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Xbox One with HDMI in/out, overlays for live TV

Today Microsoft revealed the Xbox One, and confirmed rumors that its new game console is ready to take over as the heart of your home theater. The new box features HDMI in and out for passthrough with your cable or satellite box. It’s even able to control connected devices with Kinect 2.0-detected voice and gesture commands thanks to IR blasters and HDMI-CEC. On stage, executives showed off the Xbox OneGuide, demonstrating a way to pull up information including trending programming or fantasy sports stats while watching live TV. There’s also a live TV show for Halo in the works, and Microsoft brought NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on stage to talk about integration with the number one pro sports league. There’s no word on exactly which cable, telco or satellite TV systems this will integrate with, but Microsoft’s PR states it “is committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where Xbox One will be available” and mentions HDMI is required for the feature to work. It’s supposed to be available at launch in the US, with “global scale” anticipated over time. Check after the break for a few pics of the guide and the back of the Xbox One showing its IR output.

 

Microsoft unveils Xbox One: the ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system
Blockbuster titles, Steven Spielberg-produced Halo TV series, and exclusive agreements with the NFL transform games, TV and entertainment for the 21st century living room.

REDMOND, Wash. – A new vision for the future comes to life today as Microsoft Corp. unveils Xbox One , the all-in-one gaming and entertainment system created for today and the next generation. At Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., the company showcased how Xbox One puts you at the center of all your games, TV, movies, music, sports and Skype.

“Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device,” said Don Mattrick, president, Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “Our unique, modern architecture brings simplicity to the living room and, for the first time ever, the ability to instantly switch across your games and entertainment.”

Introducing Xbox One

With Xbox One, games push the boundaries of realism, and TV obeys your commands. Say “Xbox On” to launch your personalized Xbox One Home screen, discover what is popular on TV or see friends’ latest gaming achievements all using the most natural interface – your voice. The more you interact with Xbox One, the more it gets to know you and learns what you like. Some of the breakthrough Xbox One features that put you at the center of your living room entertainment include the following:

• TV on Xbox One. Navigate and watch live TV from your cable, telco or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One. Microsoft is committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where Xbox One will be available.3

• Home. Turn on your entertainment system with two powerful words, “Xbox On,” and a custom-tailored Home dashboard welcomes you with your favorite games, TV and entertainment.

• Snap. Do two things at once on the biggest screen in your home. Use Snap to jump into a multiplayer battle while watching your favorite movie, talk with friends on Skype while watching live TV, or track your fantasy team on TV as you watch the big game and more.

• Skype for Xbox One. Specially designed for Xbox One, talk with friends on your TV in stunning HD, or for the first time ever, hold group Skype calls on your TV.

• Trending.Stay on top of what is hot on TV by discovering the entertainment that is popular among your friends, and see what is trending within the Xbox community.

• OneGuide. Find your favorite entertainment easily, searching by network, name or time, all with the sound of your voice and presented in a tailored program guide.

To create the most advanced Xbox system ever designed for games, TV and entertainment, Microsoft created a state-of-the-art gaming operating system and fused it with an equally amazing entertainment platform, so you will not have to switch inputs to watch TV or play a game. An eight-core, x86 processor and more than 5 billion transistors helps make lag and load times a thing of the past, so you can instantly jump between a game and your entertainment at lightning speed or run a host of apps right alongside your game with no loss in performance.Introducing Xbox One titles and exclusives

Gaming on Xbox One immerses gamers in cinematic worlds that look like real life, with characters that feel more human than ever before. AAA blockbuster titles unveiled for Xbox One include the following:

• “Forza Motorsport 5″ from Turn 10 Studios is the latest edition of the highest-rated racing franchise of the past 10 years.[3] Built from the ground up to take advantage of Xbox One and the infinite power of the cloud, no game better delivers the sensation of being behind the wheel. “Forza Motorsport 5″ sets a new bar for racing games and will be available exclusively for Xbox One at launch.

• “Call of Duty: Ghosts” is the next generation of “Call of Duty” and a stunning leap forward for the franchise. It delivers an all-new world, an all-new cast of characters and an all-new story, built on a new, next-generation engine. The next-generation technical innovations built to support the incredible gameplay advancements make this the most beautiful and immersive “Call of Duty” experience yet. Activision and Microsoft also announced the renewal of their close partnership that will see both the return of the “Call of Duty® Championship,” presented by Xbox, as well as all-new downloadable content debuting first and exclusively on the Xbox platform.

• “FIFA 14,” “Madden NFL 25,” “NBA LIVE 14,” and “EA SPORTS UFC” from EA SPORTS will change the way consumers experience and play sports games. Driven by the new EA SPORTS Ignite engine, these new EA SPORTS games will deliver massive innovations in human intelligence, true player motion and living worlds. Adding to its commitment to Xbox One, EA SPORTS also announced the promise of exclusive content to be revealed in the coming months.

• “Quantum Break” from Remedy Entertainment is a revolutionary entertainment experience from the creators of “Max Payne” and “Alan Wake” that blurs the line between gaming and TV by integrating drama and gameplay into one seamless, uniquely immersive experience. How you play the game impacts the show, and the show informs how you play the game.

In addition to the amazing lineup of games coming to Xbox One, Microsoft unveiled exclusive content partnerships with some of the top names in TV, sports and entertainment.

• “Halo” television series. Award-winning filmmaker, director and producer, Steven Spielberg will executive-produce an original “Halo” live-action television series with exclusive interactive Xbox One content, created in partnership with 343 Industries and Xbox Entertainment Studios.

