TV & Home Cinema

By February 1, 2014 Read More →

Apple TV or Roku? 5 Considerations for Buying a Set-Top Streaming Box

Apple TV or RokuIn 2007, around two million American homes were without cable or satellite television. A 2013 Nielsen study found that today more than five million homes have embraced an existence without traditional TV. But that doesn’t mean they’re staring at their four walls. More than three-quarters of these homes rely on the internet for their entertainment. If you’re ready to join them, just one question remains: Apple TV or Roku?

Roku Offers More, Easy-to-Use Channels

In June 2013, Apple TV offered just 18 channels compared to more than 750 on the Roku box. In late 2013, Apple expanded its library with some more crowd-pleasing channels, including ABC, Crackle, and Bloomberg, but Roku users have been enjoying these for years. Roku now offers more than 1,200 channels on offer, but quantity doesn’t always equate to quality. Many users insist they only watch a small percentage of Roku’s offerings, so in actuality your viewing experience might not be too different.

Roku is the clear winner when comparing the bare bones systems, but canny Apple fans have found ways to expand their viewing options. For example, many compare the price of a standard internet service with a FiOS bundle, which allows them to stream or download movies. If you’re going to spend money on additional entertainment, this package may end up being more cost effective. 

Roku’s extensive channel list could get unwieldy without its universal search. Tech bloggers have suggested Apple would do well to incorporate this feature, which allows users to search for the title of the movie or television program they’ve been dying to see. The Roku interface displays the installed apps that can show the content, and how much streaming will cost on each.

Roku Has Headphones

It sounds like a small point, but if you’re one of the many people who enjoys binging on television while the rest of your household sleeps you’ll love the Roku’s headphone functionality. Its remote control has a headphone jack to make private viewing easy. Just pop in the included earbuds and you can watch your favorite shows without disturbing your loved ones. The quality of the earbuds isn’t outstanding, but audiophiles can easily use their own.

Apple TV Feels Familiar for Brand’s Fans

Apple’s familiarity will give it an edge for many consumers discovering internet television for the first time. Its interface resembles Apple’s popular iOS system, with rectangular channel icons which resemble apps. It also integrates with iTunes so users can use their existing account to purchase television series and movies.

It’s not that Roku is difficult to use, but it can’t capitalize on brand loyalty the way that Apple can. A 2013 study found 81 percent of Apple smartphone customers stuck with the iOS platform over a 12-month period, compared to 68 percent remaining loyal to Android. Another 2013 report by international brand consulting firm Interbrand ranked Apple as the world’s number one brand, ahead of Coca-Cola, Google, and IBM. When it comes to brand loyalty, Roku simply can’t compete.

Apple TV Offers AirPlay

Apple appeals to the loyalty of its faithful followers with AirPlay, a feature which lets you wirelessly stream photos, music, and videos from your iOS device or iTunes to your television set. This innovative device also integrates with key third-party apps including Pandora and Spotify. 

To be fair, Roku has attempted to mimic AirPlay’s success with the release of its new Roku 3. This latest streaming set-top box features Play on Roku, which allows users to stream the photos, music, and video files stored on their favorite Android or iOS device. However, unlike AirPlay, Play on Roku doesn’t allow device mirroring, so it’s still got some way to go.

Roku is Often More Affordable

Both units have comparable recommended retail prices, with Apple TV selling for $99 and Roku 3 costing $99.99. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Apple knows it can count on customer loyalty, so it rarely discounts its streaming television. In contrast, the latest Roku set-top streaming box is regularly sold online for around $10 less than its nearest rival. If you’re still not certain which unit is best, then the price could sway you.

Apple TV and Roku both have their merits, so it’s worth thinking carefully before committing to your preferred device for streaming internet entertainment.

By January 9, 2014 Read More →

4K TV

4K TVTV lovers will be excited to hear that Amazon is filming all of its original drama in 4K UHD quality for LOVEFiLM. 4K UHD is a relatively new technology which provides viewers with exceptional clarity and definition, using four times as many pixels as FULL HD. The enhanced detail means that even with very large television screens the definition is not compromised.

Extremely high definition on a grand screen might sound like TV heaven, but up until now there hasn’t been much for 4K UHD televisions to watch. Some 4K televisions come loaded with material shot in 4K to showcase the technology, but more content filmed in 4K is needed. That’s why audio/visual enthusiasts and TV fans will welcome the news about Amazon and LOVEFiLM.

