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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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Roku HD-XR – join Netflix-streaming lineup

Roku have outed a pair of new Netflix media streamers that go on sale alongside their existing Roku HD.  The Roku HD-XR keeps the same 720p HD playback, optical audio output and HDMI connection as the original model, but upgrades the WiFi to b/g/n.  Meanwhile there’s a new entry-level, standard definition model, the Roku SD, which offers basic WiFi and analog connectivity.

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The Roku HD-XR does just the same as the original set-top box, but now offers faster WiFi (the HD only has WiFi b/g support).  The company have also added a USB 2.0 port to the back, but right now there’s no use for it; Roku are saving it for some unknown future purpose.

Meanwhile the Roku SD promises only DVD quality video, with integrated WiFi b/g and composite audio/video connections (and wired ethernet) rather than HDMI and optical audio.  All three models are pretty much identical aside from the rear panels, and come with the same basic remote control; the Roku SD comes in at $79.99, the Roku HD remains at $99.99, and the Roku HD-XR is $129.99.  You’ll obviously need a monthly Netflix subscription as well.

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Netflix movie on PS3 by November

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COMING SOON: NETFLIX MEMBERS CAN INSTANTLY WATCH MOVIES AND TV EPISODES STREAMED TO TVs VIA THE PLAYSTATION®3 COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

With Movies Streamed Instantly from Netflix, Blu-ray/DVD Playback and Downloadable Videos via the PlayStation®Network, the PlayStation 3 System Offers The Industry’s Most Comprehensive Options for Watching Movies and TV Shows
FOSTER CITY and LOS GATOS, Calif., October 26, 2009 – Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. (SCEA) and Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] today announced that they are joining forces to make thousands of movies and TV episodes from Netflix available to be streamed instantly to TVs via the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system. Netflix expects to begin streaming via the PS3 system next month at no additional cost to Netflix members in the United States who have a PS3 system.
Today’s announcement pairs two of the most popular and fastest growing home entertainment brands in the U.S. The PS3 system’s installed base has reached close to 9 million units in the United States, and Netflix recently reported 11.1 million U.S. subscribers as of September 30.
The partnership further solidifies the PS3 system as the most complete home entertainment hub on the market today, enabling consumers to play high-definition games, watch Blu-ray movies, listen to music, view photos, browse the Internet, and download content from PlayStation®Network − from exclusive games to blockbuster movies and popular TV shows. PS3 system owners will soon enjoy an unparalleled experience watching their favorite movies and TV shows streamed instantly from Netflix, downloading from the PlayStation Network or watching Blu-ray/DVD media. The Netflix offering expands on the entertainment experience delivered to PS3 system owners via PlayStation Network.
For only $8.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed to their TVs and computers via Netflix ready devices such as the PS3 system and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes.
“The PlayStation 3 system has always been about more than just gaming, and it will soon be the only platform in the industry to offer consumers such a variety of convenient options for enjoying movies and TV shows,” said Jack Tretton, president and CEO, SCEA. “Whether you want to watch content on Blu-ray disc and DVD, download it from the PlayStation Network’s video delivery service, or stream videos instantly from Netflix, the PS3 system is the only solution that offers it all.”
“As instantly watching movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix becomes an increasingly popular way to enjoy the Netflix service, our goal is to rapidly expand the devices that stream to our members,” said Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings. “As a leading game console and Blu-ray disc player, bringing Netflix to the PS3 system is a real win for both Netflix members and PS3 system owners.”
Initially, watching movies instantly streamed from Netflix via the PS3 system will be enabled by a free, instant streaming Blu-ray disc that is being made available to all Netflix members. The free instant streaming disc leverages Blu-ray’s BD-Live™ technology to access the Internet and activate the Netflix user interface on the PS3 system, which must be online via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
Netflix members simply slide the disc into their PS3 systems to reveal movies and TV episodes that can be watched instantly. These titles are conveniently organized into a variety of categories based on members’ personal preferences, popular genres, new arrivals and members’ individual instant Queues. Members can use the Netflix Web site or navigate directly on their PS3 systems to add movies and TV shows to their Queues. With the PS3 system’s Wireless Controller, members can choose a movie to watch from their instant Queues or just play directly from any of the lists. They also have the ability to read synopses and rate movies. In addition, they have the option of fast-forwarding and rewinding the video stream via the Wireless Controller.
Netflix members and PS3 system owners can now reserve a free instant streaming disc for PS3 systems by going to www.netflix.com/ps3. Upon availability, the instant streaming disc will be delivered for free by first-class mail, generally one business day after members request it.

