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Samsung LN46A530 picture-in-picture split screen

What good is a big-screen TV if you can’t watch sports on it? This was the dilemma we faced in our household this weekend when March Madness suddenly ran up against a promised showing of Snow White for our four-year-old. Picture-in-picture was an option, but not an appealing one. Until I learned that our Samsung LN46A530 provides an option for split screen viewing. Ha! The audio track is a bit disconcerting, but the basketball display is still bigger than the TV screens I watched as a kid… if a little vertically stretched.

Comcast data usage meter

The Comcast bandwidth meter pilot has reached my house, and for the first time today I got a look at our household data usage. Understand, we still have plenty of room under the Comcast 250-GB cap. However, I had hoped that our usage would barely register on the meter (like Jeff Baumgartner’s :)), and instead we hit a healthy 43 GB in the month of December.

Again, 43 GB is nowhere near our 250-GB monthly allowance. But I’ve considered our bandwidth usage to be pretty low, particularly compared to what it could be if Netflix had a better selection of Watch-Instantly flicks, or if I started using Skype video again. Not to mention, I’d like to get around to spending my end-of-year Mozy bonus from Dave, and there’s no telling what an initial data upload or disaster recovery download could do to my numbers.

In other words, I was hoping to have more room for my data usage to grow. It sounds like quintupling my highest-usage month would be a lot, but I can envision a time in the near future when that wouldn’t be a hard thing to do. Will caps keep up with usage patterns? Will Comcast stay so generous? Here’s hoping.

The Sonos S5 ($399) was one of my 2009 boxes of the year. With good reason. Sonos is a sophisticated but easy to implement and easy to operate whole-home audio solution. Featuring content from both our local music collections and various online sources. The S5 broke new ground in the Sonos lineup by integrating rich, powerful speakers into their connected receiver. Sonos is not an inexpensive solution (especially since you won’t stop with just one room), but it’s clearly the best at what it does. Yet, what’s next?

A Sonos email survey I received a few days ago alluded to several interesting expansion possibilities. As I still have a loaner unit on hand, I’ve got a few ideas….

1. Downsize
The survey item I snapped above includes an option for a less expensive unit than the S5 that would replace an alarm clock radio. And that was indeed my top selection on this screen. Not so much on the pricing point, but on the size and usage point. The S5 isn’t huge, but it’s physically too big for most night stands. Also, the the sound is too big for, and will wasted in, most bedrooms. So I’d love to see a nightstand model for the bedroom, a form factor which could also be used in the office.

2. Embrace the Android
The iPhone remote control app is quite impressive. Considering all it does, including replacing a dedicated piece of hardware and despite my little UI nav nits. However, there are plenty of folks who don’t own Apple hardware that might appreciate a Sonos app. And at my briefing last fall, Sonos did indicate additional mobile clients could be on tap for 2010. My first choice, given a probable defection from AT&T to the Sprint/Google/HTC Nexus One in the very near future, is Android support.

3. Bring the Slacker
I’ve come to prefer Slacker‘s niche programming over Pandora‘s acoustic similarities. Which regularly resulted in bizarre, unrelated pairings. I love the Led Zeppelin. But not when I’m in a 90s grunge kind of mood. So I’d like to see some Slacker on Sonos. And, shortly after CES, I put the two companies in touch with hopes of seeing them resolve this shortcoming. As it’s probably the #1 reason I haven’t tricked out every room with a S5. I love Sonos, but content is king. Bring it.

Unboxing the Nao Symphony

Dave Zatz —  January 31, 2010 — 3 Comments

You may have caught Cignias’ Nao Symphony Wireless Music Station CES press release, announcing broad device availability and the requisite iPhone app. But I caught the actual unit. The Nao Symphony Wireless Music Station ($299) provides a slightly different take on the pedestrian iPhone speaker dock. In fact, it’s far more sophisticated.

So while you could just drop your iPod in the Nao Symphony and control music playback via the bundled remote, you probably won’t want to. Nao’s real power comes from it’s WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. Fully control a docked iPod wirelessly via iPhone or Blackberry app. Better yet, stream music directly to the Symphony from any A2DP Bluetooth phone or over WiFi from a Blackberry or iPhone.

I’m looking forward to putting the 4 speaker, 50 watt loaner system through its paces. And, despite the current lack of cloud-based music services (think Sonos S5), Cignias promises frequent (wireless) device updates.

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Unboxing the Twitter Bird!

Dave Zatz —  January 30, 2010 — 4 Comments

We’re closing out an unusual week here at ZNF… Rumor and speculation, followed by some cleavage, all without a single iPad joke. But we may have saved the best for last: Unboxing Ollie the Twitterrific bird. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking when I made this impulse purchase ($19.95 + $6.55 S/H), that ironically costs more than the software (desktop or iPhone) it represents. Perhaps even more ridiculous, I haven’t been a Twitterrific user in some time — having long ago moved on to Tweetie (which needs some help). But I do love me some Twitter. And, as it turns out, this vinyl bird is pretty cute.

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