After some insane working hours, I've spent the bonus...
I'm now the proud owner of a 50" Sharp Aquos LCD TV, and a Netgem i-Player terrestrial digital receiver, both bought at John Lewis, Oxford Street, London.
First of all, John Lewis did an exceptional job of getting me and my products together. The A/V department has a "now serving" sort of system, which I can imagine could be infuriating when the wait is 45 minutes (as it was at about 5pm). However, at about 1pm, when it was 15 minutes, it was great. It means you get as long with your shop person as you want, you get a relaxed shopping experience, and no doubt, you're more likely to part with your well earned readies.
After you've selected, you go queue up at anohter counter (thereby freeing your shop person to talk to more punters), you hand over your reference number and pay your bill. As I wanted instant gratification, I opted to take my TV home straight away. So, I head down to the collection point (at a great location at the back of the store, if indeed you have a car). 10 minutes after my purchase, it is handed to me, with a beautifully crafted string handle ready for me to carry it home on the tube.
My only gripe with John Lewis was they didn't know much about the Netgem i-Player. When asked "can I connect it to my broadband?" the answer came back (after a referral) as "no". A little look at Netgem's web site says different. Sadly, this meant that I had to drop the TV home before decideding to go back (via Tottenham Court Road to get a USB ethernet adaptor) to get the Netgem. It's a shame JL didn't know more about the Netgem, because they might have had the USB adaptor I needed, and besides, the Netgem's a good product.
Anyway, so, the TV. This thing is great. Previously, I had a 14" Sony Vega (also a good TV, if a little small). The Sharp is great - even on analogue. It tunes itself in completely automatically, and even sorts the channels as you'd expect them to be. The picture is fantastic, as is the sound (something I was a bit worried about because it's difficult to try in the shop). It's got Phono outputs, so it could go out via the Hifi in the future, if needs be.
[update: Origianlly, this was posted via the Netgem - it cut the post off a couple of lines above. Looks like it won't post as much as Netscape 7 will]
Having a flat TV is great. I never thought it'd would be quite as good a feature as it is (as I have a huge Ikea TV/Hifi stand thing, so space isn't a problem). Still, flat is best, by a long way. Also, I guess I could hang it on the wall if I move and the room's different or something.
As for the Netgem - it's great. I have to admit to having a little aprehension about it because it's French. I know that sounds terrible, but the French culture is, well, continental, whereas the UK is pretty much "what ever the US does we'll do too". However, the Netgem transcends cultural boundaries excellently. It appears as if it's completely English.
The initial setup is a doddle. It guides you simply though the things it needs to know, and tunes automatically. Without having to specify, it used the broadband connection rather than dialling up, although it didn't tell me that was what it was going to do, so I connected up the phone anyway. Either way, the software's all updated now, and the installation continued. Since I'm not dialling up, I can't use the Netgem SMTP server to send mail. So, I have to use my ADSL ISP's instead. This isn't something the Netgem told me, nor detailed in the manual, which if I wasn't quote the techie I am, might have lead me to call the helpline number.
Connecting up the Netgem is easy too. You'll need to consider where to put it though. You'll need to get two Scart cables, two aerials, a phone line and/or a USB ethernet decide and ethernet cable, plus the power cable. Optionally, you might want to get sound out too. The Netgem's got virtually no weight, so the cables will pull it about it a bit. You'll also want to make sure it's accessible so you can get to it with the remote and wireless (IR) keyboard.
My only gripe with the Netgem is the audio outputs. You either get optical or analogue line out via a headphone type socket. That socket is right next to a scart connector, so sort of sits behind the cable that comes out of the scart socket. So, if you want to get to the sound, either use the optical or get a cable with a headphone plug on one end, a bit of flexible cable and two phono plugs to connect it to your hifi.
Once all running, the Netgem's great. It's easy to use. It's all about where you'd expect to find it. The webTV and email clients seem pretty decent (although as you might expect, the WebTV doesn't do Flash, Java etc).
So, todays entry comes from my sofa via wireless keyboard and Netgem, displayed on a nice Sharp LCD TV. I'm lovin' it, lovin' it.
(excuse typos - being IR, the keyboard drops the odd letter, and being WebTV, it's not always easy to see!)