Archives For HDTV

The Minor Apple TV Updates

Dave Zatz —  March 7, 2012


Touched on briefly as an undercard leading up to the iPad 3 HD main event, a slightly refreshed Apple TV was introduced earlier today. And the primary differentiator between this diminutive streamer and its predecessor is an upgraded single core A5 processor that enables 1080p video playback. Related, select iTunes and Netflix video content will now be offered at those higher resolutions. Should your broadband throughput and data cap cooperate. The incoming aTV, expected on store shelves next weeks, sports the same $99 price tag of the outgoing unit. And that’s pretty much all there is to say.

Along with the new hardware, Apple TV 5.0 software has been unveiled… and is also being made available to prior generation Apple TV as you can see from these photos. Replacing text-based lists, is the more familiar presentation of icons as seen on other iOS devices, like the iPhone. But still no app store. Yet. Although it was our second most predicted (requested?) feature in the poll we recently ran, behind the obvious bump in resolution. Lastly, our iTunes video purchases will be permanently accessibile from various devices, on demand via iCloud. Continue Reading…

Boxee, makers of software powering digital media streaming boxes and computers, recently launched a campaign that seemingly encourages folks to “cut the cord” (and find fulfillment via their new Live TV USB dongle):

Yes, there are hundreds of cable channels, but make a list of the stuff you actually watch. You will probably find that most are on broadcast and the rest are available on Vudu/Netflix/Network sites. What is left on your list? Is it really worth $85 a month? We believe the combination of Netflix/Vudu/Vimeo/TED/etc. with over-the-air channels delivers a much better experience for less money.

Let’s skip for a moment the fact that most modern televisions tune over-the-air HD broadcasts and so Boxee’s cost “savings” pitch fails to incorporate their hardware fees. Instead, we’d rather focus on Boxee’s spat with the cable industry. And the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) takes issue with Boxee’s possible hypocrisy:

Instead of telling regulators that its service is a replacement for pay TV service, they now seem to be saying that their service is dependent on subscription TV and that regulators must… wait for it… dictate how cable service is delivered to its customers. Yes, that is correct. This cord-cutting, end-of-cable-as-we-know-it dynamo is demanding that the FCC not allow cable systems to scramble its basic service tier

Continue Reading…

How Much Is HBO Worth?

Dave Zatz —  February 3, 2012

Ben Drawbaugh, of Engadget HD, has decided HBO just isn’t worth $17/month. Ben’s something of a HD snob, which I characterize in the nicest way possible, and finds HBO “unwatchable” — preferring instead to rent or purchase higher quality Blu-ray discs. And has therefore cancelled his subscription.

By comparison, I’m much more tolerant of perhaps somewhat inferior audio/visual presentation… given sufficiently compelling content along with viewing flexibility. So I find HBO to be one of the best values in home entertainment, primarily due to HBO GO – which provides access to all of HBO’s original programming, think Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire, along with a small rotating selection of mainstream movies. HBO GO was originally streamed to mobile devices like the iPad or iPhone, but has branched out Continue Reading…

Here’s the thing about CES. Most of what we hear is stuff we’ve heard before. The big question is always whether this time it’s for real or not. In this year’s early announcements, we get news that Lenovo is launching a TV set with Android 4.0, Belkin is starting a line of accessories to give existing smartphones and tablets the ability to tune into the new Dyle mobile TV service, and Toshiba is on track to  bring its autostereoscopic 3DTV to American shores this quarter. Now, any bets on which products will actually gain traction in 2012? Personally, I’d keep my Vegas winnings tucked away for now.

On the Android front, Lenovo is releasing its Ice-Cream-Sandwich TV set in China, with no word yet on a US debut. Beyond that, however, we’ve seen no evidence that consumers care about Android access on their living-room flat screens. Google certainly hasn’t made a go of it yet with Google TV, and the TV app environment in general is still pretty lackluster. There are lots of apps, but mostly what people watch is Netflix. While experts predict the next three years will be big for connected TV sales, we still haven’t seen a shake-out among TV app environments. Consumers won’t show a preference until somebody demonstrates a TV marketplace with several notably superior apps not available elsewhere. (i.e. apps with really good content a la HBO Go) I doubt Android’s going to be able to do that in 2012.

Dyle TV is an interesting one. The Mobile Content Venture announced just last week that it would start delivering live TV to MetroPCS subscribers, and at CES, Belkin is introducing a line of accessories designed to make existing devices capable of receiving the Dyle mobile DTV service. Unfortunately, broadcast mobile TV services don’t have the best track record. Continue Reading…

Today’s question of the day comes to us from George C…

My brother-in-law just moved from the West Coast back to Texas.  In doing so, of course he dropped his triple play Internet/TV/Cable.  He also sold/gave away his old CRT televisions.  They watched Netflix via an old computer (they didn’t know about Roku type of devices).  He and his family (wife, two younger kids) just bought a new house and he is very open to new configurations.  He is technically capable of installing software, routers, etc…. But would not delve into (for example) Myth TV, pyTivo, etc…

