Tag Archives: set top box

Netgear goes Google TV at CES 2013



A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to review a Netgear NeoTV set top box. I liked it. The interface was a bit stark and simple, but everything worked very well. However, these days we want more from our set top boxes and Netgear needed to move on into the new generation, which meant either doing a lot of R&D to come up with its own new UI or adopt a different platform.

The company chose the latter option, deciding to go Google TV. At this weeks Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas it unveiled the Netgear NeoTV Prime. Unlike many products seen at CES, this one not only WILL come to market, it HAS come to market. It is available for sale as I write this, retailing for $129.

NTV200S Front-Back

“Building on the features of NETGEAR NeoTV, NeoTV PRO and NeoTV MAX family of streaming players, the new NeoTV PRIME with Google TV extends your entertainment experience beyond just streaming video or even basic TV viewing. NeoTV PRIME opens up the world of apps from Google Play, delivering access to a growing library of entertainment including movies, TV shows, and music from streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Crackle, Flixter, Rhapsody, Pandora and many more. Google Play gives you movies and new releases in HD, music albums, and apps designed specifically for the TV.”

While it is priced just bit higher than some competitors like Vizio, Netgear has a history of producing solid hardware, so there is no reason to think this box will be anything less. Google TV is moving into the mainstream in a big way, both with set top boxes and built into smart TV’s.


Diamond Wireless Range Extender and Set-Top Box Preview



Diamond Wireless Range Extender WR300NI remember building a PC many years ago and at that time, Diamond Multimedia was one of *the* graphics card companies. I even seem to remember that it was VL-bus card, so that dates it to a pre-Pentium era. Anyway, it’s great to see that Diamond is still around when so many others have fallen by the wayside. Todd interviews Louis Kokenis from Diamond Multimedia on the latest products.

The Diamond Wireless Range Extender has three functions in one. First, it’s a wireless repeater that eliminates deadspots in wireless coverage. Second, it’s a wireless bridge that will connect a wired network device to the wireless network and third, it’s a standalone wireless access point, creating wireless hotspot from a single network point. With regard to the last mode, the WR300N’s small size means that it’s great for travelling and creating a wireless network in a hotel room. On-sale now for around $60.

Diamond will be introducing an Android-based TV set-top box that combines web browser, media player, ebook reader, game console, anything that can be downloaded from the Android Market. It won’t be tied to any particular media provider as it will either be able to download an app, e.g. Netflix, or else it will be able to browse to any website and play media directly. Sounds cool, especially if it runs ICS.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Steve Lee of NetCast Studio for the TechPodcast Network.

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UPnP Forum and How Your Gadgets Stream Music



UPnP Forum LogoIf you’ve ever wondered how your gadgets talk amongst themselves to successfully play music from your PC through a media streamer, you’ll be interested in this interview with Dr Alan Messer, President of the UPnP Forum.

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is the standard by which IP networked gadgets advertise their services and intercommunicate. Formed in 1999, nearly all the big vendors are signed up with over 1000 members, the notable exception being Apple who tend to do their own thing. Think Intel, Samsung, Nokia, Philips.

The most common example of UPnP (AV spec) is DLNA-certification which governs media management, discovery and control and this effectively determines how music is streamed from one device to another. Set-top boxes know how to use different router ports based on UPnP techniques. Almost any consumer device attached to the network in the home will have some element of UPnP built-in.

(No, Andy, it’s not the ISA PnP but thanks for the trip down memory lane.)

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Roku Coming to UK and Canada



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



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



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



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.