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When it rains, it pours. And I had the opportunity to enjoy a few days with the iPad Air 2 alongside the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Both are fantabulous ultrathin 10ish inch tablets… that go about things in different ways. The Samsung does more, way more. But what Apple does, it mostly does better. Continue Reading…

As Radio Shack fights for its life, the once pioneering tech retailer has undertaken a number of positive maneuvers recently. From “interactive” store remodels rolling out nationwide to embracing the smart home, featuring Insteon, Radio Shack is reasserting their relevance in this space – as a destination for geeks and civilians alike. Heck, they’re even Apple Pay friendly.

The most interesting development in my mind is Radio Shack’s take on the Best Buy Geek Squad with “Fix It Here!” – the in-store servicing is capable of handling a variety of smartphone repairs, including screen and battery replacement. Given the high cost of unsubsidized smartphones and sometimes specialized tools or parts (if not skills), this is a valuable service (that I hope to never experience). But, to further put in in perspective, a co-worker cracked his screen a few months back and found someone local online… But, upon arriving at the repair person’s home, he was totally wigged out and bailed. Instead of replacing the phone at great expense, as he did, a convenient and legit operation like Radio Shack’s, would have been appreciated.

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After the debacle that was Google TV and the aborted Nexus Q sideshow, Google bounced back nicely with the inexpensive and effective $35 Chromecast streaming stick. Not content to leave well enough alone, Android TV was announced at Google I/O and the Asus Nexus Player recently hit the market ahead of a revised, second generation Chromecast. And, as these two new products ramp up while project management fails to present a clear vision, Google has hedged their bets… by launching their Google Play video store on Roku. Given Logitech’s abandonment of Google TV and ASUS’ prior streaming efforts, Amazon Fire TV is the “Android TV” I’d go with or that aforementioned Roku for those deep into Google’s ecosystem. While Amazon similarly provides its video service to competing devices, including TiVo, the retailer’s business model and approach is better defined.

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Photo by Robert

By way of the official Sonos forums, we learn that the connected audio company is currently beta testing a variety of mobile software improvements… including the ability to control Sonos from an Android Wear smart watch like the Moto 360. Shown in the Notification Drawer, pause, forward, and back functions are available while volume controls are not. Further, we have indications that a long overdue iOS lock screen widget is similarly en route for iPad and iPhone owners. No word yet on Microsoft band support. ;)

Of course within 24 hours of receiving the new Fitbit Charge, Microsoft goes and releases their first product geared towards the fitness crowd. And, of course, being me, I had to find one the day it’s released. I really think this is the first time I have bought a Microsoft product, other than the computers I’m forced to use every day. I even ventured into a Microsoft Store where customers are still outnumbered by staff.  ;-)

With the Fitbit Charge being just a rehash of the Force (it even says Force when you look at your Bluetooth settings on the phone), the Microsoft Band is a much more interesting product as it not only adds GPS to the mix, but also continuous heart rate monitoring. This lines it up nicely with the ChargeHR and Surge from FitBit. The cost is even split as the Band comes in at $199, where as the ChargeHR is $149 and the Surge is $249. Microsoft has one big advantage here of having the product available now, instead of an early 2015 rollout. Continue Reading…

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The fee-free, over-the-air Channel Master DVR+ continues to gain new capabilities. And, next up is YouTube – which will join Pandora and Vudu in the guide (or via direct dial) next month. Beyond newly released over-the-top streaming apps and expanded storage options, the DVR experience is also regularly receiving updates. Also expected next month is a season pass recording filter to capture only “new” episodes.

“We want the experience of DVR+ to be as close as possible to a cable or satellite DVR, and this feature is key.” The feature will work with an Internet-connected DVR+ utilizing the 14-day program guide, and non-connected DVR+ units will retain the name-based series record feature that works with over-the-air content data.

While we quite like their solution, Channel Master has its work cut out for them given strong competition from Tablo and TiVo… assuming cord cutters are even willing to take on the expense of a smarter DVR versus a simplistic digital VCR.

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Staples Connect, our favorite home automation aggregator, is now shipping the new D-Link hub which was announced back in June. This hub replaces the model previously reviewed on ZNF. Along with a change from Linksys to D-Link as the manufacturer, the device itself also changed form factor. The Linksys model was white and “square’ish”, whereas the new D-Link hub is black and shaped like a tall cylinder similar to their other home routers.

The new features of the D-Link hub include the addition of Zigbee and Bluetooth protocols, although these devices are not available to add to the hub just yet. After receiving my hub today, I attempted to add a GE Link Zigbee light to the hub, but was met with a “Device not supported yet” message. Expanded Zigbee support is anticipated via an update in the next couple weeks. Staples is also working on a migration process from the old Linksys hub to the new D-Link one as well. This will take care of moving current customer’s connected devices and actions from one hub to the other.

For those looking to get a deal, Staples is actually offering the hub for free with 2 qualified Staple Connect device purchases.   You simply need to add the new D-Link hub to your cart, add an additional two Staples Connect devices, and use the code 29131 during checkout.

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