Is Roku Prepping DVR?

Dave Zatz —  November 3, 2016

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Roku’s announced a seriously impressive update… assuming you’re running recent, supported hardware. And, surely, the highlight of OS 7.5 is the ability to pause live OTA television on Roku Televisions. While Roku’s CEO declared the “DVR is dead” way back in 2011, the company seemingly recognizes the ongoing draw of linear programming in 2016 – but intends to “get rid of the five commercial block.” As such, pairing a Roku TV with 16GB USB thumb drive will enable a 90 minute buffer to pause television while hitting the head or intending to crash through a 60 block with 40 minutes of ad-free programming. Hopefully it’ll also allow us to scrub through the buffer to catch a bit of missed dialog or replay some dramatic event. But I’m left to wonder if they’ve invested the engineering resources to go this far might full-fledged DVR functionality also be on the roadmap? CES is just around the corner…

Other Roku OS 7.5 goodies: HDMI-CEC volume control (!) and “private listening” via smartphone. Continue Reading…

Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward jumps back into his role as a Features contributor here at Zatz Not Funny. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joelsef Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

I recently picked up a new Sony TV with Android TV for our living room. This television replaced a Sony LCD HDTV from the late 2000s. That set hails from an era when the majority of TVs were dumb — no built-in apps that today’s smart TVs feature. But I increased its intelligence by first adding a Windows Media Center PC back in 2009, then experimenting with Google TV, Boxee, Chromecast, and ultimately settling on Roku 3 as our over-the-top streamer.

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We arrive in 2016 and it’s nearly impossible to find a decent television over 30″ without some sort of “smart” designation and apps aplenty. That’s why I decided to go with a Sony this time around. The last time we refreshed a TV (for a different room, back in 2013) we went with a Samsung and its Samsung Smart Hub. In the three years we’ve had that TV, Samsung has pared down the 2013 TV’s UI to the very basics and removed many of the original features. It still has apps, including Netflix and HBO, but it’s nothing like what Roku offers.

Our new Sony X800D series runs Android TV and Sony has Android TV across most of its television line now. Besides the Nvidia Shield and now defunct Google Nexus Player, Sony is the biggest player in Android TV at the moment, although Sharp and Philips have options as well.

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Continue Reading…

apple_watch_swim_in_progress

In trying to determine if the new Apple Watch 2 it might meet my aquatic needs, I’ve found Apple’s marketing and support pages largely devoid of detailed information. Fortunately, I’ve been able to turn up Apple Watch 2 details by querying a number of reviewers and via Apple Insider’s swim-centric overview. And, although Apple Watch looks to be a solid solution for those for swim continuously, my enthusiasm has been tempered:

Where the Apple Watch’s swim tracking starts to fall short is for people looking to do more varied swim workouts based around swim sets and focused exercises like stroke drills and kicking […] The Apple Watch’s pace calculation also becomes less useful if you’re doing interval-based sets, as it’s simply going to tell you the interval you were going on instead of your actual swimming pace unless you manually pause the workout as you finish each repeat and resume before starting the next one.

Continue Reading…

AirTV Delayed During FCC Review

Dave Zatz —  October 15, 2016

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It seems Echostar failed to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as the AirTV over-the-air network tuner, designed to pipe live OTA television into Sling TV, has been delayed… while they seek FCC approval to waive an archaic analog tuner requirement.

Pursuant to Section 1.3 of the Commission’s rules,1 EchoStar Technologies L.L.C. (“EchoStar”) respectfully requests the Media Bureau (“Bureau”) to waive the “all channels” requirement in Section 15.117(b) of the Commission’s rules to permit the importation, marketing, and sale of an Internet-enabled, set-top box (the “AirTV”) that does not include an analog over-the-air tuner.

Designed and manufactured by EchoStar for use with applications running on smartphones, tablets, and streaming devices such as Android TV, Roku, and Apple TV, the AirTV will offer consumers access to digital HD television content broadcast over-the-air from almost any broadband-enabled multimedia platform using groundbreaking place-shifting technology from Sling Media. The ability to combine over-the-air television content on devices with over-the-top functionality makes the devices a perfect, economical choice for households that have “cut the cord” but still wish to enjoy the combination of over-the-air content and pay-per-view or subscription over-the-top services without the confusion of swapping TV inputs and using multiple remote controls. All of this functionality is packaged in an attractive energy efficient form factor that can be used with a TV, monitor, or mobile device.

