Category Archives: TV

Sound Made Simpler with Roku TV Ready



Roku have announced Roku TV Ready at CES, a branding and co-operation programme to ensure that consumer electronics from different companies works seamlessly with Roku TVs.

The first partners under the initiative are existing Roku TV implementer TCL North America and all-new Roku partner, Sound United, the parent company to Denon, Polk Audio, Marantz, Definitive Technology and Classé.

Denon soundbars will be the first to feature Roku TV Ready via a software update later in the year, but with Roku TV Ready, it will be much easier for branded soundbars and audio/video receivers to be setup and controlled via the Roku remote.

When connected, the audio equipment and Roku TV will recognise each other and configure themselves correctly, and integrated sound settings will accessible by pressing the star button on the Roku TV remote. No more hunting for the sound remote.

Roku TV Ready features are expected to be delivered to Roku TV models via the Roku operating system in the coming months.


Roku Boosts UK Presence with New Models



UK-based Roku fans will be pleased to hear that the streaming company is launching two new models into the country; the Roku Express and the Roku Premiere. The Express is a refresh of the entry-level model but the Premiere is a brand-new mid-range device offering 4K streaming with HDR. The existing Roku Streaming Stick+ will remain in the product line-up.

This year’s Roku Express is a much softer version of its predecessor and I’d be tempted to say looks a bit like a fig roll – see right. I’m sure the PR people would prefer something like sleek and curvaceous. It’s perfect for your standard HD TV and comes with a simple remote control with popular streaming channel shortcut buttons, an HDMI cable and a power cord.

The mid-range Roku Premiere is a good way to start streaming in HD, 4K Ultra HD or 4K HDR. It actually looks very like the previous generation Express (see left) but nevertheless features a powerful quad-core processor. As before, in the box, there’s the remote control, HDMI cable and a power cord.

I much prefer the Roku interface over other competitive products and in the UK, all the terrestrial broadcasters offer their catch-up services – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5 –  and then you’ve also got Netflix, Spotify, Google Play Movies, NowTV and Amazon Prime Video. Roku’s are ideal if you don’t want to get trapped in a particular ecosystem.

We are delivering more value and improved picture quality across the new 2019 streaming player line up for the United Kingdom. The Roku Premiere delivers 4K HDR for a more immersive TV experience,” said Lloyd Klarke, Director Product Management at Roku. “Whether you are new to streaming or demand more advanced features such as better Wi-Fi, 4K HDR and voice search, we have the right streaming player for everyone.

The 2019 Roku streaming players will be available in the UK from early October from all the usual suspects – Argos, Currys, ASDA, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Amazon and other fine retailers. Pricing is below.

  • Roku Express GB£29.99
  • Roku Premiere: GB£39.99
  • Roku Streaming Stick+: GB£49.99

Don’t forget the UK will be seeing Roku TVs for the first time from Hisense shortly.


Roku TV Comes To Europe



Good news for Roku lovers in Europe – the hardware streaming company is bringing its Roku TV licensing programme across the pond to the continent.

At IFA in Berlin, Roku CEO, Anthony Wood, announced that Hisense is the first European Roku TV partner. The new Hisense Roku TV models will combine Roku’s easy-to-use operating system and thousands of streaming channels with Hisense’s picture and screen technologies to deliver 4K Ultra HD resolution with the enhanced detail and contrast levels of HDR.

TV manufacturers will license Roku TV reference designs and embed Roku OS in their smart TVs, offering a huge range of streaming channels, including Google Play Movies, Amazon Prime, Netflix and catch-up TV  for terrestrial broadcasters. Roku TV was first introduced at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, and today over 100 models are available from more than 10 brands in North America. Roku estimates that in the first half of 2019 more than a third of smart TVs sold in the U.S. were Roku TVs. That’s pretty impressive.

While consumers love Roku TV’s simplicity and advanced features, TV manufacturers benefit from the low cost of manufacturing, a variety of technology options, and support from Roku. The ability to quickly bring to market a leading smart TV experience that is regularly updated by Roku and is packed with entertainment gives TV manufacturers an edge in the competitive TV business,” said Wood. “We are pleased to bring the Roku TV licensing program to Europe and look forward to the first Hisense Roku TVs in market this year.

The new Hisense Roku TV models are expected to be available for purchase in the UK in late autumn in sizes ranging up to 65″. Pricing and other details will be announced by Hisense later this year.


