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    October 14, 2014
    Netflix Offering 4K TV For A Price

    If high definition just isn’t good enough for you, then there’s a solution.  That solution, of course, is 4K television.  If you have one, I’m sure it’s great.  If you don’t have one, then you’ll be on the non-cutting edge of the wave.  If you do have one and you need a new way to show it off, then perhaps consider turning to streaming video.  Just be prepared to pay a little more.


    Netflix is adding a surcharge for 4K content.  Instead of getting 4K streaming for your standard $8.99 package, it will now run you $11.99.  Still, if you have a 4K TV, you may as well pay extra to get the most out of your 4K experience, and another $3 a month isn’t that big of a deal.  Granted, most of what’s on there now is documentaries and Netflix’s own series House Of Cards, but maybe you want that extra definition as you watch Kevin Spacey do nefarious things in Washington, D.C.

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    September 3, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Grandma’s Remote

    Image: Renzo Soprano’s Twitter

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    August 25, 2014
    TiVo’s Cable-Free DVR

    With every signal-disrupting thunderstorm, I consider even stronger the possibility of cutting out television entirely.  I like DirecTV quite a bit (definitely much more than my current cable option), but that’s both irritating and a disruption to my freelance writing career.  After all, you can’t write about TV if you can’t watch TV.  However, my satellite comes with a DVR, which is a really handy tool to have when you’ve got lots of programs and lots of options all on at the same time.  Those who have cut the cable don’t have that luxury, particularly if they lean on satellite television for their local programming.

    Enter TiVo, the original DVR company, who have a solution.  The TiVo Roamio OTA DVR is a $50 DVR with four tuners designed to record antenna television.  The Roamio packs in four tuners and a 500GB hard drive, meaning you can record about 75 hours of HD television.  As if that wasn’t enough, it also retains TiVo’s streaming media interfaces for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video, to further make life easier for the cord-cutters.  It still has a $15-per-month TiVo subscription fee, but that’s a small price to pay for a high-tech VCR replacement capable of recording four programs at once.

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    August 20, 2014
    Roku’s Streaming-Media TV

    Roku was one of the first companies to tap the power of the Internet to make the home television experience more pleasant.  Everyone wants to watch YouTube videos, but why watch them on a phone screen when you can watch them on a full-sized television like an adult?  Since then, Roku has only expanded their offerings while improving their services, and this latest announcement from the company may be the biggest, and best, news of all.  Roku is launching their first line of streaming-video televisions dedicated to streaming video.

    If you want to stream it,  you can.  Cable or antenna service is only added after you request it during television set-up, but streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Walmart’s VUDU, Rdio, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and more are all included from the jump, with the bigger services (Hulu, Amazon, VUDU, and Rdio) having one-touch launch buttons on the remote.  The televisions range in size from a 32-inch model for $229 to a 55-inch model for $649 and feature three HDMI inputs, just in case you didn’t have enough with 1500 available streaming channels.  The televisions are all 1080p full HD and are compatible with the Roku app for control via tablets and smartphones.

    The sets themselves will be manufactured by Hisense and TCL, both Chinese companies, and will feature the same features with the same remotes; the Hisense models don’t have an MSRP, with sellers able to set prices.  The TCL sets will be for sale beginning in late August, while the Hisense sets will be available by September.

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    April 25, 2014
    Netflix Coming To Cable Boxes

    If you’re one of the 820,000 subscribers of Atlantic Broadband, RCN Telecom Services, and Grande Communications, then you’re about to get a brand new channel.  Or rather, you’re about to get a new potential channel, assuming you want to pay the subscription fee.  Those three cable companies are ahead of the game on what may very well be the next big trend for both cable companies and for content providers.  Netflix is being added to cable boxes by three small cable companies, with more considering the addition.

    As the companies distribute their TiVo systems, Netflix will be one of the available channels on that system.  You’ll still need a Netflix account, but there’ll be no further need for a video game system or a Roku box or any other way to get Netflix from the internet to your home theater set-up.  The easier it gets, the more likely people are to undertake the process and actually subscribe to Netflix (even if the service is going up by two dollars per month for new subscribers).

    Currently, I have to use my Blu-ray player to get online and get to my Netflix since I don’t have a smart TV.  If I could just use my cable box, I’d be in much better shape (and I’d get a much more responsive remote control, too).  The sooner this becomes a thing, the happier I’ll be.

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    April 4, 2014
    Amazon Launches Fire TV Streaming Media Device

    You can never have enough boxes hooked to your television.  Or rather, you have TOO many boxes hooked to your television and lots of companies are trying to help you simplify your life and pare down your HDMI cable collection by offering superior services for a low price.  Hence, Amazon has entered the fray for home theater domination with a low-cost media player.  Amazon has announced the Fire TV, a streaming media player that hooks your TV to your Amazon Prime, Showtime Anytime, and dozens of other streaming services.