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Blu-ray player with streaming internet video capability – Sony

Sony has debuted a new Blu-ray player called the BDP-N460 to go along with that $2,000 AV receiver I mentioned a bit ago. The new Blu-ray player offers the capability to stream Internet video to the big screen in the living room.

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The player plays DVDs, Blu-ray films and can stream all sorts of content from the Internet including network TV shows, YouTube, Slacker, and later this fall the player will get the ability to stream Netflix. The N460 offers 1080p/60p and 24p True Cinema output and can decode the latest audio codecs.

Users who don’t have an Ethernet connection for their home theater can purchase an optional WET610N Wireless-N Ethernet bridge that can connect the player to the Internet wirelessly on 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks. Other features include the ability to upscale DVD movies to near HD quality and support for 7.1 Dolby TrueHD. The player will ship in October for about $250.

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Netgear EVA2000 set-top streamer supports Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, more

Netgear have announced their latest networked media box, the EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live, which allows for both locally-streamed and IPTV content to be shown on your big-screen TV.  The EVA2000 can play YouTube videos, pay-per-view movies, Hulu, VuNow and Netflix content, among other things, together with audio, video and images from USB external storage.
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Connectivity includes 10/100 ethernet, AV composite output, HDMI, two USB 2.0 ports and a power connector, and Netgear will happily sell you a WiFi dongle or PowerLine adapter should your router be too far away from your HDTV.  There’s also a remote control from which you can do content searches.

The Netgear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live is available in the US now, priced at $149.99.  Meanwhile the USB WiFi adapter is $39.99.  Broader availability is planned over the coming months.

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Press Release:

NETGEAR Introduces Digital Entertainer Live, Compact All-in-One Set-top Box for Playing Home Media and Streaming Internet Video on HDTVs

Plays Movies, Videos, Music and Photos from USB Drives, Computers and Network Attached Storage; Accesses YouTube, Roxio CinemaNow On-demand Movies, Internet Videos, Hulu, Netflix and More

SAN JOSE, Calif. – September 8, 2009 – NETGEAR, Inc. (NASDAQGM: NTGR), a worldwide provider of technologically innovative, branded networking solutions, today launched the newest Internet-connected set-top box in its popular “Digital Entertainer” product family. The new Digital Entertainer Live (EVA2000) is an easy-to-use and affordable Internet set-top box that enables viewers to play their digital media collections, YouTube videos and a wide range of other Internet content on big-screen TVs. Rather than having to watch downloaded movies and online videos on small computer screens, families can now enjoy media collections stored on USB storage devices, computers and network storage directly on their HDTVs, from the comfort of their couch.

In addition to personal media collections and YouTube, consumers can now easily browse, download and play newly released pay-per-view movies from Roxio CinemaNow. They can also view videos on their TV from a wide variety of Internet sources, such as Hulu, Netflix and CBS, through free software trials and optional subscriptions. The Digital Entertainer Live incorporates all of these functions into a single compact player, an advantage for cluttered home entertainment cabinets.

“People are amassing a huge amount of their own downloaded and personal digital music, photos, and videos, as well as consuming more and more Internet video,” said Phillip Pyo, NETGEAR’s director of product marketing for connected home entertainment products. “According to comScore’s Video Metrix service, between January 2007 and July 2009, there was a 331 percent jump in the number of minutes of video watched per average viewer per month. It went from 2 hours, 31 minutes to 8 hours, 20 minutes.”

