I've always been very sceptical about connecting computers to my TV. Years ago, before the days of Windows Media Center, I tried to build a PC that would act as a media server and PVR. It worked, but it sucked.
The picture was terrible, it crashed all the time and it was noisier than a vacuum cleaner with a pair of socks stuck in the tube. Then I discovered TiVo and never looked back -- computers have had no place in my living room since.
One of the reasons the picture sucked on my hand-built PC was the graphics card only had a composite video connection, so no matter how much I fiddled with the settings, everything came out in Vaseline-vision.
But things have moved on -- many laptops have HDMI ports now and some are powerful enough for high-definition material. I'd been using the BBC's iPlayer to catch up on some TV that I'd missed, but the laptop-sized screen and relatively weak sound on the Dell XPS M1330 I've been using meant I've never managed to get through a whole episode. So I decided to give the laptop a go in my living room over HDMI.
Surprisingly, it worked really well. It took me just a few minutes to download the Doctor Who where Derek Jacobi out-acts everyone else transforming from a human to a Time Lord with a drum fixation. The picture was a million miles away from my early PC-to-TV experiences -- not hi-def, admittedly, but pretty much what I get from standard-def recordings on my Sky HD box. And I was pleased to find that the HDMI port could handle sound, as the last Media Center PC I looked at couldn't offer this basic feature.
It wasn't entirely straightforward. I had to change the default sound device to HDMI (then switch it back to 'speakers' when I'd finished). It took me about five minutes to find the right graphics settings for my TV in the Nvidia control panel. Oh, and the screensaver switched on just as John Barrowman was doing his comedy coat-flapping run. But after my experiences of yore, I was simply happy that it worked at all.
I look forward to seeing how simple Apple will make this process when it 'invents' a 'revolutionary' laptop with HDMI in a few years time -- now that will be something. Until then, the Dell is good enough.