With the 2015 edition of the annual Consumer Electronics Show upon us, it’s time to reflect on how various companies utilize their time in the sun. And, unfortunately, the signal to noise ratio is not always favorable for the gadget blogger given a large number of introduced products that skulk away with nary the follow-on discussion and no product on shelves.
Archives For HDTV
This probably isn’t the year to buy an Ultra HD TV for that special holiday someone. Despite nearly-reasonable prices ($1400 for this Samsung 55-incher), there just isn’t a lot of 4K content yet to enjoy on a new TV.
However, if you’re dead set on the idea, there’s good news coming at you from DirecTV. The satellite provider has started to deliver 4K content to Samsung TVs that are paired up with the Genie HD DVR. Initially, the 4K catalog only includes nature documentaries along with 19 movies from Paramount Pictures and K2 Communications. But DirecTV says there are “more titles to be announced soon.”
DirecTV also makes a point of noting that it is “the first multi-channel video provider to offer 4K Ultra HD programming direct to customers’ TVs.” Back at CES in January, Comcast said it would launch a 4K app for Samsung TVs before the end of the year, but that’s looking less and less likely by the day. Bet we’ll have more announcements at CES 2015!
As expected, Amazon Instant streaming has gone 4k this month… via a number of award-winning blockbusters such as Vendetta and Time Runners. Michael S sent in a few snaps from his brand spanking new Vizio P Series (which I’m contemplating) and 4k video is designated via a small UHD banner in the upper left of the box. Although Michael tells us the label is inconsistently applied and I’m not certain if the content is natively 4k or if the video has been upscaled from 1080. Irrespective, the future is here… should any of these titles appeal and our bandwidth caps be sufficiently generous.
Although our initial impressions of the dual tuner Simple.TV was less than stellar, the company has been hard at work not only updating the little cord cutting, place shifting black box, but also launching new features. Recently, I had the chance to talk to Simple.TV CEO Mark Ely to discuss some of these changes.
First, from a software perspective, Simple.TV will be moving away from Silverlight as the default player outside of Safari on Mac. Currently, if you’re using IE, Chrome, or Firefox on a Windows computer, you are required to install Silverlight for video playback of your shows or live TV. Chromebooks are not supported at the moment. A move away from Silverlight and to a more compliant HTML5 video player will allow Simple.TV to expand their device playback on Windows, but also for Chromebooks. Continue Reading…
I took a super brief look at Roku TV back at CES, but CNET is now out with a more thorough once over as pricing and timing have been revealed. And that pricing is extremely competitive, with the 32″ TCL running a mere $229. While that’s pretty darn good for a 720P smart TV with WiFi, CNET wonders if budget sets from Vizio might provide better picture quality, given local dimming… along with providing their own raft of apps. Of course, no one comes close to Roku’s breadth (even if the vast majority of their 2,000 over-the-top “channels” hold no appeal). Yet, at launch, the Roku TV doesn’t much compel me. In fact, they seemed to have overlooked some very interesting cord cutter interplay.
As with LG, “TV” is an app. In fact, highlighting the TV tile will even live-preview whatever’s being broadcast (as will any other input tile, such as a STB wired up via HDMI). But Roku’s very fine universal search doesn’t incorporate current or upcoming OTA programming. In fact, there’s no guide at all (as far as I know) – just a sidebar of tuned channels. Which, I suppose, is at least a step up from the yet-to-be-released Roku Antenna that requires you flip inputs between apps and TV.
The Roku 3 remains my go-to streamer, besting Apple TV, Fire TV, TiVo, and Xbox One. And, if I were in the market for a budget smart set, for kitchen or office usage, I’d probably go with the Vizio – that also comes in a smaller 28″ size. Alternately, I’d simply get a “dumb” TV … and add over-the-top capabilities via the relatively inexpensive and clutter-free Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick.
Because one video stream is never enough, a start-up company called 4SeTV is planning to introduce a $99 retail box that lets users display up to four TV channels at once on one screen. The company is launching a Kickstarter campaign for the device on August 19th, but it’s also making the rounds with cable operators to see if there’s any interest in tying the hardware to a subscription service. Calling its product “the industry’s first personalized mosaic mode device,” 4SeTV says its technology works with both cable stations and over-the-air broadcasts.
The hardware part of the 4SeTV product is a small box that connects to your home router and an HDTV antenna. (Presumably the box can also be connected to a cable set-top.) You control the video interface through a mobile app, and then have the option to cast it to a networked television set. The company says the software will work with Internet-connected TVs, but also with the Google Chromecast.
I can think of very few occasions where I’d want to watch four different channels at once. But pick your favorite sports season and maybe there are enough times when multiple games are on to make mosaic mode worthwhile. For more info, check out the 4SeTV demo video. Continue Reading…
After something of a rocky launch, Mohu Channels shipping will resume for Kickstarter backers. Tuning and heat-related issues in the Android-powered, cord cutting widget were not hardware-based and have been resolved via software adjustments:
The issue was caused by noise induced on the signal path from the tuner front end as it traveled to the processor. The problem was resolved by changing the frequency of the intermediate carrier to a less susceptible frequency.
The Electronic Program Guide, which is the information collected from the OTA broadcast signal for the program lineup on each channel, would stick in an endless loop, causing the microprocessor to overwork
Further, beta time shifting is a go! Continue Reading…
Channel Master has just updated their DVR+ line with a $400 model that houses a roomy 1TB internal drive – versus the original’s bring-your-own USB storage approach that requires more clutter, more complexity. We quite like the DVR+ and believe it’s a solid option for those seeking an over-the-air recorder and coming from VCR or new to DVR (whereas we suggest Tablo to our more geeky peers). The dual tuning DVR+ is super slim and super quiet, without a fan, and comes in cheaper than the competition. While the $200 TiVo Roamio may do more, with more polish, it also clocks in several hundred dollars more when considering the service fees. And, beyond Vudu, the fee-free Channel Master DVR+ intends to close the gap with several well-known audio and video apps in the pipeline “along with some other surprises for later this year.”