He added, “The vast majority of people are still watching these videos on small computer screens, so it’s logical to assume that the amount of time spent will continue to increase as devices such as the Digital Entertainer Live make it even easier to watch online video on HDTVs. NETGEAR is thrilled to offer an affordable, content-rich, and easy-to-set-up and -use solution that bridges this gap and enables people to fully enjoy their home media collections and online video from popular Internet sites on the best screen in their home – their big-screen TVs.”

The Digital Entertainer Live – Product Features
The Digital Entertainer Live is a compact, “plug in and go” home media player with a simple remote control that enables consumers to easily access their digital movies, videos, music and photos directly from their USB storage devices and watch them on their TV. Users need only plug a USB hard drive containing digital media content into one of two USB 2.0 ports on the Digital Entertainer Live and connect the Digital Entertainer Live to their HDTV using an HDMI or composite cable. The Digital Entertainer Live also features regular RCA jacks for connecting to older analog TVs.

Furthermore, with its integrated network port, the Digital Entertainer Live easily makes an Ethernet wired connection to the Internet and the home network, enabling access to digital media content stored on computers and network storage devices in the home network, as well as Internet content over the web. If consumers do not have an Ethernet connection available near their TV, they can use the optional Digital Entertainer Live Wireless USB Adapter (EVAW111) that connects the Digital Entertainer Live to the Internet and the home network via Wi-Fi. Alternatively, they can use existing electrical power outlets and a powerline device, such as NETGEAR’s Home Theater Internet Connection Kit (XAVB1004), to connect the Digital Entertainer Live to the Internet and the home network.

By connecting the Digital Entertainer Live to a broadband Internet connection, consumers enjoy the full YouTube experience – searching, browsing and watching millions of videos with access to subscriptions, playlists, country selections, categories and channels – all without the need for a computer. Instead of huddling around a small computer screen to watch the latest funny video, consumers can now show it on their TV for everyone to enjoy.

To widen the search for Internet video content, the Digital Entertainer Live is shipped with a built-in Internet video search engine that can locate videos on the entire worldwide web. The Digital Entertainer Live performs dynamic keyword searches of more than a hundred thousand websites for Internet videos without needing a computer. The search feature yields dynamic results with each letter inputted and automatically categorizes popular subjects into easy-to-find folders.

The Digital Entertainer Live also supports pay-per-view movies on-demand from Roxio CinemaNow, where users can buy or rent a range of newly released movies as soon as they are available on DVD and watch them in minutes. Consumers no longer have to wait for the mail or drive to the nearest rental store. They simply browse all the movies on their TV and download them to a USB storage device using their Digital Entertainer Live and Roxio CinemaNow account.

Additionally, the Digital Entertainer Live includes a free trial of VuNow, which provides access to hundreds of other Internet videos, live Internet TV and live Internet radio streamed from popular sites from around the world, such as Bloomberg, CNN Video, C-SPAN, ESPN, Germany’s 2DF, Al Jazeera, BBC Worldwide, China’s CCTV, Germany’s DWTV, Euronews, EuroSport, France 24, France’s Orange Sport, Germany’s RTL, and Sky News. The Digital Entertainer Live also comes with a free trial of PlayOn software. By running this optional software on a computer also connected to the Internet and home network, users enjoy hit TV shows and movies from popular Internet video services such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, BBC iPlayer, CBS, NFL, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and more, wherever the service is normally available via the Internet.

“There is an ever-increasing amount of digital media – TV episodes, movies, photos and music – being stored on computers and other devices throughout the home, as well as on the Internet,” said Jayant Dasari, broadband and television infrastructure and services research analyst at Parks Associates. “In fact, some people have even maxed out their personal computers with media, requiring external storage, such as one that connects via USB. Due to this increase in distributed digital media content, consumers are looking for ways to enjoy their digital media and online videos in one place. Internet-connected set-top boxes are one solution that enable the entire family to benefit from viewing the broadest spectrum of digital content on their HDTVs from the comfort of their living rooms.”

Pricing and Availability
Backed by a one-year warranty and 24/7 technical support, the NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live (EVA2000) is available in the U.S. through leading retailers, e-commerce sites and value-added resellers at an MSRP of $149.99. The Digital Entertainer Live Wireless USB Adapter (EVAW111) has an MSRP of $39.99. Worldwide availability of the Digital Entertainer Live is planned for the coming months.

