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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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Mirroring your computer onto any HDMI display with Airtame wireless dongle

Here’s yet another option for wirelessly mirroring your computer screen to another display, but don’t worry: This one is rather impressive. Airtame, the creation of a group of Danish folks, is an HDMI dongle that links your PC — be it running Windows, OS X or Linux — to whatever display it’s plugged into over WiFi. Installation is a breeze: All you need on the PC side is just the software, and from there you can choose which dongles to beam your screen to. Yes, dongles, because you really can beam one PC to multiple screens, thus beating Miracast. We also played a game on one of the laptops, and the response time on the remote display was surprisingly good.

 

 

 

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Matchstick’s Firefox OS adapter – Media to your TV for $25

Looking for a streaming media stick that’s more accessible than Google’s Chromecast? You might have found it. After a few teasers, Matchstick has revealed the first Firefox OS-based media sharing adapter. The self-titled gadget lets you “fling” video, websites and other content from Firefox (naturally), Chrome and supporting apps to your TV. While the hardware should be a bit more powerful than Chromecast, the real allure is a completely open platform — you can tinker with the software and even build your own hardware if you’re the entreprenurial sort. A low price will help, too. Matchstick hopes to sell its stick for $25 this February, and that’s assuming you don’t back the upcoming Kickstarter project — get in early and it will cost $18. Even if Matchstick doesn’t get as much app support as Google’s device, it may be worth a look.

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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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Samsung 105-inch Curved UHD 4K TV

Today Samsung announced the availability of its biggest curved screen TV ever. First shown at the 2014 CES, the 105-inch UN105S9W UHD 4K TV sells for $119,999.99 . Unlike Samsung’s other curved models which incorporate the HDTV and UHDTV standard 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this one uses an ultra wide panel with 2.37:1 aspect ratio. More details after the break.

The UN105S9W can be ordered this week at Samsung.com. It joins the other S9 flat UHD 4K models which are available in 85- and 110-Inch screens. The UN105S9W is a full array LED backlit LCD with local dimming using Samsung’s propriety UHD dimming and Precision Black technology.

Due to its wider aspect ratio the native screen resolution is 5120 x 2160 making the UN105S9W the highest resolution TV (with over 11 million pixels) available.

The UN105S9W comes with the floor stand, however the LCD panel can be detached and mounted to a specialty wall mount (price and model number TBA).

Each 105inch TV will be made to order.

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LG’s Swarovski-encrusted OLED TV

There are few things that scream class more loudly than coating a piece of consumer electronics in gold. Except, perhaps, for doing the same thing, but with Swarovski crystals. That’s the truth-bomb that LG has just deposited into our laps, having announced it’s bringing an OLED HDTV with such glittery detailing here at IFA. Why? We can’t even begin to answer that question, but LG claims the 460-crystal pattern “turns a cutting-edge television into a work of art.” There’s no word on a price, but LG says this TV will go on sale in Europe this year — we’d rather forego the crystals to get OLED down to a price that competes with the best LCDs and Ultra HD TVs instead.

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Samsung UHD TV to Get Amazon Streaming & Video Pack

Samsung has just struck a deal with Amazon and several other partners to expand its ultra high-definition (UHD) content offerings. The partnerships will give Samsung TVs access to new services including live 4K broadcasting, video-on-demand (VoD) and a long-awaited UHD video pack (at least in the UK and Europe).

4K TV, also known as Ultra-High Definition television, provides a whopping 3,840×2160 pixel resolution – four times regular Full HD. But as good as it looks, the vast majority of 4K TVs are more expensive than 1080p HDTVs, and there’s a real scarcity of native content that makes it hard to justify shelling out for one.

That conundrum means it’s in the interests of TV manufacturers to do everything they can to ensure their customers get more Ultra HD content to watch, and that’s exactly why Samsung is embracing Amazon. From October, Samsung’s UHD TVs will be able to stream content (both movies and TV shows) directly from Amazon’s on-demand video streaming service. Samsung says the service will be available “globally”, although we wouldn’t be surprised to see some countries excluded from the deal.

Amazon’s 4K Ultra HD VoD service, called Prime Instant Video, is scheduled to launch this October, and will compete with the likes of Netflix, which already offers 4K streaming, and DirecTV, which plans to stream 4K content on-demand later this year. For now it appears as though Amazon’s service will be exclusive to Samsung – although Amazon probably won’t be able to resist the temptation of selling its service to other brands once it’s up and running.

