Category Archives: Home Theater

Optoma EH400+ Digital Projector Review



This month, I’ve been tinkering with the Optoma EH400+ digital projector (DLP). Unlike last month’s diminutive ML750ST personal projector, the EH400+ is a multipurpose projector suitable for professional presentations in meeting rooms and training centres. Let’s take a closer look, though be careful as it’s very bright…

The EH400+ is about the size of a generous tin of biscuits, measuring 30 x 23 x 9.6 cm and weighing 2.5 kg. It’s entirely luggable, but prospective purchasers should note that there’s no carry case included in the box, though it is an optional extra. While we are on the topic, there’s only the projector, power lead and IR remote control in the box. It’s a standard kettle-style power lead (IEC C13) with no power brick.

White on the top and dark grey round the sides, the Optoma projector ticks all the standard projector boxes. Lens on front, buttons on top and ports on the rear. The recessed lens on the front will form an image on a screen from as close as 1 m to as far away as 12 m and at the furthest limit, the image will be over 7 m wide. That’s fairly big. The bulb puts out 4,000 lumens which is 5 times what the ML750ST put out, so can easily project a strong image in well-lit rooms. The large lens rotates smoothly through about 180 degrees to focus the image and there’s a lever on the top to zoom the image.

The buttons on the top of the projector offer the usual functions –  turning it on, adjusting the image, accessing menus, etc. but the main area of interest is round the back with a selection of connectors, ports and sockets. There are two HDMI, two VGA, S-Video, composite video, two stereo sockets and a network port. Yes, a network port….

Turning the projector over, there are three rubber feet for setting the EH400+ on a table or other smooth surface. The foot at the front spins out to about a 1 cm to raise the projector up. For suspension from a ceiling in a permanent installation, there’s a three-point mount.

Turned on, the EH400+ is pleasingly quiet, though it does put out some light through the fan along with a fair amount of heat, as you’d expect with something this bright.

Connect up the EH400+ to a PC or laptop via HDMI and it appears as a full HD (1920 x 1080) monitor and with a suitable OS you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the EH400’s display. In most environments, it’s going to be showing the same display as the monitor but it’s a useful feature to have.

As with most digital projectors, the EH400+ has an on-screen display (OSD) for configuring the display and all the usual options are there for keystoning, image shifting and similar. But unlike most other projectors, there are far more options than are usually available. For example, there’s a small suite of test patterns to ensure the image is displayed perfectly. There’s even an option to adjust the colour output to compensate for the colour of the wall being used for projection.

On the downside, I didn’t find that the projector was very good at finding the input source automatically and most times I selected the input manually with the remote. Once selected, it took a few seconds to lock on but after that, the EH400+ stayed locked on.

While Powerpoint presentations are likely to be the bread’n’butter of the EH400+, it’s perfectly capable of showing films and movies too. I connected up my Sky Q and watched a few movies plus the new series of Thunderbirds in HD and 3 m across. My son loved it. The picture was good and the colours reproduced well, which is one of the headline features of EH400+ giving an accurate sRGB colourspace. The bright 4000 lumens coped well with an ordinarily lit room and while the sound from the built-in speakers would be acceptable in a meeting or training environment as it’s pretty loud, the quality isn’t going to win any hifi awards from the audiophiles.

And don’t forget, with two HDMI ports, a media streaming stick like the Roku or Amazon Fire TV can be plugged in permanently and powered from the USB port.

There’s no wifi with this Optoma projector (optional extra) but there is a network port which, at a minimum, can be used to control the EH400+. The projector can work with some audiovisual systems such as Crestron and PJ Link. I’ve no idea about these, but the web interface was actually a fairly handy way to control the projector – no faffing around pointing the remote at the projector and scrolling through options – just point and click. It’s even possible to sent email alerts from the projector if there’s a fan error or lamp life is exceeded. The web interface doesn’t cover all the features available via the built-in menus but it covers the main ones. Here’s a screen shot.

