According to the early reports, Blu-ray is faring well this holiday season and it's not hard to see why. With standalone player prices finally slipping below $250, more popular movies available, and reliable standalone players hitting the market, Blu-ray is now a solid option for those that want the best image quality from their home theater. If you're looking to go Blu over the next few weeks, here's a roundup of our recent Blu-ray coverage to help you make your choice.
Editor's note: This is part of a series of stories about the recession's effect on the tech industry.
Not long ago, during an evening of hanging out with friends, five of us sat in my living room, staring at and holding tight to our iPhones or iPod Touches.
This wasn't the anti-social behavior you might think, though. Actually, we were having a great time, banging our fingers furiously on the touch screens of the five devices, trying to kill each other (and not be killed ourselves) in the utterly addictive multiplayer shooting game Maze Wars Revisited.
The … Read more
At the end of October, TiVo and Netflix announced that Netflix's streaming service would be coming to TiVo DVRs by the end of 2008. The companies have made good on their promise, and the service is rolling out to TiVo HD, HD XL, and Series3 boxes today. TiVo turned on the service for us over the weekend, and we've had the chance to give it a full workout. The short story: this is an awesome added feature for TiVo HD owners.
The interface is significantly different than what we've seen on the Netflix Player by Roku. Rather than offering up large box shots to scroll through, the TiVo's interface instead lists the names in text, with smaller box shots showing up on the right side. We preferred the TiVo's interface, as it allows us to see more titles at once, which is convenient if you have a large queue. On the other hand, we felt the TiVo interface was less responsive, which is a problem that affects almost all of the extra services on TiVo.
While the interface is an improvement over the Netflix Player, we still saw plenty of room for improvement. Now that Netflix has added a lot of content to the Instant Streaming service, our instant queue is getting pretty full. The current interface simply lists titles in the same order as your Instant Queue, which, if you're anything like us, is kind of haphazard. While the queue system makes sense for the traditional Netflix mailing service, we'd rather have more categorization options--such as by genre and star rating--for online streaming. We were also disappointed that there was no way to tell from the TiVo screen which movies were available in "HD" quality.
Like on the Netflix Player, video quality is determined by the speed of your connection. While the Netflix Player uses a "four dot" graphic to indicate video quality, the TiVo HD has a more granular meter, with about 14 bars. We generally got all 14 bars filled up, using a wired Ethernet connection and a standard cable modem.
Although the term "near-DVD" is often abused with video-streaming services, it accurately describes the video quality offered by Netflix streaming on TiVo. We fired up a bunch of movies and we were never disappointed by how they looked. Pan's Labrynth was available in "HD" and in most cases it looked as good as a well-mastered DVD--occasionally we could see some blockiness to the image or the background would be soft, but nothing to take us out of the movie-watching experience. Next up was Ratatouille, which wasn't available in HD. This looked slightly softer than DVD-quality (and much softer than the excellent Blu-ray), but not by much. Only the pickiest videophiles would turn up their noses at the image quality. In short, there's room for improvement, but it's darn good already. (You can read more about the technical details behind Netflix's streaming service here.)… Read more
The online video revolution has begun, and Cisco Systems says it has designed a new strategy complete with new products to help its customers meet the demand.
On Monday, the company, which makes devices that shuttle traffic around the Internet, will announce a new architecture and strategy to help its customers better handle video traffic on their network. CEO John Chambers will be pushing the new architecture and initiative at the company's annual C-Scape press and analyst conference in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.
It's no secret that Cisco thinks that video is a big deal. The company … Read more
The service is effectively identical to the Netflix feature available on the LG BD300, Samsung BD-P2500, BD-P2550, Roku Player, and the Xbox 360. That means that existing Netflix subscribers can stream more than 12,000 movies and TV shows directly to their TV over a broadband Internet connection on an unlimited basis, with no additional charges beyond the existing Netflix and TiVo service fees. The available catalog is currently dominated … Read more
EA's Spore topped the list of most pirated video games for 2008, according to TorrentFreak.
Spore suffered from a serious PR problem when Electronic Arts introduced an archaic DRM technology that infuriated thousands of users and led to a piracy tsunami. EA, however, said the downloads didn't hurt Spore sales.
Most people agree that EA's heavy-handed DRM helped to push Spore to the top of the list. The initial outrage (500k downloads in the first 10 days) was obviously curtailed over the next several months, but these download numbers are still quite astounding.
1. Spore (1,700,… Read more
BearFlix roars out of the cave with swarming, hashing, fast downloads and a video player, but hibernates when confronted with proxies.
BearFlix almost configures itself, and its toolbar and icon interface is geared toward novices. (Configuration options help advanced users suit the program to taste.) Based on the popular BearShare, and connected to the Gnutella network, this utility is optimized for video files. Simply enter a search term, and find files immediately. As with all P2P networks, there's no guarantee the files are available, accurately named, or virus-free. However, BearFlix's file-rating option helps users self-police spam off the … Read more
This video converter is made by Red Kawa, the same folks who now make the popular Videora iPod video converter. Although both programs are plagued by rampant advertising, the situation is much, much worse in this one. The ads take up much more screen space than they do in the iPod video converter, and the ones for the PSP include shrill voices excitedly informing the user that you have won not one but two, yes two, iPod Nanos. And judging from the included images, they're old Nano models at that.
Although freeware with ads can be annoying, the manner … Read more
Windows Movie Maker 2 is so easy a child could use it--an incredibly patient child born to filmmaker parents who didn't mind restarting this application every few minutes. From the get-go, you get the feeling that this isn't going to be an easy program to like; Microsoft's installer doesn't play nice. It gives the user no input on program location or other options. The plain interface promises simplicity with drag-and-drop storyboard options, though during testing, it was more like drag and freeze. The program typically froze while importing MPG video files. If importing worked, Movie Maker … Read more