Category Archives: Home Theater

Alexa Controls Optoma UHD51A Data Projector



Amazon might be planning a plethora of Alex-enabled devices over the coming months (according to CNBC and covered by Todd), but Optoma’s voice control into their HD projectors right now. Here’s the Alexa-supported 4K Ultra HD projector, UHD51A.

To get the boring out the way, the UHD51A is a very capable ultra HD DLP (digital light processing) projector with a resolution of 3840×2160, pushing out 2400 lumens, with High Dynamic Range (HDR) compatibility, two HDMI ports and HDCP 2.2 support. A 3000 lumens version is available in the US but not the UK.

The exciting bit is that the UHD51A can be controlled by Alexa with a range voice commands to manage both the projector itself and media playback.Here are some examples.

Alexa, turn on/off <projector name>
Alexa, change volume to 8 on <projector name>
Alexa, change input to HDMI 2 on <projector name>
Alexa, change input to VGA on <projector name>

For the built-in USB media player

Alexa, play on <projector name>
Alexa, pause on <projector name>
Alexa, next on <projector name>
Alexa, rewind on <projector name>

To be clear, the projector doesn’t have Alexa built-in and you do need an Echo or Dot to work alongside the projector, but it’s still pretty cool.

If you want to voice control your video, the Optoma UHD51A will set you back about US$1,699 or GB£1,549 on Amazon at time of writing.


Damson S-Series with Dolby Atmos at CES 2018



A good surround sound system makes the difference between just watching TV and a home cinema experience. The only snag is that it’s all too easy to end up with wires and cables everywhere.

For something neater, there are wireless speaker systems, though even then it’s hard to get a decent level of audio quality. Fortunately Damson are bringing Dolby Atmos to wireless home cinema speaker systems in their new S-Series.

The S-Series is the first wireless modular home cinema speaker system to support Dolby Atmos, enabling sound to be precisely placed and moved anywhere in a three-dimensional space, including overhead. This brings entertainment alive all around you, delivering moving audio with greater clarity and depth.

With the S-Series powered by Damson’s wireless network, JetStreamNet, users are able to seamlessly connect and expand sound throughout their homes. JetStreamNet has the capability to connect up to eight speakers. This means users can place the wireless speakers in a variety of arrangements, or in individual groups, to stream sound throughout different rooms. Each speaker has a range of up to 50 metres (approximately 150 feet), which goes far beyond the power of any ordinary wireless speaker system in the market.

The S-Series: Home Cinema system with Dolby Atmos features a soundbar, subwoofer, 2 S-Cubes and a Dolby Atmos Speaker, allowing the system to decode all Dolby formats, including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos, providing cinema-level audio experiences in a powerful, compact, and elegant package.

 Available for pre-order for US$799.99 / GB£799.99 / €849.99, the S-Series Home Cinema system will be the most advanced wireless speaker system for home entertainment to date while staying affordable for consumers.

Still at CES? Find them in the Flamingo Hotel.


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.