• National Football League (NFL). A multiyear, landmark partnership will deliver the ultimate interactive NFL television experiences for the next-generation Xbox One and leverage Microsoft devices and services to evolve both in-game and on the sideline. The NFL on Xbox will redefine broadcast experiences through innovations around Skype, Xbox SmartGlass and player-worn technology; add an all-new fantasy football solution for the biggest screen in the house; and create a personalized NFL destination only available on Xbox One.

Introducing a new generation of Xbox Live

Xbox One is built to amplify an all-new generation of Xbox Live that is more powerful, more personal and more intelligent. Unleashing the virtually unlimited power of the cloud makes everything more convenient and accessible, from allowing games to be installed in segments so that gameplay can start quickly to updates downloading in the background. Save and store your personalized profile, games and entertainment in the cloud to access them anytime, from any Xbox One console. In addition, existing Xbox Live Gold Membership for Xbox 360 will seamlessly carry over to Xbox One. Xbox Live takes you deeper into the games you love with all-new features.

• Smart Match. A new Smart Match matchmaking system virtually eliminates waiting in lobbies by estimating wait times and finding people you want to play with while you are enjoying other activities – reputation fundamentally matters and helps find best matches.

• Game DVR. A dedicated Game DVR captures and accesses your magic moments, all saved to the cloud. Along with sharing tools, you will have the most amazing bragging rights with Xbox Live.

• Living Games. Dynamic, living worlds evolve and improve the more you play, and advanced artificial intelligence can learn to play like you, so friends can play against your shadow.

• Expanded achievements. A new and expanded achievements system captures video of your epic moments, continues to grow a game’s achievements over time and rewards you in new ways, and your Gamerscore carries over from Xbox 360.

• Xbox SmartGlass. Xbox SmartGlass is natively part of the Xbox One platform, built in from the beginning with the ability to quickly render content directly onto your device, and now more devices can connect at one time for multiplayer and shared entertainment.

Introducing the Xbox One look and feel

New Xbox One hardware is sleek and modern and complements any décor. The console is shaped in the 16:9 aspect ratio and employs a horizontal orientation optimized for its high-speed Blu-ray™ disc player. It is molded in a deep and rich liquid black color and includes a distinctive beveled edge.

The completely redesigned, revolutionary 1080p Kinect is more precise, more responsive and more intuitive. Its unparalleled vision, motion and voice technology let you reach into games and entertainment like never before by dramatically expanding its field of view and fidelity. It works in nearly any lighting condition, recognizes precise motion control from a slight wrist rotation, and distinguishes your voice even in a noisy room using advanced noise isolation.

The class-leading Xbox controller is refreshed with more than 40 technical and design innovations. Updated directional pad, thumb stick and ergonomic fit immerse all gamers in ways that are uniquely Xbox, and precision and control have been dramatically increased with all new vibrating impulse triggers.6 The Xbox One Wireless Controller is designed to work in concert with the new Kinect, allowing the two to be paired automatically to create seamless player syncing.

Xbox One will launch in markets around the world later this year. Visit the new Xbox Wire blog at http://news.xbox.com for in-depth features on the new system, including photos and videos from the unveiling event and new and rotating content from Xbox. More details about Xbox One and blockbuster games will be explored at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.

 

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Android on Plair 2 HDMI wireless streaming dongle

Plair beat Google to the punch with its wireless streaming HDMI dongle that was announced at last year’s CES, but had the wind sucked from it sails with the arrival of Chromecast. So, the company went back to the lab and today, it’s ready to reveal Plair 2, a dongle that looks the same as the original, but comes running a customized version of Android. That means instead of simply being a conduit for streaming video from the cloud, it runs most any app found on Google Play on your TV. It works via an Android companion app (for devices running version 4.3 or iOS 5 and up) that lets you connect the dongle to your home WiFi network and acts as a remote control for the device after setup’s complete. Oh, and with the added functionality comes a sizable drop in price — while the original Plair cost $99, this new version costs just $49.

Setting up Plair 2 is a simple affair. Just like the Chromecast, you simply stick the dongle into an HDMI port on your TV, plug in the microUSB power cord, then load up the companion app. The app prompts you to log the dongle into your home network, then switches to remote mode once your done — it takes no more than a minute or two. After that, your TV will load up Plair’s home screen, which displays a row of apps onscreen in a cover flow fashion. Navigation via the companion app’s accomplished via swipes and taps or a virtualized touchpad and cursor. Once you’ve chosen your content portal, the tablet version of that app is displayed onscreen, and you make your selections with the cursor.

While the remote app is a good idea in theory, we found using it to be a bit difficult. Swipes failed to register regularly, and scrolling up and down was often a dicey affair — scrolling down usually worked, but we often had to lift our finger off the screen and try multiple times to get it to scroll up. Additionally, while video quality is largely comparable to what you’ll see via Chromecast, buffering takes a bit longer, and we had playback issues during our brief testing with Plair 2. Hulu Plus and Netflix froze on us several times when trying to load content, and playback on Comcast’s Xfinity app froze a couple times as well. We also played a bit of Angry Birds on the device, and found the experience enjoyable. Control via the companion app worked well, and we experienced none of the issues we had when streaming video.

In short, while the Plair 2 costs $14 more than Chromecast, it also offers a lot more functionality. The ability to run any Android app or game is really handy, and well worth the additional cash outlay. In general, the fact of the matter is that Chromecast is less expensive, currently streams video better than Plair does and its native app control paradigm is superior to Plair’s proprietary remote. However, the ability to play games and run Android apps on the TV is valuable, and the company tells us that it’s working on improving the user experience. That’s good, because improvement’s needed if it hopes to carve out some market space alongside Google’s offering.

