Media Streamers

Nov 07 2015

News - What's the Best Streamer

A while back I was pondering whether to opt for the new-fangled Roku 4 or "settle" on a 2015 Roku 2. Fortunately, David Katzmaier has taken a crack at this conundrum and picked a clear winner.

Dec 12 2012

News - Bluetooth Keyboard Support Likely Coming to Apple TV

Bluetooth Apple TVA beta software update for the Apple TV has added an intriguing new feature in the form of Bluetooth keyboard support. Reportedly, beta testers are able to pair any Bluetooth keyboard with their Apple TV for text input and menu navigation. While the included remote provides all the control necessary to take advantage of the Apple TV, the addition of keyboard support would certainly be a nice option. Of course, the addition of Bluetooth keyboard support also raises the potential that might be unlocked if Apple takes the next logical step and provides support for other input devices that would allow for voice control and input or, combined with the long desired addition of apps, transform the Apple TV into an entry-level game console. Given the efforts that competitors such as Microsoft are making to add new features and services for their devices, it would make sense that Apple will need to start adding new capabilities if they ever want to take the Apple TV past the hobby phase.

Specifically, the beta for Apple TV being tested by registered developers right now adds Bluetooth support to Apple’s set top streamer, making it possible to pair keyboards to the device for much easier text entry and streamlined navigation. But it could open the doors for much more to follow, and gamers could be a group that especially benefits from the changes.

TechCrunch

Dec 11 2012

News - Xbox 360 Gains 10 New Apps, 40 More by Spring 2013

Microsoft has announced the arrival of 10 new entertainment and content apps for the Xbox 360 as part of their plan to take over the living room via the game console. The new SkyDrive app, which serves up photos and videos stored on a user's SkyDrive account, is the only app that will be available across all regions. The other nine apps, which include access to content providers such as Maxim, VEVO, CinemaNow, and CNET, are either launching in or expanding into specific territories. Today's new apps are just beginning, as Microsoft has also announced that they have another 40 apps on tap for early 2013 that will add content from providers such as PBS, Flixster, CW, and Slacker Radio. To date, no media streamer has offered the breadth of providers and feeds that Roku has been able to put together, but it would seem that Microsoft has plans to change things.

The Xbox 360 is being overrun by apps, following the model established by Windows 8and Windows Phone. Today, Microsoft announced 10 new apps. And over 40 more are coming in early 2013.

Supersite for Windows

Nov 01 2012

News - Boxee TV Comes to Walmart

Boxee in WalmartThe recently announced Boxee TV is hitting the store shelves of the world's largest retailer, Walmart. The Boxee team was teasing that they had lined up a major exclusive retail partner for the Boxee TV, and it sounds like Walmart won't just be selling the Boxee TV, but will be helping out with some major promotion as well. In all honesty, I had assumed that this retailer would be Best Buy. Walmart is not the first place I think of when buying the latest in tech and gadgets, but it is difficult to understate the mainstream exposure that a Walmart end-cap can bring to a product. If Boxee and D-link can clearly communicate what the Boxee TV does, then this could be a major coup, though the impact of launching in time for the holday shopping season will be lessened by fact that the Boxee TV's cloud-based DVR is only going to be available in select markets at launch.

But now, with the Boxee TV, the startup has pulled off something special (or devilish depending on your view of the retailer) and managed to get the Boxee TV into Walmart.

TechCrunch

Oct 31 2012

News - Roku Introduces Roku Search

Roku is pushing out an update for current-generation Roku LT, Roku HD, and Roku 2 boxes that will bring a new cross-app search capability. Roku Search isn't quite universal search as it is limited to Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, VUDU and Crackle, but it will allow users to search for movies, TV shows, actors, and directors across the supported channels. Select the Roku Search channel, run a search, and Roku will display a list of the channels that offer content that match the search term for the user to select from. Text can be inputted with an on-screen keyboard or via the soft keyboard on a remote control app. Given the breadth of content that Roku now offers, cross-app search is arguably a bit overdue. There are some notable Roku channels absent from Roku Search, such as EPIX and CrunchyRoll, so it seems a safe bet that Roku Search will continue to expand its reach. It will also be interesting to see if Roku can expand the functionality to IPTV channels such as DISHWorld.

 Roku Search

Roku Search makes it a snap to find movies, TV shows, actors and directors across Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, VUDU and HBO GO. When you search for a title, Roku Search shows you where it’s available on the Roku platform. Simply select a channel and Roku Search will take you straight to your desired movie or show. 

