Google Unveils Pixel Phones, Daydream VR, Chromecast Ultra

Alphabet’s Google unveiled several new products at its annual hardware event in San Francisco yesterday, including a pair of Pixel smartphones; the $79 mobile Daydream VR headset; its Amazon Echo rival, the $129 Google Home; a multi-point network system called Google Wifi; and an upgraded Chromecast streaming dongle. Shipping November 4, Google Home is on sale now, with a free six-month subscription to YouTube Red. Also shipping in November, Chromecast Ultra supports HDR and 4K video streaming. Key to many of Google’s new products is its artificial intelligence software. Continue reading Google Unveils Pixel Phones, Daydream VR, Chromecast Ultra

Mi Box: Xiaomi Now Selling its New $69 Android TV Streamer

Chinese CE company Xiaomi introduced its first product geared for U.S. customers yesterday — the $69 streaming Mi Box, an Android TV STB that supports 4K video playback, HDR, and includes a Bluetooth voice remote. The company first unveiled the Mi Box at this year’s Google I/O developer conference. Since it’s based on Google’s Android TV, the device provides access to apps for Hulu, HBO Now, Netflix, Sling TV, YouTube and others. It also supports Google Cast for launching playback from mobile apps and makes recommendations based on a user’s YouTube and Google Play preferences. Continue reading Mi Box: Xiaomi Now Selling its New $69 Android TV Streamer

Amazon’s New Fire TV Stick Includes Alexa Digital Assistant

Amazon’s newly debuted $40 Fire TV Stick is the cheapest way to access Alexa, the company’s digital assistant which enables users to find TV programs, purchase products on Amazon’s online store, hear news updates, play a song on Spotify or check the weather. According to Amazon, Alexa is currently capable of understanding 3,000 different commands and can also offer shows from 90 apps and channels. Fire TV Stick’s more than 4,000 apps include Netflix, Hulu, HBO, ESPN and Major League Baseball. Continue reading Amazon’s New Fire TV Stick Includes Alexa Digital Assistant

Roku Refreshes Media Box Line-Up, Offers Ultra HD and HDR

Roku updated its line-up of streaming media boxes, discontinuing the Roku 1, 2, 3 and 4 devices but hanging on to its $50 Roku Streaming Stick. New products for the “low-end” HD market now include the compact $30 Roku Express that has an HDMI port to connect to HDTVs and an infrared remote, and the $40 Roku Express Plus, sold exclusively at Walmart, offering a composite cable port to connect to TV sets without an HDMI port. Roku also emphasizes 4K/Ultra HD with three new players, two of which are HDR-capable. Continue reading Roku Refreshes Media Box Line-Up, Offers Ultra HD and HDR

GoPro Unveils Karma Drone, Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session

GoPro just introduced the Karma Drone, priced at $799, and two new Hero cameras: the Hero5 Black, priced at $399, and the Hero5 Session, for $299. The cameras will release on October 2 and the drone will ship on October 23. The Karma Drone, which is small and folds into the rectangular backpack it comes with, requires no assembly: its four arms, each of which sports a rotor, fold down against the body to store and snap into place for action. The drone itself is very flat, which makes it easy to carry. Continue reading GoPro Unveils Karma Drone, Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session

Google May Intro New Pixel-Branded Phones, 4K Chromecast

On October 4 in San Francisco, Google will likely reveal new Pixel-branded smartphones, the Pixel and larger Pixel XL. Google manufactures the Pixel phones by itself rather than in collaboration with LG, Huawei or other partners. A teaser video for the event features a rotating group of photos shown in a phone-shaped format. In addition, Google may also use the event to debut Google 4K Chromecast, go into more details about Google Home and reveal more specific plans for its upcoming Daydream VR headset. Continue reading Google May Intro New Pixel-Branded Phones, 4K Chromecast

TiVo Introduces Bolt+ DVR with Six 4K Tuners and 3TB Drive

Following Rovi’s $1.1 billion acquisition of TiVo and the unveiling of TiVo’s new UX on-screen user experience, the company has now rolled out its latest DVR, the Bolt+ with six 4K tuners and 3TB of storage. While last fall’s 4K-ready Bolt debuted a white chassis and curved form factor, the Bolt+ returns to TiVo’s standard black body. The newest addition to the Bolt family can record 450 hours of HD content and allows users to simultaneously record and stream more shows. The Bolt+ will be available for $499.99 (not including the monthly service fee) starting tomorrow. Continue reading TiVo Introduces Bolt+ DVR with Six 4K Tuners and 3TB Drive