 

 

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Panasonic 65-inch Smart VIERA UHD TV with HDMI 2.0

 

 

Panasonic Unveils Smart VIERA WT600 – World’s First1 Ultra HD TV with 4K2 60p Input Designed Based on HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort™1.2a Specifications

WT600 is the first 4K Ultra HD TV in the world with a 4K 60p input designed based on HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 31.2a specifications offering outstanding picture quality and a wide range of other Smart VIERA innovations

Newark, NJ (September 4, 2013) – Panasonic, a leader in High Definition technology, unveiled today the Smart VIERA TC-L65WT600, the world’s first Ultra HD TV with a 4K 60p input designed based on HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort™1.2a specifications. Offering up to 60 frames per second 4K playback, the WT600 is the ultimate choice for consumers looking to access the next level in home entertainment, or for anyone for who picture quality is imperative.

The 65-inch class (64.5 inches measured diagonally) Panasonic Smart VIERA WT600 Ultra HD TV will be available in mid-October on shop.panasonic.com (http://shop.panasonic.com/pr/tc-l65wt600) and at select retailers.

With its THX™4 4K certification, the Smart VIERA WT600 is perfectly tailored for home cinema enthusiasts. The WT600 panel’s 2,400 Back Light Scanning (BLS) technology provides incredibly high motion sharpness, even in fast action scenes. The TV also features a minimalist design, with a thin metal frame that focuses attention on the stunning 4K images. Even when not in use, the WT600 presents an elegant and stylish addition to the living room.

4K Content at Your Fingertips

The WT600 offers access to a wide range of 4K content to make the most of its screen innovations allowing users to dramatically expand their 4K experience with not only video content, but also groundbreaking games, Internet content, and their photos, all in stunning 4K quality5.

The next generation 4K 60p input, designed based on HDMI 2.0 and Display PortTM1.2a specifications, helps assure compatibility with future 4K-players, set-top boxes and next-generation gaming consoles.

PC gaming enthusiasts can easily connect their PC to the WT600 via the 60p-capable DisplayPortTM, allowing them to enjoy the latest blockbuster games in incredible detail and with high motion clarity. The WT600′s built-in HTML5 web browser can also show Internet pages in crisp 4K quality5.

As an industry leading-edge technology, the WT600 has a built-in 4K H.264 (MPEG4) decoder, which not only enables the playback of 4K video files via USB and SD Memory Card, but – even more importantly – enables the playback of 4K content directly from the Internet5. Photo enthusiasts can access their photography either via an SD card with the 4K Photo Viewer SD6, or use 4K Swipe & Share6 to wirelessly transfer photos from their mobile phone or tablet in Ultra HD resolution.

Superior 4K Image Quality

To ensure the best 4K home cinema viewing experience, the WT600′s THX4K™-certified 4K display demonstrates its ability to reproduce the colors, tones and resolution intended by the Hollywood directors. With 4K Intelligent Frame Creation, the WT600 achieves smooth panning of up to 120 frames per second, even with Ultra HD sources. Panasonic’s 4K Ultra HD TV also analyzes complex scenes – with movement from a variety of directions – and optimizes each object independently.

The Local Dimming Pro enhances overall image by improving control of details in both darker and brighter areas. Meanwhile, the new 4K Fine Remaster Engine maximizes the image quality for content created with resolution lower than 4K. The circuit processing technology produces images with higher definition by interpolating the missing parts of the images and re-producing the non-existent data, bringing them to a level of quality that approaches 4K sources.

The WT600 features ISFccc Calibration Mode10 and is compatible with CalMAN™ calibration software, ensuring precise color neutrality. The Panasonic TV Remote 2 App also offers Smart Calibration, a powerful function which enables the viewer to set detailed correction curves for gamma, white point, and color saturation on the TV via their Android or iOS7 Smartphone or tablet.

Easy Operation

Thanks to the intuitive user interface, the WT600 is designed to ensure your Smart TV experience is as easy as possible. The personalized My Home Screen feature enables every family member to easily access their TV favorites through their own personalized home screen.

Following the success of the Smart VIERA My Home Screen feature, Panasonic has also developed new pre-set Home Screens. The Smart VIERA Home Screen Collection function offers users quick and easy access8 to content from their favorite providers including YouTube.

The WT600′s control and input options are further boosted with the innovative Voice Interaction feature, allowing users to control their TV by speaking into the microphone of the touch pad controller, or into a smartphone or tablet with the installed Panasonic TV Remote 2 App. This allows users to quickly access their internet content or browse their home network for their favorite music, video and photo. In addition, the photo-sharing capabilities of Swipe & Share mean that users can share images in 4K-resolution on the WT600′s large screen with just a swipe of their finger6.

Advanced Networking and Connectivity

As with all Smart VIERA TVs, the WT600 features built-in Wi-Fi as a standard. Users can quickly and easily access multimedia content on their home network via DLNA streaming, as well as the Apps for the Smart VIERA platform with its continuously expanding range of Smart TV applications including popular social networking TV apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype™. With the WT600′s automatic pop-up camera, video calls can be made with just the click of a few buttons.

The WT600 includes a 4K web browser. For easy text and web address input, users can connect a keyboard to the WT600, using a USB adapter or wirelessly via Bluetooth™9. The Bluetooth® module provides users with additional wireless connectivity options, allowing them to connect compact speakers or headphones.

