PVRblog

« December 2006 | Main | February 2007 »

NetFlix launches streaming video

There has been loads of speculation for the past 2-3 years over Netflix, and the future of movie delivery. Sending movies over the wire instead of using mail delivery was never a question of if, but when. Well, after much speculation and wondering if they'd launch set top boxes, partner with TiVo, or offer downloads to your computer, it looks like Netflix launched a  "Watch Now" option to select users.

Instead of downloads or even the ability to stream to your living room, it looks like Netflix embraced the culture of Youtube and simply tossed movies into a flash browser interface. The upside is that it should work on most browsers and platforms (no need for windows-only DRM) It's Windows/IE only, and the downside is you'll have to watch films on your laptop instead of your living room TV.

The Hacking Netflix blog also has a video demo of the feature in action.

January 16, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

TiVo's new site

Newtivosite In the previous post, Josh noticed that the URL of the new TiVo site shown at CES is live:

http://www-qa.tivo.com/

The site looks very simple and streamlined, spending most of the space explaining and selling TiVo to potential new customers. The current site feels like a mish-mash of hundreds of pages all speaking to different audiences, but the new site looks like a manageable amount of information (maybe 20-25 pages?) that steer you towards buying one which should be the focus of a company site.

All the current owner information is behind the "My TiVo" login in the upper right, so there aren't any missing features. Overall, I really like it and think it's a huge improvement.

January 10, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

TiVo booth pics from CES (comcast tivo, mac transfer)

A friend is in Las Vegas and I asked him to take some shots of the TiVo booth since I didn't see much online yet. Here's a smattering of photos showing the new Comcast interface, mac transfer, and new TiVo website. They're fairly low quality phone pics, but they're good enough to get an idea how things will work:

Comcast_box_1

Comcast box running TiVo (more photos after the jump)

Comcast_schedule_no_tivo_yet
The guide still uses the Comcast one, with a bit of TiVo functionality

Season_pass_no_compression_options_digit
Set season pass options

New_find_programs_1
Serching for new programs

On_demand
On Deman (VOD) menu in the TiVo interface

On_demand_screen_2
Selecting an On Demand show

Saved_show
Saved show info screen

To_do_list
The To Do list

Search
Search results screen

TiVoToGo on the Mac Shots:

Tivo_transfer_list
TiVo show transfers on a Mac

Auto_download
Setting up Auto-transfer to a Mac

Toast
Burning a DVD of shows with Toast

Last, but not least:

New_tivo_website

TiVo's new website?

The new Comcast stuff looks pretty good, hopefully they ironed out a lot of the kinks in the Motorola hardware (my Comcast box used to reboot randomly once a day) to go along with the new TiVo interface. Looking at the screenshots, the Comcast UI looks like it has a good deal of TiVo functionality and I'm still curious how and why current Comcast customers would ever want to upgrade to a Series 3 if this is going to be a fairly cheap add-on. Extra bonus for the On Demand stuff working within a TiVo interface (as much as I hate to say it, I do miss the VOD stuff with my Series 3).

Megazone also took a slew of photos of the Comcast UI

January 10, 2007 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (17)

Apple announces iTV as AppleTV, out in Feb.

ItvLast month, someone emailed me something that I posted here, claiming an Apple/TiVo relationship. It got picked up widely, but today at Macworld, Steve Jobs announced "AppleTV" formally without mentioning TiVo.

I never mentioned a second email I got from "the insider" which was basically "Apple is going to take over and own Pay-Per-View on your TV with this device." Seeing the device today, with a hard drive and storage for five downloaded 720p movies and music/movie streaming capabilities from five other computers, I tend to think that second prediction is right on. Ever since iTunes started offering movies, the next logical step was how to get it on your TV instead of your computer (I use a Denon iPod dock that transmits video and works well). With iTV, Apple finally gets your media into your living room. Here are the specs on it:

  • usb2, ethernet, wifi (802.11 b, g, and n), HDMI and component
  • 40Gb hard drive
  • up to 720p video from iTunes
  • auto sync content from 1 PC
  • stream content from 5 additional PCs
  • Use itunes to sync movies from Mac to iTV - place what movies you want on iTV's local store
  • Does Video, Pictures, and Music
  • $299

It's supposed to be on sale today and shipping next month after the keynote is over (store will be inundated for a few hours I bet). I'm gonna pick one up today if I can and post a full review next month after I've had it for a week or so.

January 9, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (14)

Loads of TiVo news from CES

TiVo announced a handful of long-awaited and interesting things today at CES. They are:

Remember that TiVoToGo was announced three years ago, and launched exactly two years ago. There has been talk of a Mac client for all of those two years, so it's great that the day is finally here, though it does come in the form of a $100 DVD-burning application and not a free download from TiVo. Also, remember it still will only work with Series 2 TiVos.

I'm happy to hear about Rhapsody's unlimited subscription streaming music service coming to TiVo. I always wondered why XM or Sirrius never partnered with TiVo but Rhapsody is a good fit (and no additional hardware needed). For people into music on Windows and Zunes and such, this will probably be a good option for streaming music on their home theater system, though I doubt it brings many customers to sign up with Rhapsody.

