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A TV Watching Monster

A few months back, in "Sometimes It’s Just Broken" in TidBITS-766, I wrote about my trials and tribulations in displaying video from my 12-inch PowerBook on our television. I had purchased a Mini-DVI to Video Adapter, but the first one was defective and Apple politely sent me a replacement that worked fine. After that article, a TidBITS reader who worked at Monster Cable offered to send me a review unit of Monster’s iTV Link cable, which goes beyond the Apple adapter by also providing audio. After a spate of ignoring video entirely, I finally got around to testing the cable in a real-world situation.


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On the Macintosh side, the iTV Link gives you a mini-DVI connector and a standard headphone plug; on the TV side you get an S-video connector and a pair of RCA audio plugs. The connectors all feel solid and well-constructed, and Monster claims they have 24k gold contacts for maximum signal transfer. In fact, the iTV Link Web page lists all sorts of jargon-filled reasons why the iTV Link is utterly fabulous – "heavy-duty double shielding 100% mylar foil and 95% copper braid," "nitrogen-injected dielectric," "super fine multi-stranded copper conductors," and even "DoubleHelix construction dual tightly twisted conductors." Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest idea what any of that really means, if anything, but I can say that the audio and video signals from the PowerBook to the television are of good quality. It’s tricky to be sure, though, since our 15-year-old Sony TV is awfully fuzzy compared to the PowerBook’s crisp LCD screen, and the TV’s speakers would undoubtedly be laughed at by any home theater aficionado.

The basic advantage of the iTV Link over Apple’s Mini-DVI to Video Adapter is the addition of audio, since watching a picture on the television while listening to faint sound coming from the tiny PowerBook speakers off to the left of the screen isn’t an ideal experience. Initially, though, the iTV Link was more trouble to hook up, since I had to swap the S-video and audio connections on the back of the television (insert repeated swearing at the rat’s nest of associated cables) from the TiVo to the iTV Link instead of just stealing the S-video cable that already ran from the TiVo to the television. Then I realized I could just plug the iTV Link into the TiVo’s input jacks and treat it as "Live TV" in the TiVo’s interface. As an added benefit, that means I can record directly from the PowerBook to the TiVo, which is a slightly odd sensation. I haven’t tried recording with a DVD yet, but it worked flawlessly with a QuickTime movie.

The iTV Link really is a different beast from Apple’s Mini-DVI to Video Adapter; it’s a complete solution for sending audio and video to your television, whereas the Mini-DVD to Video Adapter is just that, an adapter that makes it possible for you to plug an S-video or composite cable into your Mac. So if you want to integrate your PowerBook or iBook into your home entertainment system, the $40 iTV Link is worth a try; if all you want to do is have the capability to use a television as a presentation screen, Apple’s $20 adapter is all you need.


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