The director of Amazon Studios has said, “All of the pilots and series we produce next year will be shot in 4K. That includes our first ever drama series that we will green light next year. We think customers are going to love watching these series in the highest resolution ever available to consumers and we can’t wait to deliver it.”

Advances in encoding technology (which enables audio and visual material to be downloaded) means that 4K UHD television and movies can now be streamed quicker.

Next year Amazon will be producing five new television pilots which viewers will be asked to watch and give feedback on. Once piloted, they will get made into a series filmed in 4K UHD and be available to stream on LOVEFiLM. The pilots include Chris Carter, creator of the X-files, show ‘The After’, ‘Bosch’- a series based on the Harry Bosch book series- and ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ from critically acclaimed director Roman Coppola.

This development is great for online streaming customers, even if they are not yet on the 4K UHD bandwagon. 4K ultra high definition is set to be this year’s big audio/visual technology story and with not much content out there, Amazon have got a head start. 4K UHD will only become more popular and it’s good to know that when there is more content available.

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By January 3, 2014 Read More →

A battle for your HDMI socket?

belkin-miracast-3The surprise success of the Chromecast has added a whole new dimension to the tech industry. Instead of DVD players or using the Smart TV system built into the TV folks are opting for a little dongle that does lots of weird and wonderful things. In years gone past we have seen Roku, Apple, Google and Western Digital, to name a few, pushing out little boxes to bring services from the Internet and streaming solutions to your living room. Now, with the 8th incarnation of the game console both Microsoft and Sony are incorporating more than just gaming content into their living room hardware, at a price.

Google scored big recently with the cheap and cheerful Chromecast, a somewhat limited dongle that delivers an ever expanding list of services to your TV. From watching Youtube to playing back music and steaming movies from your computer (via Plex) Google managed to package together a beautiful little out-of-sight stick that costs peanuts and stretches the boundaries you normally expect from your TV, be it Smart or dumb.

Now, the folks at Belkin are launching a dongle that looks somewhat similar to the Chromecast but promises one thing, screen mirroring. Imagine wirelessly pushing the screen of your smartphone to the TV. You can? Well, yes Samsung, Airtight, Allcast and many others all offer this sort of service however they are more geared towards media and particular apps. Belkin boast you will be able to broadcast ANY app to the television.

Posted in: News, TV & Home Cinema
By December 21, 2013 Read More →

LG’s 105-inch curved TV

LG's 105-inch curved TVYesterday LG announced that they were to release the worlds first 105″ curved LCD TV at CES in 2014. Furthermore, the giant display will have a 21:9 aspect ratio, the likes of which we’ve not seen for some time.

The full press release from LG can be seen below:

Posted in: News, TV & Home Cinema
By December 13, 2013 Read More →

Will Google make a Nexus TV?

stvscreensGoogle is apparently to be working on a Nexus TV. Google TV fans have been hoping for a Nexus-branded TV or set-top box for a long time. It seems it may be finally happening, except this rumoured device would not be Google TV that we know and somewhat ignore. More than likely this will be the oft mentioned “Android TV.”

The rumour comes from The Information, who’s sources claim this Android-based set-top box would could be released as early as the first half of 2014. This device would be able to stream video from services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. In addition, the box would also allow you to play some video games.

This sounds a lot like Google TV, except for one factor – it will not support live broadcast TV. Which is the biggest known difference between Android TV and Google TV. What will become of the existing Google TV? I’ll this be a TV with a Chromecast built in?

So many questions and it will be a joy to find out the answers.

By November 21, 2013 Read More →

SlingPlayer 3.0 rolls out

SLING MEDIA INC. SLINGPLAYER 3.0Sling Media have just released an important update for Slingbox customers, offering SlingPlayer 3.0 and a SlingPlayer for Roku boxes.

A new version of SlingPlayer for iPhone and Android smartphones is available today as part of the Roku channel introduction. Sling Media will also introduce an app for Windows 8.1 in December.

FOSTER CITY, Calif., Nov. 18, 2013 Sling Media Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corp. (NASDAQ: SATS), today unveiled three new clients that further enhance discovery, navigation and the social experience customers now enjoy with content, giving Slingbox customers the ultimate video experience both inside and outside of the home. SlingPlayer 3.0 and the SlingPlayer channel on the Roku® streaming platform are both available for download today. A new version of SlingPlayer for iPhone and Android smartphones is available today as part of the Roku channel introduction. Sling Media will also introduce an app for Windows 8.1 in December.