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‘Broadband HDTVs’ LG selects Broadcom’s digital TV solution for its products

Broadcom’s integrated BCM3549 digital TV (DTV) system-on-a-chip (SoC)device has been selected by LG Electronics for its new ‘Broadband HDTVs.’

The two new series of HDTVs with LG’s “Netcast Entertainment Access” feature enable viewers to access online content and services and, according to Broadcom, are the first high definition televisions in the world to feature Netflix instant streaming and Yahoo! Widgets.

Powered by the Broadcom BCM3549 video decoder SoC, the LG broadband HDTV line allows Netflix subscribers to stream and watch movies or TV episodes from its library directly on the TV. Users can also use the Yahoo! Widget system to access content including weather, finance, news and other information.

“In another industry first for LG, our new Broadband HDTV line provides consumers the ability to access Netflix instant streaming and Yahoo! Widgets directly through their HDTV enabling a whole new entertainment experience in the home,” said Tim Alessi, Director, New Product Development, LG Electronics USA, Inc. “Broadcom’s advanced digital TV technology features the latest in connectivity and continues to push the envelope in TV picture quality, performance and features. We are pleased to continue our multi-year partnership with Broadcom.”

“LG’s latest Broadband HDTV design illustrates our combined commitment to develop and deliver innovative TV solutions that offer new options for accessing online video content on a TV,” said Dan Marotta, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Broadcom’s Broadband Communications Group. “This is our third generation product powering LG televisions and together we are revolutionising the home consumer entertainment experience.”

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Movie studios launch Epix, 720p streaming service for films

Lionsgate, Paramount, and MGM have joined forces to launch Epix, an HD television channel and accompanying online 720p streaming service. Thanks to an innovative business model, you won’t see a charge for either service.

epixhd1Three major movie studios are about to try an interesting experiment. They are launching a new TV network called Epix that will show their own recent films in HD, but they’re going a step beyond by bundling it with an online, on-demand service that offers HD streaming of the same films over the Internet. Think of it like Hulu for movies that aren’t yet out on DVD. Oh—and did we mention that the service will have no advertising and won’t appear on your cable bill?

A new business model

The music industry was never much good at being a digital retailer—anyone remember MusicNet and Pressplay?—but TV networks and movie studios now seem to think they have learned the lessons of the past.

Like Hulu, the Epix movie service is a joint venture formed by the content owners; in this case, the service is powered by the movie studios Lionsgate, Paramount, and MGM. The Epix TV network will air movies that are in the “pay-TV” window, those weeks before a film appears on DVD in which it is available on pay-per-view or HBO, among others.

That doesn’t sound so new, but Epix will be bundled directly into cable packages; under the current business model, it will never appear as a separate charge on the bill and will never have to be added to a package. If Epix can convince enough cable operators to sign on (it isn’t yet announcing partners), the service will have an immediate competitive advantage over pay-TV channels with an additional monthly fee.

But the best part is that Epix viewers can access the same material online, on demand, at Epixhd.com. Ars spoke with Emil Rensing, chief digital office at Epix, who says that watching films online will be a two-click experience with full support for 720p streaming.

The video is offered through Flash and is multi-bitrate enabled; the player checks the available bandwidth every ten seconds to see if a larger or smaller stream is required. Epix currently creates six different encodings of each film which range from full HD support all the way down to 500Kbps (cell phone quality). In our own test preview of Iron Man, video was the best we have ever seen in a mainstream streaming service.

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Pushing out that sort of data is bandwidth-intensive, and Epix would love to avoid streaming HD content across the public Internet wherever possible. One way to make that happen, which the company is currently pursuing, is to install caching servers directly in the data centers of ISPs with whom Epix has a relationship. (Rensing says that Epix does not require any sort of quality of service guarantees or bandwidth prioritization from ISPs.)