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Nikon’s D810 DSLR with a swathe of features targeting video enthusiasts

 

Nikon has announced its latest high-end DSLR camera, the D810, which comes with a swathe of features targeting video enthusiasts.

A flat video profile has been added, which will make post-production colouring of footage easier, as well as support for 1080/60p resolution, auto ISO in manual mode and an uncompressed HDMI output with simultaneous video output. It also comes with two microphones on the front, allowing it to record in stereo rather than mono.

Elsewhere, the camera (which replaces both the D800 and D800E) comes with a 36.3-megapixel CMOS sensor with no detail-deteriorating low-pass filter, a higher resolution for the rear-mounted LCD, faster image processing, longer battery life, an expanded ISO range (64 to 12,800) and faster continuous shooting. It’s also got a kevlar/carbon fibre-composite shutter, which should be quieter. The body is weather- and dust-sealed.

 

 

Early reviews have rated the D810 favourably. DPReview said: “The D810 is a solid, quiet consolidation of the basic concept and a better product overall than either of the two models that it replaces.” TechRadar added: “It seems like a good, solid upgrade that promises to deliver what’s most important to photographers — better image quality.”

It’ll be available worldwide around 17 July for £2,699, making it more expensive than its predecessor but still undercutting its direct rival — the Canon 5D Mk III.

 

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Chromecast-like dongle for its Vudu video service – Available at Walmart

Walmart looks set to launch a new streaming HDMI dongle resembling Google’s Chromecast or Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, but possibly lacking some of the features of those devices. Called the Vudu Spark, it leaked from the FCC’s website, replete with multi-angle photos and a user manual. The document shows how to set up the Spark with your WiFi network, and that it’ll basically do one thing: give you Vudu on your TV. That app is Walmart’s answer to Netflix, serving up streaming movies and TV shows on demand.

The test reports show that it comes with a Zigbee-based RF remote control, though it’s not clear if it’ll also support smartphone-based control à la Google’s dongle. There’s also no sign of screen mirroring or other advanced features, meaning it might just be a no-frills way to get the Vudu app onto a dumb TV, though we’d have to see the device to confirm that. Anyway, if you do need those features plus Vudu, you can just buy a Chromecast, of course — the Vudu app’s been available on it for quite awhile. There’s no word yet from Walmart on pricing and availability.

 

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The UK’s best value tablet – Tesco Hudl2

A supermarket turned tablet maker doesn’t sound like the wisest of career progressions. Tesco’s not your average supermarket, though. When you consider the Tesco machine also operates video- and music-streaming services, an e-book store and an online emporium selling everything from garden furniture to jewelry, having a low-cost, own-brand tablet to publicise them on makes a considerable amount of sense. Amazon makes it work with a similar potpourri of digital properties, after all. Tesco first explored the idea with its £119 Hudl tablet, launched around this time last year. And, having shifted over three quarters of a million units during that period, it’s hoping to keep the ball rolling with the new Hudl2, which boasts a bigger display, upgraded hardware, a more refined look and a similarly wallet-friendly £129 price tag. Tesco’s still a fish in the tablet game, and yet, with the Hudl2, it’s managed to deliver not just another great value product, but also the best affordable slate on the market right now.

Tesco Hudl2

Pros

  • Great build quality
  • Beautiful 1080p display
  • Superb performance
  • Robust parental controls
  • Exceptional value for the money

Cons

  • Short battery life
  • Heavy for a tablet this size
  • Underwhelming stereo speakers
Summary Tesco’s Hudl2 tablet is a vast improvement over its predecessor. It’s well-built, with a lovely 8.3-inch 1080p display, and performs impeccably, whether you’re browsing the web or playing processor-intensive 3D games. First-time tablet buyers will appreciate its user-friendly approach, while parents will like its robust child-safety measures. Despite short battery life and mediocre cameras, at £129 the Hudl2 is currently the best value tablet available in the UK.

Hardware

As Tesco did with the first Hudl, the company has kept the unboxing process as Luddite-friendly as possible. The tablet’s plastic screen guard explains the meaning of all ports and buttons, while separate labeled compartments in the box clarify the difference between a USB cable and a wall plug. Meanwhile, there’s a picture-driven manual on hand to walk you through the initial setup and basic features. Freephone numbers for the Hudl2 support line are also printed on the well of the packaging in case you need any assistance from the get-go.

Once unwrapped, the Hudl2 looks more like a distant cousin to its predecessor than a direct relation. Gone are the overgenerous bezels and soft curves, supplanted by a squarer, more distinguished appearance you may be less inclined to let sticky fingers run amuck on. Using the same building materials, Tesco’s nipped and tucked its way to creating a slate with all the visual appeal and finesse you might expect from a more experienced manufacturer. The shiny, embossed Hudl logo is pretty much the only familiar design element to have made the cut.

Most of the Hudl2 is clad in hard, durable plastic that has a slight rubbery texture to give your fingers some extra purchase. It covers the back, sides and spills over to the front to fill any space not covered by glass. My review unit’s cloaked in a modest, dark grey plastic, but there are also white and vibrant red, pink, orange, purple and blue models available for those who want something with a little more personality.

If you were in any doubt what orientation you’re supposed to hold the tablet in, the direction of the reflective Hudl logo on the back panel tells you it’s primarily intended for landscape use. Beneath that is a discreet, light grey “From Tesco” banner alongside small print like the model number, et cetera. The top-rear corners of the device are home to stereo speaker grilles, with one a tad smaller than the other to leave space for the main camera lens. Both grilles are made from several circular holes poked in the plastic shell, and could almost be considered ornate compared to the first Hudl’s simpler, slit pattern. They also sit higher on the back this time around, away from your hands.

