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Tag: set top box

Roku Coming to UK and Canada

Posted by J Powers at 10:35 AM on November 17, 2011
Roku LT

Roku LT

Today, Roku announced it will be going International: starting in the United Kingdom and Canada. The Set Top Box plans to launch in these countries early 2012. Currently, they are making a call to Canadian and European developers to start creating content for this popular medium.

Roku was founded in 2002 by Replay TV founder Anthony Wood. The privately held company started with the SoundBridge – a network music player. Since then, the company created the PhotoBridge before developing the Roku in 2008. Four generations later, the Roku LT, Roku 2 HD, XD and XS (with Angry Birds) are current models you can purchase starting at $49.

“This year has been one of many accomplishments for Roku in the U.S. In July, we introduced Roku 2 which brings casual games to the TV and last month we unveiled the $49.99 Roku LT. We’ve added casual games including Angry Birds and PAC-MAN as well as premiere channels including HBO GO,” said Roku Founder and CEO Anthony Wood. “And now we’re looking forward to kicking off 2012 by expanding to Europe and Canada and providing consumers abroad with the best in streaming entertainment – a natural evolution for Roku.”

Recently Roku launched games like Pac-Man and Galaga, along with services like CNBC 24 hour and HBO Go (with cable subscription). Of course, Roku was the first STB to offer Netflix, and also has premium channels like Amazon and HuluPlus. Not to mention the TechPodcasts and Blubrry networks.

NetGear Set to Release a New NeoTV

Posted by Alan at 4:58 PM on September 15, 2011

A while back I had the opportunity to review the Netgear NeoTV.  This week the have announced an updated and much-improved version that is designed to compete directly with Apple TV and Roku.

The new version is smaller, comes in a beautiful shiny black case and packs a whole lot of extras that were lacking in the previous release.  New apps include Pandora, Netflix, Vudu, Napster, Twitter, Pandora and a bunch more.  The remote control also has been simplified over the previous version.

The complete product hardware specs, as published by Netgear, are a s follows:

Package Contents

  • NeoTV™ Streaming Player (NTV200)
  • Remote control
  • Two (2) CR2032 coin batteries
  • Power adapter
  • Quick start guide
  • Note: HDMI cable not included

Features

  • Easy setup
  • Up to 1080p HD streaming
  • Built-in Wireless-N for extended-range (b/g/n compatible)
  • Ethernet port
  • HDMI video output
  • 5.1 surround sound

System Requirements

  • Broadband Internet connection
  • PC/tablet with Internet browser for service activation
  • TV with HDMI input and cable

Networking

  • Built-in Wi-Fi 300 Mbps (802.11 b/g/n)
  • 10/100 Ethernet (RJ-45)

While it contains “N” WiFi, I was a bit disappointed that Netgear chose to go with 10/100 ethernet, as opposed to 10/10/1000.  Honestly, I doubt it will make a any difference with this type of product, but it’s always nice to have the latest version of all of the internals when you buy new hardware.

The new box is technically known as the NeoTV 200 (the previous was the NeoTV 550).  It is available for pre-order now, and retails for $79.99.  You can get full details, picture and a video demo over at the NetGear website.

Sony Announces Network Media Player at IFA

Posted by Alan at 9:02 AM on September 5, 2011

While it was announced several days ago at IFA, the new Sony SMP-N200 Network Media Player has gone largely unnoticed.  The new version, which replaces the SMP-N100, brings support for HD and even 3D.  The player integrates seamlessly into your home network via 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (it is unclear if ethernet, which is the fastest most reliable connection, is included).

Of course, it integrates with the Sony Entertainment Network to get much of it’s content, but it can also stream from any compatible DLNA device on the network, including the also just announced Sony Tablet S, as well as USB drives.

There is a remote control included, but users with Android and iOS devices can get a slick remote control app, which will be available for free download from the respective mobile markets.

There is a built-in web browser, and they boast Twitter and Facebook, although it isn’t clear if these are apps or simply through the browser.  Finally, they claim a lightning-fast 3 second start-up time.

The device will be available in October 2011, but pricing has not been announced.  However, the SMP-N100 can be had for about $69.99 at many US retailers.  For more information, you can read the Sony Press Release.