That’s about it. In summary, the EH400+ comes across as a solid DLP workhorse that will perform well in professional environments, displaying presentations and media to a high standard with good colour reproduction. Priced at just under GB£750 inc VAT, this is definitely business territory and would be a good choice when replacing a legacy projector with a more up-to-date unit and more relevant connections. The network port and web interface is handy too, especially when the battery has died in the remote control.

The EH400+ can be bought through Optoma‘s partners including Currys PC World and Just Projectors. The Currys price seems a little high…

There’s a short video below and I must apologise for there being no demonstration of the EH400+’s projection capability. I didn’t have a suitable projection space and had to use a small screen which was incredibly bright at such a short distance. Suffice to say that the quality is impressive.

Update: I previously described this as a digital LED projector. It’s not, as DLP stands for Digital Light Proceessing.

Thanks to Optoma for the loan of the review unit.


OmniMount Takes A Lifestyle View at CES



OmniMount LogoCES regulars OmniMount decided to approach the show a little differently this year, setting out their products in lifestyle vignettes, with visitors to seeing the products in real and relevant scenarios. Don chats with Bill Ennis, veteran of 31 shows, to hear about a few of OmniMounts latest products.

The first of OmniMount’s new products is the WorkSpace Wall Organiser, a stylish wall-mounted height-adjustable fold-away desk which conveniently creates a mini-office when folded down and hidden away when not needed. $399.95.

Also new and entered for a CES award is an in-wall TV mount that holds up to an 80″ screen almost flush with the wall surface. With the flush mount, the slim bezels of the stylish TVs are emphasised, enhancing the picture frame qualities of the TV. Snappily titled OE120IW, it’s $349.95.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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eyeSight Singlecue Gesture Control at CES



eyeSight logoWhen it comes to motion tracking and gesture control, gaming has shown the way especially with Microsoft Kinect and the Xbox. Outside of this arena, there’s been relatively little traction though eyeSight are hoping to change this state of affairs with Singlecue. The two Todds talk to Tal Kryzpow, VP of Product Management, to find out more.

The Singlecue is a tabletop device that’s roughly the same size as a Kinect, though unlike its sibling, the Singlecue has a small central display. Singlecue converts gestures, such as an upright finger to the lips, into an action, in this case “mute”, which it then passes onto the relevant devices in the room using infrared. As it uses IR, it’s compatible with almost every piece equipment in the home that uses a remote control. The Singlecue also uses WiFi to interact with technology such as Nest thermostats and Philips Hue lighting.

The Singlecue is currently on pre-order at $129 but will have MSRP of $199 when it goes on sale in Spring 2015.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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Sceptre Celebrates 30 Years of Innovation During CES 2015



Sceptre logoSceptre is celebrating its 30th anniversary with an innovative lineup of home entertainment solutions at CES 2015. Sceptre is an internationally certified manufacturer of world class LCD and LED flat panel monitors. They have brought an assortment of 4K UHD TVs, 4K UHD displays and Sound Base systems to CES.

The 4K UHD TVs range from 50 to 84 inches in size. Sceptre’s large screen UHD TVs feature SRS TruSurround HD technology for immersive sound, a completely redesigned look that saves space, HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 equipped and a 3840 x 2160 resolution screen that is four times sharper and clearer than the traditional Full-HD units.
Sceptre 4K UHD TV

The 4K UND Displays with touch screen interface allow you to click, drag, delete, or edit all your files and documents on a large 4K screen. These screens range from 50 to 65 inches in size. Use it to create an interactive meeting during a conference, as a digital white board, or to display interactive signs.
Sceptre 4K UHD Display

The Sound Base System is the perfect addition to your home entertainment system. Sceptre’s SoundBase pumps out ultra-crisp, room-filling surround sound that complements TVs up to 55-inches or under 65 lbs. It is available in a variety of power outputs. The SoundBase delivers superior HD sound and connects via Bluetooth.
Sceptre Sound Bass System

You can check out Sceptre’s display of entertainment solutions at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino during CES 2015.


