Archives For HDTV

The FCC yesterday released its latest pricing data on pay-TV services. In the twelve months leading up to January 1, 2011, the average cost for “expanded basic” service increased 5.4% across the country to $57.46 per month. The price for expanded basic service is defined as “the combined price of basic service and the most subscribed cable programming service tier excluding taxes, fees and equipment.” Oddly, however, the FCC also points out that average costs increased slightly more in competitive communities than they did in non-competitive communities. The difference was 5.7% to an average monthly cost of $58.47 in competitive communities versus 5.2% to an average monthly cost of $56.82 in non-competitive communities.

The findings here are highly counter-intuitive. Why would pay-TV service cost more in communities with reasonable service provider competition?

There’s no simple answer to that question, but there are a few critical things to point out about the FCC data. First, the FCC isn’t including equipment fees in these numbers. Continue Reading…

Super Hi-Vision Ultra-HD 8K camera

Comcast and NBC Universal hosted an Ultra-HD screening of several Olympic sporting events tonight in a nondescript office building not far from Washington D.C.’s Union Station. The second of its kind, tonight’s showcase included women’s swimming, women’s track and field, and the men’s 100-meter dash where Usain Bolt once again earned the title on Sunday night of world’s fastest man. The Ultra-HD video in the Comcast facility streams at 16 times the resolution of a typical high-definition television broadcast. And it was sharp enough tonight to allow those of us in the audience to identify the man who famously threw a beer bottle from the crowd on to the track at the start of Usain’s race.

The Ultra-HD video experience comes by way of a partnership including Comcast, NHK out of Japan, and the BBC. It’s branded as Super Hi-Vision, but the technology is also known more colloquially as 8K HD. There were 4K-resolution streams shown off at CES last January, and at the Cable Show in May, and you can even find limited 4K HD content on YouTube. However, there’s no other place in North or South America where 8K HD viewing is possible. Outside of Washington D.C., you have to go to the U.K. or Japan to see Ultra-HD.

So, is it worth it? Continue Reading…

NDS Surfaces 3

By far my favorite thing at the Cable Show this year has been the NDS concept demo of Surfaces, a next-gen TV experience that puts video on the walls around you. The theory from NDS – a set-top and video software company out of the UK – is that TV doesn’t have to fit into a TV set. Instead, it can be overlaid on modular panels that give you the flexibility to see video in different sizes and combine it with other information and associated content.

In the demo I saw yesterday, NDS showed everything from TV clips to music playlists, news feeds and a baby monitor “live” stream. The demo was controlled from an iPad, but all of the content appeared on the wall in front of us in a variety of layouts. For example, one moment we were watching a movie across an entire wall of seamlessly connected screens, but the next we were interacting with a mosaic of widgets that pushed TV content to a much smaller window off to the side of the viewing area.

NDS also showed off 4K-resolution video on the wall-sized display. (Sourced from YouTube, by the way…) Words don’t do it justice, and unfortunately neither does the photo I took with my cheap point-and-shoot camera. However, suffice it to say, the effect is stunning. Continue Reading…

D-Link MovieNite Review

Dave Zatz —  April 14, 2012

D-Link unveiled a new low-end streamer this week, the MovieNite (DSM-310) – exclusively available via Wal-mart for $48. So, as I’m wont to do, I immediately picked one up (and simultaneously discovered a new Roku box).

Unlike its chief competition at this price point, MovieNite has a finite number of pre-loaded “channels” compared to Roku’s 400+ channel bazaar (which often is bizarre). And D-Link’s competently covered all the bases with Vudu (by Wal-mart) for high quality video rentals, Netflix streaming, Pandora audio, and Picasa photos. Also, D-Link bests Roku by offering YouTube.

dlink-movienite7

As to the actual experience, MovieNite can be a bit rough around the edges with a sometimes sluggish interface, perhaps exacerbated by a lack of transitions, and old school fonts. I also experienced a lock up that required pulling the power cable and another incident where the box let out a high pitched squeal as it rebooted. Having said that, the streamlined UI homescreen is suitable for novices — like my mom who’d be overwhelmed by all of Roku’s options and put off by their advertising. Further, the remote channel shortcut buttons make much more sense with a fixed lineup. Continue Reading…

As our digital streamers have shrunk in size, placement options have increased. And I stumbled upon this clever little mount for my Apple TV.

The Innovelis Total Mount ($20) can be positioned in three ways – either bolted to your wall with included screws, Velcro strapped to a HDTV wall mount, or hung from your HDTV by clipping into the television vents. I opted for the vent mount, and I imagine most investing in this solution will do likewise. Innovelis kindly includes clips for various vent style (vertical, horizontal, circular) and I picked up a 1ft HDMI cable via ebay for $2.98, shipped.

appletv-hdtv-mount1

As you can see from the pics and video, the solution nicely cleans up the (minimal) clutter. I don’t have any overheating concerns and my Apple TV actually responds better this location as the remote IR bounces off the walls or ceiling en route to the set-top.

Based on my success with the Apple TV mount, I’ll be picking up a second… as Innovelis also produces one for the similarly shaped Roku 2. But my second 1′ HDMI cable won’t be sufficient, given the proximity of HDMI ports to preferred vent location on our larger living room television and I’ll be ordering a 1.5′ or 2′ replacement.

panasonic-dmp-bdt220

Right on schedule, members of Panasonic’s 2012 Blu-ray player lineup have begun arriving at Best Buy. Last year, we regularly recommended the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 to folks seeking a reasonably priced deck with well rounded features, including a healthy online ecosystem and fast boot times. And now in 2012, the DMP-BDT220 (MSRP $150) looks to be solid successor.

In fact, Tech of the Hub has already run their Panasonic DMP-BDT220 review and concludes the Blu-ray player is “fairly impressive” and a “good value.” I’d say folks considering an Apple TV or high-end Roku might even step up for just $30 additional bucks (via Amazon). While Panasonic’s UI may not be as polished or quick, in addition to Blu-ray playback it offers Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, Pandora, and DLNA streaming. Unfortunately, the optional Android and iPhone smartphone remote control apps for this generation have yet to be released. Also, as a fan the prior generation BDT210, I’m somewhat bummed to see Panasonic drop the touch-free sensor that allowed you to wave your hand above the deck to eject the disc tray.

At a slightly higher end, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 (MSRP $200) features a sleeker enclosure with slot loading disc drive… and a touchpad remote of questionable value. In fact, I’d probably steer folks away from this model given the unconventional remote that lacks even standard transport buttons.

samsung-repair2

Samsung recently settled a lawsuit related to faulty capacitors within HDTVs produced between 2006 – 2008:

The class action lawsuit alleges a defect that may cause the television to experience symptoms such as not turning on, experiencing a delay in turning on, making a clicking sound, cycling on and off, or other similar problems. Samsung denies the allegations in the lawsuit, but has agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid the costs and uncertainty of continued litigation.

Of the millions of sets Samsung has moved, they estimate only 1% of their LCD, DLP, and plasma HDTVs are affected. Members of the class may be entitled to reimbursement for prior repair, a $300 debit card, or actual repair. As it turns out, a friend’s 3 year old 40″ Samsung LCD had started flaking out in recent months – requiring several minutes to display a picture at full brightness after powering on. So, of course, I directed him to Samsung’s site to determine if his out-of-warranty model and serial number are covered. And, once it was clear he’s eligible, instead of completing the claim form (PDF), he simply called 1-888-899-7602 to see about getting assistance. Continue Reading…