    Amazon helpfully provides a comparison guide for the various streaming media servers right there on the purchase page, probably because it’s looking like it’s the superior product.  Unlike the Roku 3 it doesn’t have HBO Go, but it does have superior sound, a faster processor, more memory, and voice search, which seems like the killer app for this streaming media player, according to none other than Gary Busey.  After all, while the other boxes can always hold more space and get faster and maybe even offer games and voice (Apple, I’m looking at you), only Amazon has Gary Busey yelling at furniture.

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    Will you, like Gary Busey, gravitate to the streaming media player with voice control, akin to how you can talk to your iPhone and your Xbox and whatnot?  Or will the Roku’s HBO Go make the difference and tip the balance away from Amazon (which offers Bloomberg TV for you business types rather than HBO).  Will the fact that the Amazon Fire plays video games as well help tip the choice?  Or will you be holding out or just hooking an older, streaming-capable tablet to your television?

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    January 3, 2014
    Television Trends For 2014

    If you’re looking for the next big thing in television, then there’s no better place to look than the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES.  Every year, the best and brightest of the tech world being their craziest ideas to Las Vegas in the hopes of generating buzz, attention, or just finding some fans.  Well, every year it seems something new pops up in the television world, from 4K technology to 3D at home, and this year is no exception.  With CES approaching, here are five TV trends for 2014.

    Some of these, specifically the 4K television, are already familiar to anyone remotely interested in home theater systems.  Others, like cloud DVR service, won’t be shocking as pretty much everything else is in the cloud right now, so why not your DVR?  It seems like a logical progression.

    The one that really took me aback was non-glasses 3D television.  Having given up 3D for dead given the struggle of the Nintendo 3DS and the closure of multiple 3D television channels, it was beginning to look like 3D was over.  Turns out it may yet come back, only without the annoyance of glasses at home.  Anything to improve the user experience seems like a great idea, as glasses aren’t friendly and glasses that need recharging are definitely not any fun.

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    December 19, 2013
    Samsung And LG Debut 105-Inch TVs

    I’ve got a 55 inch television in my living room, but I’ve got quite a bit of room in my new house, so if I wanted, I could always move to something slightly larger.  And by slightly larger, I mean twice as large.  It seems like a lot of television, and it is a lot of television, but it’s also the future of television.  Samsung and LG have 105-inch curved televisions for sale, and boy, do I want one.

    It’s not just that the televisions are large, or that they’re curved like a screen at the movie theater.  Those are both awesome things, but the real kicker for these new televisions is the definition.  They’re four times the definition of a HIGH DEFINITION television, not a standard definition television.  The television will be assembled from LED panels that contain a staggering 11 million pixels.  Twice the size, four times the definition!  It’s a 4K television that may be larger than any television on the market for the near future.

    That’s an amazing bit of engineering, all things considered.   I’ve been a good boy all year, but not even Santa can make this happen for me.  No matter how much I might want one.

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    November 11, 2013
    Blockbuster’s Last Rental

    Blockbuster Video has closed its doors nationwide, with the store closing its last 300 corporate-owned locations on Saturday, November 9, 2013.  It ends a run as one of the country’s largest video stores, and it marks the end of an era.  No more will you be able to drive a few miles and rent videos from a giant video store.  Of course, there are still local video stores, Family Video still exists, and there are Red Box locations at every other fast food restaurant and grocery store, but unless you live near these things, the video rental era is over, brought down by Netflix, Internet piracy, and general malaise.  With the shutdown at the stroke of midnight, it’s only fitting that the last Blockbuster rental was the Seth Rogen/James Franco apocalypse comedy This Is The End.

    The last rental took place in Hawaii at 11 PM on November 9.  Blockbuster tweeted out the last rental notice on its Twitter account, which–fittingly–has not been updated since.  I guess this is the end for Blockbuster, gone the way of all sorts of other relics of history.

    Question:  Do you think any of these final rentals will actually be returned to stores?

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    October 25, 2013
    Comcast Adds HBO To Low-Cost Web Service

    When I wanted to add HBO to my television service, I had to upgrade my cable from AT&T Uverse’s U100 to their u200 package.  In the process I got a whole lot more channels, and I ended up getting comped for the whole fleet of movie channels and movie on-demand services, so I’m not too upset about spending more money.  However, if I had the option to just add HBO to my existing service, I would have, and I could have saved a good deal of money.  With pressure increasing from cable-cutters and online streaming services, cable companies are getting more creative with their channel options.  Out of the gate comes Comcast, who is adding HBO to a low-cost web subscription plan designed to appeal to the frugal movie buff.

    The plan is called Comcast Internet Plus.  Customers get 20 channels of television service and video-on-demand via a set-top box, access to Comcast’s Streampix streaming video service, and 25Mbps broadband, but that’s not all.  The cherry on top is the package, which will retail from $40 to $50 nationwide, will also come with bundled HBO (and HBO Go).  For the price of three pizzas a month, you can have HBO and high-speed Internet.

    Most people pay roughly that amount for Internet access anyway, so adding a few television channels and HBO seems like a great idea.  That just might be enough to keep people from cutting the cable entirely and going to an all-online distribution network.  I imagine if this takes off, it’ll spread to other providers.  Fingers crossed; Comcast might just have changed the way cable companies have to do business with this clever promotion.

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