Devolo Launches Gigabit Powerline with 11ac WiFi



Devolo LogoPowerline networking is a great way to spread data connectivity around a home via electrical sockets instead of Ethernet, and today Devolo announced the UK availability of its first gigabit Powerline adaptor with built-in 11ac WiFi: the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac. The gigabit speeds make it perfect for households that stream 4K and 3D content to multiple wired and wireless devices.

At 1200 Mb/s, the dLAN 1200+ more than doubles the speed of the previous generation 500 Mb/s Devolo dLAN WiFi adapters. The new high speed adaptor features two gigabit Ethernet ports allowing users to hardwire multiple devices to one unit, from games consoles to NAS home servers, while the adaptor is also a wireless access point for laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Borrowing techniques from the wireless industry, the gigabit speeds are achieved using MIMO technology (Multiple Input Multiple Output) which simultaneously uses the live, neutral and earth connectors in the electrical cable. On the WiFi side, the dLAN adaptor uses both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies which is great if the lower frequency channels are busy. Transmission rates are 300 Mb/s on the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mb/s on 5 GHz.

Devolo dLAN 1200 plus WiFi ac_productpicture_classic_sgl_uk_print_01

Heiko Harbers, CEO of devolo AG said:  “We have launched the dLAN 1200 WiFi ac to accommodate the multiple internet compatible devices people have in their homes today, and in response to the increasingly widespread availability of superfast broadband. All connected devices can now work to their full potential regardless of where they are located in the house. We placed particular emphasis on easy installation when designing the 1200 WiFi ac including the ability to establish a WiFi connection at the push of a button.

The dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac is fully compatible with previous Devolo products from the dLAN 200 onwards and all Powerline adapters that comply with the HomePlug AV(2) standard.

Available now, the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac is available to order online with a starter kit priced at GB£159.99. A single dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac adapter to expand an existing dLAN Powerline network costs GB£109.99 RRP.


Devolo Develops for 4K



Devolo LogoDevolo today announced their new dLAN 1200+, the fastest Powerline networking adaptor in their range with Gigabit-class data transmission. The latest adaptors double the speed of the dLAN 650 by using a combination of Devolo range+ technology, the newest generation of Powerline chips and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, offering a maximum of 1200 Mb/s. This is ideal for anyone wanting to stream 4K video but doesn’t have a network point close to their UltraHD TV.

Devolo dLAN 1200+ Powerline Adaptors

With the Powerline adaptors on all the time, Devolo has kept the power consumption low. When in use, the dLAN 1200+ uses a maximum of 4.2 W, and if the connected device, e.g. TV, is switched off, the adapter automatically goes into standby mode, using just 0.7 W. If security is a concern, users can also activate 128-bit AES encryption to avoid any unauthorised access to the network.

As can be seen from the pictures, the dLAN 1200+ is equipped with a gigabit Ethernet connection and an integrated electrical socket with mains filter.  It’s fully compatible with all previous dLAN models, though the maximum speed will be limited by the slowest adaptor.

The adapters can be purchased as a starter kit for setting up a home network or as individual adapters to extend an existing network. The starter kit is priced at GB£119.99, while the single adapter costs GB£64.99. Devolo will be officially unveiling this new range of products at the IFA Conference in Berlin from 5th-10th September.

Hmm, these might be my next upgrade – hopefully they’ll be available before Christmas.


Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector Review



Optoma LogoThe Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector is a stylish ultra mobile LED projector which pretty much does it all in a very neat little package with a good complement of ports, connections and fun tricks. Let’s take a look.

