I’ve got some very good news for owners of legacy TiVo hardware… and a smattering of bad news.
While I had assumed the TiVo Premiere was end-of-life, over 250,000 of you still on the platform recently received the Roamio and Bolt’s highly desirable SkipMode – which enables somewhat automated commercial skipping of most prime time television recordings. Additionally, these 8-year old DVRs have been treated to the recently released Alexa integration for voice control. It’s quite refreshing to see TiVo invest their finite resources in backporting a subset of folks on this older hardware (and I’m guessing those of you on monthly or annual service plans are to be thanked).
Amazon Fire TV Cube has arrived … and the reviews are in! The streamer essentially mates an Amazon Fire TV with an Echo Dot and some Logitech Harmony-esque IR blasting capabilities. When first announced, I was enticed (especially given the introductory pricing) – but Amazon’s increasingly cluttered presentation and conspicuously missing volume buttons gave me pause. Not to mention, I’m currently down on always-listening voice assistants — whereas the more economical, yet sufficiently powerful, Amazon Fire TV ships with a perfectly suitable Alexa-powered, push-to-talk voice remote. But let’s see what folks who’ve actually put the hardware through its paces have to say:
The Verge: Alexa turns out to be a good match for your living room
The speaker is not as powerful as a standard Echo, but it’s not designed for playing music — the Cube will route any music requests to your TV’s speakers or your soundbar. Most of the time, Alexa’s responses will also route through the TV’s speakers, but it will use the Cube’s speaker if the TV is off or set to another input. […] And in my experience of testing the Fire TV Cube over the past few days, its Alexa-based voice control system works more often than it doesn’t. But I’m not throwing my remotes in the garbage just yet.
I gotta be honest. I’m jst not completely sold on the Fitbit Versa. It’s decidedly less sophisticated and less premium than the similarly priced Apple Watch. Not to mention, Versa band replacement is just awful. Yet, Apple doesn’t natively provide some of the basics I expect from an activity tracker, such as a simple step complication and sleep metrics — both of which Fitbit handles masterfully. Fitbit also enables 3rd party watchfaces, which is indeed fortuitous as some of the company-produced ones look like Microsoft Paint mock-ups.
My current favorites are Arrow (above), Edgy, and Colors – all of which can be customized to varying degrees, with Arrow offering tons of options in terms of data and color. Bonus: the developer tells me weather will be coming to all their faces over the coming months. Some Fitbit faces are free, while these run $.99 and $1.99 respectively. As Fitbit doesn’t provide a true store experience, each developer has to work out their own payment and trial methods… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but their work may be what keeps me from unloading my Versa.
The model S14 is a high-performance all-in-one home theater smart speaker and part of Sonos’ home sound system.
Given the newer hardware like the Sonos Playbase and Sonos One, we might reasonably expect on-device touch controls, unlike the somewhat long-in-the-tooth (stylistically) Playbar. But what exactly does the “smart” refer to? Is it onboard Alexa control as seen with the Sonos One? Or might it have something to do with the integrated Bluetooth Low Energy communication, which I don’t think we’ve seen from Sonos before.
In terms of connectivity, Sonos has shied away from HDMI. But that will no longer be an issue as also revealed by the regulatory documentation. Further, a supposed report by a former employee indicates the video market didn’t move exactly as the company had expected and so they have embraced the new HDMI 2.1 eARC specification enabling increased throughput for higher-fidelity:
HDMI 2.1 introduces so-called eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel), which increases bandwidth for audio to 38 Mb/s. This allows TVs to output lossless audio, including Dolby Atmos and the full range of DTS audio formats. […] The first product from Sonos to take advantage of this will be a mini soundbar due this year.
Beyond a new, smaller soundbar (perhaps similar in size to the Bose Solo 5 and supposedly pictured in the leaked render above), might Sonos also announce updates to the existing Playbase and Playbar? We’re gonna find out real, real soon…
As foreshadowed by yours truly and then announced at CES, Alexa has finally come to TiVo retail boxes. Well, sort of. Over the weekend, a placeholder app appeared – announcing the imminent arrival of Amazon’s voice assistant. Although TiVo has introduced their own native voice remote, it requires an additional purchase, vs those who already own Alexa gear, and is limited to units running the less desirable TiVo Experience 4 (Hydra) on a subset of TiVo hardware. By comparison, Alexa will be made available to a broad swath of devices, dating all the way back to the Premiere and running either Hydra or the HDUI Encore interface.
The TiVo Alexa skill isn’t live yet, but we know it’ll utilize Amazon’s beefed up media api. And, based on some of the documented commands that’ll be available to us, the delay will have been well worth the wait: Continue Reading…
In addition, we have signed on a major device manufacturer as our direct-to-consumer box partner. This partner will take over retail sales outside of TiVo.com, namely through Amazon and Best Buy. Once we complete this transition, we still will have direct consumer hardware sales through TiVo.com which we will be fulfilling through this box manufacturer. […]
What that means is that we are not going to be producing or manufacturing or contracting directly the manufacturer of these boxes. That will be done by our partners. We will be securing whatever volume we need for tivo.com. We will be securing from the partner.
In that sense, what I think as a distribution channel. But the majority of the sales to everything that happens for example on Amazon or in Best Buy will be handled directly between the partner and the distribution. We would be completely out of that transaction.
From an end consumer perspective, there will be no material change. There’s no significant co-branding. Of course, there’s always recognition of who manufactures the device that will continue. But basically, the consumer will continue seeing a TiVo branded devices with a TiVo experience, TiVo software that they know and love over the years. […]
Yes, in fact that’s a positive impact because they have better presence in those channels that we do today. And then, it’s a partner that we have a great relationship with. We’re very confident of their ability to succeed there. But we’ll continuously work with them, in some places when we decide to jointly try to promote something or jointly try to accelerate something. We’re not just a normal relationship that we will have with them.
So who is this mystery partner? The new TiVo Mini Vox is produced by Arris, a close TiVo partner. But I’m not certain what their retail experience is. Hmmm.
Don’t know what sort of stockings you’re sporting this time of year, but here are a few decent deals on some low ticket items that might interest you.
Aukey USB Charger – $6
I replaced an older, bulkier two-port Anker model with this little guy back in February and have been pleased. It’s unobtrusive in the kitchen, travels well, and simply does what it’s supposed to do. Use code FORMOM32 to knock $2 off and it’s shipped free via Prime. If you need more power (for iPads) or faster charging, this somewhat larger Anker is also on sale for $9.
Anker SoundBuds Slim – $20
I’ve been rocking these since December and use them more frequently than my Apple AirPods (for music) given the customizable fit (see the multiple options above) and comparatively superior blockage of ambient noise. Decent sound, decent battery life, and fairly quick recharging. I also appreciate the