Desktops

Kanex XD

Our long national nightmare is over--you can finally watch Blu-ray movies on your Mac!

Well, sort of.

The Kanex XD (which took home a Best of Show award at 2010's Macworld Expo) takes advantage of a special feature of the $1699 Core 2 Duo ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) and $1999 Core i5 ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) 27-inch iMac models that allows the all-in-one Mac's Mini DisplayPort connection to receive video signals (all other MiniDisplay Port-graced Macs only support video output).

The Kanex (pronounced "connects") converter lets you connect an HDMI video source--Blu-ray player, Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, or HD DVR, for example--to your iMac for HD video and stereo audio playback. (You can also use it with a Nintendo Wii, but you'll need a composite-to-HDMI converter.) Several companies have announced plans to offer similar products, but the XD is the first one to actually see the light of day.

The package includes everything you need: the iMac-like brushed aluminum converter (the metal acts as a heat sink--good because the XD produces a lot of heat), a three-foot HDMI cable, a three-foot Mini DisplayPort cable, and a power adapter. Although the XD supports up to 1920 by 1200 resolution (slightly better than 1080p, which is 1920 by 1080), Kanex says that the only standard HD resolution the iMac's Mini DisplayPort input supports is 720p (1280 by 720). Which means you won't be able to see Blu-ray movies or play 1080p games at their full resolution. Also, you'll need to set the video output of whatever device you plan to attach to 720p before you connect it, and that requires using a separate display.

Kanex recommends a specific order for setup: turn on your Blu-ray/console/DVR, connect the HDMI cable from it to the XD, connect the power adapter to the XD, then connect the Mini DisplayPort cable from the XD to the iMac. I connected a PS3 using these steps, and at first nothing appeared on the screen, but when I unplugged the Mini DisplayPort cable from the back of the iMac and the plugged it back it, the PS3's output showed up just fine.

Once everything was up and running, I played portions of two Blu-ray movies and a few minutes of a PS3 game. The movies looked very good, and the game played without any noticeable lag.

Using the iMac's included Bluetooth keyboard, you can control volume and brightness from the couch, as well as switch between the Mac's desktop and the input from the XD by pressing command-F2.

Macworld's buying advice

If you own a 27-inch iMac and want to make use of its screen to play console games, watch Blu-ray movies, or enjoy HD TV shows from a cable box or DVR, the Kanex XD can make it happen. Due to a limitation of the iMac, however, you'll have to settle for 720p resolution instead of 1080p.

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