“With today’s announcements, Sling Media has clearly brought the Slingbox experience into the living room, changing the way our customers discover, navigate, view and socialize around content,” said Michael Hawkey, VP and General Manager of Sling Media. “With SlingPlayer 3.0, we’re giving customers the tools they need to turn traditional prime time into Prime Time Social Time. Our customers have been asking for Roku support and a Windows 8.1 app. We’re pleased to deliver the Roku channel today and the Windows 8.1 app in the very near future.”

SLINGPLAYER 3.0

SlingPlayer 3.0 combines the core value proposition of viewing live or recorded TV anywhere with powerful, seamless discovery and second screen enhancements that customers are now asking for. SlingPlayer 3.0 turns the iPad into the first screen and second screen at the same time.

Features include:

  • Content discovery – SlingPlayer 3.0 offers a visually appealing interface that enables users to seamlessly find content they want to watch from the vast number of shows on TV at any given time. Filters are provided in conjunction with customers’ personal TV lineups for easy management as well as third-party services that provide users with tools to quickly discover content they may be interested in.
  • Sports experience – SlingPlayer 3.0 greatly enhances the sports fan’s experience providing an easy and visual way of finding which channel the game is on, no more cumbersome surfing of the grid guide. In addition, once a game is selected, either for viewing on iPad or on the TV, fans can enjoy live statistics on individual and team leaders, get game scores and engage their social networks to comment or call out their favorite team or player.
  • Social – SlingPlayer 3.0 uses social media for both discovery and engagement. Users can filter live TV programming based on their personal social media network likes and once tuned to a show, users can join the Twitter conversation with a live feed of content-relevant tweets or let everyone know what they’re watching via Facebook posts.
  • Second Screen Control – Slingbox customers can use SlingPlayer 3.0 as a powerful second screen companion. Users now have the ability to cast their Slingbox experience to a TV from their mobile device, making SlingPlayer 3.0 the ultimate remote control inside the home, in addition to being able to watch your home TV on a connected device from anywhere in the world.
  • Split-Screen Navigation – This split screen framework empowers Slingbox customers to browse for other content, view show details, engage with social networks or see live sports stats while simultaneously watching video on the iPad.
  • Compatibility – SlingPlayer 3.0 requires iOS 7.0 or higher.

SLINGPLAYER CHANNEL ON ROKU
Slingbox customers can now watch their live or recorded TV through a Roku streaming player connected to a TV in another room in the house or in a remote location. Customers will use either SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone or Android phone to initiate the video and send it to the TV with a tap of a button. They will also need to install the free SlingPlayer channel, from the Roku Channel Store. Roku devices supported at launch include the Roku 3, Roku 2, Roku 1, Roku LT (models 2400X and 2700X), Roku 2 XS, Roku 2 XD and Roku 2 HD players as well as the Roku Streaming Stick. Support for the Roku HD (model 2500X) and Roku LT (model 2450X) will be added later this month.

“Roku offers consumers the most choice of any streaming device,” said Ed Lee, vice president of content acquisition, Roku. “This partnership with Sling Media will bring even more value to Roku customers by giving them additional ways to enjoy live or recorded TV on their Roku players.”

Features include:

  • Sling to a Big Screen – Use Slingbox to send your TV to another TV via a Roku player. Use cases would include households with a second TV in the home (bedroom, basement, office, back porch etc.), in vacation homes or in college dorm rooms.
  • Smartphone Remote Control – The authentication and navigation of live and recorded TV played via Roku is all done via the SlingPlayer client on iPhone or Android phone. Customers must be on the same network as their Roku and once video is initiated on the phone they can “send” to the TV with a single tap. Changing channels, accessing the guide or DVR, etc. is all done via the phone commands.
  • Value – The SlingPlayer channel on Roku adds value to existing cable/satellite subscriptions, bringing live TV to additional TVs inside a home or in remote locations that have may have broadband, but not a cable/satellite/telco service.

SLINGPLAYER FOR WINDOWS 8.1
Sling Media is developing an app for Windows 8.1 customers who own a Slingbox. This new app will deliver an enhanced SlingPlayer experience across Windows 8.1 devices including Surface, desktop PCs, laptops and convertible devices. Sling Media expects the Windows 8.1 app to be available in December.

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By November 16, 2013 Read More →

3 Ways to Make Your Flat Screen TV a Smart TV – on a Budget

Smart TVThe jump from flat-screen TV to Smart TV doesn’t have to be a big one – and you don’t have to bust your budget to get it done.

