Set-top boxes that let you view the contents of your computer on your big-screen TV can be really handy — if you can get them set up. Too often, the process is complicated and messy. But a company called Silicon Mountain Holdings is hoping to ease your set up woes with its line of all-in-one PC/HDTV devices, called Allio. The company is aiming to expand the market for its Allio products with a new line of lower-cost devices, but questions remain. First, is the lower price low enough? And, second, is any price low enough to convince buyers to purchase one of these odd-duck devices?
Allio Lite, the new lower-cost line of Allio devices, comprises two models: A 32-inch (720p) model that sells for $1,299, and a 42-inch (1080p) model that goes for $1,599. Both look like regular old LCD TVs, but packed inside they have the guts of a computer. Both include an Intel Atom processor, a DVD/CD writer, a 250MB hard drive, and 2GB of memory, and both run Windows Vista Home Premium.
Silicon Mountain says the devices can be wall-mounted or can sit on a table, and they ship with a wireless keyboard and mouse. Allio’s devices can be used as a TV or a computer–or both. You can watch your favorite broadcast TV show, and then switch over to Hulu.com to catch another show online. Or you can fire up your office software and do some word processing. And, if you’re so inclined, you can do it all at the same time. The company says the big screens can be split into dual displays; one half can be used to watch TV, while the other half can be used to browse the Web or check email.
Whether the Intel Atom processors will be able to handle all those tasks, though, is another question. Atom processors typically power low-cost computing devices, like netbooks. Using a lower-power processor in a product like a netbook (also sometimes called a mini-laptop) makes sense: Buyers typically know that they are sacrificing performance in order to get a low-priced, smaller device. But will they be willing to make that same sacrifice with their TV? Silicon Mountain says that the Atom processor provides “plenty of muscle for integrated TV-PC functions,” but also goes on to note that the Allio Lite products include more features than your typical netbook, such as a super-multi DVD drive and Windows Vista. I would think all of those features would put a strain on the low-power processor, but I haven’t seen the Allio Lite in action, so I can’t know for sure.
I do like the idea of an all-in-one product that is easy to set up. But, these days, most households have more than one PC — so a device that can connect all of them seems to make more sense than purchasing an extra PC specifically for the living room. Even Microsoft and many PC makers have acknowledged this, as they’ve turned their attention from creating living-room friendly Media Center PCs to designing home servers that can share content throughout your home network. So, can a product like Allio find a place in a multi-PC household? Maybe — but it has some steep obstacles to overcome first. Its performance will have to be superb and its price point perfect if it’s going to win over consumers.