Archives For Video

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It was a long time coming, as an eager customer, but Verizon finally pulled the wraps off live tablet television late last year. Their updated iPad app provides FiOS TV subscribers access to 75 channels. Well, in reality, it’s “up to” 75 channels as you may not subscribe to all offerings… as I discovered the hard way. Overall, the app is easy to use and generally works well — turning that iPad into the kitchen or deck television (given it only streams in the home). I did encounter the occasional playback bug, usually resolved with an app relaunch, and the video previews are technically impressive but not quite as useful as traditional channel logos. Presumably more social interaction and Android support will be arriving this year, as well as enabling access from smaller screened smartphones. Given Verizon’s licensing approach, the solution isn’t nearly as expansive as the TiVo Stream. On the other hand, it doesn’t require the purchase of a TiVo ($150+) and streaming accessory ($130).

As Verizon continues offering options beyond the set-top, Continue Reading…

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Best Buy subsidiary CinemaNow has opened the doors to their disc-to-digital program. Much like Walmart’s competing Vudu offering, BBY’s Ultraviolet service validates ownership of a Blu-ray or DVD and, for a few bucks, will “copy” it to your account for later playback. However, unlike Vudu which requires a trip to Walmart, CinemaNow is self service – via your home computer. And, as you can see above, I paid $2 to archive my 12 Monkey’s DVD to the cloud.

I’m only aware of CinemaNow software clients for Mac and Windows, but as an Ultraviolet partner, there’s a high probability you’ll find your newly archived titles available for playback via Vudu  iPhone, iPad, Android, and Roku apps. Sure enough, 12 monkeys was waiting for me there.  Continue Reading…

Redbox Instant Sets Rates

Dave Zatz —  December 12, 2012 — 21 Comments

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While Verizon and Redbox’s joint venture may be running a bit behind schedule, the Netflix competitor teased us today with program details. As expected, Redbox Instant will stream video from a number of distributors to a variety of mobile and television devices —  including smartphones, tablets, connected Blu-ray players, and Google TV. The all-you-can-eat movie-centric service will run $8 a month, as Netflix and Hulu do. Interesting, they will also offer à la carte rentals and purchases… presumably of the more compelling, new release content. Given their DNA, it’s no surprise their secret weapon is bundled disc rentals via those conveniently located Redbox self serve kiosks. Four nightly DVD rentals a month are include at that $8 tier, but an an extra buck elevates you to Blu-ray. Is that enough to wrest customers away from Netflix or encourage first time streaming subscribers? Guess we’ll begin to find out in early 2013.

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Another week, another streamer? A year after introducing their Roku competitor, Netgear expands the NeoTV streaming line with “Pro” and “Max” models. And, as we’re wont to do, we picked up Netgear’s latest. Similar in form factor to that aforementioned Roku, I was prepared to dislike the NeoTV MAX ($60-70) given it’s sluggish response and pixelated fonts… as seen from many sub $100 streamers. However, a recent update has sped up the UI to mostly acceptable levels and Netgear offers a few compelling features versus the competing Apple TV and Roku devices.

The most obvious enhancement is the bundled QWERTY remote… which looks positively svelte next to Gigantor the Vizio Costar equivalent. However, it’s obnoxiously encumbered by “the bullshit buttons” — presumably paid placements, by the likes of Best Buy’s CinemaNow, that you’re bound to hit at inopportune times.

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Also on the value-add list is integrated Intel WiDi reception capabilities. Much like Apple’s Airplay, WiDi allows you to beam content from specific Intel-powered laptops to your television screen. Related, unlike Apple TV or Roku, NeoTV can also receive content via DLNA network resources.

On the appearance front, Netgear’s interface exceeds Roku’s simplistic approach. Although many of the NeoTV apps are really just aggregated feeds powered by Flingo. But, hey, at least they provide YouTube — still missing from Roku devices, along with a promised UI revision.