 

Netgear NeoTV 550 Review

Posted by Alan at 6:00 AM on February 24, 2011

About a month ago I received a Netgear NeoTV 550 for review.  I am an avid Media Center PC user, which meant I was immediately skeptical of any replacement for my beloved HTPC.  Initially I found my skepticism warranted, but over the past month that changed.  It changed for two reasons – one was my own network setup problem and the other was a Netgear update.

First Impressions

A few weeks ago I posted a brief unboxing tour of the device.  As with any new electronics that show up on my doorstep, I was excited and intrigued by it.  I hurriedly set it up in test mode – which means I didn’t take the time to pull out the media cabinet, take the back off, and hook it up properly.  This setup was quick and dirty – plug in  the device, composite cables to the TV for sound and video, and an ethernet cable (Cat 5E) for access to the home network.

The NeoTV 550 will not do WiFi, in case you’re wondering, but since I have wired access to my home theater, that wasn’t an issue.  This may be a deal-breaker for some users though.

As for the 2 issues I mentioned earlier – the first was on my end.  The NeoTV found my Music folder, but always said it was empty.  I thought it was the box, because both my desktop and laptop found it fine (it’s stored on the Media Center PC in the living room).  But, when I started using another Windows 7 device and it gave the same message, I looked closer and discovered a network sharing issue.  Once I corrected that the NeoTV found the music just fine.

The second issue was in Videos.  We have a lot of TV shows stored on our HTPC and they are all in folders by show name, then further divided into folders by season number.  In short, it’s easy to access any show from Media Center.  The NeoTV took all of these videos and put them in one folder – hundreds of shows that had to be scrolled through to find what we wanted to watch.  This was solved by a software update and now all of our folders are intact and easily accessible.

The Interface

The interface for the NeoTV is clean and simple.  The menu is very succinct – you have Video, Music, Photos, Browse Folders, Internet Media, Streaming TV and Movies, and Settings.  There’s a remote included that makes accessing all of these menu items simple and fast.

Internet Media contains such favorites as YouTube, RadioTime, Shoutcast, Flickr, News, and Weather.  In News you have many favorites like ESPN, Wired Science, and CNN.  You can also add your own RSS feed.

Streaming TV and Movies, when clicked on, gives the message “This feature will be coming in a future firmware release”.

The Video option allows you to drill down through the menus on your source PC – we can choose from TV show, movies, home video, and everything else that’s in the video section of our HTPC.  File names are on the left and cover art is displayed to the right.  Again, it’s a clean, simple interface.  You can change the look to get more of a Media Center My Movies look with cover art only across the screen, allowing you scroll from one movie to the next.  For more on what you can do with your movies see the Tech Specs below.

Music and Pictures work the same as video – folders and titles to the left and artwork to the right.  Or, you can choose an alternative look.

The only thing I found lacking here was the absense of a Search option.

Settings

Under the Settings option in the main menu you will find Setup Wizard, Audio / Video, Media locations, Parental Controls and security, User interface, Network, and System.

Options inside of these include:

Audio / Video – Display, Audio, Playback options, and Blu-ray options

Parental Controls – This allows you set set a password, lock the system, enable or disable HTML access, and a few other things.

User interface – Change language, skins, and set a screen saver.

System – Set your time and location and enable weather, check for updates, manage files, and much more.

The Remote


The remote control, which is included, measures 8.5″ x 2″.  It includes the standard Play, Pause, Stop, FF, and RW buttons along with others that include Home, Menu, Subtitle, Repeat, and Popup Menu, to name a few.  Featured at the top are 4 colored buttons that allow easy access to Video, Music, Phot, and Web.

Tech Specs

As for tech specs, the NeoTV 550 comes with an infrared remote, ethernet cable, and a composite a/v cable.  It has 2 USB ports, an SD card slot, eSATA port, 10/100 ethernet port, and an HDMI 1.3a.

It supports AVI, Xvid, MOV, MP4, MPEG2 PS, MPEG2-TS, DVD ISO/VOB/IFO, MKV, ASF, AVCHD, DivX, WMV, M4A, M2TS, MTS, MP1, MP2, MPG, DVR-MS, and Blu-ray.  Personally I was surprised by the .iso support.  A lot of our DVD’s are stored as .iso files to preserve all of the menus, extras, etc., so that was unexpected.  Incidentally, playing the .iso movies on the Netgear box allows the same options you have when playing an .iso on a PC.  YOu can click the Menu button on the remote and jump straight to the DVD main menu.  That is killer for me.