He’ll probably need two TVs, one for the living room and one for the master bedroom.  OTA is a possibility, as there is a clear shot to the towers.  The wife really wants a land-line “in case of emergency”.  He thinks that they can stay with cell phones (I suggested Ooma).  The house alarm system come with an independent wireless system.  He doesn’t mind paying a fair price for a device, but really, really wants to avoid recurring monthly fees. Continue Reading…

Sezmi Joins The Deadpool

Dave Zatz —  September 25, 2011


We’ve covered the Sezmi television solution for some time. But, alas, they’ll now be joining the likes of Akimbo, ZillionTV, and Moviebeam in the deadpool. From Sezmi’s recent customer outreach:

We regret to inform you that Sezmi is discontinuing its consumer service. As of Monday, September 26, 2011, you will no longer be able to view or record broadcast TV programming through your Sezmi System. However, you will still be able to view movies and shows you have already saved to your Sezmi media recorder. Sezmi has changed its business focus to providing our product and technology platform to service providers, internationally and in the U.S., who are interested in providing broadband video services to their customers. As a result, we are no longer supporting our direct-to-consumer service.

It’s unfortunate, as Sezmi was pushing a “one box” comprised of both Internet, cable without the cable, and broadcast content (along with user profiles!), long before TiVo landed on that marketing approach. But the writing was on the wall and we saw this coming. From my contribution to a TiVo Community discussion on the merits of Sezmi a few months back:

Sezmi shot themselves in the foot with their original plan to license broadcast spectrum and launch only in those select markets (LA was first). They blew a lot of cash on that failed approach and have since adjusted. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t survive beyond 2011. A bummer really, because the market needs more competition not less. But if TiVo can’t make it in retail, no one can.

From the get go, both Mari and I were somewhat skeptical of their grand initial approach and possibility of success given the landscape. Mari’s thoughts back in 2008:

I love the idea of Sezmi but I simply can’t imagine how the enterprise will succeed. These guys have been really innovative, and deserve huge kudos for trying something new. I wish the obstacles in front of them weren’t quite so daunting.

Sezmi hopes to work deals with service providers and carry on. And perhaps they will. But I suspect they’re just delaying the inevitable. My advice? Sell the assets, if possible, and move on to the next challenge.

(via EngadgetHD)

Hands On The Insignia TiVo TV

Dave Zatz —  September 19, 2011

After a few fits and starts, Best Buy has loaned us a 42″ Inisgnia TiVo TV ($700). Of course, what makes this solution unique is not only that the companies have produced a “smart TV” but also that it’s a TiVo without a DVR. I’m still digging into the set, but wanted to run a quickie overview of the interface and rundown of a few select apps. As you can see from the video above, TiVo’s Netflix and YouTube app have finally been modernized and look quite nice. Best Buy’s app platform partner Chumby also sees prime billing running several preloaded apps along with a highly compelling display mode. More to come…


Channel Master previously championed the now defunct EchoStar DTVPal DVR under their banner… and obviously found some success bringing digital VCR capabilities to the over-the-air crowd as they’re launching another fee-free DVR. The new Channel Master TV, aka CM-7400, primarily targets high def antenna broadcasts (although it’ll also tune clear QAM) with the added benefit of over-the-top Vudu content. No, not just Vudu video on demand. But, also, Walmart’s entire Vudu app platform that includes a variety of Internet-sourced content like Pandora and Twitter. Given Channel Master’s existing relationship with the people of Walmart, it’s probably not so surprising they’d strike a deal.


While I couldn’t make it into NYC for Pepcom’s holiday preview last night, Liliputing’s Brad Linder did. And snapped several photos for us. As you can see, the dual tuning, 320GB Channel Master TV is fairly compact and much more attractive than the DTVPal DVR it presumably replaces. Not only has the enclosure been redesigned, the UI looks quite different. In fact, the company rep tells Brad the new product isn’t affiliated with EchoStar.


Despite Channel Master’s new solution, Megazone still feels that the OTA-capable TiVo is a better value. Remember, TiVo is also targeting this demographic with a few recent promotions. Although MZ suggests cord cutters simply pick up a Premiere with Lifetime service for $600 over the $400 flat fee Channel Master TV. But, we need to know a little more about the CM-7400’s EPG and recording capabilities. The prior generation model was simply a glorified VCR, only recording by time slot – versus by program title, or new versus repeat, etc. For many folks a “digital VCR” is sufficient. But there’s obviously a better way. Also, the earlier unit sources guide data over-the-air. In my experience, the data was highly unreliable – both in terms of content and even being present. Not to mention, a limited amount of days covered. Without true DVR capabilities, accurate and significant guide data might not be much of a requirement. But these two things together might justify TiVo’s recurring fee or additional upfront cost for those that appreciate and understand the distinctions.

This market could be expanding further, though. And Boxee is one potential competitor who may be exploring the idea of integrating both over-the-top and over-the-air DVR capabilities to this space… Stay tuned?