Sony to Unveil Two PlayStation 4s: 4K Pro and Smaller Version

Sony plans to debut a high-end console, PlayStation 4 Pro (formerly “Neo”). Set to ship November 10 for $399, PlayStation 4 Pro will boast a faster processor, more storage, and 4K graphics. Sony will also release a more energy-efficient, 30 percent smaller PlayStation 4, to go on sale September 15 for $299. This console replaces the original PlayStation 4, which debuted November 2013 at $399. All PlayStation 4 consoles will be able to play back high dynamic range images, including, via a software update, older PlayStations. Continue reading Sony to Unveil Two PlayStation 4s: 4K Pro and Smaller Version

Netflix Video Codec Study Finds x265 More Efficient Than VP9

After comparing 5,000 streaming clips from 500 titles using x264, x265, and libvpx codecs, Netflix found x265’s implementation of HEVC to be the most efficient while offering the highest quality. However, “whether that matters in light of compatibility and licensing issues isn’t so obvious,” notes Streaming Media. The study, which focused on VOD rather than live, compared codecs and not specifications (instead of comparing encoding specs, Netflix compared implementation of the specs). “Netflix’s tests clearly show that x265 is 20 percent more efficient than libvpx when encoding premium content using the most stringent settings, and measuring quality with VMAF.” Continue reading Netflix Video Codec Study Finds x265 More Efficient Than VP9

Latest Chips from Intel Designed for Playing 4K Video on PCs

Intel just debuted its seventh generation of PC chips, featuring a built-in ability to play and edit Ultra HD and 4K video. The chips reflect the fact that an increasing number of younger consumers use portable computers as their go-to device for viewing video content. Although Netflix, most notably among others, has created 4K video programs, consumers have been limited in their ability to see it in its native resolution. The new chips accommodate both HEVC and VP9 compression and support copyright protection software. Continue reading Latest Chips from Intel Designed for Playing 4K Video on PCs

YouTube Rolls Out TV App Designed for Living Room Viewing

YouTube just upgraded its TV application to be easier to use on actual television sets, a response to the growing popularity of cord cutting, smart TVs and streaming media players. The company’s latest app will feature a redesigned look and has organized its categories to better reflect how people use YouTube on bigger screen devices in the living room. More specifically, consumers who watch YouTube videos on TV screens rather than mobile devices or desktops, tend to browse for content. Continue reading YouTube Rolls Out TV App Designed for Living Room Viewing

Expect Thinner 4K TVs Next Year Thanks to Corning Iris Glass

As we approach the end of summer, premium 4K Ultra HDTVs with HDR continue to hit the market and garner attention. But as the industry starts to think about CES 2017, recent announcements suggest we may see thinner and brighter 4K Ultra LED LCD TV models next year. One factor impacting new design comes from Corning, which says that more 4K Ultra HDTVs will feature its Iris Glass with light guide plate (LGP) technology in 2017. Iris Glass allows manufacturers to build edge-lit LED LCD TVs that are less than 10 millimeters thick and require nearly no bezel border. Continue reading Expect Thinner 4K TVs Next Year Thanks to Corning Iris Glass

Festival to Screen Ang Lee Film in 3D, 4K at High Frame Rate

On October 14, director Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” about young American war heroes, will have its world premiere at the 54th New York Film Festival. During the festival, the movie will screen in a 300-seat theater specially configured to show it as Lee intended: in 3D, 4K UHD at 120 frames per second. Few (if any) commercial theaters in the U.S. are technically capable of projecting the movie as it was shot and no such film has ever been screened publicly. Sony Pictures Entertainment will release the film nationally on November 11. Continue reading Festival to Screen Ang Lee Film in 3D, 4K at High Frame Rate

GoPro Hero5 Features Cloud-Connectivity and Voice Control

GoPro has revealed some of the details of its upcoming Hero5 camera, including a short instructional video that shows the camera in greater detail. Design-wise, Hero5 looks similar to the Hero4 and GoPro’s previous cameras, with its rectangular shape and the lens and front-facing screen in the same corners. New for Hero5 is the fact that this is GoPro’s first camera to be connected to the cloud; a fully charged camera will automatically upload all the footage to the user’s GoPro account. Also new is voice control.

Continue reading GoPro Hero5 Features Cloud-Connectivity and Voice Control

Nvidia’s New GTX Series Super-Powers Laptops, Enables VR

After first debuting the Maxwell-based GTX 980 graphics chip in a notebook last year, Nvidia has now upped its game, with notebooks and laptops powered by its GTX 1000 series chips, more specifically the GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. These new GPU chips, which Nvidia declares “VR-ready,” use the company’s more efficient Pascal architecture to provide nearly identical operation to their desktop chips; only the GTX 1060 provides a slightly slower base clock speed in a notebook. Continue reading Nvidia’s New GTX Series Super-Powers Laptops, Enables VR

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