Roku Blog

Oct 20 2012

News - Zappiti Media Center for Dune HD Reviewed

The Dune HD line of media streamers are lauded for their versatility and feature set, but much of that attention tends to fall on the hardware. This is probably because the Dune HD media streamers generally have a somewhat utiltarian UI. It works and it works well, but it might lack the visual pizzazz that many HTPC fans have come to expect from their media center software of choice and it does not offer the same options for automatically collecting metadata for the movies and tv series accessible to the Dune HD. Fortunately, the Dune HD systems are also extensible. Zappiti Media Center is a PC applicaiton and Dune HD plugin that not only breathes new life into the Dune HD UI, but also serves as a metadata scraper. There are some hoops to jump through to secure a free license, and some manual steps that need to be taken to keep the Zappiti library up-to-date, but between the option to use a mobile device app as a remote control and the upgrade in visuals it gives the Dune HD, there is definitely a lot for Dune HD users to like here.

 Zapitti

Once Zappiti has found or scraped your content, it will begin to populate those folders and subsequently your computer screen with metadata that also includes cover art. Ninety-nine percent of the time, Zappiti gets the information right. If it doesn't, it's easily remedied by simply right-clicking on the egregious art or metadata and selecting the appropriate info from a drop-down menu from the top menu bar. 

Home Theater Review

Oct 17 2012

News - Simple.TV Now Shipping

The Simple.TV was undoubtedly one of the more intriguing DVR devices to be announced this year. It may have taken awhile, but the Simple.TV is now shipping. Kickstarter pre-orders are receiving the first units, with standard pre-orders coming up next. Like Aereo and the now official Boxee TV, Simple.TV provides DVR capablilites for over-the-air broadcasts and ClearQAM cable channels, with a healthy dose of multi-device streaming tossed in. Attach the Simple.TV to your home network and your antenna or cable jack, and it will stream live TV to an HTML5 enabled browser or Roku box. To turn the Simple.TV into a DVR, simply add some external storage via the USB port. Chip in $50 for a year of the Premier service, or $149 for the lifetime package, and you also get EPG data, expanded recording capablilities, and streaming over the Internet for up to five devices. It sounds like there are still some rough edges to work out, including some issues with the Roku channel and a restriction of one Simple.TV per account, but there is also alot of potential here for those with basic TV needs who desire a DVR.

 Simple.TV

On Monday, the Simple.TV DVR streamer began shipping. The device differs from other DVRs on the market because it doesn’t actually connect to a TV. Instead, it connects to over-the-air HDTV signals or cable TV and streams the content to iOS devices, HTML-enabled browsers and Roku boxes.

Wired

Oct 16 2012

News - Roundup - October Never Sleeps Edition

RoundupIt is no secret that October tends to be a big month for those interested in technology. With companies gearing up for the holiday shopping season and jockeying to one-up the competition in pursuit of the dollars destined to stream out of our wallets, October tends to be a poor month to take a vacation if you spend your free time writing about technology. Alas, I do not control my vacation time, so here in one neat package I present one of our infrequent roundups, recapping in no particular order, some of the more important and interesting stories of the last week worth keeping an eye on.

Netflix Promises More Captions and Delivers on Windows 8

Media streaming services have gradually been adding closed captioning to their video content, and though few, if any companies can yet boast of having closed captioning for all content across all platforms, Netflix has come under particular scrutiny for its lack of comprehensive closed captioning support. Such are the travails when one is the 800lb. gorilla of the streaming media market. The National Association for the Deaf filed suit against Netflix over the issue and the company recently settled with NAD, promising to offer closed captions for all of its content by 2014. The cynic in me might want to focus on how it took a lawsuit to get Netflix to commit, but it should be interesting to watch other services scramble to match Netflix's new "feature".

The company has also agreed to speedily caption new content. The agreement says that Netflix will put captions on new content within 30 days by 2014; within 14 days by 2015; and within 7 days by 2016, "and shall strive to reach a point at which Conforming Captions are provided simultaneously with launch at all times."

Ars Technica

While Netflix's legal team was busy avoiding court time, Netflix's development team was courting the limelight with the release of their Windows 8 app. Windows 8 may still be a few weeks from public availability, but anyone running a final release version of Windows 8 can download the app for free from the Windows Marketplace. The Netflix team has obviously expended a great deal of effort tapping into the new Windows UI, striving to deliver a rich app that conforms to Microsoft's vision of app design for Windows 8 while remaining a distinctive Netflix experience. Unfortunately, the app also delivered a crushing blow to my hopes of using the new Windows 8 interface for an HTPC in the same manner that I have for past versions of Windows. Certain sections of the Netflix app are only accessible through touch or mouse control, rendering it impossible to fully utilize the app with a standard remote control.

