The Vudu digital media receiver, that up until now only streamed internet-delivered movies onto your TV and called "Netflix in a box" by CNET is now featuring some television shows on its content roster. Vudu has added 12 TV shows to its selection including 24, Family Guy, My Name Is Earl, Prison Break, and Shark. Priced at $1.99 per episode, the same price as shows downloaded from Apple's iTunes, the episodes will be available in standard definition although Vudu continues to make the move to HD with the availability of The Bourne Ultimatum starting today and the previous two Bourne blockbusters in HD since November 23.
EchoStar, the company that purchased Sling Media for $380 million near the end of September, has changed its name to DISH Network in an attempt to better reflect its business. It will also spin-off some of its businesses into another company called EchoStar Holding Co. (EHC), which will include its Sling Media branch. Company big-wigs believe that separation from EchoStar Communications will allow them to more easily distribute set-top boxes to a broader market of multi-channel video distributors. GigaOm's Om Malik has come up with some interesting scenarios that the new structural organization of the EchoStar business could lead to. We'll let you head over there to explore a little more, but in the meantime check out the cool presentation above of the Slingbox in action.
A rather critical review of the Solwise DMP-1120w UPnP/DLNA network media player by Reg Hardware shed some light on the functionality of this relatively low-cost PC-to-TV box. The Solwise seemed to be plagued by problems right from the initial setup. While most wireless streamers simply plug into your TV and connect wirelessly to your network's router, not so with the Solwise. It was an ordeal to establish a wireless connection and once that was done, another ordeal began as the testers tried to establish the PC as the "media source". This should be a straight forward process. Furthermore, the Solwise's specs aren't anything great either. There is no HD output, and though you can connect the streamer to a HDTV, you'll still see a standard definition picture on the screen. The box also has no hard drive so your PC has to be turned on pretty much all the time and it can't pull content from your computer without the user being logged in to Windows Media Player or installing a Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compliant media server app.
Importing your iTunes library from WMP to the Solwise pretty much guarantees a complete reorganization or perhaps disorganization of your files, and the box can't pull content from YouTube or a great many other media content providers found on the web. The only file type that didn't present a playback problem was the DivX codec and though the manual states support for MPEG 4, Windows Media Player won't recognize the file type at all. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?
In terms of photographic display, the Solwise only supports JPEG files and because it only outputs standard definition, photographs that look good on your laptop, Mac, or PC will probably look horrible when displayed on your HDTV. The reviewers found this to be true.
The Solwise can play media directly off SD, Memory Stick, or CompactFlash card and works well with standard definition television, something that the more expensive Apple TV does not do at all. The user interface is fairly friendly and straight forward, and the price tag is less than half the cost of the 40GB Apple TV (in the UK) at $171 US. Low cost yes, but you definitely get what you pay for.
Want to start your own cable network? Not crazy about dealing with the FCC? A company called NetTVWorld is working on a technology that will allow you to broadcast your own television channel over the internet. Using a NetTelecaster box, which will set you back about $5000, is only equipped to broadcast 10 streams at once, but is designed to utilized P2P networks to increase that number to around 20000. One major problem is the NetTelecaster can only stream one show at a time. But just imagine a television channel devoted to nothing but TV's. The ultimate TVSnob's dream!
The FCC has leaked some details regarding Sling Media's new Slingcatcher. The box features analog, digital, and HDMI audio connections as well as composite, component, and HDMI connections for video. It comes with an ethernet slot to hook up to your network and also 2 USB slots apparently because Sling Media will soon release a USB wireless adapter so the Slingcatcher can connect to your network sans wires. Leaked specs also show an amazing flexibility in the new media streamer with support for WMV, MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264 and XviD video in a wide range of file formats.
This is an instant competitor to the Apple TV and here's why: the compact box has a choice of 80GB or 250GB hard-drives and a plethora of connectivity including HDMI (outputting 720p Hi-Def), WiFi, USB 2.0 and ethernet and plays a ton of formats out to your TV. It also seamlessly integrates with the Archos portable media player, and has support for Flash. It's available now, priced at £179 ($361) for the 80GB and £259 ($523) for the 250GB.
It's nice to see Engadget asking some hard questions about the Apple TV. We're unimpressed - mostly with the formats it will play, and also because we have a Mac-Mini and don't see what the big deal is anyways. They've assembled hundreds of comments from readers and if you're like us - the comments can be the best way to see if you really need to buy that gadget or new thing for your TV. Also - if you want to get a larger perspective on media streaming in general to your HDTV or old school TV - check out our sister site NetworkingAudioVideo.com.
We're not big NETGEAR fans, but it looks like Maximum PC thinks the new EVA8000 video, audio, and picture streaming wonder is the thing to own if you have this TV convergence itch. We have a companion site - Networking Audio Video that would sort of agree, but we've been more in the Mvix camp on the entire convergence to the TV front. What do they like? The industrial design is one thing - the unit actually fits in with your cable box and dvd player for a change. They also don't think the user interface sucks and you can actually use the internet with ease. Now we're convinced. :-)
We've pointed you to a few Apple TV reviews lately that are pretty much middle of the road. Now we find an article at E-CommerceTimes.com that is a pretty typical analysis for a first generation product. The article starts out:
For all the bluster surrounding Apple TV upon its release, many critics have complained that the first version of the device falls flat in many ways, such as lousy HD support, a monogamous and limiting marriage to iTunes, and an inability to surf iTunes via the TV interface. Has Apple failed in this foray into the living room, or will a real hit come along after early adopters have had their say?
The article makes a really good point about why Apple fans would want an Apple TV:
Although Apple is renowned for its ability to create plenty of the 'wow,' it may have a tougher go of it this time around. One glaring problem is self-competition: the latest wave of iPod docks, such as the DLO HomeDock, offer remote navigation, allowing you to watch your iTunes movies and TV shows without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Such product beg the question: Why bother with all the networking hassle to use Apple TV, essentially a stationary iPod at this point, if you already have an iPod and a dock?
Over all the article's focus isn't to bash the Apple TV but to question if it's the type of media streamer consumers are looking for right now. Overall it's a decent read that you'll want to check out.
Computerworld has a decent and lengthy look at the new Apple TV. Overall the review is positive but brings up an important point:
One thing potential buyers should keep in mind is that Apple TV is designed to work directly only with audio, video and podcasts managed in an iTunes library using iTunes software. In other words, despite its many virtues, iTunes is not for those who plan to acquire video and audio from other stores. Put differently, Apple TV directly supports only the formats that iTunes supports, although there are a variety of tools, including Apple’s QuickTime Pro and Techspansion’s Visual Hub, that can be used to convert video.
The article finishes up by saying:
The Apple TV is focused on one goal: Bringing iTunes-based digital media stored on your computer to your TV. It achieves that goal quite well and simply with a device that is simple to set up and a delight to use.
Apple TV, however, isn't for everybody. For one thing, its $299 price tag isn’t exactly inexpensive. And you are largely limited to using the iTunes store, which has a large and loyal following. However, videos are available from a variety of other sources that aren't supported by Apple TV and the iTunes software.
Still, if you want easy access to music and video from iTunes, as well as your personal digital images, Apple TV is an excellent choice.
Be sure to check out the complete Apple TV review.