Roku announces Element Ultra HD 4K smart TV



The new generation of tiny set-top boxes have opened up a whole new world of entertainment in people’s living rooms, or whatever room has a TV. There are several models on the market, but Roku is perhaps the best known.

Recently Roku opened up its platform to TV manufacturers allowing them to create their smart TVs based off of it.

Now Roku is announcing a brand new TV that will be hitting the market very shortly. “Element will first offer a 50-inch screen size featuring 4K Ultra HD picture quality enhanced with HDR for lifelike clarity and contrast technology enabling deeper blacks and brighter whites. And as with all Roku TVs, the new Element Roku TVs will run the Roku® OS which gives customers access to 500,000 movies and TV episodes through 5,000+ streaming channels”.

The TV will automatically be upgraded to Roku 8.0 when it’s released later this year. The new version will contain an upgraded guide that integrates Roku offerings plus over-the-air channels. The TV will hit Wal-Mart on Cyber Monday, November 27th. Pricing has not been announced.


Cleveland Comic-Con 2017



Wizard World’s Cleveland Comic-Con kicked off its third annual show this past weekend, with a pretty good crowd. Fans gathered at the Huntington Convention Center in downtown Cleveland to get their fill of comics, art, toys and several celebs. Famous faces included: Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Gene Simmons (Kiss), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Charisma Carpenter and Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jewel Staite (Firefly), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek) and more. Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland will return, March 23-25, 2018.


Topop VGA to HDMI Converter Review



If you spend any time at all tinkering with computers, it’s inevitable that one day you will have a computer with one set of ports and a peripheral with a completely different set of ports. Back in early 90s, before USB, serial ports changed from 25 pins to 9 pins and you needed a whole bag full of adaptors and gender changers. Or SCSI, which went through a series of connectors faster than you could say Sun Microsystems.

Today, it’s usually video standards that cause the problem, with VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort and even USB C all trying to get in on the act. Often it’s an older VGA PC trying to connect to a newer HDMI flatscreen TV or an HDMI-only ultraportable wanting to use a VGA equipped data projector. In this case, it’s the former, as I take a quick look at the Topop VGA to HDMI Converter with Audio Support.

As you’ll see from the unboxing video, the converter comes in plain packaging and there’s no branding on either packaging or the converter. In the pack, there’s only two cables, the VGA to HDMI converter and a USB to micro USB cable which is used to power the converter via socket on the back of the HDMI part. The additional power is needed because there’s electronics in the converter to change the picture signal from analogue VGA to digital HDMI.

Topop VGA-to-HDMI converter

Getting going is simplicity itself.  Plug the VGA end into the PC or laptop and then use a standard HDMI-to-HDMI cable to connect the other end of the converter into the monitor or HDTV. The 3.5mm stereo jack needs plugged into the PC’s sound card or headphone socket and finally the converter needs powered using the USB to microUSB cable.

Turn on the computer and the HDTV. If it’s a laptop, don’t forget to toggle the relevant function key to get the laptop to output to the VGA port. On the TV, switch to the right HDMI input if it doesn’t switch automatically, and Bob’s your uncle as they say.

For me, it worked perfectly first time on an old Toshiba Satellite Pro A120 running at 1280 x 800. The picture quality was good too. I wasn’t expecting much as even directly connected VGA can look a bit fuzzy on a bigger monitor but the Topop converter does an excellent job. Here are a couple of screen shots which aren’t really going to show off the picture quality but if you click through they’ll give you an idea. The converter had no problem keeping up with video either and I was able to watching Netflix and YouTube.

Topop VGA-to-HDMI converter  Topop VGA to HDMI converter

The converter has audio support so sound comes out of the TV speakers. Possibly the only downside of the converter is that the audio cable could be a little longer. It’s around 55cm, which seems fine, but if you have a laptop where the headphone socket is on the front, the cable has to come under the laptop rather than round the side. Other than that, it’s hard to fault and the converter seems well enough made – I tried a little wiggling and nothing came free so QC passed…

Note that this converter will only go from VGA to HDMI. It will not do the reverse, HDMI to VGA, so don’t buy it thinking that it might.

In summary, the Topop VGA to HDMI converter with audio support works well and gives a good picture on the screen. At GB£10.99 it’s well priced, especially if you want to prolong the usefulness of an older computer with a newer monitor. It’s worth it too if you occasionally want to show some digital photos on your big HDTV and like to keep it simple.

Thanks to GoldenSwing for supplying the Topop VGA-to-HDMI converter cable for review.