Disney is at it finally with a new dream home of the future - the Disney Innoventions Dream Home. eHomeupgrade has a bunch of cool videos showing the various networking audio video options for the home of the future.
We've been using our Apple TV since early February here at Networking Audio Video. With the HD download movies, and the amazing amount of TV shows available for direct download, we can safely say - get this thing. Recently we've been catching up on Mad Men, and also rewatching episodes of Breaking Bad. The Apple TV just works, and works well. Now we don't even need to leave on the Mac Mini to get content, as you can directly download from the iTunes store to the Apple TV. Verdict - as we said above - get this thing.
We came across a very interesting article over at Geek Zone that alludes to new models of one of our favorite media streamers: The Popcorn Hour A-100. It looks like someone who was trying to set up a Popcorn Hour reseller contract got word that they were ready to release new models soon. The Geek Zone board use to have the specs for the devices, but it looks like it has been removed. We went over to EngadgetHD to find the info we were looking for. Here are the unverified specs that are out there:
A-110: USB Slave / SATA / HDMI 1.1
B-110: Home Theatre main Board based on feedback, comments and targetted for the hobbyist to create it's own HTPC style case and be a bit active around modding and making it's own casing (also a casing could be provided).
IDE / USB Slave / HDMI 1.3 / MINI ITX factor Optical / Coaxial / Mini PCI
Player is internally references as "hi-jack hour"
A-112: SATA / USB Slave / HDMI 1.3 cube casing with LCD
S-200A: 2GB Flash, Black player, HDMI 1.1 and VGA, UART port (signage)
WN-100: USB Wireless N USB dongle (20Mbps capped for now)
We'll keep our ears opened for any info on this and we'll try and ping our contact over at Popcorn Hour and see if they can shed some light on this.
We had reported earlier that Hauppauge was working on releasing a very cool HD-PVR for the home. Well the time has come and they have officially started shipping the them. You can cruise over to their site to read more about it, buy it directly from them or head over to Amazon to get it.
This will be the first DVR on the market that will allow you to record your HD content on a separate box. It uses the 'analog hole' to grab content off of the component output on your digital receiver and converts it to the H.264 format. This is a very cool way to record content off of your HD tuner without having to use the mostly craptastic systems that are out there( I'm looking at your Comcast ). Go check out Brent Evans sweet site Geek Tonic for the full skinny. He has one in the mail and on the way to his house. He has been following this product of a long time and has a ton of information on it. If you are interested in getting the HD-PVR from Hauppauge jump over to Geek Tonic and read all he has to say and then head over to Amazon and throw one in your cart. If anyone has already ordered one we would love to hear about your setup and why you went this route. We are really excited for this unit to hit the market and we'll be sure to post again once some reviews start flooding in.
Roku and Netflix have teamed up and released a very sweet little movie streamer that may give the AppleTV a run for their money soon. Netflix has allowed subscribers to stream movies to their PCs for some time now, but this little device allows you to watch them on your nice big TV. The big advantage this has over the AppleTV is that it is only $99 and it uses your monthly subscription to get unlimited movie streaming.
The Netflix Player connects via HDMI, Component, S-Video and Composite for video and with digital optical and RCA for audio. Setting it up was a breeze. It can use a wireless connection or wired and configuring either was very straight forward. Once you are connected you are given an access code that you then need to enter on your Netflix account page. The device responds near instantaneously and you are now ready to start adding movies to your queue. Here is where this amazing device starts to have problems and why we think they will give the AppleTV a run for their money in the future and not right now. First you can't browse the available movies via the device. You must use the Netflix website to add movies to your 'instant queue'. Second, the list of available movies is fairly limited as of now. Unless you are a big fan of some of the later 1980's movies you might want to wait on this. If they expand their lineup of movies you can stream this could be a top shelf device.
In terms of quality we were extremely impressed. The picture quality looked great to us and the streaming quality was much better then we thought it would be. There is no internal hard drive to cache anything with and yet the movie started right away and we never saw any hiccups or stutters.
We are going to continue to play with this and also watch to see how the movie collection expands so stay tuned for more information.
