Archives For Accessories

Look what I saw at CompUSA earlier today… the TiVo-branded wireless adapter. Like TiVo.com and Amazon, they’re priced at $49.99 — but you don’t have to wait for shipping. Rumor has it these puppies have also shown up at Fry’s. How long before we see them at Best Buy and Radio Shack? Maybe they’re already lining the shelves…
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Logitech Harmony 890 Reviewed

Dave Zatz —  February 13, 2006

The Harmony 890 has finally hit the shelves and the reviews are trickling in. On top of the features his younger brother the 880 offers, the new model adds RF (to make it through those pesky cabinets and walls) and is fully backlit. But is that really worth the $150-$200 premium? With a list price of $399, I just can’t stomach paying more for this remote than I’d pay for an Xbox 360. Heck, it costs more than my HD tuner, DVD player, and Xbox 1 combined. The later 600 models are still my favorites of the Harmony line, though we’re currently using a 520 in our living room.

Business Week says: Logitech’s Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote costs more than many of the TV sets and stereo components it controls. It promises to change channels on your TV, turn up the volume on your stereo, pause your DVD player, and manage a multitude of other devices. The 890 uses radio frequencies in addition to infrared, so it can control devices behind cabinet doors or even in rooms a floor away. If it sounds a bit too ambitious — well, it is. A big problem with universal remotes is that the TVs, set-top boxes, and stereos they control are so intricate that no all-in-one remote can possibly handle every function with grace. Give the 890 credit for trying.

PC World says: It took a bit more effort to get the Harmony to work with its wireless RF extender. To enable the RF features, I had to specify whether the device I wanted to control was to be operated by the remote (via infrared) or by the extender. The 890 did practically everything I asked of it, flawlessly controlling equipment located in a nearby room. Unfortunately, my shipping unit routinely lost the connection when I tried to control my first-floor stereo equipment from the second floor, where I have remote speakers. In contrast, my year-old Home Theater Master MX-600 from Universal Remote (purchased for $450 and now available for half that much) handles this location easily.

Sony Preps Wireless AV System

Dave Zatz —  February 12, 2006

What’s a bored, snowed-in geek to do on a Sunday AM? Troll the FCC website for new products, of course!

Sony’s got a home wireless AV transmission system (HWS-AV10) in the works. It uses the 2.4 GHz frequency to relay audio, video, and IR remote signals from a component in one room to a TV in another… while likely interfering with your cordless phones and WiFi. The base station includes an IR blaster allowing you to change channels or choose TiVo recordings at a distance. The receiver smartly bundles an external antenna to fine-tune reception.

In the past, I’ve used a few variations of this device with mediocre results. I’ve had better luck using media extenders/servers over WiFi… though they require a larger investment of both time and money. If cash is no object, go whole-hog with Sony’s LocationFree TV and take your screen with you around the house. For basic video, I’d advise just fishing the coax.

Sorry, HD Beat… this puppy’s standard def only.

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Like most gadget freaks, my buddy Matt has an impulse control problem. That’s how he ended up with the Sony Ericsson W800i, aka the Walkman Phone, with a new Cingular contract… in addition to his existing Sprint phone and contract. Not that I need an excuse for a road trip, this seemed like an excellent time to drive up to NJ and check the phone out.

Let me begin by saying I haven’t read the manual for my new Panasonic Lumix FX9, so these pictures aren’t the greatest. But trust me when I say the W800i is a sexy little phone — the unique color scheme looks sharp. The display is bright and vivid with a slick animated theme. For those of you familiar with the SE T610 and it’s derivatives, the W800i is of similar size and shape.

The phone is no iPod. It’s also no ROKR. The music interface is nice enough, though navigating via the sensitive thumbstick often resulted in overshooting selections. Sony provides a data cable and PC software to load the phone up with MP3 and AAC tracks. Unlike the ROKR, there’s no restriction on the amount of songs you can play from a Memory Stick PRO Duo card. The phone has a built-in FM receiver — a nice-to-have at my gym which broadcasts television audio via FM. I don’t normally make it a habit to share earbuds, but in the name of science I tried these. The bundled buds are small, soft, and low-profile that fit securely but comfortably — they don’t isolate sound the way my Shure’s do, but you can wear Sony’s for an extended period of time without discomfort. What really surprised me is the external speaker that puts out decent audio. I could definitely envision sitting the phone on my desk and listening to some tunes at work.
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TiVo Adapter Winner!

Dave Zatz —  January 17, 2006

Tim McKee, a software engineer in Nebraska, has won the super speedy TiVo adapter. As with my last giveaway, entrants were reverse alphabetized and the winner was randomly chosen.

For more details on the adapter, check out my review. To answer a common question, according to several reports on the TCF, yes the adapter is providing speeds equivalent to a wired connection.

Lucent’s DVR Sleep Detector

Dave Zatz —  January 11, 2006

Lucent brainiacs have filed a patent application for a DVR sleep detector. They envision a DVR-integrated “apparatus” which pauses TV playback once an individual has fallen asleep. Upon regaining consciousness, DVR playback resumes. The application covers both video surveillance and physiological monitoring to determine wakefulness. No word on how they’ll handle those risqué folks who watch TV together.

Lucent says:
[0011] The sleep detector may comprise an electronic camera for forming images of the viewer, and pattern recognition means connected to the electronic camera to monitor the physical condition of the viewer. For example, the pattern recognition means determine whether the viewer’s eyes are open or shut. The apparatus may further include logic means connected to receive output from the pattern recognition means to distinguish normal blinking from the onset of sleep.

[0012] Alternatively, the sleep detector may comprise a device wearable by the viewer for monitoring the physical condition of the viewer. For example, the wearable device may include one or more of an accelerometer, a heat flux sensor, a galvanic skin response sensor, a skin temperature sensor and a near-body ambient temperature sensor.

[0013] The sleep detector may be connected to the digital video recorder via direct electrical connection or via a remote-control type interface.

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Sling LinkSling Media currently ships the Slingbox without an integrated wireless adapter or USB port. If your living room isn’t hard-wired for data, connecting requires the purchase of a network bridge. SlingLink attempts to capitalize on that oversight as a branded HomePlug Powerline network adapter. I prefer the Sling folks focus on providing wireless support, either built-in or as a USB accessory, with Slingbox2 rather than peddling uncommon network gear.

Sling Media says: With Intellon’s HomePlug standard technology, SlingLink adapters allow consumers to quickly and easily connect Sling Media’s Slingbox – an award-winning product that allows consumers to access their living room television experience at any time, from any location in the world – to a home network, by simply plugging the adapters into existing electrical outlets. With SlingLink adapters, every outlet in a home can have the same broadband connection available. This is especially important where the TV or cable connection is not located in the same room as the customers’ home Internet connection.