Conclusion

Can the Netgear NeoTV 550 replace a Media Center?  Well, no, but it does make a good extender for someplace like the bedroom.  It won’t pull MC extras like Netflix, but it can play pretty much every media format stored on your Media Center – or home server or any normal PC.  The interface is clean and simple and remote works great.  The setup is simple – anyone who can click My Computer and navigate to a file can easily tell the NeoTV where to look for music, pictures, and video.

Playback of all media is very fast and I encountered no problems with video stutter, macro-blocking, or any other common problems that are associated with video.  If you plug into your receiver then music playback will sound every bit as good as any other component (plug audio into your TV and you get what you get – with any device).

The big question is do I recommend it?  Yes, but with a couple of caveats.  For a complete technophobe it may be too difficult, but for the average to advanced user it should be no problem.  If you currently use an HTPC I wouldn’t replace it with this, but I would use this with a second TV.  Finally, if you’re not an HTPC user, but have a bunch of media stored on your everyday PC or server then definitely yes.  The OS is solid, the setup is pretty easy, and playback is smooth.  And they will updating the software so it will only get better.


LG SmartTVs and SmartTV Upgrader

Posted by Andrew at 10:22 PM on January 28, 2011

Jeffrey talks to Mark of LuckyGoldstar, sorry, LG about their foray into connected devices and smart TVs during 2011. Mark reckons that there are four key principles for smart TVs.

  • first, premium content providers and LG has over 20 including NetFlix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon, NHL, NBA;
  • second, apps and LG will be launching its online apps store with over 200 apps from the likes of CNN and Comedy Central (and Tech Podcast);
  • third, include a fully functioning web-browser with Flash, just like LG’s;
  • and finally, make sure it’s DLNA-certified so that existing local content can be played, as LG’s TVs will.

Existing owners will be able to upgrade their TVs using LG’s new SmartTV Upgrader that brings all the features of LG’s 2011 TVs to a dumb TV. The SmartTV will work with any TV with an HDMI output, not just LG’s and of course, it’s wireless. Although it comes with a remote control, to make typing easier, apps for iOS and Android devices will control the SmartTV unit as well. That’s cool.

Jeffrey gets a demo of the user interface in the video so check it out if you are interested. Looks to be a smooth implementation.

Shipping in Q2 for $129.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

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Igugu Internet TV

Posted by tomwiles at 8:22 PM on January 21, 2011

Mario Cisneros talks about Igugu TV (www.igugu.com), a hardware and software combination that turns your existing Windows-based computer into a TV set top box enabling you to easily get over-the-top television content from your computer to your flat panel television.

Igugu has three kit offerings, including $99 dollars for the remote control unit and software, $129 for the remote control unit, software, and miscellaneous wiring kit, and $249 for a wireless version.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Netgear NeoTV 550 Unboxing

Posted by Alan at 5:35 PM on January 18, 2011

Today I received the new Netgear NeoTV which launched recently.  This is the latest in Netgear’s living room strategy of products to allow users to view their picture and video, stored on any PC on the network, through their TV, and also listen to music fro any PC through their A/V receiver.  This box holds a lot of potential from what I have read in the press releases, so it’s exciting to see if it lives up to the hype.  While I will be spending several days putting the device through its paces and seeing what it can and can’t do I wanted to post some early photos of the unboxing so that you can see what is included.  Enjoy the pics posted below.

The Future Of OTT TV Apps

Posted by tomwiles at 11:10 PM on December 29, 2010

I’ve been experimenting for some time with connecting computers to televisions, along with a variety of other set-top boxes. I’m now at a point where I’ve begun to draw a few conclusions.

Are we there yet? The short answer is no. We’ve still got a long way to go.

After living a while with Apps on an Android smartphone, along with apps on an iPod Touch, it has become clear to me that the best apps running on these sorts of hand-held devices give a great, slick, quick-access media-consumption experience.

Apps running on Internet-connected TV’s or set-top boxes are going to be important in the future. However, so far what we have available today is a somewhat frustrating experience.