The company behind the app seem extremely proud of their achievements with this Windows 8 app and are making it known that a lot of engineering and development work has gone into building the application from the ground up to give the maximum possible experience to users and to fall in line with the design fundamentals of Windows 8. The app affords users the ability to quickly browse through recommended media in the form of movies and television shows by making great use of the supported gestures in Windows 8.

Redmond Pie

Boxee TV Leaked

Next up we have the leaked details of the upcoming Boxee TV. The Boxee Box is coming up on its second birthday, so the possibility of a hardware refresh is certainly not surprising, but it sounds like the Boxee team has some big plans for the second generation of hardware. In addition to adopting a more mainstream form factor, the Boxee TV is expected to integrate the TV tuner that was previoulsy offered as an external dongle in the form of the Boxee Box Live TV add-on and also offer the DVR capabilities that left many wondering about the value of the Boxee Box Live TV. How close to release is the new Boxee TV? We know that Boxee has been ramping up their beta testing program, and anecdotally, a recent visit to the local Best Buy reveled the Boxee Box on clearance for a hefty 30% discount, so I suspect we won't have long to wait.

To make that live TV aspect more enticing, Boxee has thrown in DVR capabilities. Our tipster hasn't had an opportunity to give recording a run-through, but a survey delivered to beta participants hints that you'll be able to watch content across multiple devices — likely through Boxee's companion smartphone app.

The Verge

Oct 06 2012

News - Roku and 3M Team Up on Streaming Projector for Streaming Stick

3M Streaming Projector

One of the more intriguing media streamers to come out this year is the Roku Streaming Stick. The Roku Streaming Stick is a media streamer designed to be plugged into the MHL port on your TV or other device, and indeed we have already seen some Insignia TVs sporting the Roku Ready logo that Roku has come up with for certified devices, but the goal has always been to expand the Roku Streaming Stick into other consumer electronics. The first official non-TV device is a projector from 3M, the 3M Streaming Projector. The 3M Streaming Projector will start shipping in a couple of weeks for $299 and includes the Roku Streaming Stick. Only 2" tall and less than 4.5" in length and width, the Streaming Stick actually looks pretty big next to this projector. 3M is selling the Streaming Projector as a portable family movie device, touting the Roku Streaming Stick's Wi-FI and the projector's 2 hour and 45 minute battery as the solution for bringing epic movie watching to any room or backyard. Of course, with a lumens rating of only 60W, you better make sure that room or yard get very dark.

The Roku Streaming Stick plugs into an MHL port (looks like HDMI but actually powers and commands the Streaming Stick) on Roku Ready® consumer electronics devices, bringing Roku to a range of new products. Today, I’m pleased to unveil the first product of its kind–the 3M Streaming Projector powered by the Roku Streaming Stick.

Roku Blog

Oct 01 2012

News - Unannounced Slingbox 350 and Slingbox 500 Pop Up at Best Buy

 Slingbox 350 and Slingbox 500

Who needs press releases when you have Best Buy? Over the weekend, AVS Forum member, ashoemaker, stumbled across the unannounced Logitech Harmony Touch remote control sitting on a shelf. The next day, Dave Zatz of Zatz not Funny cruises down to his local Best Buy in hopes of picking up one the unannounced Harmony remotes, and instead stumbles across a couple of unannounced Slingboxes, the Slingbox 350 and the Slingbox 500. Best Buy would not let him purchase either unit, which is unfortunate as there are few reviewers better qualified to run these new Slingboxes through their paces, but they did suggest he try again in mid-October. He was able to snap some pics and glean a few bits from scanning the boxes including 1080p streaming and integrated Wi-Fi. It also looks like the ATSC tuner is being dropped, which cord-cutters like myself will find disheartening, but hopefully it just didn't make the specs list on the box.

Whoa! I hit Best Buy looking for this unannounced Logitech Harmony Touch… but, instead, stumbled upon a pair of unannounced Slingboxes. To put these new products in perspective, the last significant retail Slingbox hardware refresh was announced four years ago —  back when I was part of the team. And, frankly, I had worried that under Echostar’s stewardship they’d abandon retail in favor of SlingLoaded cable and satellite solutions. 

Zatz not Funny

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