Archives For HDTV

tablo

The cord cutting options are heating up, with Tablo poised to ship in February. I spent some quality time at the Digital Experience with CEO Grant Hall going over their offering… that consists of both two- and four-tuner configurations to pull in luscious broadcast video via antenna, without going through a cable company. Like Simple TV, the headless Tablo box sits on your home network to stream live and DVR-ed content to various local and remote endpoints. However, unlike Simple, Tablo integrates dual band 802.11n wireless capabilities for more flexible placement – your network cable location may not always be the best position for an antenna.

Tablo will ship with 1GB of local storage, which is used for caching guide and meta data, including box art and the like. By keeping this content local, Tablo’s iOS, Android, and Mac HTML5 apps are far more sprightly than you’d imagine. Also, in terms of DVR storage, Tablo is another BYO solution. There are pros and cons to this approach. While it’s far more flexible in terms of choosing your own capacity (at a variety of price points), it also results in more clutter and perhaps requires a more educated consumer to get going. However, the tech savvy folks I imagine will gravitate to Tablo won’t be faced with the same conceptual challenges Channel Master might with the DVR+ audience.

tablo-ipad

Tablo’s two-tuner model is now available for pre-order at $220, with a four-tuner model expected at $270. Like Simple TV and TiVo, but unlike DVR+, Tablo requires a service fee for guide data (14 days of Tribune). While you could operate Tablo as a very basic time-based recording device, most will prefer the richer and more full featured capabilities one gets for $50/yr. We’re quite looking forward to checking this one out in the coming weeks.

vizio-sounbars

Those following closely know the original Vizio 5.1 “soundbar” was one of the best tech purchases I made in 2013. Unlike traditional soundbars, in addition to being paired to a subwoofer, the Vizio also includes a pair of rear channel speakers (that connect to the subwoofer, which communicates wireless to the soundbar) to provide a true surround experience. Taking into account I’m no audiophile, I’ve been very pleased with the sound quality. Further, I appreciate the lack of clutter with this solution in conjunction with its understated style. Oh yeah – it also quite capably streams Bluetooth audio. Retail was somewhere in the neighborhood of $330, but I picked mine up for a mere $230. Of course, with any amazing value like this there must be some catch. Indeed, the Vizio shipped with a limited number of inputs. Enter 2014…

S5451

It seems Vizio has had great success in the audio category, and they’re showing off several new products this year including a smaller 5.1 system and a rather rich sounding pedestal speaker stand. But, of course, I’m most interested in the successor to my unit. The new S5451 soundbar spans 54″, versus the 42″ of 2013, providing a wider soundstage with better separation of the front channel speakers. Additionally, the subwoofer is larger with a broader range. Again, to my untrained ears, the demo sounded fantastic. Yet, practically speaking, I was far more concerned with the rear inputs. And Vizio delivered. Sort of.

The new 5.1 unit includes both a HDMI input and HDMI output jack, along with the requisite ARC for two-way TV<>Soundbar communication. This will be a more versatile solution for many, including me. But what I was really hoping for were multiple HDMI inputs, turning the soundbar into a switch. At the very least the new solution provides a second usable input, beyond the optical — and if your TV cooperates by sending third party 5.1 out via HDMI you’re golden either way.

Pricing and timing haven’t been announced yet, but we anticipate the incoming S5451 will clock in slightly more than last year’s model and perhaps midyear. I’ll of course be watching closely as a potential upgrade.

ActiveVideo AmEx ad

TV service providers have had a monopoly on the consumer television experience for years, but the CE guys finally have a chance to get in on the game. From LG’s launch of WebOS TVs to the incorporation of the Roku platform in TCL and Hisense sets, CES is full of news about how the TV companies are banking on delivering better software to differentiate themselves.

As Dave alluded to, however, it’s hard to imagine that consumers are going to pay too much attention to software when they buy a TV. Worse, the messy ecosystem means it will take longer for any useful new applications and features to gain traction. How are content companies and developers going to deal with creating TV apps for a thousand different connected TVs, set-tops, and streaming sticks?

The one interesting solution out there right now is ActiveVideo’s CloudTV distribution platform. Continue Reading…

Roku TV Launching This Fall

Dave Zatz —  January 6, 2014

roku-smart-tv

Nearly two years after announcing their MHL Streaming Stick designed to make dumb TVs smart, Roku has now inked deals with Hisense and TCL to produce Roku TVs — in sizes ranging from 32″ to 55″ that are expected to ship this fall. It’s a great win for manufacturers looking to integrate a mature and continually updated platform. But, like LG, Roku and their partners will soon learn if a television operating system matters to shoppers the way it does in mobile as these guys collectively work to shorten the consumer television refresh cycle. Continue Reading…

Netgear Puts A RDK Set-Top On A HDMI Stick

tivo-opera-apps

With CES mere days away, it’s time to flex our predictive musculature. Mari’s gone broad with the TV trends, but I’m dialing it down to a single set-top manufacturer we know so well. Unlike years past where TiVo hid themselves at the end of an obscure, dusty hallway for invite-only meetings, TiVo’s invested in a real booth for 2014. Go big, or go home! And their prime Central Hall location will provide a much larger stage to tell the compelling Roamio story. Reinforcing TiVo’s more visible approach, beyond the booth, I’ve counted at least five events TiVo management will be speaking at. While I expect TiVo to make some noise around their analytics group and viewer behavior, a partner announcement or two isn’t out the question, and we’re still awaiting TiVo Roamio upgrade offers, I remain most interested in retail TiVo functionality. Continue Reading…

LG_ZNF

By way of our pal @evleaks comes an exclusive image of the refreshed webOS UI headed to at least one LG Smart TV. As you can see, the new card carousel is a looker. And, unlike competing Samsung and Panasonic Internet-connected televisions, apps aren’t buried in a silo-ed grid of icons (and ads). Of course, there’s way more to an experience than sexy visuals… which is why one of our top priorities at CES next week is to track down and spend some quality time with one of these sets.

It was many years ago at CES that Dave and I both found ourselves enthralled by HP’s coffee-table-sized touchscreen on display at one of the many press events. There’s something visceral about the feeling of moving and shifting digital objects on a table, and it’s very different from the feeling you get when manipulating a tablet. With a tablet, the movements are mostly in your thumbs and index fingers. With a digital table, your gestures are broad and sweeping.

Of course, where HP (and Microsoft, and others) failed with its touchable table, Apple has soared to unimaginable success with the iPad and its successors. ln fact, we’ve been so caught up in the tablet market that little effort’s been expended on bringing touch-control to larger screens. (Motion-controlled TV interfaces are a different matter entirely.) The one big exception I know of is the Lenovo Horizon Multimode Table PC. Lenovo showed off its Horizon product at CES 2013, but given how little I’ve heard about it since then, I was shocked to discover the Table PC is actually available for sale. You can make it your own for only $979.

Now into the void steps Westinghouse. With a slight twist on the tabletop idea, Westinghouse is introducing a new interactive whiteboard for CES 2014. It’s a large tablet turned on its side, and it comes in 55″, 65″, 70″ and 84″ screen-size varieties. (The 84″ version supports 4K video.) According to the YouTube demo, the new product operates like a standard tablet running Window 8, but it includes a whiteboard mode with text recognition, annotative capabilities that work even on video, and a six-point IR touch system. Continue Reading…