The front of the device is dominated by the Hudl2′s 8.3-inch display, with the front-facing camera and a large charging notification LED off to the left. On the top edge, you’ll find the power key and volume rocker, while the opposite border hosts a HDMI Micro-out socket and microSD card slot. The headphone jack and micro-USB port for charging/data transfer are positioned on the left and right edges, respectively.

The Hudl2 might be an all-plastic affair, but there’s nothing cheap about its build quality. The seam that runs along the plastic perimeter of the device is consistently tight; the power button and volume rocker sit almost flush with the top edge and don’t wiggle around in their sockets; and every port hole is neatly cut. You have to expend a fair amount of energy to get any flex out of the device, and even then, it won’t creak or squeal in protest. Overall, it’s a very well put-together tablet, and the fact it’s also a relatively heavy tablet makes it feel extra sturdy.

With a weight of 410g, however, the Hudl2 is substantially heftier than its 370g predecessor. The increase isn’t totally unexpected given the larger screen, but Android tablets in the 7- to 8-inch range don’t tend to go above the 350g mark, making the Hudl2 one of the heavier members of its peer group. It’s something to keep in mind when clumsy tykes with delicate toes are in command, but grown-ups shouldn’t find its weight too much of a problem. Chances are it’ll be resting on your knees, a table or propped up in a case the majority of the time, but as long as you have somewhere to rest your elbows, you can easily clutch it with two hands for extended periods of use. One-handed operation is where things start to get a little uncomfortable, though. It’s simply too heavy to hold freely for any length of time, especially if you’re trying to tap out an extensive email. This is particularly true in landscape orientation, as the tablet’s wide enough that its centre of gravity is constantly working against your best efforts to keep it stable.

Despite its larger screen, Tesco’s newer tablet is ever so slightly shorter and thinner than the first-gen Hudl, but a good 30mm wider. The height saving is down to a leaner bezel above and below the display. The bezel to the left and right of the screen is much healthier, but it doesn’t look bloated or out of proportion. If anything, they’re parking spaces for your thumbs that keep them from obstructing the view.

If you feel Tesco deserves more than £129 for its latest tablet, you can always supplement that purchase with any of the various accessories the supermarket has to offer. You have your pick of black leather or colourful “soft touch” (polyurethane) folio cases, shells that look like a chaotic version of Apple’s iPhone 5c case and chunkier “bumper” covers for butterfingered kids. Hudl-branded styli and headphones are also available if you’re ready to fully commit to the Hudl brand.

Display and Audio

The most significant upgrade to the second iteration of Hudl hardware has to be its display. It’s not only bigger at 8.3 inches, but also sports a higher, 1,920 x 1,200 resolution (273 ppi). This means you’re always looking at a glorious, full HD (1080p) image, with those surplus pixels making room for the on-screen Android navigation keys. Numbers don’t always tell the full story, but the Hudl2′s panel is a good-quality one, too. Colours are realistic and well-saturated; whites are pure; and blacks are pretty much as good as they get where LCD technology is concerned. The display also has excellent viewing angles, so anyone huddled close to the screen (get it?!) will be getting more or less the same experience as the person directly in front of it. There’s not much else to say apart from it’s a great device to view media on.

Sunlight readability is really the only minor flaw here. The screen’s brightness setting goes high enough to cope with the artificial lighting in your home or local cafe, but it’s not so powerful that it can cut through the sun’s rays on a cloudless day. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still be able to frame that picture of you and your chums picnicking on your favourite London field, but glare will become a frustration if you want to polish off that e-book you’ve been reading on a park bench.

The quality of sound the Hudl2′s onboard stereo speakers are capable of producing is pretty underwhelming. For starters, they’re facing away from the screen, giving audio a distant, rather than immersive feel. What does get thrown out lacks clear definition and any semblance of deep bass. Higher-frequency tones, on the other hand, are overly edgy to the point of being raspy and abrasive. The speakers can kick out more volume than you’ll realistically ever need, but in terms of quality, they’re more suited to providing audio for funny YouTube clips than feature-length films or impromptu raves.

Plug a set of headphones into the “Dolby-optimised” Hudl2, however, and it becomes a completely different beast. Audio quality instantly goes from mediocre to superb. Sound is well-balanced and highly defined. And every subtle bass tone comes through perfectly, making the tablet a joy to watch a movie or listen to music on. You certainly won’t be left wanting in the volume department, either.

Software

The Hudl2 runs, for the most part, a stock build of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. As much as Tesco wants you to buy its hardware, the supermarket is just as keen to tie you up in its software and services. Like the first Hudl, this means there’s a fair amount of Tesco-issued bloatware populating the device. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for first-time tablet users, though, as they can do a lot with the slate right out of the box. For true beginners, there’s a slick instructions app that explains how to customize the tablet, hop online, listen to music, take a picture and other basics. This is complemented by an app that lists some recommended games, streaming services, news outlets and the like to get you started.

Once you’re up and running, the hope is that you’ll start to explore Tesco’s Blinkbox video, music and e-book services. The e-book store is, well, exactly what it sounds like, and Blinkbox music lets you stream millions of tunes bound in artist- and theme-driven “stations.” It’s a free, ad-supported service, but sign up to the premium tier for £1 per week and you can create your own playlists, listen to specific albums and, of course, cut ads out of the equation. Blinkbox skips the subscription model when it comes to streaming video, instead offering movies and TV box sets for purchase or rental. Recently, Tesco also started letting you link UltraViolet libraries to Blinkbox accounts, allowing you to stream the digital copies of any supported DVDs and Blu-rays you own to the Hudl2 (and all other devices that have a Blinkbox app). To tempt you onto the hook, every Hudl2 purchase includes 25 quid’s worth of bait credit to spend across the three services.

