this as well).

Neither is as versatile as Veebeam ($99), which allows you simulcast a 1080p image from your laptop's screen to your TV or projector. A wireless USB modem fits in your computer and transmits a signal to a hub, which is connected to your TV/projector via an HDMI cable. There is a 3 second lag between computer and TV on this unit and the laptop modem is a bit unsightly. Otherwise, this is an elegant solution.

None of above options have subscription fees (though there are pay-for-view charges on services such as iTunes). All three can be used with any kind of TV.

Graham's Apple Airport and whichever media server he chooses will be plugged in directly to his Internet service provider's modem.


Photo credit: RVWithTito via Flickr/Creative Commons

Finding a Green(ish) Projector

First things first, projectors are energy hogs. Moreover, their lamps tend to fade and need replacing after a few years; a process that is costly and not terribly green as most lamps contain mercury. But if you're looking for big entertainment in a compact size, a projector and screen can't be beat.

Casio has developed a new technology using lasers and LED hybrid for its lamps. There are two models we are considering: the Green Slim Projector, which is available in anywhere from 2000-3000 lumens (more than adequate for Graham's purposes) and the XJ-M255 ($1400) which can link up to Android devices and is 3D ready. Both models' lamps are mercury free and rated at 20K hours (compared to 3K or so for an average LCD lamp).

The downside is that the Casios use DLP technology, which has often been criticized for displaying a rainbow effect on screen. Both projectors are also pretty power hungry at 270W (the Green Slim has "eco" modes, which reduce power consumptions--and brightness--considerably).

Rich Morgan from Projector People recommended the Panasonic PT-AE4000 ($2000) if Graham were to go with a standard digital projector. It uses a conventional LCD lamp, but Morgan said the Panasonic "has much higher contrast at 100,000:1" (as opposed to 1,800:1 for the Casio models). It also has the advantage of having programmable settings for different throw lengths (distance from projector to screen); this would be important as the screen is mounted on the moving wall and would have an opened and closed position.

The LifeEdited apartment will most likely get outfitted with a Da Lite Model B screen, a manual pulldown screen with a small case size. It has a Green Guard certification to ensure it won't harm the indoor air quality.


Image credit: Amina

Hiding The Speakers and Receivers

We will be using LifeEdited sponsor Anima's Invisible Speakers which are, as their name suggests, completely invisible and great space savers. We plan to mount them on the ceiling, which might not be ideal from a surround sound setup, but given the small space, the sound should be very high quality and immersive.

The speakers will be routed to a receiver, resting in a cabinet where the projector and other equipment will be housed. There are thousands of options for receivers. We wanted something as minimal as possible.

We love the size and sleek design of the Harmon Kardon BDS 2 SO/120 ($699), an all-in-one receiver and Blue Ray DVD player (just in case). It also features Dolby Virtual Speaker, which replicates 7.1 channel sound quality in two speakers. This was the only model we found that was available without proprietary speakers.

How to Copy This Design In Your Living Room

The Apple Cinema display, a pair of Harmon Kardon computer speaker and a camera for Cisco's Umi Telepresence will be hardwired to the computer in the LifeEdited apartment, to be used for working.

While this might all seem like a lot of hardware, it's also a lot of function: Streaming media, audio, HD video, projection screen, teleconferencing and more.

If you are looking for a simpler, less costly solution for yourself, invest in a large computer monitor as your viewing screen, buy a packaged home theater receiver and speaker combination (many under $500), hook that into your digital media receiver or directly into your computer. You get most of the functionality of a traditional home entertainment center without a separate TV, cable box (and subscription), CD/DVD player and large speakers.

What do you recommend for a sleek, powerful, minimal home electronics setup? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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LifeEdited: Home Electronics and Entertainment
Photo credit: William Hook via Flickr/Creative Commons

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