Netgear Arlo Cams Go Pro

Dave Zatz —  October 13, 2016

arlo-pro-family

Arlo has long been my preferred network camera, handily besting the likes of Nest due to a generous free tier of service and unrivaled placement flexibility — weather-proof, battery-powered, and wireless. Well, Netgear has just upped the ante with the Arlo Pro line of cameras. In addition to what sounds like generally improved optics (and now audio) to possibly match the Arlo Q model, the two new features that have me contemplating an upgrade are rechargeable batteries (supposedly good for 6 months) and USB video storage. However, these refinements do come at a cost. Whereas my original Arlo 4-pack ran $500, the equivalent Pro bundle goes for $650. It seems I could add enhanced Pro cameras to my current config, but local storage does require the new hub.

ecobee3 Lite Drops Remote Sensors?

Dave Zatz —  September 29, 2016

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As ZNF regulars are well-aware, I run both Nest and ecobee smart thermostats in my home… and we far prefer the ecobee3 for a number of reasons. The most significant benefit of ecobee, over Nest, is the bundled remote sensor along with the ability to add many more. This opens up all sorts of scenarios in regards to intelligently balancing temperature, accurately identifying presence, and the like.

Well, based on a pulled Home Depot product page, doing away with those capabilities may be the key to lowering the price of entry via a new ecobee3 Lite model.

Having perused the FCC filing last month, I’d assumed remote sensors were still in play while Apple HomeKit licensing (and processing overhead) or the touchscreen might be on the chopping block as likely candidates to drive down manufacturing expenses. However, if the Home Depot page (and supporting product documentation) is any indication, both of those could remain. Should the $169 ecobee3 Lite pricing and presumed functionality line up with reality, I could also see the full-fledged ecobee3 receive a small price drop from $249 to something like $229.

2016 Roku Buying Advice

Dave Zatz —  September 26, 2016

After busting out several dozen new Rokus today, I wanted to chime in with some initial purchasing advice.

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2015 Roku 3 (~$80)
If you’re not yet on the 4K bandwagon, but want a great balance of streamer performance with a tricked out remote capable of voice recognition and headphones, I actually suggest you look for a deal on last year’s Roku 3 model.

2016 Roku Streaming Stick ($50)
If a more compact form with snappier quad-core performance interest you and you don’t mind giving up the advanced remote control, the Roku Streaming Stick provide a great balance of pricing and performance. Although a new Amazon Fire TV Stick is expected any day now…

Roku Express ($30)
This will no doubt be one of the top selling stocking stuffers of 2016 and I’d absolutely recommend the Roku Express for family members new to the fold… or to gift yourself in tertiary rooms in the home. It’s dirt cheap and the interface is simplistic enough for most.

The 4K Conundrum
On the 4K front, the situation is a bit tricker and I’d suggest waiting for some real world reviews. Barring that, if you don’t have an HDR-capable set, you may as well save a few bucks with the Premiere ($80). The Premiere+ at $20 more gets you HDR, the RF headphone remote, and Ethernet, whereas the $50 more Ultra builds upon that with voice remote, optical out, and a remote finder. Even fully loaded at $130, the Roku Ultra will surely clock in less ($$$) than the 4K Apple TV that must be in the pipeline.

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If you needed a bit more confirmation of Roku’s all-new 2016 lineup, the streaming pioneer just published a support note confirming three of the five incoming models: the Premiere, Premiere+, and Ultra. They’ve also confirmed HDR will be available on a subset of devices and kindly explains why compatible 4K television set owners should care.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) improves picture quality by expanding the range of both color and contrast of any image.  In more simple terms, in any scene, details that are typically lost in the brightest and darkest areas in a scene will have more details. Wide Color Gamut goes further to expand the number of shades for each color to provide richer color depth, resulting in colors that are more true-to-life.

As to the flavor of HDR, Roku indicates they’re going with the Sony- and Samsung-backed HDR10 over Dolby Vision.

The new Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra models support HDR-10 standard. Your existing High Speed HDMI®cable that is working will continue to work However, you will need to connect the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra into the HDMI 2.0a port for HDCP 2.2.

Unfortunately, Roku appears to contradict themselves… So, while it seems 100% likely that the Premiere+ (Roku 3-equiv) and Ultra (Roku 4-eqiv) will render HDR video, it’s not clear if the Premiere (Roku 2-quiv) will. In any event, with the publication of this support note, we must be getting real close to an official reveal.

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