Archives For Reviews

We continue to find ourselves in a transition period where the majority of our set-top boxes and televisions aren’t sufficiently empowered to deliver Internet content. While some of us have resorted to directly connecting a computer to the HDTV, a variety of solutions have sprung up to relay PC-based content onto the television. Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi) and Veebeam are examples we’ve covered in recent months. However, as each of these manufacturers uniquely tackle this challenge, McTiVia is a new entrant worth discussing.

Basically, McTiVia ($199) allows you to broadcast your Mac or PC display and audio straight to your television. Unlike Veebeam, which includes a wireless USB dongle you attach to your computer that communicates to a small box co-located at a television, McTiVia is software powered. And 8 computers can be configured to beam their desktops to the TV (in a much more agnostic method than Intel’s CPU-locked down offering).

One of my primary complaints with these sorts of products has been the inability to remote control your computer content on the television. Both Intel and Veebeam expect you to sit on your couch with a laptop… on your laptop. So one of the things that makes McTiVia compelling is its USB port to facilitate the use of a wireless keyboard and mouse. Although, it’s not clear what sort of latency one can expect when using it. Continue Reading…

I’ve been playing with the VuPoint ST100B Digital Video Converter for several days now, and so far I’m pleased with my impulse purchase. Digitizing old analog media is more an art than a science, but one that at least has gotten easier over the years.

Set-up with the VuPoint converter is quick and painless. It comes packaged with cords to plug into your TV and VHS player, and once you insert an SD card, hit power, and switch over to the right TV input, you’re good to go for recording. Your choices at this point are limited, but in this case, that’s a good thing. There are only four buttons on the VuPoint box – Power, Record, Play, and Next. Hit Record once to start recording, and again to stop. To enter playback mode, hit the Play button once, and then press it again to view your latest recording. If you have multiple videos recorded, use  the Next button to cycle through your library.

And that’s it. Continue Reading…

This morning I took (early) delivery of Amazon’s new Kindle 3 – I opted for the WiFi only version – a device that claims 50% better contrast than any other e-reader, a 21% smaller body while keeping the same 6″ size reading area, and a 20% increase in the speed of page turns. These are, of course, all very welcome improvements but specs alone don’t tell the real story of Kindle’s appeal and why it sets the benchmark for an e-reading experience. Instead, it’s Amazon’s decision to adopt a vertical model: controlling the hardware, software and, most controversially, content of the Kindle, that define the user experience. But first, let’s dive into the device itself.

The two most noticeable aspects of the Kindle’s hardware design are its size – it’s a lot smaller (and lighter) than pictures do it justice – and the print-like contrast levels of the latest iteration of E Ink, the technology that powers the device’s screen. In fact, upon unboxing the Kindle 3, a colleague attempted to peel off a second non-existent screen protector that housed instructions on how to charge the device. Only it was actually the screen itself, set to standby. E Ink, though gray scale only, is that good for what it’s designed for: reading the written word.

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Instead of doing a full-on review stepping through each feature or characteristic of the Motorola Droid X, I’d rather focus on the emotional experience. And the Droid X is one of very few phones in recent memory that has sufficiently challenged the iPhone as my primary mobile device.

Unlike most handsets that pass through, I chose to use the Droid X nearly exclusively for the week I had it on loan it from Kevin Tofel (jkOnTheRun) last month. It shattered my notion that anything larger than a 3.5″ or 3.7″ phone is just too big — it’s 4.3″ LCD-toting body fit fine in my pocket, while feeling more comfortable and safer in the hand than the similarly endowed EVO. There’s no question the iPhone 4 has the clearest mobile display, but there’s something to be said for the extra screen real estate found on the Droid X, which I could see replacing my Kindle. The revamped “Motoblur” is mostly an innocuous Android skin job. It adds a few UI enhancements and widgets without bogging down the interface or taxing the Droid X’s speedy processor. As opposed to the more in-your-face Samsung TouchWiz, which seems to generate a distinct love or hate reaction.