We have been playing around with the D-Link DSM-330 for awhile now and we have been very impressed with all that it offers. One thing that we were really enjoying was the ability to view all of the nice high-def videos offered by the Stage6 website. Unfortunately the site was shutdown because of funding issues. This left a big hole in the DivX Connected platform in our opinion because one of the great parts of the software was the interface they had developed into the web. The ability to view HD content via the web and have it seem like it is coming from your local network was amazing. We watched a ton of content from National Geographic and we never felt like it was some crappy web video. The quality made it look like it was just another TV program and not a streamed web movie.
Well it seems that DivX is working very hard to get the web content section of their software back up to snuff. They just recently announced a partnership with Revision3 to become their new main high quality content site. This should make most people pretty happy and offer a decent replacement for Stage6. We'll see how it pans out and if they give you the ability to login to your account( something that wasn't possible with Stage6 ). Stay tuned for our in-depth review of the DSM-330 that we should soon while you wait for Revision3 integration.
Iomega, one of the leaders in helping you store your content, has released a Hi-Def media streaming hard drive to help with experiencing your media via your entertainment center. The Screenplay is a USB based hard drive streaming device that will allow you to store just about all of your videos, music and pictures in one place. There is no network with this device so you will have to load it up via USB with all of your content, but it does support HDMI which most of the media hard drives on the market do not support. This will allow you to play a bunch of different file types like:
MPEG-2( AVI / VOB )
MPEG-4( AVI / DiVX / XVid )
With the Screenplay you will be able to view your videos at 1080i which should satisfy most people these days. Sadly there is no H.264 support as of yet. We couldn't find any info on their site as to what CPU they are using in there so it may be that they can't do H.264. Hopefully they are using the newer Sigma 8634 processor. That way H.264 can come via a firmware update later. If they are using a lower powered CPU then H.264 probably will remain a pipe dream. This is a device we may have to go out and get as this could be a very cool travel streamer. Going somewhere and want to take your media collection with you, bring the Screenplay. We'll hunt around for some hands on reviews in the meantime and see if this thing is worth your time.
Elgato has released a free update that will add support for H.264 to their flagship PVR product. Elgato's EyeTV is one of the leaders when it comes to Mac PVR software. Coupled with their other products this lets you turn your Mac laptop into a portable entertainment center. You can record all the shows you want and then have the freedom to view them from wherever. Now with the addition of H.264 you can add to their list of features high quality and low space requirements. Once you get your cable input hooked up to your Mac you will be able to utilize their highly intuitive menu system and program guide to customize your viewing experience to however you like it. Products like these are perfect of the person on go. Record a ton of your favorite shows to your Mac and watch them as you travel.
We are planning a bigger review of the Elgato line-up since they offer so many really cool products for the digital media world so stay tuned.
One of our favorite companies when it comes to media streamers has been MvixUSA and they have just released another cool portable media streamer dubbed the MV-2500U. This little( 5- x 3- x 0.8-inches ) device sports a 2.5" internal drive and basically will be able to fit in your pocket. You can now take a large portion of your media collection with you wherever you go. And the fact that it will let you output in HD is a huge bonus for this little device. MvixUSA has focused on this segment for awhile now, producing products that can act as your main home streamer, but also have the functionality to be taken with you. The MV-2500U does not have an LCD screen like the rest of their products so you will have to rely on the on-screen menu system to navigate your stored media.
For all you BitTorrent fans out there a new box is on the market( somewhere ) that may be your holy grail. The Planex DigiJuke NAS device will allow you to specify what content you are interested in and it will use its built-in browser to find the torrents and start downloading them. This is basically like having Tivo, but instead of just being able to grab only what your cable provider gives you, now you can have anything that has been uploaded on the web. With the built in 1TB of storage it will allow you to store quite a few movies before you need to offload to a backup device. One of the DIgiJukes big selling points is that it can automatically format your newly downloaded content for a bevy of devices from PSPs to iPods to just your standard TV.
On top of the BitTorrent hard drive aspect of the DigiJuke, it can also act as your standard NAS device serving up files and media to all of your devices. It comes with the standard USB ports so you can attach extra storage or just so you can pop in an extra hard drive to watch some of your friends content.
The main site is in Japanese and the translation page doesn't reveal much so we don't have all the info on this device. We do know that it will retail for around $524 and come with 2 500GB drives. We don't know if this will ever be released in the US, but we will continue to look into it and see if we can dig anything up.