Besides Amazon, Samsung is also teaming up with content providers including Chili, Maxdome and Wuaki.tv., to provide even more 4K content. The company gave scant details of these partnerships so we can’t say for sure what countries these services will be offered too.

Finally, the Korean firm says it will show off its long-awaited “UHD video pack” at next month’s IFA show in Berlin. The video pack, which has been produced in association with Fox Home Entertainment and consists of no less than forty 4K movies including Life Of Pi and Star Trek: Into Darkness preloaded on a 500GB media player, was first teased at last January’s CES show in Las Vegas and subsequently released in the USA, but was delayed in the United Kingdom and Europe due to licensing issues. We assume that those problems have now been resolved, and that Samsung UHDTV owners on these shores can look forward to more native 4K content.

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LG is getting out of plasma TVs

On the B-side of LG’s announcement that it will start selling two 4K OLED TVs, is the bad news for plasma. Korean papers Yonhap News and The Korea Times report home entertainment division lead Ha Hyun-hwoi’s comments that the company will end production of plasma TVs soon. According to Ha, LG is conducting an internal study to decide when it will end plasma production — not a bad run after rumors said it would shut down in 2008 and 2009 — and will make an official announcement on the issue soon. LG is the last major brand making plasmas after Samsung announced its exit earlier this year, and Yonhap says that once LG shuts down, China’s Changhong Electric Co. (the same company once on the receiving end of $1 billion worth of stolen plasma tech from LG) will be the only major manufacturer left in the game. If you don’t love LCDs and you’re not ready to drop $3,500 on a 55-inch OLED, it may be time to grab one of the few remaining plasmas and ride that out for the next few years.

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Samsung the new APPLE

The rumor mills are at it again and this time they are not focusing on devices that they think will topple the iPad but on the iPad itself. According to the latest tablet PC news, Apple is working on a second generation iPad which it hopes to introduce to the market during Q4 of 2010. The samsung Galaxy S has taken over consumers who are sick and tired of Apples Network Issue with the 4G. Slowly accross europe we see huge numbers showing that customers are moving away from Apple and to Samsung. This can see samsung leading the market few quickly. Our reports from Netherlands also inform us that Philips is looking for partners to share its technology in the OLED market. Consumers are none to me more smarter then the americas who dont know the difference between apple and oranges. Rumor also has it that the new gen iPad will have display sizes of 5.6 and 7 inches. Further, the reports also point towards Apple going in for OLED screen in place of LCD display that is on the current generation iPads.

OLED screens are considered far superior than LCD displays, in that OLED screens are more capable of displaying deeper black levels (since they do not require a backlight source). Also, contrast ratios are higher for OLED display while the screen refresh rates are faster, too. And that’s not all, for OLEDs are thinner and lighter in comparison to LCDs.

A smaller iPad will be surely welcomed by consumers. These will be even more affordable than the base iPad. In fact, there are reports that Apple already placed orders with component makers based in Taiwan to supply the screens in the two sizes for the new iPads. The leading developers of OLED screens in the world, like Samsung or LG, are hardpressed to meet their own demands with their mobile gadgets and an order from Apple would further strain their resources. LG already is finding it hard to meet the demand for the LED display of the current iPad and is resorting to setting up a second production line to ease demand rush.

There have been reports of many e-readers deciding to close operations due to intense competition. The iPad is also considered to be a major cause of worry for the e-reader industry, and has already brought doom to many. Just think what a smaller iPad

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Kodak sells OLED business to LG

Kodak has been a big name in electronics for many years now. The company was originally best known for its line of films and film-based cameras. As technology changed, the company began producing a full line of digital cameras and digital photo frames among other things.

kodak_lg_oled_partnership

Kodak has been making its own OLED screens for use in its electronic products for a while now. Back in March Kodak and LG teamed up and Kodak announced that its OLED screens would be used in LG products. Kodak announced recently that it would be selling its OLED screen business and all associated assets to LG

The specifics of the deal are not known at this time. Kodak reports that the move will allow it to tighten its investment focus and strengthen its financial position. Kodak will continue to have access to the OLED technology for its own products. The deal is subject to customary closing processes and is expected to close by the end of the year.

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