Optoma Front

Measuring just 27 x 17 x 4.5 cm and weighing only 1.4 kg, the ML1500 is very portable and comes with a neoprene carrying case. As you’ll see from the photos, the projector is attractively styled, with the ports on the back and a touchpad on the top. The touchpad can be used to operate the built-in menus to control the ML1500 and there is also a supplied remote control for when changes need to be made from afar. On the bottom, a third leg can be screwed in and out to adjust the angle, and a standard photo mount allows the projector to be hung from above. Finally, a lever on the side controls the focus.

Optoma ML1500 Rear

Round the back there is a plethora of connections, with composite video, HDMI and VGA connectors, 3.5mm jacks for audio and microUSB, USB and SD card slots. Connect up the ML1500 to a PC or laptop and it appears as an Optoma WXGA (1280×800) monitor and with suitable OS, you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the ML1500’s display. Locking onto the VGA signal took a second or two, but nothing out of the ordinary. The small size of the projector meant that I could keep it on my desk and if I needed to have an impromptu team meeting that needed something shown, I could quickly turn the ML1500 onto a nearby wall, rather than everyone huddle round a monitor.

Optoma ML1500 Remote ControlOn the fun side, the ML1500 makes a good partner to mini media streamers like the Roku Streaming Stick or Chromecast. The stick can be plugged into the ML1500’s HDMI sockets and power pulled from an adjacent USB socket. All set and good to watch Netflix or other streaming service with minimum of fuss.

The ML1500 does a few other tricks up its sleeve (or USB port as the case may be). First of all, the projector has a built-in media player and office document viewer that will show films, play music and display Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files directly from either an SD card or USB memory stick. I didn’t deliberately try to break the viewer but the ML1500 managed to cope with all the Office documents that I threw at it. It’s relatively easy to navigate round the documents and zoom in or out with the remote control. The on-screen menus are easy to navigate with large friendly icons showing the way.

Playing movies is cool too, with the ML1500 handling mp4, avi and mov format files (though I didn’t confirm the codecs inside each). The presentation is good with the projector keeping up with the action and the picture is fine in unlit room – it doesn’t need to be darkened. Obviously you can have a pretty big screen if you want – I watched a couple of films and really got into the cinematic feel of things. Colours were good and sound is ok – it’s not hifi but you can connect up via a 3.5 mm jack if you want more oomph.

Optoma WiFi DongleNext on the list of clever things is the USB wifi dongle which plugs into the ML1500. Once connected to the “Optoma Display” wireless network, you can use an app on your smartphone or tablet to play presentations and display media. I used WiFi-Doc on Android and the app is available for iPhone and iPad too. It’s easy to use – select what you want to show and it’ll be shown by the ML1500. You can zoom in and out of photos and documents, and about a second later, the projector will update to show the change. Here’s the app showing a photo of the house that Mel Gibson used while filming Braveheart. The app wasn’t quite as good as the built-in player when it came showing office files as a couple of pdfs had missing images.WiFi-Doc App

A final nifty feature was auto-keystone correction, where the ML1500 automatically adjusts the projection to account for the angle of the projector, which means that the picture on the screen is always rectangular and not fatter at the top than the bottom.

One minor niggle is that adjusting the focus has to be done manually and it can’t be corrected using the remote control. Not a big deal in most circumstances but could be an issue if the projector was mounted high up.

Although I’m not a projector expert, I enjoyed putting the ML1500 through its paces. Its comprehensive ports and built-in media player make it a good choice for both business and pleasure, and for those on the move, the low weight and PC-free capabilities, are attractive. I think it’s priced about right too at under £700.

Thanks to Optoma for the review unit.


Optoma Pico-Projector at The Gadget Show



Optoma specialise in digital projectors with a range going from personal pico-projectors all the way up to professional stacking projectors for large-scale installations. Here at The Gadget Show, Optoma were showing off their  ML750, an ultra-compact LED projector about 12 cm square and 4 cm deep. The picture below doesn’t get over how small the unit is.

