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!
Archives For Gadgets
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 184.108.40.206 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.
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.
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.
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…
Netgear ReadyNAS is a line of network attached storage devices that allows you to centralize all your content into one place. The main benefit being that you can then access your content from one place. The Netgear ReadyNAS 102, released about a year ago, incorporates a new modern UI for web management, a marketplace for apps that can be installed, and additional backup tools for your computers and mobile devices. Overall, the ReadyNAS is a fairly intuitive system that should fit basic storage needs while providing additional features with app support (and is a distant descendant of the highly acclaimed Infrant NAS line).
The ReadyNAS 102 is the base model for the home ReadyNAS series. It provides 2 bays for hard drives and the ability to swap drives if your storage needs should grow. The 100 series is meant for home use with multiple users accessing the device. Along with the 100 series, Netgear also has a step up in performance with their 300 series, but those devices are geared towards business office crowd. You can view the different model’s on Netgear’s site here.
You can purchase the 102 with or without hard drives depending on how much you want to spend, and whether or not you have extra drives sitting around. The base 102 model starts out at $199 (diskless) and goes up depending on storage amount. Other options for the ReadyNAS 100 series included a 4 bay option. Our loaner review unit arrived with two preinstalled 1TB drives in RAID 1 mode, meaning that the data was mirrored on both drives and the over storage space was 1TB. You have the option to put the device in RAID 0 which would provide double the storage at the loss of drive mirroring. Continue Reading…
Several weeks ago, this mysterious “digital media receiver” was brought to my attention. I’ve been largely quiet on the matter as I was hopeful that I might turn up more of a smoking gun… as I ultimately did with the Amazon gaming controller. Yet, other than confirmation Best Buy will be carrying an Amazon “streaming player”, I’ve hit something of a dead end. And, with an announcement just days away, I figured I’d share this series of FCC filings to stoke the imagination (and to unleash the sleuths amongst us).
Amazon is known to pass gadgetry thru the FCC under cover of a shell company. In this case, we’re looking at Ailen LLC. While I can’t directly link them to Amazon, the filing pattern resembles prior Amazon endeavors … with someone going to a good deal of effort to disguise the box (CL1130) and remote (DU3560) … that hit in close proximity to the gaming controller (filed by Vafara LLC). Further, the box was evaluated by the engineering test firm last summer … but just passed thru the FCC… perhaps supporting the blown Christmas launch rumor.
Having said all that, Continue Reading…
The Digital Reader is out with a post covering yet another waterproofing coating. While I wouldn’t roll the dice with aftermarket “nano” coatings on devices not designed for immersion and I don’t trust Lifeproof after evaluating two cases, the broader hope is that major manufacturers would directly integrate water resistant technologies… as we’ve started to see from Samsung and Sony tablets and smartphones. Of course, an obvious use case would be taking your Kindle to the pool or tub. And protecting your device from minimal splashes and the occasional, accidental dunk may not require a significant investment of money or cutting edge technology… as both I and the Geek Tonic household have been using inexpensive Zip-loc sandwich bags to protect our “books” in moist environments for years. However, I will tell you that wiping away “screen” condensation (in that steamy shower) works way better with non-touchscreen Kindles since the plastic transfers touch pretty darn well.
As the story goes, D-Link demonstrated a variety of home automation products under NDA at CES. While we weren’t privy to those talks, all sorts of goodies have starting springing up on government and publisher product databases as the company attempts to one up Belkin’s WeMo line. And next in line for its close up is the diminutive WiFi Motion Sensor (SDH-S150) shown above. The 802.11b/g/n device works in conjunction with the upcoming D-Link Smart Plug and is controlled via smartphone app – also revealed a bit prematurely. The idea is motion detection would be linked to whatever lamp, fan, or other gadget is drawing power from D-Link’s smart plug, or simply fire off motion push notification to one’s mobile. However, we’re currently evaluating the agnostic Staples Connect home automation hub, and are hopeful an inexpensive D-Link motion sensor could be leveraged to trigger say my new collection of Philips Hue lighting.