As well as offering content for you to consume on the Hudl2, Tesco runs a bank, photo-printing service and grocery/fashion/everything else stores that are all predictably easy to access on the tablet. Only a couple have dedicated apps, but a folder on the Hudl2′s home screen contains website shortcuts to anything that doesn’t. Not content with simply preinstalling its apps, Tesco’s also added a non-removable panel to the home screen carousel called “My Tesco.” It looks and functions a lot like Google Now, with a dynamic, card-based UI. These cards suggest content to stream, recipes to try, Hudl2 accessories to buy and highlight the top deals at Tesco’s various stores. It shows you what time your nearest supermarket closes, and if you can plug in your Blinkbox, Clubcard and Groceries account details, it’ll also tell you what time your online food order will be delivered, how many loyalty points you’ve racked up and other personalised info. A static menu you can get to from within the “My Tesco” pane again points you in the direction of every Tesco store and service available. Really, it just collates many of the apps and shortcuts found elsewhere and presents them in a more accessible way.

Tesco’s custom home screen panel is more or less a dedicated advertising space, though I can see it being useful to those fully entrenched in the supermarket’s retail and service ecosystem. But, if you’re not at that stage, “My Tesco” is easily ignored as long as you don’t touch the T button or swipe right on the home screen. The anchored home screen pane is pretty much the only visual customisation from Tesco that sits on top of stock Android. Other than that, there are a few prepositioned widgets you can easily remove, and an overly positive default wallpaper depicting a group of friends apparently on a surfing trip in the middle of a field.

Tesco’s latest tablet is pitched as a device for the whole family. The original Hudl was too, but its child-safety measures amounted to an on-device guide of what settings to change, and what apps parents could use to control what their little ones were able to access. This time around, Tesco’s built a more comprehensive solution that’s similar to Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime feature. You can create individual profiles for each child in the household, and then choose what types of websites they’re allowed to access from a list of categories. There’s also a whitelist for each profile, so you can allow specific sites that might come under a wider category of content you’d rather your kids avoid. You can also set weekday and weekend time limits on general usage, as well as specify what apps will show up on the device for each profile. Furthermore, there’s an advice section within the child-safety app that talks about everything you should consider when letting young’uns loose on the slate. Overall, the new measures are a big improvement over the first Hudl, and for parents, it could be considered more of a selling point than a simple app.

Camera

Taking pictures on tablets doesn’t do anything for your street cred, but we get it: Sometimes, the Hudl2 may be the only camera-equipped device to hand. Tesco’s bumped the main camera up to five megapixels, from 3MP on the first Hudl, but curiously, it’s done the opposite with the front-facing unit. What used to be a 2-megapixel shooter is now only 1.2MP, which is kind of strange given that you’re more likely to use a tablet for video calling than you are to shoot landscape stills.

The Hudl2′s camera app is extremely basic. You’ve only got still, video, panorama, photo sphere and lens blur modes, the latter of which can be used to inject bokeh into macro shots. The only things you can do from within the viewfinder are add a framing grid and set a countdown timer, but even in the deeper settings menu, you can only adjust the resolution and quality of images each lens spits out. Head to the “advanced” section of this menu, and you’ll find an option to add a manual exposure setting to the viewfinder — everything else is taken care of automatically. I don’t consider this a negative, though, because who really wants to faff around with white balance and scene-selection settings when you’re simply trying to grab an opportunistic shot on your tablet?

Camera performance on the first Hudl was thoroughly disappointing, but the Hudl2 demonstrates some notable improvements. Firstly, image quality is better by default thanks to the higher resolution. Beyond that, though, colours are way more vibrant and realistic in scenarios where natural light is on your side. Shutter speed and response times are pretty good, too. Some photos still come out a little overexposed and washed out, and the auto-white balance setting isn’t always accurate (especially when shooting landscapes), but more often than not, you’ll be happy with the output. The main camera doesn’t fare so well with artificial lighting. Images tend to be either extremely washed out, or take on the general hue of whatever bulb’s illuminating the scene. In twilight, the camera simply jacks the exposure setting up to its maximum, resulting in horribly pale images. In much darker situations, however, you get a more realistic image even if it is on the grainy side. At this light level, though, the shutter speed has dropped so low you need to hold the tablet steady for well over a second to achieve anything but a blurry mess.

I don’t have a great deal of positive things to say about the Hudl2′s 1.2MP front-facing camera. On a bright, sunny day, it’ll take a perfectly good selfie, but stray from those ideal conditions and image noise starts to become a real issue. This is particularly true in low-light situations, where banding noise turns photos into streaky mosaics. The front-facing shooter is capable of recording 720p video, while the main camera can capture clips at 1080p. Don’t let the resolutions fool you, though, as they’re not particularly handy in this department. The front-facer has the same problems with video as it does with stills, and the primary camera doesn’t do a markedly better job. While the frame rate of video is fine, noticeable pixelation and fidgety autofocus/exposure settings mean you won’t want to use the Hudl2 to capture any meaningful moments. The quality of recorded audio is quite simply terrible, with ill-defined sound all but hidden under the loud hiss of static.

