Archives For Video

vizio-costar-update

I briefly swung by Vizio’s CES suite for an update on their small form factor streamer. And came away quite please to learn existing Vizio Costar units will beging receiving a Google TV 3 update within just a few weeks. While our initial Costar impressions weren’t the most favorable, there’s still quite a bit of value here at the $99 price point and the Google TV refresh, including updated YouTube app and tablet voice control, ups the ante. Further, Vizio informed me a full-on Amazon Instant app is now available (versus the web shortcut). Given Vizio’s Input 1 HDMI pass-thru and true web browsing, in addition to the requisite apps, it’s a competitive and unique offering at this price point… which will surely gain traction as they expand to brick & mortar distribution later this year. We’re looking forward to taking our (two) Costars for a spin, once the gTV3 update hits, and will report back.

Content remains king, with television programming and mobile device interaction converging at a rapid pace. So-called “second screen” apps were everywhere at CES, integrating all sorts of functionality. And companies are clearly pumped. Heck, Cisco & Cox invited Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman in to witness the unveiling of their upcoming iPad app.

2ndscreensummit

In conjunction with CES festivities, I was invited to the 2nd Screen Summit“a deep-dive into the latest business opportunities, creative case studies and technology innovations related to the creation of supplementary, synchronized and social TV content featuring speakers from Hollywood, Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley.” Given a tight schedule, I was only able to attend the keynote and a discussion of content discovery via the second screen… which quite frequently wandered well beyond the confines of a tablet device, once again reinforcing content consumption interconnectedness. And, with my somewhat irreverent style, I fired off several “second screen” tweets of my own from the sessions (reproduced below). Continue Reading…

fiostv-ipad4

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…

bestbuy-copydvd

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

redbox-instant

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.

netgear-neotv-max2

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.

netgear-neotv-max4

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.

netgear-neotv-max1

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.

beo-play-sleeve

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.