The new Amazon Echo Dot is out. And Alexa’s reviews have been exceedingly positive. From The Verge:

I’m going to cut right to the chase: the new Echo Dot smart speaker is so much better than its predecessor that it would not be totally out of line to replace a whole houseful of old Echo Dots with new ones. The new Echo Dot looks better, works better, and, most importantly, sounds much better than the prior model. And it still costs the same $49.99.

Beyond the 3rd generation Dot’s vastly superior audio (including stereo pairing), Amazon also up the style quotient with a (larger, but) more refined presentation, including Google-esque fabric-covered speakers… that I’m a-OK with.

While I frequently vacillate between Alexa, Google Assistant, and nothing at all (stop listening to us!)… prior gen Dot audio quality is atrocious and, lately, has only been used to entertain my daughter. Fortunately, Amazon is running a nice Echo upgrade program: get some cash by trading in your prior devices plus 25% off any future Echo device purchase – including these low ticket Dots ($50) and even the new Echo Show ($230). Amazon also covers the return shipping, so it’s a pretty pain-free transaction. As such, I pocketed a whopping $10 Amazon credit by offloading two unused 2nd gen Dots and will hang onto my 25% discount until the inevitable Echo device sale.

TiVo is out with a massive refresh of its Android and Apple iOS apps this week. Most notable is the extension of the TiVo Experience 4 (aka Hydra and Mira) to mobile. And. I gotta say, I actually prefer Hydra here (vs TV lean back) – it provides a snappy and sleek modern look that works well in this content. TiVo also indicates we should expect a variety of streaming performance improvements with more granular config options. Bonus: iPhone X support.

However, as with all initial TiVo releases, to get the software out the door in a timely fashion (one presumes), a number of features have been excised: Downloaded shows are no longer grouped within folders (see bottom left pic) and you can no longer swipe to delete. Also possibly in the negative column, remote control visuals have been updated… dropping the iconic peanut presentation, with mixed results. Still no iPhone cellular streaming, although I’m told it’s on the roadmap.

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While the Fitbit Charge 3 doesn’t actually launch until Sunday, a number of brick & mortar retailers have inventory… that they may be willing to part with. As such, fellow editor Adam Miarka picked up his $150 tracker today. And discovered it’s oh-so-much more than a step counter. In fact, it’s somewhat akin to a monochromatic Fitbit Versa smartwatch given the smartphone app notifications, upcoming third party apps, and an expansion of native apps — namely weather! It’s the one thing I really thought I might miss after trading in my Apple Watch.

Looks like you can essentially hard code two favorite cities within the Fitbit app, in addition to monitoring your variable physical location. Current conditions are displayed, in addition to a two-day forecast, by swiping through the Charge 3’s new multi-touch Gorilla glass display.

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Time flies when you’re having fun?

It seems like just yesterday I purchased my first DVD player, on steep discount, via an online auction in 1998. And, as a grad student on a tight budget, I’d swing by the local video rental shop to suggest which titles of the newly introduced format they should stock – like the Criterion Collection Silence of the Lambs. Just as I just missed Netflix’s original launch, having joined up sometime in 1999, I’m also a bit late on the fun 20th anniversary retrospective – that includes years of envelope designs, top rentals, and the like. It’s worth a browse.

Of course, not only has the digital media landscape shifted dramatically over the intervening years, so too has the Netflix business (and my home theater).

Fitbit Charge 3 Unboxing

Dave Zatz —  October 3, 2018 — 4 Comments

I’ve been looking forward to the Fitbit Charge 3 more than any other recently announced smart watch and activity tracker. In fact, the prior generation Charge 2 was my favorite wearable of all time… it did what it was supposed to do with minimal distraction, solid battery life, and an approachable price point.

And, now, the Charge 3 looks to take what Fitbit did right… and make it that much better with even longer battery life along with legit water resistance and a true mutlitouch display. In fact, I recently traded in my Apple Watch … which still doesn’t provide a native step complication. I get Apple’s intent to provide a more holistic activity analysis, but I’m looking for a simple, discrete, easily comparable metric. While I’m not entirely convinced I need sleep data and not sure what to do with it, Fitbit does provide beautiful little graphs… versus Apple’s continued absence in this space (hello Beddit) and its generally inferior battery life works against in in this category, as most of us probably power up overnight. Further down the line, Garmin’s new wearable doesn’t seem as visually polished and the company seems to often launch new products with a number of software bugs. So that’s also a pass for me.

Bottom line: I’ve got my $150 Charge 3 on order and retailer ABT was kind enough to whet our appetite with the requisite unboxing.

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Folks routinely ask for streaming box recommendations. And, for a few years, I took the position that Roku and Fire TV were largely equivalent and indicated the decision should come down to content and app preferences. Need Kodi? Amazon is the answer. YouTube? Roku. Etc. However, the math changed last fall when Roku refreshed its lineup with smartly integrated volume-control capabilities. For many with streamlined configurations, a Harmony is unnecessary or overly complex (with additional clutter) — whereas simply adding some CEC and IR control to an expensive streamer may be exactly what the doctor ordered for increased efficiency. Well, today, Amazon ups the ante with similar from the $50 4K Amazon Fire TV Stick… and then some.

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TiVo does what the DVR pioneer does best with Smart Extend, an upcoming feature designed to record sporting events with fine precision.

Given the variable timing of live events, TiVo long ago added padding options – to extend recordings by X number of minutes beyond the scheduled broadcast window. But it’s a something of a sledge-hammer approach that requires a certain amount of guesswork. By comparison, Smart Extend leverages TiVo’s partnership with Thuuz (and significant back-end modification to accommodate real-time communication with the TiVo mothership) to smartly stop recording as a game concludes. And you can still throw some padding in there if you’d like.

TiVo VP Ted Malone indicates this feature is expected to be delivered to Bolt, Roamio, and Mini hardware running “TiVo Experience 4” (aka Hydra aka Mira) this year. And I’m hopeful the company finds a way to also apply this approach to other live programming, such as the Oscars and Emmy Awards.

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