Archives For HDTV

20 TVs tested: Which sets can pass surround sound to a sound bar?

We’ve been tracking Channel Master‘s moves since new digital video recorder hardware first surfaced in FCC documents last summer. They’ve clearly used the intervening months wisely to fine tune both the product experience and marketing strategy as the originally documented pair of K77 set-tops has been whittled down to the single and more memorable DVR+ ($250). And, as you probably guessed from the video above, I do indeed have product on hand… and my initial impressions are quite positive.

The first thing you notice about the dual-tuner, over-the-air DVR+, developed by EchoStar to Channel Master’s specifications, is its amazingly slim form factor. Weeks in, I’m still in awe of the hardware that has similar dimensions to a legal pad or slim notebook. It’s both physically solid and quite handsome… as is the matching remote. Continue Reading…

Next Gen: Xbox One vs PS4

Dave Zatz —  November 20, 2013 — 22 Comments

xboxone-vs-ps4

The next generation gaming consoles have arrived. And, while the enclosures are more subtle this time around, it certainly appears that Sony engineers have schooled Microsoft on hardware design with the PS4 featuring a substantially more compact and elegant form… that doesn’t, yet again, require a massive power brick as the Xbox One does. However, initial skin-deep impressions may be irrelevant, given these devices ultimate home within a TV stand (assuming the Xbone will fit — in mine, it certainly will not.) Of course, both units feature beefed up hardware and a focus on gaming. Yet also offer so much more – particularly the Xbox One that comes bundled with Kinect 2.0 and an intent to own “Input One” of our living room televisions with HDMI pass-thru, including a TV guide overlay (of questionable value to TiVo owners). Also, this time around, both consoles require an annual fee for online, multiplayer access ($50-$60). Which is probably why I picked up a fee-free PS3 Super Slim two weeks ago for my modest gaming and Blu-ray playback needs…

I imagine I’ll be more interested down the line, after the requisite bug-squashing updates and price drops hit. But what about you – is 2013 the year, which platform and why?

mohu-curve

As you may recall, we had great luck pulling in over-the-air high-definition broadcasts via the flat Mohu Leaf antenna. And, while it works rather well, it’s somewhat lacking in the style department as a single, flexible sheet.. that I thumbtacked to the wall. Enter the new Mohu Curve ($55). The Curve’s unamplified reception range (30 miles) is similar to what Mohu markets for the Leaf (35 miles), and I’ve requested more detail on its design and capabilities. But the primary differentiator is a sleeker, sturdier design with integrated stand. Assuming you have the shelf space and you’re OK with white (versus the black/white reversible Leaf).

simpletv2

Simple.TV and Silicon Dust are joining forces for the second iteration of Simple.TV, due later this year, by leveraging their respective software/services and hardware skills. In speaking with Simple CEO Mark Ely last week, the companies appear to be addressing most of my gen 1 concerns.

First, the updated hardware will feature a new Zenverge transcoder with ultimately twice the horsepower of the original model and jumps from a single ATSC tuner to way-more-practical dual tuning capabilities… all in a more compact package (with more accessible coax connector). Unfortunately, it’s still a bring-your-own-harddrive sort of DVR – for those that choose to leverage that feature. Perhaps it ultimately works out OK as customers can choose the appropriate amount of storage for their particular situation? But it does add a certain amount of complexity to the solution and my distaste of clutter is well known ’round these parts.

On the software front, v2 of Simple.TV looks to provide a tighter experience, with a cleaned up and more efficient UI. Along with v2, Simple intends to expand video playback this fall beyond the web browser, iOS, and Roku to Android and Chromecast, with DLNA, NAS, and cloud storage all possibilities on the the roadmap — their long term intent is to become something of a Swiss Army knife of HD OTA, streaming television content to and via the devices of your choosing, including gaming consoles. (I’m also told original Simple.TV owners will receive the new, improved software.)

We expect to learn more regarding hardware and service pricing in the next month or so ahead of launch and I’m looking forward to checking out Simple.TV v2. Cord cutting is a reality and I believe there’s a market for advanced over-the-air, antenna-based television solutions such as these with the pool of contenders expanding nicely – including the new 4-tuner TiVo Roamio and cloud-based OTA DVR Aereo, with Echostar/ChannelMaster in the pipeline.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  August 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

A periodic roundup of relevant news… via our other outlets:

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Comcast Debuts Family Messaging App
Comcast Corp. has quietly launched a new family text messaging and calendaring app for iOS and Android mobile phones. Dubbed Family Point, the app offers private text and voice messaging in a timeline format, similar to a Twitter or Facebook stream.

Betting on Smart Homes
Cable operators have to compete, not only against the well-known ADT Corp. brand in the managed security space, but also against every company that pops up at retail selling smart thermostats and lighting control solutions. With the Internet as a foundation, any hardware company can build its own home automation solution out of a series of IP-connected devices.

Free TV Antennas, Anyone?
Time Warner Cable Inc. subscribers have been without cable access to CBS Corp. channels since early August. And since the battle shows no sign of winding down, TWC is now offering customers a very retro alternative — namely, free over-the-air TV antennas.

Can medical tricorders disrupt global healthcare?
The Scanadu Scout is a small sensor-loaded device designed to measure everything from body temperature to heart rate variability to blood oxygenation. It’s scheduled to ship in March 2014, and the price for early investors ranges from $149 to $199 for the Scout hardware plus Scanadu’s mobile app.

Chromecast set-up 1

I have barely scratched the surface of what Chromecast can do (although Janko has a lengthy review), and already I love it. Here are a few things I’ve learned from laptop streaming only. More experimentation to come with smartphones and iPads.

Lessons Learned

1. Set-up is extremely fast and easy. I know it’s already been said by others, but it bears repeating. I plugged the stick into my TV, navigated to the Chromecast set-up page on my laptop browser, typed in the code listed on my TV screen, gave my Chromecast a name, and that was it. The only hiccup I ran into was that my laptop briefly disconnected from my wireless network during set-up. Once I reconnected it, Chromecast worked instantly. Continue Reading…