Performance and Battery Life

A more sophisticated design and a bigger, better display aren’t the only enhancements Tesco’s bestowed upon its second-generation tablet. The Hudl2 also has a faster quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor (with turbo boost up to 1.83GHz), this time paired with 2GB of RAM, double the amount of memory its predecessor offered. It also has the same 16GB of internal storage as the first Hudl, with a microSD card slot allowing you to add more. Tesco says the slate is compatible with cards as large as 32GB, but then again, it said the same about the original Hudl, yet that handled a 64GB card without issue. Sadly, I don’t have anything of that size on hand to test whether the Hudl2 is capable of the same overachievement.

The Hudl2 has all the processing power it needs to deal with typical tablet use cases effortlessly. I’m talking about cycling through the app drawer, jumping into Gmail, browsing YouTube — that sort of thing. It’s generally a slick and responsive affair, though I did notice a few infrequent hiccups. Occasionally, the on-screen keyboard would take a split second longer to appear than normal, for example, or the tablet would hang briefly when switching from the lockscreen to the home screen. These minor indiscretions have practically no impact on the general user experience, though. On a related note, the transition from the normal home screen to the immovable “My Tesco” pane isn’t a particularly smooth one. It stutters across to fill the screen, but I’m certain this is down to poor optimisation on Tesco’s part, rather than any fault of the hardware.

Browsing the web on the Hudl2 is a great experience, making it a perfect couch-surfing companion. Sites load quickly on the device (using the Chrome browser), and I haven’t noticed any scroll lag, tiling or other performance issues of that nature. I wasn’t sure the Intel Atom chip would deal with processor-intensive tasks as well, but my reservations were unfounded. The 3D games Real Racing 3 and Shadowgun: Deadzone run fantastically, and Asphalt 8: Airborne only starts dropping frames when pushed to the highest graphics setting (it’s fine on the recommended medium setting). When running power-hungry apps, the tablet does have a tendency to heat up around the primary camera lens, so prepare for your left palm to get sweaty during extended gaming sessions. Aside from this observation, I’d be lying if I said I expected Tesco’s £129 tablet to perform as well as it does in all areas.

The Hudl2′s connectivity options aren’t exhaustive, but it’s got everything a regular punter will need: dual-band WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS/GLONASS (it’s a WiFi-only tablet, remember, so it isn’t exactly an ideal satnav replacement). The tablet also has a HDMI Micro-out port, so you can mirror its screen on your living room TV with the right cable.

For whatever reason, Tesco doesn’t specify the actual capacity of the batteries in either of its tablets. The Hudl2 is said to be good for up to eight hours of use, but in the standard Engadget video-looping test, it only managed six and a half before giving up the ghost. The original Hudl (which Tesco claimed had a nine-hour battery life) didn’t do too much better, clocking in a time of just over seven hours. (Neither result is particularly impressive, but several, admittedly older, Android tablets have put in comparable performances.) Under normal usage conditions at medium screen brightness, you can expect to get roughly six hours of Hudl2 time before needing to recharge. Run a lot of processor-intensive apps and games, however, and you’re looking at more like four hours. The Hudl2′s battery life is definitely one of its weakest points, and you wouldn’t want the tablet as your sole source of entertainment on a long-haul flight. That being said, if it’s going to spend most of its life on the living room coffee table, I doubt you’ll find plugging it in every other evening a huge inconvenience.

Conclusion

Tesco’s in a rather unique position — it’s a brand trusted for providing millions of Brits with the everyday essentials, meaning it has a huge captive audience to sell the Hudl2 and its digital services to. The supermarket’s been clever to make its second-gen slate as technophobe-friendly as its first, while also improving child-safety measures to appeal to families that plan to share a single device. With both of these selling points, and a target market that may not be au fait with all the other tablet options out there, Tesco isn’t under the same level of pressure to compete in the spec wars as other manufacturers are. And yet, it’s crafted a product that’s not only attractive to regular consumers looking for an affordable tablet, but also to the type of person, like me, who’s interested in pixel density and processor speeds.

The truth is, you get a hell of a lot for your money. A gorgeous 8.3-inch display makes the Hudl2 a fantastic tablet to consume media on, complemented by superb audio quality when you’ve got headphones plugged in. The tablet might be made from relatively cheap materials, but it’s well-designed with robust build quality. It’s no slouch under the hood either, with all the processing power it needs to handle casual browsing and 3D gaming alike. Yes, Tesco bloatware is hiding in every nook and cranny, but you can simply ignore anything you don’t want to use and enjoy the full stock Android experience. Now, the Hudl2′s battery life is nothing to write home about, and its stereo speakers could be better. But, all things considered, the Hudl2 is hands-down the best value tablet you can buy in the UK right now.

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Microsoft Xbox One Digital TV Tuner

Microsoft pitches the Xbox One not as a run-of-the-mill games console, but as a fully fledged home entertainment hub. For most Americans, making use of the One’s TV integration features is as simple as plugging the HDMI output from their set-top box straight into the console. Europeans don’t have it quite as easy. With old-school coaxial cables still in common use, Microsoft cooked up the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner: a small USB peripheral that turns coaxial outputs into something the console can understand. Today, the TV Tuner has finally gone on sale in the UK for £25, and in France, Germany, Italy and Spain for €30. Once set up, you can start watching TV through your Xbox One, using the console’s OneGuide EPG to browse channel listings with a controller, or with voice commands if you have a Kinect camera. The Xbox also becomes a make-shift DVR, allowing you to pause and rewind live TV. And when you absolutely have to spend time in another room, you can continue to watch live TV on mobile devices by streaming it through the Xbox One SmartGlass app.

