For many years it was difficult playing games in my office. My place is filled to the brim with old systems and technology and the only saving grace was my new iMac. As you may know, and most of you joke about, Macs aren't exactly the game friendly type of computer. For example, one year I told a close colleague of mine that Halo 2 had just been released for mac. His response was, "Ha! I guess they filled their one game quota for the year."
He's a bastard.
Anyway, to bring in a console into my office (such as a PS3 or Xbox 360) it required one of two things:
1. Bringing in a television to play it on.
2. Rigging up my Mac to play games on it.
The first option in this list is almost impossible. Sure I could run out and purchase a nice screen LCD, but I've got so much garbage technology in my office that it simply wouldn't be practical. Plus, my walls are already filled up with the many accolades I've acquired over the years (okay, just the sketch of me from Walt Disney World). In all seriousness, it wouldn't be practical.
The second option has been my solution since the Nintendo Gamecube. Using an Canopus ADVC300 Advanced Digital Video Converter, I've been able to rig any console using a 480i signal to play through iMovie or Final Cut Pro. It's not the worst solution in the world, but it's pretty ugly when you think about what goes into it. I hook the desired console up via RCA inputs and run it through firewire into my mac. I have to open iMovie or Final Cut Pro and change some settings to get the input to show up in their capture windows. On top of this I have to make sure the computer doesn't fall asleep because it doesn't detect anything is happening while I'm playing.
Again, it's a solution, but it's an ugly one.
So what else is out there?
Nothing.... until I opened up my July issue of PSM.
Welcome Kanex XD! It's a device that promises to work on an 27-inch iMac and deliver seamless 720p picture and sound through your mac. The product is simply hooked into the iMac and the console of your choice is connected via HDMI input. It couldn't be this easy.... could it?
For the most part the Kanex XD is that easy. When I first opened the box up I thought, "This is not complicated one bit." You put connection A into connection B and then connection C goes into the mac. Even the instructions (pictured below beside my E3 Badge) were tiny and simplistic; there's little room for error in the process.
Leave it to me to mess it up slightly. As the instructions clearly read to set your source (your console) to 720p. That means you'll need to go into your PS3 or 360 to set the resolution detection to 720p. It's not that difficult, but if you don't do it the process gets strangely frustrating (of course, it's not the XD's fault).
So does it all work well? I tried my 360, PS3 and HD-DVD player (yeah, you read that right) on the Kanex XD and it works marvelously as advertised. The screen on the iMac goes black and the wonderful sound of the booting sources (when sound applies) rings through. The picture, while certainly not 1080p, is pretty sharp. There are no frame break-ups from device to the iMac. It's seamless transfer from console/device to iMac via HDMI, as if the device itself was already built straight into the iMac. For those of you arguing the 720p factor, most games are made for 720p anyway, so the only loss you would see is if you're trying to view a Blu-ray movie and it doesn't shine through to its fullest. If you can accept that then you're in business. I have to say that it was a joy finally not having to rig up the Canopus ADVC300 to play my games. The addition of HD to the equation, with the addition of an easy setup, really does make this a gem of a device.
The only caveat I have about it is that it doesn't work with anything other than a 27-inch iMac. I would be in absolute heaven if I could play my PS3 on my laptop or on other mac devices. The device is so tiny and portable that it would be a wonderful traveling partner when I need to go on long trips and have to continue reviewing while out of town.
Now most people will probably cringe a bit at the price, but think about this for a second. If you're one true desire is to play video games on your iMac, why would $149.99 be such a burden? Purchasing a 27-inch HDMI ready monitor would cost you about $250. Purchasing an actual LCD television would start you around $399. If you're intent on going a 'rigging' route like yours truly then you have the ADVC110 from Canopus starting at $204 (the 300 series is $399 currently). Plus with all the other device oriented solutions you're losing the HD capabilities in the process.
$149.99 is not a terrible price at all; in a sense it's a very affordable solution.