I’ve got a Mac Mini set up as an HTPC/DVR with an Eye TV USB HD tuner. The Eye TV software fails in a living room setting because the text within the application is too small to be easily read from across the room even on a big screen. I’ve also got the Boxee app installed on the same machine. Boxee does have a growing list of apps. However, many of the currently available Boxee apps still often fall short of genuine usefulness.

I want a software interface that I can read and interact with easily from across the room without having to deal with it as if it’s desktop software. I want software apps that are powerful, easy to use, and give me a consistent experience from one app to the next. If I’ve specified I want only videos, then the software should serve me up ONLY videos, with no audio podcasts mixed in.

The trouble with OTT content is that one size doesn’t fit all. The perfect app should allow me to cherry-pick my favorite Internet video content sources and turn them all into a single channel or series of channels.

The ideal OTT/set top box content delivery system is going to incorporate a system of apps much like either the Apple IOS app store, or the Android app store where the customer can choose from thousands of content gathering and/or content delivery apps. Like my Evo Android phone or my iPod Touch, I will be able to customize MY particular set top box with precisely the apps that I want without someone trying to steer me towards content that someone else wants to push towards me against my will. My iPod is my own, with my own selection of personal content. I want my TV to work in exactly the same manner.

OTT Tsunami

Posted by tomwiles at 10:28 PM on September 28, 2010

We’ve been hearing quite a lot about Internet-delivered video content lately. Trends sometimes seem to advance slowly over a long period of time but then tumultuous market shifts seem to happen overnight.

Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy. Blockbuster was unable to reconfigure their business structure to compete effectively with Netflix. It seems that Netflix has won the ongoing war.

Streaming video and video podcasts have been around for several years – these are not new ideas. However, what is new is the proliferation and increasing popularity of set-top boxes.

Back in the 1980’s backyard satellite TV dishes were a hobby among people that were looking for something different and as many choices as possible. That quest for choice ended up going mainstream in the form of commercial cable and satellite providers offering hundreds of channels.

Starting in 2004 people began experimenting with Internet-delivered content in the form of podcasts. I believe that podcasting happened as a direct result of broadband availability getting to a certain critical mass, combining the existing elements of RSS, MP3’s, etc. into a new form of communication. This new form of communication offered something very different along with unprecedented levels of choice.

Internet-delivered content of all kinds is rapidly becoming mainstream.

I believe 2010 is the year of the app. Apps suddenly seemed to have come out of nowhere to seeming to pop up on every device imaginable. Why the sudden popularity of apps? Desktop and laptop computers have been around for a long time, along with full-blown applications. What has really happened is that computers have now shrunk down to the point where they not only are in our pockets in the form of smartphones, but they are also showing up in HDTV sets and plenty of other devices. These devices we are running these apps on are actually quite powerful computers in their own rights.

There is now a wide variety of content that is heading for every computer-enabled screen you own, especially your HDTV.

Popbox Coming July 23rd

Posted by Alan at 6:33 PM on July 2, 2010

For those still looking for a set-top box, the Popbox is now slated for release on July 23rd.  This is another promising release, coming on the heels of Roku, but well ahead of Boxee.

In terms of partners, it may be a little light.  While pulling in some new and interesting ones, there are a few old faithfuls still missing (like Netflix).  But, that and others, are promised later.

So, what is included at launch?  Here’s a list:

  • Funspot
  • Games
  • Picasa
  • Livestation
  • Youtube
  • Blip.tv
  • Next
  • New
  • Networks
  • Channels.com
  • Photobucket
  • Twitter
  • Shoutcast
  • Weatherbug
  • Revision3
  • MediaFly
  • Clicker
  • VideoDetective
  • MotorzTV

That’s a long list, but it also contains only a few things that most of us have heard of.  As I said, Netflix is missing.  That’s a BIG one.  Not to mention Hulu, who is now making these sorts of partnerships.  Others, such as networks like Comedy Central and online content like Crackle are noticeably absent.  As well as music sites like Pandora and Slacker.

The good news is that it’s upgradable.  The bad news is the obviously meager partners available at launch.

For the $129.99 asking price on Amazon, it’s not a bad deal, but I also  don’t think it’s a deal worth grabbing just yet.  This one is a wait and see.