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Thus far, we’d say the 1080p Netgear NeoTV MAX is a solid and promising streaming player at a competitive price given the broad channel selection, including Vudu and Netflix, QWERTY remote, and integrated Ethernet (as we’re somewhat disappointed that Netgear chose to forgo dual band 802.11n wireless capabilities). Yet, while the space continues to expand, we find ourselves somewhat uninspired given overlapping features and lack of innovation compared to say the mobile industry.

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Out looking for a couch, we swung by the neighboring Bang & Olufsen whilst percolating our seating options.  And, boy, were we wooed by B&O’s relatively new BeoPlay A3. Labeling this product an iPad “dock” doesn’t do it justice — not to mention, we hear the dock is dead. This BeoPlay is basically a speaker chasis for your iPad, that kindly integrates a 6-hour rechargeable battery. While B&O is quick to point out the audio quality (3 tweeters, 1 woofer) of this device, being shallow, I’m most impressed by its good looks… with flush tablet fit and multiple display orientations/positions. The A3 ships with two iPad sleeves (to account for all three iPad generations) and, when mated with a tablet, easily pops out of the device using the B&O button on the rear. This would make the most killer kitchen TV. But I’d prefer a few more color options. And perhaps a lower price of entry… At $549, it’s more costly than many iPads it would encase. No one said looking good is economical.

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As you may have gathered, Vizio, FedEx, and USPS have collectively been unable to deliver a Costar to the address I specified or fee-free as advertised. Fortunately (perhaps), our pals Scott Greczkowski of Satellite Guys and Chris Kapusta of The Game Corps have received shipment of second generation Google TV hardware. And while the form factor and pricing ($100) are both improved over first gen hardware, it seems the overall experience is still lacking.

Scott’s had all sorts of difficulty streaming content from various sources and was ready to return the unit, until Vizio informed him he’d be responsible for return shipping costs and hit with a restocking fee. As Vizio probably intends, that disincentive (corroborated on AVS) has been enough for Scott to hang onto his flawed Co-star — which he’s pretty much relegated to a single function “Slingcatcher” device given Google TV’s limited ecosystem of compelling native apps (versus the kludge of icons masquerading as app that send you to webpages… that fail to stream or offer SD-only video).

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There’s been some discussion of Vizio’s bulky remote. While this may be the first RF remote with touchpad and QWERTY keyboard bundled with a hundred dollar streamer, it is indeed thick – about as thick as the competing Roku 2 XS box is tall and about twice as thick as Boxee’s comparable clicker but without the ergonomics of say the TiVo Slide. Also, I’m getting kinda tired of these branded buttons (as also seen from Roku). But, most importantly, Scott tells me the touchpad isn’t super responsive and he has a difficult time moving the cursor. I guess it’s not all bad though, Continue Reading…

Since we’ve had an amazingly difficult time getting some new Google TV hardware in here, we’re revisiting the original Logitech Revue with fresh eyes, nearly two years after launch — a period that brought us few notable software updates and the ouster of Logitech’s CEO… Not to mention Google has just given up on television advertising and currently provides non-Google TV hardware/software to Kansas City Fiber customers. 

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ZNF supporter and neighbor Joel Ward shares his thoughts:

It was the day that was going to change my life forever. I was about to get my hands on a slightly used Logitech Revue Google TV unit from premiere tech blogger Dave Zatz. Dave had a Revue that he used a while back but had boxed up for some reason or another. I couldn’t comprehend why he would do such a thing. I would soon figure it out.

I started the Google TV experiment that night: replace the Roku on our bedroom TV with the Revue, passing the Verizon FiOS HD cable box signal through the Revue via HDMI cable. Then the Revue hooked to the TV via HDMI. Lastly Ethernet plus the power cable and I was up and running. The on-screen setup wizard was a snap. I was excited to give it all a try.

For about a week I tried the Revue in the bedroom. After about a week in the bedroom, where we barely use the TV, I moved the Revue to the family room where our main HDTV sits. We have our FiOS HD DVR there and a surround receiver, both of which connected easily to the Revue.

This was the real experiment: Would my wife and I appreciate the Google TV interface, search, and app selection? I was up for the challenge. My wife was skeptical. Continue Reading…