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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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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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Virgin Media makeover its TiVo UI

If you were one of Virgin Media’s early TiVo adopters, you won’t have noticed the user interface change much over the last four years. Well, Virgin’s decided it’s high time for a significant redesign, and it’ll begin hitting several thousand set-top boxes next week, with a wider rollout starting late October. We were treated to a preview of the update today, and the visual differences are immediately obvious. The red background has been ousted by a new “plum” colour (that’s purple, to you and me), and is joined by a new font and minimalist logo that’s part of Virgin Media’s ongoing rebrand. The whole menu system is displayed in a higher-resolution than before, too, but it’s not just a reskin, and should be quicker and slicker to navigate.

The visual refresh is accompanied by new features, which Virgin tells us are a reaction to how customers usage has changed over time. Most of these are changes to the menu tree. The layout is more or less the same, though, with a picture-in-picture of the current channel top right, and the contextual recommendation panel alongside it. This pane is still a work in progress, mind, so it looks kinda funky in the preview build. Basically, the idea behind the new menu system is to make everything accessible in fewer “clicks,” which is why catch-up and on-demand categories now have their own spots at the highest level of the tree.

The “What to Watch Now” section is a brand new way of finding what’s hot, and uses a similar “intelligent” algorithm already at work in the general search feature. It serves up recommendations based on a combo of your viewing habits and what’s popular with other Virgin viewers at the time. Right now, it only scans live TV, but will grow to include on-demand services in the future. “Suggestions,” a similar feature that pre-records content based on what you already watch, used to be buried within the general list of recordings, but now has its own spot in the menu for quicker access. Another revamp to the “My Shows & Recordings” section is a new list dedicated to partially watched programs, making it easy to find that episode of Sherlock you couldn’t stay awake to finish last night. Recommendations are getting increasingly more attention from various content providers, and they’re a big part of Sky’s recently updated program guide.

There are some behind the scenes changes to Virgin’s TiVo platform that may not be immediately obvious, too, including HTML5 support for newer apps. An extra app store, courtesy of Opera, will also be added to set-top boxes some time in early 2015, and will include video portals like Vimeo and TED talks that are currently inaccessible. Finally, a setup guide has been added for those wanting to take advantage of the upcoming “self-install” option for new or upgrading subscribers. This means if you’re comfortable plugging in a few cables and following an on-screen setup guide, you can dodge the installation fee.

To bring them in line with the new TiVo UI, Virgin’s TV Anywhere apps will receive a complimentary plum makeover, too. The iOS version is almost ready to go, and might even be updated before the UI refresh hits set-top boxes, but the Android app is still a few months from completion, as it’s being rebuilt from scratch. As mentioned previously, the TiVo update will start popping up for the majority of subscribers in late October, but with a couple million boxes across the UK to push it to, you might not see it until late December — so don’t worry if you’re still looking at a sea of red in several weeks’ time.

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20m HDMI Cable displays to achieve the same high resolution picture definition as that of commercial digital cinemas.

The 20m HDMI Cable  is produced offering HIGH SPEED Data for Video and through the use of a Bidirectional IP channel also ETHERNET Signal, thus enabling you to use just one cable to carry Audio, Video and Data signals. 20m HDMI Cable  will improve the picture quality on PS3 and XBOX 360. Try this new generation cable for High Quality Picture and Great Sound. The HDMI Ethernet Channel will allow an Internet-enabled HDMI device to share its Internet connection with other HDMI devices without the need for a separate Ethernet cable. The 20m HDMI Cable  new feature will also provide the connection platform to allow HDMI-enabled devices to share content between devices. The MacKuna High Speed with Ethernet 20m HDMI Cable new range has been optimized not only in its design but it is mainly conceived to marry the philosophy of apple users, sporting a crisp white design and many market leading innovations. 20m HDMI Cable  enables home theater owners with advanced AV sources and displays to achieve the same high resolution picture definition as that of commercial digital cinemas. The HDMI 1.4 specification will add a data channel to the HDMI cable and will enable high-speed bi-directional communication.

Specifications

  • Length:  20m HDMI Cable
  • Silver plated Copper with Nitrogen gas-injected dielectric with quad-shielding for maximum signal strength.
  • Delivers Up to 2160p Digital HDTV
  • Backward compatible 720p, 1080i, 1080p.
  • Male to Male Connection
  • 24K Gold-plated Connector Plug Contacts
  • Mylar Backed Foil
  • 3D, Ethernet Ready

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12.5m HDMI Cable has been optimized not only in its design but it is mainly conceived to marry the philosophy of apple users.

The MacKuna High Speed with Ethernet 12.5m HDMI Cable new range has been optimized not only in its design but it is mainly conceived to marry the philosophy of apple users, sporting a crisp white design and many market leading innovations. 12.5m HDMI Cable enables home theater owners with advanced AV sources and displays to achieve the same high resolution picture definition as that of commercial digital cinemas. The HDMI 1.4 specification will add a data channel to the HDMI cable and will enable high-speed bi-directional communication.The 12.5m HDMI Cable is produced offering HIGH SPEED Data for Video and through the use of a Bidirectional IP channel also ETHERNET Signal, thus enabling you to use just one cable to carry Audio, Video and Data signals. 12.5m HDMI Cable  will improve the picture quality on PS3 and XBOX 360. Try this new generation cable for High Quality Picture and Great Sound. The HDMI Ethernet Channel will allow an Internet-enabled HDMI device to share its Internet connection with other HDMI devices without the need for a separate Ethernet cable. The 12.5m HDMI Cable new feature will also provide the connection platform to allow HDMI-enabled devices to share content between devices. The Specific optimization for the Apple user begins with our cables being now manufactured in an alluring white colour, with patented rubber grips for an ergonomically comfortable connection and disconnection.

Specifications

  • Length: 12.5m HDMI Cable
  • Silver plated Copper with Nitrogen gas-injected dielectric with quad-shielding for maximum signal strength.
  • Delivers Up to 2160p Digital HDTV
  • Backward compatible 720p, 1080i, 1080p.
  • Male to Male Connection
  • 24K Gold-plated Connector Plug Contacts
  • Mylar Backed Foil

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Cablesson launches MacKuna HDMI cable for the MAC users

High-speed HDMI cables with Ethernet

Cablesson  goes all out to bring these cables to those looking for a better HD content experience.

ARE your high-definition electronic devices giving you less than satisfactory audio and video quality? Then it’s time to get yourself the Cablesson MacKuna HDMI Cable

A HDMI cable is the final element that will maximise HD content experience, but it is often not taken into account by consumers when buying HD devices, such as LCD TVs and Blu-ray players.  With the availability of rich HD content and Blu-ray discs, it is high time that consumers get a good “wire” for a more fulfilling HD experience.

The new 3-D TV and 3-D content will need more specialised wires to view them in the best possible format. For this reason, Cablesson is offering the latest MacKuna HDMI Cable as the high-speed HDMI cable with Ethernet and cable be used by Apple MAC users or any HDMI compatible appliances.

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