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Fastest Wi-Fi ever from Samsung, coming in 2015

We’re all aware of how actual Wi-Fi speeds fall short of what’s promised, but Samsung may have just cracked the case with its latest breakthrough.

The company says it’s developed a 60GHz Wi-Fi technology that will offer data speeds of up to 4.6Gbps, or 575 MB per second, which is about five times faster than what current consumer devices offer.

Theoretically, Samsung points out, a 1GB movie would take “less than three seconds” to transfer between devices. That’s assuming a best case scenario where everything else is working perfectly, but even so, it’s pretty awesome.

Max Power

Even better, Samsung says that devices with its new 60GHz Wi-Fi band could start appearing as early as next year. The plan is to apply the new tech to a “wide range” of products, including audio and visual medical devices, phones, and devices related to the Internet of Things.

That last one is particularly significant, as the new tech will be able to maintain its top speed no matter how many other devices are using the network.

“Unlike the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi technologies, Samsung’s 802.11ad standard 60GHz Wi-Fi technology maintains maximum speeds by eliminating co-channel interference, regardless of the number of devices using the same network,” said the statement from Samsung.

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Microsoft Wireless TV Adapter for Microsoft Surface or Android to a TV.

Want to wirelessly share video from your Surface without worrying about whether or not your TV can handle it? Microsoft now has you covered. Its simply titled (and previously hinted at) Wireless Display Adapter can beam content from Miracast-capable Windows 8.1 PCs and Android devices to any HDMI-equipped screen. Since you’re just mirroring your output, you can easily watch movies and presentations on a grander scale without requiring explicit app support, like you do with Chromecast. The add-on should reach North America in October for $60 — a fairly reasonable outlay if you want to avoid tethering yourself to the living room set.

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Top 4K TVs Compared

Both Netflix and Amazon stream in 4K. Cameras like the Sony a7S and the Panasonic Lumix GH4 can shoot in 4K. Even smartphones have been getting in on the act, with handsets like the LG G Pro 2 and Sony Xperia Z2 capable of recording 4K video. So with the amount of 4K content available increasing every day, you may have been thinking about buying a 4K set so you too can bask in the glow of 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. But 4K sets don’t come cheap, and you’re going to want to do a bit of research before dropping that much cash. While we don’t really review televisions here at Engadget, we’ve done the next best thing, compiling the opinions of trusted critics from across the web. Which set offers you the most bang for your buck? Do bells and whistles like a curved screen make a difference? Check out a few members of the 4K Class of 2014 below.

Panasonic Life+Screen AX800

At first blush, the Panasonic AX800 series has a lot going for it. It’s a nice-looking set that PC Mag says is “minimalist and unique,” suited for both TV stands and entertainment centers. Turn it on, and the picture is equally impressive, delivering what AVForums calls “rich textures and nuanced lighting,” while Reviewed.com thinks this LCD could stand toe to toe with a good plasma set, due to its “good black levels, accurate colors and reliable screen uniformity.” But if you’re looking to sit down and enjoy some House of Cards in beautiful 4K, you’ll be disappointed — Netflix on the AX800 is limited to 1080p (and lower). Given the relative scarcity of commercial 4K content, the inability to watch a major provider like Netflix is a big ding on an otherwise stellar UHD set.

Price: $2,300 and up

Samsung U9000

Walk into a room and the first thing you’ll notice about the Samsung U9000 is its curved screen, which CNET says adds a “unique, futuristic look” to a set that is overall “drop-dead gorgeous.” It says the picture is equally stunning, offering “deep black levels, accurate color and great bright-room viewing qualities.” But what about that curve? Though it’s meant to create a feeling of depth and immersion, CNET found it “didn’t have any major effect on the picture aside from reducing reflections somewhat,” and Reviewed.com found it actually made some reflections worse, such that “lamps and lights are occasionally stretched across the entire arc of the screen.” It’s worth noting that the U9000 also includes an improved Smart Hub experience, but you can also find other Samsung sets that are a lot cheaper (and less curvy).

Price: $3,297 and up

Samsung U8550

The Samsung U8550 is a set that eschews the curved screen of its high-end sibling U9000 in favor of “trim bezels and a very narrow panel” that Reviewed.com says “lend this television a modern air.” The picture also does it credit, with LCD TV Buying Guide complimenting its “brilliant images in 4K,” while Sound+Vision was impressed with the “crisp detail and the clean, smooth clarity” of its upconversions. As on the U9000, the Smart Hub has been upgraded with “subtle improvements” that “hit the mark” according to LCD TV Buying Guide, and Reviewed.com says it provides “all of the streaming content and web-browsing functions you’d expect for the price.” And that’s a price that undercuts the competition by $1,000, leaving you some extra cash for an awesome sound or gaming system on the side.

Price: $1,597 and up

Sony X900B

At first glance, it’s clear that the Sony X900B is very different from other UHD sets, and even many regular ol’ HDTVs, due to its huge set of front-facing speakers. The sacrifice of a slim bezel is well worth it, though, as What Hi-Fi compliments its “rich, open and detailed sound quality,” while CNET calls it the “best sound of any TV we’ve heard, bar none.” The picture is also up to the challenge, offering quality that HDTVTest calls “spectacular” and CNET says is the “best picture quality of any 4K TV we’ve tested so far.” Sure, the X900B isn’t as cheap as some other sets, but unlike the AX800, it supports Netflix and, with those massive speakers flanking the screen, you won’t need to fork out the extra dough for a quality sound system.

Price: $2,998 and up

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