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Back in July, we reviewed the Kevo smart lock ($220) in light of the newer features that had just been released (scheduling, guest keys, performance improvements). Later in 2014, August, another Bluetooth based lock ($250), started to ship both pre-orders and to retail stores. Being the curiously obsessed gadget guy that I am, I had to at least try the August to see how it compared with the Kevo.

Fundamentally the Kevo and August work the same. Using your phone’s Bluetooth as a key, you can lock and unlock the device. Whereas you need to replace your entire door lock for the Kevo, with the August, you just need to replace just the inside portion of the lock. Installing the August was very simple and a much quicker than the Kevo as you are just removing the back of the lock. Continue Reading…

Jan 19

Smart TVs, Dumber By The Moment

Dave Zatz —  January 19, 2015

samsung-spam

Like many of you, I’ve questioned the value of a “smart” TV. On one hand, quick access to online apps like Netflix courtesy “Input 1″ ~with no additional equipment~ is quite appealing. However, despite advances in performance and functionality, we’re not going to replace our televisions at the same rate we might be compelled to pick up the latest and greatest streaming solutions. Not to mention reboots and advertising further diminish the value prop.

Sadly, to get the very best panels and processing these days, whatever new set one acquires will likely be saddled with an Internet platform. And no one abuses that connectivity and customer goodwill as effectively as Samsung. What they and Delivery Agent call a “Solution” the rest of us will call a “problem” … as David Chartier and the Boston Globe point to a newly introduced overlay that drops a (Dunkin’ Donuts) ad unit on top of a possibly related commercial. They presumably use metadata markers, as TiVo has, to determine when to hit you with an ad. But really the technical intricacies are secondary to the compromised user experience and disruption. Continue Reading…

tivo-angelAt one point, it seemed a Series 6 TiVo might be off the table. Yet, given my perception of minimal MSO interest in their network DVR and often anemic specs from hardware set-top partners, TiVo regrouped to begin developing a 4k reference design … that was initially unveiled (behind closed doors) back in September at IBC. Indeed, TiVo’s go-to chip supplier Broadcom announced that they’d selected the high-end, quad-core BCM7445 to power an Ultra HD STB. And, just last week at CES 2015, once again privately demoed at least one 4k solution – where TiVo Vice President Jim Denney provided Fierice Wireless a glimpse into the company’s thought process:

Continue Reading…

Zonoff with Nest thermostat close-up

Last year at CES, Zonoff’s demo suite was full of the Staples Connect hardware they power along with a variety of familiar brands like Lutron and Jawbone. This year, several other friends joined the party including the Google Nest smart thermostat and a souped-up, Sonos-fighting Bose sound system.

The desire for Nest integration is obvious, although this is the first we’ve seen the smart thermostat connected to the Zonoff platform. So while Zonoff may not yet “Work With Nest” … they clearly work with Nest. Bose system support is perhaps slightly less obvious, but it makes sense when you contemplate pairing music or talk radio with other sensors tied to lighting and motion detection. Put a speaker in your bathroom, and you can set the music to turn on when you open the door in the morning. Put one in the kitchen, and you can program it to play NPR when you head in to make dinner in the evening. Continue Reading…

Two Weeks With Roku TV

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2015

I wasn’t the only member of the Zatz family that picked up a new television this season. And, unlike my Vizio experience, Mom has been quite pleased with the two TCL Roku TVs I chose for her. Of course, her expectations and tolerances in this realm are far more, uh, relaxed than most of our regulars – so context is indeed important.

Upon moving from Florida to Virginia in 2013, I had Mom unload her truly crappy living room television while hanging onto her 32″ bedroom Vizio with an understanding that we’d come up with a more modern solution once she furnished her NoVA condo. As the furnishing have now (mostly) arrived, it was time to identify new televisions for the bedroom and the living room, with the Vizio earmarked for the den/office. I originally thought a pair of 42″ HDTVs might do the trick and figured she’d benefit from the same manufacturer, remote, and interface. With that in mind, my original thought for practicality was to pick up whatever Vizio model Costco had on the floor. She’d had good luck with her original Vizio and Costco includes a stellar warranty and technical support.

Continue Reading…

10 Days With Vizio M Series

Dave Zatz —  January 11, 2015

m-series-vizio

Cue the sad panda. I had high hopes for a new 65″ Vizio M Series. But, after 10 days, Best Buy has reclaimed it. The M Series was notable for providing a solid picture at a reasonable price. And, when the 65″ dropped to $1000 during promotional holiday pricing, we pulled the trigger. Beyond “bang for buck” in regards to size and pq, Vizio is one of the few manufacturers that passes 5.1 audio — which could be a major selling point for those with a Sonos Playbar or Vizio 5.1 solution of limited inputs and prefer to use the TV as an HDMI switch. It was for me. Continue Reading…