Archives For Blu-ray
The next generation gaming consoles have arrived. And, while the enclosures are more subtle this time around, it certainly appears that Sony engineers have schooled Microsoft on hardware design with the PS4 featuring a substantially more compact and elegant form… that doesn’t, yet again, require a massive power brick as the Xbox One does. However, initial skin-deep impressions may be irrelevant, given these devices ultimate home within a TV stand (assuming the Xbone will fit — in mine, it certainly will not.) Of course, both units feature beefed up hardware and a focus on gaming. Yet also offer so much more – particularly the Xbox One that comes bundled with Kinect 2.0 and an intent to own “Input One” of our living room televisions with HDMI pass-thru, including a TV guide overlay (of questionable value to TiVo owners). Also, this time around, both consoles require an annual fee for online, multiplayer access ($50-$60). Which is probably why I picked up a fee-free PS3 Super Slim two weeks ago for my modest gaming and Blu-ray playback needs…
I imagine I’ll be more interested down the line, after the requisite bug-squashing updates and price drops hit. But what about you – is 2013 the year, which platform and why?
While Verizon’s Redbox Instant reps were a bit cagey at CES as to when, or if, we might see a Roku client for their burgeoning streaming service, the channel has just launched. And, based on the image above, it looks to have been in final testing the last month. As a refresher, Redbox Instant is something of a hybrid service providing both physical discs and online movies, with many included via the monthly fee and others available via pay per view. In talking with the Redbox Instant folks, the service isn’t geared towards the sort of early adopter who frequents ZNF and their initial target audience is folks new to online streaming – exposing those currently familiar with the DVD/Blu-ray kiosks to an economical way to expand their video options.
The free, ad-supported Popcornflix movie service is coming to Sony’s connected Bravia TVs and Blu-ray devices. Already available on Roku and Boxee, Popcornflix draws from the movie catalog of its parent company Screen Media Ventures. This is no Netflix alternative, and you won’t find recent movie hits available for free. However, Popcornflix reportedly has a library of more than 650 films, and it’s adding more each month. The service was already available on both Roku and Boxee boxes.
Although I admit my tastes are probably too mainstream for most of the movies on Popcornflix (or at least I don’t have the mental energy to search for something I’d like), I do find it interesting to see a content company pursuing direct distribution. This isn’t necessarily a viable solution for many studios who have other types of revenue models in place, but it does suggest that there is a level at which direct distribution works beyond one-off productions like the upcoming Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars movie. Last June GigaOM reported that Popcornflix was behind only the big guys like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix in number of Roku downloads. The fact that distribution is expanding suggests the revenue stream is worthwhile.
Related- Remember when Sony was considering its own virtual MSO last year? It looks like the company is hoping to add to its content stores in other ways now.
Best Buy subsidiary CinemaNow has opened the doors to their disc-to-digital program. Much like Walmart’s competing Vudu offering, BBY’s Ultraviolet service validates ownership of a Blu-ray or DVD and, for a few bucks, will “copy” it to your account for later playback. However, unlike Vudu which requires a trip to Walmart, CinemaNow is self service – via your home computer. And, as you can see above, I paid $2 to archive my 12 Monkey’s DVD to the cloud.
I’m only aware of CinemaNow software clients for Mac and Windows, but as an Ultraviolet partner, there’s a high probability you’ll find your newly archived titles available for playback via Vudu iPhone, iPad, Android, and Roku apps. Sure enough, 12 monkeys was waiting for me there. Continue Reading…
Right on schedule, members of Panasonic’s 2012 Blu-ray player lineup have begun arriving at Best Buy. Last year, we regularly recommended the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 to folks seeking a reasonably priced deck with well rounded features, including a healthy online ecosystem and fast boot times. And now in 2012, the DMP-BDT220 (MSRP $150) looks to be solid successor.
In fact, Tech of the Hub has already run their Panasonic DMP-BDT220 review and concludes the Blu-ray player is “fairly impressive” and a “good value.” I’d say folks considering an Apple TV or high-end Roku might even step up for just $30 additional bucks (via Amazon). While Panasonic’s UI may not be as polished or quick, in addition to Blu-ray playback it offers Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, Pandora, and DLNA streaming. Unfortunately, the optional Android and iPhone smartphone remote control apps for this generation have yet to be released. Also, as a fan the prior generation BDT210, I’m somewhat bummed to see Panasonic drop the touch-free sensor that allowed you to wave your hand above the deck to eject the disc tray.
At a slightly higher end, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 (MSRP $200) features a sleeker enclosure with slot loading disc drive… and a touchpad remote of questionable value. In fact, I’d probably steer folks away from this model given the unconventional remote that lacks even standard transport buttons.
HBO GO offers arguably the best value in online streaming. For the cost of a HBO subscription, via your cable or satellite provider, you receive bundled online access to a solid stable of relatively new movies plus every episode of every HBO series. While watching Game of Thrones on my (wife’s) iPad or Eastbound & Down on my iPhone (at the gym) has worked out reasonably well, what many of us have been pining for is the “lean back” experience — HBO GO on the television. My attempts to get the web experience going on Google TV failed (thanks to Comcast), yet a full on HBO GO TV app experience is nearly upon us.
Tech of the Hub has been following these developments closely and it seems we missed news back in May indicating HBO GO is headed to “a variety of TVs, game consoles and streaming devices.” Better yet, Tech of the Hub has learned that Internet-connected Samsung HDTVs and Blu-ray players will receive an HBO GO app “soon” – perhaps within the next week or so. But, having abandoned both Blu-ray decks and smart TVs (for now), I’m hopeful some other entrants in the streaming space (Roku, TiVo, Apple TV) might also have good news for us in the near future.