Optoma ML-750 Projector

James from Optoma runs through the features of the ML750, which with the addition of a small wireless dongle (the little white object in the top left of the photo) allows presentation and streaming directly from the tablets and smartphones over wi-fi to the projector. The feature works with both Apple and Android devices using a downloadable app.

The native resolution is 1280×800 but will show 720p and 1080i video sources. It’ll even do 3D with additional active shutter glasses, though I’m not sure anyone is interested anymore. Still, the feature’s there.

I’m not a big projector expert, but at the event the ML750 was showing a series of film clips and it was very watchable. Obviously nothing like an HD monitor but for a portable device showing a 32″ display, it was impressive.

Available online for GB£400.


Bespoke Arcades at The Gadget Show



Geeks of a certain age will remember fondly “going to the arcade” where much time and money was spent on video games. This was a time before home consoles, before Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox. An era of Space Invaders, Missile Command, Defender, Pacman and Battlezone that has passed into history. If this all brings a tiny tear to your eye, then you might be interested in Bespoke Arcades, creators of “the world’s finest arcade machines” that will take you back to that mis-spent youth.

Bespoke Arcades will hand-build in the UK arcade machines to specification in a range of styles, from the traditional upright cabinet to table-top machines. Everything is customisable from the cabinet finish to the controls and all come with a huge range of games.

Bespoke Arcades

Bespoke Arcades

Bespoke Arcades

Ben tells me about the history of Bespokes Arcades, some of their famous clients and how these might look like old arcade machines but are actually bang up-to-date PCs under the skin. Prices start at GB£2000.


Amazon Fire TV



Amazon Fire TVAfter weeks of speculation, Amazon has finally shown its hand in the set-top box game with the Fire TV. It’s a $99 box with a Bluetooth remote control that connects to your HD TV and shows Amazon content plus media from partners, including Netflix, Hulu, ESPN and Pandora.

Amazon Fire TV

Initially, this doesn’t sound terribly different from the Roku and Apple TV units, but when you get into the feature set, it’s pretty impressive. There’s voice search which helps you find the shows without the laborious letter selection that bedevils remote controls. ASAP is a predictive feature that pre-loads content so that shows start instantly without the buffering delay. WhisperSync synchronises watching and listening across multiple devices so you never lose a second, and X-Ray takes the movie experience further, showing film and character information on your second screen Kindle Fire HDX.

As you’d expect, the Fire TV is seamlessly integrated with Prime Instant Video, Amazon’s subscription streaming service, giving access to tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes. With Dolby Digital Plus, films and music will sound amazing and any media stored in Amazon’s Cloud Drive from photos to personal videos can be played through the Fire TV.

Tiny box, huge specs, tons of content, incredible price—people are going to love Fire TV,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “Voice search that actually works means no more typing on an alphabet grid. Our exclusive new ASAP feature predicts the shows you’ll want to watch and gets them ready to stream instantly. And our open approach gives you not just Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video, but also Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more. On Fire TV you can watch Alpha House and House of Cards.

Amazon are definitely taking the fight to the competition as the Fire TV is a mini powerhouse, with a quad-core processor and 2 GB RAM, which lets the unit double as a gaming unit with over 100 games available at launch. Already available are Minecraft, Monsters University, The Game of Life, The Walking Dead, NBA2K14, Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2, Despicable Me: Minion Rush and Amazon has signed up EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, Mojang, 2K, and Sega to bring their games to Fire TV.  To complement the gaming, there’s an additional game controller that will set you back a penny shy of $40. The controller connects via Bluetooth too and will run for up to 55 hours on AA batteries.

Simplistically, it’s a desktop version of the Kindle Fire tablets and sure enough, Fire TV runs the latest version of Fire OS “Mojito,” which is based on Android. This means that apps should be easily ported over to the Fire TV (and Kindle Fires).

The Kindle Fire TV is available now in the US. No news on international availability yet.