It's been a long time in coming, but Amazon Video on Demand is finally available in high-def. Owners of TiVo HD/Series 3 DVRs, the Roku Digital Video Player, the Sony Bravia Internet Video Link, and Panasonic VieraCast TVs (and, presumably, VieraCast-enabled Blu-ray players) will be the first to enjoy Amazon's content in HD (software updates to enable HD viewing on those products should be available imminently). Likewise, Windows and Mac users will also get access to HD video content via Amazon's Web site.
As with competing services, HD movie rentals will cost $3.99 to $4.… Read more
The Ultimate Ears 700 Noise-Isolating Earphones are the latest upscale earbuds to hit the market for your listening pleasure. What sets the new headset apart from previous Ultimate Ears models is that each bud includes two separate channels--one for high and midrange frequencies, the other for lows. (By comparison, the almost twice as expensive and considerably larger Shure SE530s cram three drivers into each earbud.) Other niceties included are five extra pairs of ear tips, so you can customize the fit to the size of your ear canal (small, medium, or large), as well as an airline attenuator (to tap … Read more
Recently, Warner announced its new DVD-on-demand program. Dubbed "Warner Archive," it's a Web site that allows the company to market more obscure titles from its back catalog. Consumers choose the specific titles they want, and Warner manufactures them as needed and mails them directly to the consumer in under a week.
At least two of the debut movies caught my eye, so I decided to give it a try. My test movies were "Countdown" and "The D.I." The former is a 1968 movie with James Caan as an astronaut scrambling to beat a Soviet space mission to the moon. In addition to a pre-"Godfather" pairing of Caan and costar Robert Duvall, it's of interest to me as an early Robert Altman film (years before his better known 70s hits "M.A.S.H." and "Nashville"). "The D.I.," meanwhile, is a 1957 flick directed by and starring Jack Webb as a tough-as-nails Marine drill instructor. This one is a gift for my father, who's been searching for this old favorite for years.
Both movies arrived in a padded envelope less then a week after my order. They're packaged in standard DVD keepcases, and I appreciated the lack of cellophane and other redundant packing materials. The front and back covers are obviously based on a template, but they are customized with photos, blurbs, cast lists--it certainly has a budget feel, but it's a step-up from some of the truly no-frills custom DVDs I've ordered in the past.
The disc itself also has a professional looking label. According to The Digital Bits, "the discs will be burned rather than pressed which raises obvious concerns over longevity, although a proprietary burn technology is being used that Warners feels is much more reliable than what one can do at home on one's own computer." Indeed, the case includes the warning "This disc is expected to play back in DVD video 'play only' devices, and may not play back in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives." That said, we had no trouble playing it in several Blu-ray players, Windows PC DVD drives, or Xbox 360s. Only some PS3 models balked: the original 60GB PlayStation 3 didn't recognize the disc, but newer 40GB and 80GB models did. … Read more
There's an interesting article over at Slate titled "The problem with 3D." I'd encourage you to read the whole thing, but the subtitle pretty much sums it up: "It hurts your eyes. Always has, always will." Author Daniel Engbar argues that today's digital-assisted 3D technology isn't so far removed from earlier incarnations of the 1950s and 1980s, and that it's still effectively hacking your brain's depth perception triggers--and putting a lot of strain on your eyes in the process.
This matters, of course, because Hollywood is doubling down on 3D technology in a big way. In addition to new movies like "Monsters vs. Aliens" and James Cameron's upcoming "Avatar," studios are repurposing existing favorites for eventual 3D releases. And why not? With increasingly affordable giant-screen TVs in the home (and ever-shrinking theater-to-DVD release windows), the industry needs new and more elaborate gimmicks to get customers into the theater.
But it's not just the movie theater.… Read more
Considering its full plate of goodies--built-in Blu-ray player, iPod dock, and the capability to stream Netflix movies and Pandora's online music service--the $800 price tag on Samsung's HT-BD8200 sound bar is quite reasonable. But that's not to say it won't be a tough sell in these economically anxious times. And that's where the new HT-WS1 comes in. The smaller sound bar is strictly audio-only--no Blu-ray, no DVD, no video connectivity whatsoever. It's more of a glorified TV speaker, accepting either an analog stereo or digital-optical input (it can decode standard Dolby Digital and DTS … Read more
Samsung has taken the wraps off the HT-AS730, a component-based home theater system. Unlike the slate of sexy Blu-ray home theater systems back at January's Consumer Electronics Show, the HT-AS730 is aimed at those who already have a disc player or game console: it has three HDMI inputs and four digital audio inputs (1 coaxial, 3 optical), plus an iPod/iPhone dock. The receiver/amplifier pumps out 650 watts of power to the five included speakers (there's also an active sub), and the system can be auto-calibrated to your specific room with the included microphone.
The Samsung HT-AS730 … Read more