Two Weeks With Roku TV

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2015 — 5 Comments

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 — 34 Comments

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…

As expected, the “Internet of Things” was a hot topic at CES. And everyone seems to want a piece of this market. For example, we’ve got an iPhone case maker pitching networked power outlets and a fitness tracker company that wants to sell you some Bluetooth light bulbs. Sadly, chaos reigns … given the number of competing standards, proprietary solutions, poorly articulated visions, and even Hubs requiring bridges. Take Kevo and August, makers of “smart locks” — most likely due to power requirements, beyond hardware costs and engineering considerations, both solutions communicate solely via Bluetooth LE. Meaning, at present, it’s mostly smartphones than can interact with their hardware and only from short distances. Enter the Kevo Gateway (Ethernet, above left) and August Connect (WiFi, above right) bridges … that will in turn relay communication from lock to say your SmartThings or Staples Connect hub or to a remotely located phone (but requiring an additional purchase or for a fee). It’s messy. And the highly disjointed nature of this smart home land grab will slow adoption. At least until the the leaders identify themselves.

The Wink Hub iPhone app was just updated and, amongst various bug fixes, is reference to “support for Cree light bulbs.” Cree is generally known for high quality, low-cost LEDs (and I’m quite fond of the BR30s), but really hasn’t been mentioned in the DIY home automation space… until now. So I backtracked thru the FCC to pull up the Cree Connected Zigbee bulbs you see above. While it’s yet to be seen how pricing and lighting compare to Wink’s own GE bulbs, we should expect these puppies to ship real soon soon.

(Thanks Eric H and HomeAutomation7!)

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Intro

At $450, I had no intention of buying the original Withings Activité watch. That’s a bit steep for my watch buget, even if it does incorporate activity tracking and is Swiss-made. Seeing an opportunity to use a similar design, Withings announced at CES 2015 a new version of the Activité called Pop ($150).The Pop looks almost identical to the Activité, except that it is made with cheaper materials which brings the price point down to a more reasonable $150. The features remain the same across both trackers. The Activité can record steps, track if you are running, and can automatically log sleep at night. These features are very similar to the new Fitbit Charge, but it’s safe to say that one of these looks more stylish than the other. :-)

Read on for additional impressions of the Activité Pop! Continue Reading…

SC1 Home

At the end of December, Staples Connect released the much anticipated update for their new D-Link hub which included new features such as Modes, a Migration Assistant, and support for additional devices. Let’s take a brief look at each of these new features:

Modes

With the new Modes feature, you have the ability to change the way your house is setup with the touch of a button. The Mode section comes predefined with 4 modes: Home, Away, Sleep, Vacation. You are able to go into each mode to adjust what actions you want to take with the connected devices in your home. Modes can be triggered manually, or you have the ability to have another device automatically active a mode.

For instance, when you push the Home mode button, you can have a living room light turn on. But you are also able to have another device trigger the mode. In that case, opening a front door with a sensor can put the Staples Connect into Home mode without having to go into the app. Continue Reading…

slingtv

Update: As an update to the original story below, I just had a call (or two or three) with Echostar’s Sling Media and their reps. They want to assure us that Slingbox ain’t going anywhere — in fact, they mentioned DISH CEO Joe Clayton stated as much during the press conference that introduced the new Sling TV. What’s happened is that DISH has licensed “Sling” and “Sling TV” from Echostar, who has vacated sling.com, and the Slingbox 500 that became the Sling TV reverts once again to the Slingboox 500. (Although, irrespective of name, I remain concerned with 500/STV sales and continue to recommend their equally capable M1 placeshifter at half the cost for those with a need.)

Possibly the most disruptive product announcement out of CES this week is DISH’s long foreshadowed Internet television service. And, amongst several surprises, is “Sling TV” branding. I guess it’s nice that DISH chose to repurpose the sling.com Echostar asset… as you’d be horrified to learn what we had paid for that URL. Having said that, it certainly clocked in far less than the questionable “Blockbuster” acquisition — a name which would have made a lot of sense in this space. At the very least, we’re glad to see they backed away from DishWorld and an awful “nuTV“.

But, where it gets real weird is that the Slingbox 500 was renamed… Sling TV… less than six months ago. While I was not impressed with that product at its inflated price point, saying goodbye is hard and I suspect this clearly last minute change-up foreshadows the death of at least one Slingbox. If not all of them. Continue Reading…