On the TiVo/Comcast front, I'm intrigued and can't wait to see what the device looks like and can do. These days, Comcast subscribers face the question of their $5/month buggy HD DVR versus an extraordinarily expensive Series 3 TiVo box. If Comcast releases some form of the TiVo OS to their DVR lineup, I can't imagine too many Series 3 TiVos will be sold. Of course, having TiVo shift to being a software company that relies on licensing deals is the way to go, especially since the many millions of Comcast customers would dwarf the current TiVo subscriber numbers. Making software for cable companies has to be a lot easier than building hardware and having to support millions of boxes in people's homes.

Overall, I'm glad to see TiVo moving forward with a lot of long-talked about stuff and still being able to surprise me as well.

January 8, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (14)

The SlingCatcher

Dave Zatz just broke news of the SlingCatcher by the Slingbox folks. It sounds like a great little device, acting as both an extender/client of your Slingbox media and also a bridge between internet content and your Slingbox network.

I'm setting up exercise equipment in a spare bedroom right now and assumed I'd need to use a laptop to watch any Slingbox accessible shows while working out, but now with a product like this, it looks like I could use it and a TV instead. Double bonus for the YouTube-to-TV feature as well, something I've wanted for ages.

January 6, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

CES and Macworld: watch the announcements online

CesEvery January, I look forward to both Macworld in San Francisco and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. I've been to both, and they're exhausting to try and cover by yourself (especially CES, which covers miles of convention space). Thankfully, major blogs have stepped up with teams of people covering all the big announcements next week. Expect to hear tons of news about new devices, products, and models from all the major electronics companies.

Of course, I'll be watching Apple closely to hear if the iTV and iPhone rumors are true, and I look forward to any big announcements from TiVo. Though a lot of TiVo CES debuts have taken months/years to actually reach the market, it's always good to see where TiVo is going in the future.

Your best bet for non-stop coverage is going to be as always Engadget and Gizmodo. On the TiVo front, Megazone from TiVoLovers has gone to the past two CES events and I'm sure will have specialized TiVo coverage there. CES coverage should start tomorrow and Macworld's big day is Tuesday morning, Pacific.

January 5, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Sony 46" 1080p XBR2 Review

Xbr2After months of research and testing, I recently purchased a Sony Bravia 1080p 46" XBR2 tv set. What follows are my experiences with the unit.

Out of the Box

Unpacking was simple and straightforward and Sony thankfully has cut way back on packaging material. It took me a couple hours to properly mount it on my existing wall-mount, due to vast differences between my old plasma set and the back design of the Sony (different screws, placement, etc).

As with most new flat-panel TVs, the default configuration after turning it on is too bright and too blown out, color-wise. HD cable looked harsh, Blu-Ray movies looked too contrast-y, and video games hurt my eyes. CNET and the AVS Forum have some good calibration guides with all the settings you'd want. Personally, I went with CNET's settings but I toned down the filter from warm2 to warm1 and I followed the AVS forum settings for the DRC feature.

Picture Quality

With the new calibration settings in place, the picture quality really shined. 1080i cable feeds looked amazing, DVDs looked great, Blu-Ray a little better. While my Nintendo Wii (at 480p) looked a little worse than my previous EDTV plasma, my new Sony PS3 (review coming soon) outputting at 1080p looked absolutely fantastic with perfectly sharp text and life-like reflections. I didn't detect any cloudiness defects in dark scenes that some reviewers on amazon have found. During high action playback or fast camera pans, the 8ms response time did show slight pixelation at the edges of objects on screen, but not as bad as previous LCD TVs I'd looked at a year or two ago.

Standard definition TV looks pretty good on this set, much better than I expected (I'd read review after review of every 1080p LCD set on the market and how analog cable channels looked bad). With my Series 3 TiVo set at best quality, even analog cable channels are sharp enough to not show artifacts during anything but the highest action scenes.

Conclusions

I'm happy with the purchase and loving the bigger screensize (I went from 37" to 46"). I'm not a huge gamer, but games are definitely more fun and easier to play the larger your screen is. In regards to this set's resolution versus my old ED plasma, I would have to say there is a difference, but from 7 feet away on the couch it's not a huge one I was expecting. I'll write more about that point in an upcoming post.

I have the Sony wall mounted above a fireplace, in a living room with lots of windows. The brightness of the LCD shines through day and night, and definitely out-performs my old plasma in bright daylight. All my video sources are connected with a single HDMI cable (hooked to my Denon A/V unit), so I don't have to do much switching or even use the remote beyond turning it on (which I already programmed my other remotes to do) and I haven't had to use the included speakers because I've got 5.1 surround sound instead. After initial setup, it just plain works.

List price on the TV is $3799, but it's available at Amazon now for $3299 and I found street prices at most stores ranging from $3400-3600 for this model (Jan/07).

January 5, 2007 in Product Reviews | Permalink | Comments (14)