Mine’s a modest 22-inch Samsung, but I’ve managed to transform it into a smart TV. I had to. So underwhelmed with regular television – and so enamored with everything else to see on a big screen (movies, video clips, the Internet) – I was determined to make my lounge-chair time even better.

My TV wasn’t going to get into Harvard before I began to tinker, let’s just say that.

Here’s what I tried to plug into it to boost the IQ of my big screen.

 

1.     Personal Computer Free, if you have the PC already

That PC you still have around? Put it to work with your TV. My Samsung has a VGA entry port that can connect to my TV. I had to buy the right cord for the job. My PC is still pretty fast, so I’m able to watch movies and let the kids play video games when it’s connected to the TV.

The power bill’s a bit of a problem, though.

How smart?: This would work better with a Macbook Air or some such device out of my price range.

 

2.     Google Chromecast $35

Chromecast dongle

A dumb TV is a smart TV just waiting to happen. Chromecast, a dongle that lets you stream media, can also show anything open in a Google Chrome browser. Google’s app-to-TV dongle supports six apps overall, including Google Play Movies &TV; Google Play Music; Hulu Plus; Netflix; Pandora; and YouTube.

 With Google’s support, Chromecast has the potential for more apps and features by name alone.

How smart?: The price is about a third of that of similar products such as Apple TV, Plair or Roku. I’d say that’s pretty smart.

 

3.     Xbox $250 (Xbox 360 console with Kinect)

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All you need is the SmartGlass app (if you have the Xbox and an Android, iOS or Windows smartphone.) Your enabled device becomes a second screen, allowing you to watch movies and browse the web.

Get relevant immersive details while you watch a game, movie or TV show. You’ll need an Xbox Live membership to download a lot of apps, such as HBOGO and Netflix.

How smart?: The app’s amazing – and can provide real-time strategy while you play online games.

 

In our case, we had the PC and Xbox, which wiped out the need for a trip to the store. The Xbox by far provided the best option for everyone involved, but Google Chromecast holds the best potential. Both Chromecast and Xbox worked best when we upgraded to fiber-optic Internet.

Dropping $1,000 on a smart TV is just not very smart.

By November 14, 2013 Read More →

Humax HB-1000S Freesat HD unboxing video

Humax HB-1000s freesat HDThe Freesat service has been around for a while and has found it’s way in to TV’s and set top boxes alike.

This Humax HB-1000s model that we are looking includes new on-demand features from BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. While this model may lack the built-in hard drive of some of the higher-end models, it will allow you to add external USB hard drives if you want to use it for recording. You can also add a USB WiFi adapter if you want to connect wirelessly.

In the video below it’s just a quick look at the hardware and what’s supplied with the unit before we crack on with the full review.

By November 12, 2013 Read More →

Google Chromecast demo video

chromecastSeveral weeks ago, Gareth was one of the lucky few to be able to order a Chromecast from Amazon.com and have it delivered to the UK.

We then brought you a video of the install and setup of the Chromecast but Gareth encountered a series of problems when trying to use the Chromecast with both his tablet and his phone and was unable to get it fully working.

So this time we’re bringing you an updated video of the Chromecast in action now that we’ve been able to iron out the issues and in the video below you’ll see Gareth demo some of the features and run through a demo.

By November 8, 2013 Read More →

Samsung 46″ F7000 Series 7 review (UE46F7000ST)

Samsung 46" F7000 Series 7This month I started my Samsung 46″ F7000 Series 7 review. It has been a while since we last had a TV here to review in the office and a lot has changed since then. Prices have plummeted while screen sizes have increased and the thickness of display panels has dramatically reduced.

Much of this is thanks to LED back lighting technology and no one seems to be using this technology quite as much as Samsung and their range of LED HD TV’s is huge.

The Samsung F8000 is the top end of the Samsung range and has a price tag to match. However, many of the top-end features from the F8000 range can now be found on the 2013 F7000 models. Features such as build-in camera, voice and motion control, micro dimming and a touchpad controller are all added to the F7000 range yet it’s still able to come in at several hundred pounds cheaper than the F8000’s

We are looking at the 46″ version but the range offers sizes from 40 to 60 inches and, at the moment, the 46″ can be found on Amazon for just under £1100.

You do get a lot of hardware for your money there too. This smart TV comes with built in WiFi, integrated webcam, motion and voice control features, 2 bundled 3D glasses and two remote control units.

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