Continue Reading…


Samsung’s making a splash with their new, high-end line of Android “Galaxy S” handsets. And while they’ve already launched overseas, the US variants with custom enclosures and functionality, start rolling out today:

As part of the launch festivities, I was provided a stock Galaxy S to evaluate. Media outreach and spec sheet highlights have led with Samsung’s 4″ 800 x 480 Super AMOLED screen. And while I initially found it oversaturated, even garish (combined with Samsung’s Touchwiz skinning), I’ve landed somewhere else entirely. In fact, I’ve concluded that the Galaxy S utilizes the most pleasing mobile display I’ve encountered — striking an excellent balance of resolution, size, and vibrancy. The Galaxy S obviously isn’t as high res as Apple’s iPhone 4 pixel-dense “retina display” … but with uncorrected sub-20/20 vision, it’s not like I’ve been bothered by aliasing at 18″. So, ultimately, I find myself in the same camp as Harry McCracken of Technologizer:

if all other phone features were equal, I’d take more square inches over more pixels

A common Galaxy S knock has been a plasticy appearance and/or feel. And while the enclosure is indeed plastic, it contributes (positively) to a lightweight feeling device, despite sporting that 4″ display. (And how quickly folks have forgotten iPhone 3GS and 3G’s slippery plastic backside?) There’s no debating that the Samsung’s handset doesn’t pack the same level of materials or symmetry found on the iPhone 4 but, in my week of usage, the Galaxy S has been both comfortable and functional.


Regarding the Galaxy S’s photographic capabilities, I can tell you the handset captures 5 megapixel stills and 720p video. I haven’t shot enough sample content to pass judgement, other than saying quality’s in about the same ballpark as most of the competition. Two other camera notes… The Galaxy S doesn’t incorporate a LED, or other, flash. Which isn’t a problem for me, as a flash-free photographer, but it’s something you may want to consider. Also, my particular unit houses a front-facing camera. But, sadly, I’m unaware of any Market apps which support the feature (yet) and believe only the Sprint model in the US will contain similar. Continue Reading…


I got pretty excited about the Kodak Pulse digital picture frame back at CES, but didn’t have a chance for any one-on-one time with the product until last weekend. Who needs a review unit when your parents buy the gadget outright? And that in itself says a lot. After years of searching, we finally have an Internet-connected digital frame that’s parent and grandparent friendly. It has built-in memory, takes a USB stick, and best of all, accepts photos that are emailed from approved accounts.

The Kodak Pulse only comes in a seven-inch version, which is retailing for $119 at Amazon now. (Perhaps a ten-inch version for this year’s holiday shopping season?) It’s small, but sharp and bright. The controls are simple. You touch the screen to bring up the menu with options to select image source, single-photo or mosaic view, and slideshow settings. There’s also direct integration with Facebook photos and online Kodak galleries. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to say. There are no widgets, and there’s no integration with other photo services like Snapfish or Flickr, but it doesn’t matter. If you want the grandparents to be able to plug in a digital frame and forget about it, the Kodak Pulse is a clear winner.



  • 7-inch display with 800×600 resolution
  • 512MB internal memory
  • 1 USB port
  • 2 card slots – Secure Digital (SD), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC), Multimedia Card (MMC), MEMORY STICK (MS), MS PRO/MS PRO DUO, XD-Picture Card (xD)


The Vue Personal Video Network bundle has been shipping for a number of months now. And in the time I’ve dilly dallied with my review hardware, Vue has seen some notable improvements since the possibly reserved launch coverage.

The $300 Vue bundle consist of a wireless base station, which you hardwire to your router, and two wireless cameras to remotely monitor just about anything from a Flash-capable browser. Or (now) iPhone app! The cameras are quite small and clever, as magnetically paired and positioned on their half sphere mounts. Additional cams can be purchased for $100 each. Video resolution isn’t horrible, maxing out at 640×480, but Vue’s frame rate seems low and you’re going to need good lighting for best results. Another heads up for prospective buyers is the Lithium Ion CR123 camera battery requirement. Avaak, the company behind Vue, expects battery life to run about a year — by estimating 10 minutes of usage a day. But, during my eval period, I burned through a pair of batteries and replacements ran me about $14.

Pretty much everything, from setup to viewing, is handled via web browser at You can flip between camera feeds, adjust viewing sizes, and snap still images or record video clips. Additionally, both live feeds and archived content can be shared with friends, family, or business associates via VueZone. Plus, Flickr and YouTube upload options are provided. An initial knock on Vue’s video monitoring solution was the lack of motion detection and scheduled recording capabilities as found in competing products. However, through a recent firmware update, Vue now offers a variety of scheduling options as pictured above.

Catching up with company reps at CES didn’t yield details on product updates. However, Avaak has just secured $10 million in new financing/investment.

Click to enlarge: