Archives For Gadgets

simpletv-drilled

Remember that buzz saw of a fan that the second gen Simple.TV shipped with? Well Simple, and their hardware partner Silicon Dust, have resorted to a variety of software updates and a drill to rectify the issue. And, as you can see above, they’ve begun shipping devices with a newly perforated chassis. But the good news doesn’t end there…

Built into Simple.TV’s Android and iOS apps for phones and tablets, support for Chromecast enables users to easily ‘cast’ their favorite live or recorded over-the-air TV shows onto any HDTV powered by Google’s device.  With Simple.TV’s ability to stream live and recorded TV anywhere, users can watch their favorite shows on the big screen at home and anywhere a Chromecast is connected. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Simple also has flipped the switch on video downloads for offline viewing. While this is (currently) accomplished via PC/Mac desktop, we imagine the MP4s can simply be relocated to the mobile device of one’s choosing – until such a time that the apps themselves are updated with this functionality. Speaking of updates, Chromecast and content downloads are only available to Gen 2 hardware at this time, but Simple indicates future support for early adopters running first generation hardware.

Given the enhancements, and new press representation that we hope keeps it real, we’ll probably give Simple.TV another look (in relation to Tablo, which we’ve been quite impressed with). Stay tuned.

lyve-perspective

With the amount of pictures that I take every year, making sure they are backed up and easily accessible is a primary concern of mine. In the past, I have been burned by losing all my digital photos from a drive crash. Once that happened, I vowed to never let it happen again. Now, at any given moment, my photos are backed up via a local NAS, Dropbox, Google Plus Photos, and Amazon Cloud. Prices have come down for online storage that it is actually affordable to store 80+ gigs up in that beautiful cloud.

lyve-screen

Lyve ($300) brings yet another solution to the mix. Think of it as a centralized place that sucks in all your photos from a mobile phone, tablet, computer, etc. You can even just pop in an SD card or attach a USB drive and have it transfer photos directly to the device. On top of the centralization, Lyve also then presents your photos and videos in a streamlined view. All of this done within a small white box with a touchscreen interface. Safe to say, I was definitely interested in the product when it was announced.

Now Lyve has finally shipped. And we wanted to give a quick unboxing before a proper review. Stay tuned for our impressions!

nest-ads

Google, by way of the WSJ:

We expect the definition of “mobile” to continue to evolve as more and more “smart” devices gain traction in the market. For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.

I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of Dropcam ($149-199), primarily given their recurring fees — an upload-everything model that starts at $99/year for 7 days of cloud DVR capabilities (potentially threatening your broadband cap). However, the introduction of Dropcam Tabs to augment one’s camera with motion detection, via accelerometer, around the house seriously sweetens the deal. For example, afix Tabs to a door to receive alerts when it opens or closes. Further, it looks like there’s some basic geolocation smarts built-in via Bluetooth LE (which is also how it communicates with the Dropcam Pro you’ll need). Like existing Dropcam hardware, the incoming battery-powered Tabs ($29) are more attractive than most of the utilitarian hardware in this space and a prime selling point has been an extremely user friendly interface. Hm!

amazon-fire-tv-update

Just a few short weeks after launch, Amazon has rolled out their first Fire TV update. Sadly it doesn’t include expanded voice search functionality, an updated Netflix app, or Prime browsing (as promised). In fact, Amazon has yet to even update their support page with new 51.1.0.2 software versioning. So we’re left to assume this is merely a minor maintenance release… but pleased to see the new platform is worthy of Amazon’s ongoing development.

A Tale Of Three Remotes

Dave Zatz —  April 12, 2014

remotes

While we rarely have the inclination to tackle a full-on review (like Adam), the $99 Amazon Fire TV streamer that we tracked so closely ahead of launch is worthy of a few posts. Overall, it’s a solid debut… but not quite ready to displace the similarly priced Roku 3 or Apple TV, for those that have already outfitted their televisions.

I’m always fascinated by the decisions companies make in regards to the remote control, which is the primary interface to their TV-based experience. Take the now defunct Sezmi for example – they originally promoted a unique and beautiful remote… only to launch with an off-the-shelf skinned variant to save a few bucks. While that alone didn’t sink the product, a clunky clicker earns no fans. By comparison, TiVo is quite well known for their iconic and practical peanut… still going strong well over a decade now.

In the small streamer category, and without the need for channel number buttons, all entrants have gone for similarly small remotes. None more minimalistic than Apple’s metal sliver of a thing.

remote-profiles

While it’s beautiful to look at, it’s not at all ergonomic, prone to misplacement, and knee-capped by such a tiny IR emitter window – requiring pretty darn good line-of-site for remote control. Further, the “back” function isn’t entirely intuitive and there’s probably not enough buttons in general. By comparison, the Fire TV remote falls somewhere between the Roku 3 and aTV in sleekness and thickness, relying on AAA batteries versus Apple’s CR2032, and is more comfortable hold. Amazon reproduces Apple’s 4-way disc, which is useful and more attractive than Roku’s cross – although Amazon’s build quality isn’t equivalent to Apple as mine is a bit jiggly.

Unlike Apple, Fire TV and Roku do not require remote line-of-site: Fire TV is Bluetooth only, while Roku is more flexible in communicating via WiFi Direct and IR — meaning all your universal remotes are supported. And, along with that RF communication, comes additional features. Fire TV provides a mic to feed Amazon’s (incomplete) voice search functionality, whereas the Roku 3 ships with a headphone jack (and volume rocker) allowing you to stream content without disturbing a sleeping partner. The more bulbous AA-powered Roku 3 remote also integrates Hillcrest’s Wii-esque motion control, along with A/B buttons, to power a very limited number of gaming apps.

Of the three, Amazon strikes the best balance of form, function, and iconography although it could benefit from a bit more heft and girth. And while it doesn’t include Roku’s instant replay button, Amazon has competently addressed this feature via the transport controls interaction.

amazon-fire-tv

As most know, I’ve been tracking the Amazon streamer for some time — turning up a Best Buy planogram as the first hard proof of its existence, followed by regulatory filings of the dual-band box itself and curious Bluetooth gaming controller. Of course, the devil is in the details, with complete capabilities and pricing eluding us until launch. Fortunately, Amazon has moved on from the awful “Firetube” and settled on the much more palatable Fire TV. And the $99 box is shipping now! (Which is really how all product announcements should go.)

While Fire TV lands at the higher end of category pricing (for 2014), Amazon touts voice search of Amazon content via remote along with quad core processing and dedicated GPU, suitable for handling Android gaming via the aforementioned controller accessory ($40). Dozens of apps are available immediately, Continue Reading…