These “relationships” are one of the unique points about Epix. The company currently has no plans to offer content directly to consumers; it only wants to sign deals with TV distributors. These distributors certainly include the cable companies, but now also include Verizon’s FiOS, AT&T’s U-verse, and satellite services.

Epixhd.com will only be available to people who subscribe to one provider’s TV offering and also subscribe to that same provider’s Internet offering. That is, if Comcast were to offer Epix, users would need to pay for both Comcast cable and Comcast Internet in order to access the streaming, on-demand service. That’s good for Comcast, and it helps them cover the cost of the service.

Do you Hulu?

Given that services like Hulu and Netflix On Demand work well and are increasingly popular, the real question is why the studios would launch their own distribution network instead of just offloading the films to partners already equipped to handle them?

Rensing insists that the services are just too different. While Hulu does offer some films, it’s focused almost exclusively on TV at the moment and is ad-supported. Netflix On Demand doesn’t have access to the same super-recent hit titles.

Left unsaid is the fact that controlling distribution is also a chance to make more money, if it’s done right. Epix is pursuing a strategy that has similarities with ESPN’s streaming service, ESPN 360, which is also sold directly to ISPs and not available to end users directly. Again, the charge for the service never shows up on a customer’s bill but instead looks like a nice added bonus that ISPs can use to differentiate their service from rivals.

The downside is that those who like the Epixhd.com site (which looks fairly slick at the moment, even though development continues) and would gladly pay some monthly fee for access—well, they’re out of luck.

An invite-only beta of Epixhd.com begins today, with a sign-up form for rolling admission over the next few months.

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Xbox Live gets 1080p Zune video store, Netflix browsing, Twitter and Facebook integration

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Microsoft is busy announcing a slew of upgrades to Xbox Live, and the biggest news so far is relaunch of the video service, now Zune-branded with 1080p instant-on streaming content in 18 countries. XBL is also now integrated with Facebook — your Facebook account can be linked to your Gamertag, and games will support Facebook Connect for sharing content online. That’s pretty huge — but if that wasn’t enough, you’re also getting Twitter and Last.fm in the deal. Want more? Netflix users will now be able to browse the entire catalog instead of simply loading their queue, and Microsoft has also gotten its Party Watch system in order, so you’ll be able to heckle videos with your online friends. Last but not least, there’s now live TV streaming for UK and Ireland gamers, who’ll get Premier League soccer live from Sky. All in all, a solid set of updates for XBL — but we’ll wait and see how that “1080p” video looks before we pronounce Blu-ray dead. PR blurb after the break.

Today from the E3 stage in Los Angeles, Microsoft announced plans to dramatically improve their HD video offering through a new technology that enables instant on 1080p streaming with 5.1 audio with Zune video on Xbox 360.

This implementation is as close to a “disc in the drive” experience as possible over the Internet. At a high-level, here is how it works:

  • Video startup is nearly instantaneous because of the back-end proprietary Microsoft technology developed by Zune that seamlessly transitions between many different bitrates and resolutions of video.
  • Video playback will start at a low bitrate for fast download time and then ramp up to a higher bitrate and quality, up to 1080p with 5.1 audio.
  • Features such as smooth fast forward and rewind that users have only seen before with local physical media.

It doesn’t stop there. Other news coming out of E3 for Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace:

  • Social: We unveiled Movie Party, a feature where you can go to the movies with your friends whether you are sitting on the same couch or in living rooms across the country. Starting this year, you can share a virtual theater, see your Avatars (a virtual you) on the screen – all while you listen to each other laugh and cry together at the movie through voice chat on Xbox LIVE.
  • New Regional Partners: Now, for the first time Xbox LIVE members in the UK and Ireland can watch live or on-demand TV with BSkyB on Xbox. Never miss a moment of your favorite live TV shows, sports, movies and family-friendly entertainment – even share your favorites with up to seven friends in an Xbox LIVE Party.
  • Global Expansion: The 1080p streaming HD Zune video experience on Xbox LIVE marketplace is expanding to 10 new regions this year, making movies and TV shows available in 18 total countries including US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, and New Zealand. (Note: content and partners vary by region)
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