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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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Epson 3LCD Laser Projectors

Epson has caused quite a stir at CEDIA Expo with the launch of its Pro Cinema LS10000 and LS9600e 3LCD projectors with reflective laser technology.

The LS10000 is a 4K model, while the LS9600e is a wireless 1080p projector. Both use a laser light source to deliver “unprecedented Absolute Black contrast ratio and one of the industry’s largest colour gamuts,” says Epson.

The 4K unit can project images with up to 1500 Lumens of colour brightness and the same for white brightness, while the Full HD one delivers 1300 Lumens.

Advantages of the laser light source are said to be rapid warm-up and cool down, high-speed contrast control for bright and dark scenes, and up to 30,000 hours of use. The ‘Instant On/Off’ function means pictures appear on screen or shut down with virtually no wait, says Epson.

Bright 3D Drive is designed for greater brightness when viewing 3D content, and both projectors can handle Full HD 1080p in 2D and 3D.

Operation is said to be “whisper quiet”, and on the LS9600e a WirelessHD transmitter connects up to five HDMI devices simultaneously. It also has MHL connectivity to display content from compatible smartphones and tablets.

Both models have 2.1 x power zoom, power focus, lens shift up to 90 per cent vertical and 40 per cent horizontal, as well as a lens position memory that can store up to 10 settings for 16:9 or 4:3 projection areas.

Epson says its new Pro Cinema projectors will be available in the US this autumn for prices “below $8000″.

Also new from Epson are three 3LCD Full HD/3D projectors: the Home Cinema 3600e ($1999), Home Cinema 3500 ($1699) and Home Cinema 3000 ($1299).

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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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Best Cable for 1080p also Supports 4K x 2K Video and more color spare

This Ultimate Blue 2m HDMI Cable is perfect for connecting HD equipment such as your Sky HD Virgin V+ Freeview HD Blu-Ray PS3 or Xbox to your HDTV. This Ultimate Blue 2m HDMI Cable Supporting the highest resolutions and latest HD features it’s the perfect choice for those looking for a dependable value for money cable from a brand they can trust. This Ultimate Blue 2m HDMI Cable with Ethernet are superb, high quality cable, ideal for use with Sky HD, PS3, Blu-Ray, HDTV and home cinema installations. It provides premium quality hdmi cable construction at an affordable price and features 24K gold plated contacts for optimum conductive ability and resistance to tarnishing and corrosion. This is a great new HDMI cable with 1.4a version which has a Ethernet technology built-in,This Ultimate Blue 2m HDMI Cable is also backward supported with 1.3,1.3b and 1.3c versions. It has High Speed with Ethernet,Audio Return Channel.It is Useful for HDMI 1.4/1.3c/1.3b devices and Supports 3D Technology,The Nylon Protection layer protects from abration. Best Cable for 1080p also Supports 4K x 2K Video and more color spare. Suitable for 50Hz,100Hz,200Hz LCD/LED HD Tvs, and Upto 600Hz HD Plasma Tv’s along with DVD,Blu Ray Players HD Projectors. This is specially designed to help the gaming users, It will improve the picture quality on PS3 and XBOX 360. Make the Most out of your new HD Ready TV with the latest in HDMI Cables. This High Definition Multimedia Interconnect connects your Blu-Ray Player, HD Digital TV Box or games console to your AV Amplifier, Plasma or LCD TV or Projector. HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) supports standard, enhanced, or high-definition video, plus multi-channel digital audio on a single cable.

Technical Details

  • HDMI 1.4a VERSION ALSO COMPATIBLE WITH 1.3c/1.3b/1.3 devices and Supports 3D
  • High Speed with Ethernet,Audio Ruturn Channel
  • FULL HD 1080p also Supports 4K x 2K Video and more color spare
  • 24K Gold Plated with 99.99% Oxygen Free Copper Conductor
  • Suitable for 50Hz,100Hz,200Hz LCD/LED HD Tvs, and Upto 600Hz HD Plasma Tv’s.,100% Digital & 3D Signal, Length:2Meter(6.4ft)

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Seeing and Hearing Every Detail Without Any Compromise

XO Platinum 4m HDMI Cable allows you the luxury of seeing and hearing every detail without any compromise. XO Platinum 4m HDMI Cable delivers uncompressed 1080p/120 Hz high definition video with 12-bit deep colour, eight channels of 192/24 digital audio for ultimate 7.1 surround sound, and an integrated control channel – all in one cable. XO Platinum 4m HDMI Cable  also eliminates digital-to-analog conversion between your video sources and display for the most accurate high definition picture. 26 AWG cable shielding will reduce crosstalk and are better than the traditional round cables. Ideal for running in the walls and on the walls. Primarily used to connect Blu-ray players, satellite and cable boxes, LCD’s, projectors, Plasma displays, HDTV’s and much more. The XO Flat Platinum HDMI cables have been designed to meet the high bandwidth performance standards set by HDMI 1.4. Cablesson HDMI cables are constructed to the highest quality with full triple layer shielding from end to end, strong, solid wire welds and the highest quality materials including high purity copper, gold plated connectors and tin plated conduits. Compatible with HDTV and HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) -  the content scrambling standard for modern, advanced digital video displays and DVD players.

Specifications

  • Length: 4 Meters / 4m Flat HDMI Cable
  • Metal Die-cast casing
  • Nitrogen gas-injected dielectric with quad-shielding for maximum signal strength.
  • Delivers Up to 1080p Digital HDTV.
  • 24K Gold-plated Connector Plug Contacts
  • Connectors: HDMI Male/Male, Type A
  • Use cable with PS3, Wii, SkyHD and Virgin V+.
  • Mylar Backed Foil
  • ATC Certified HDMI 1.3b
  • Delivers 340 MHz (10.2 Gbps) to support the demands of future high definition display devices, such as higher resolutions, Deep Colour, xvYCCColour and high frame rates.

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XO PRO 1m / 1 metres HDMI Gold Cable with Ethernet is specially designed to help the gaming users,

XO PRO 1m / 1 metres HDMI Gold Cable with Ethernet is specially designed to help the gaming users, It will improve the picture quality on PS3 and XBOX 360. Try this new generation cable for High Quality Picture and Great Sound. It transmits all ATSC HDTV standards and supports 8-channel digital audio, with bandwidth to spare to accommodate future enhancements and requirements. It is great for installers wanting a quality HDMI cable. The XO PRO 1m / 1 metres HDMI Gold Cable is a high goldspec digital optical TOSlink cable with Nylon Braiding, Superb quality and appearance for all standard Optical audio requirements including Sky, Sky+, Sky HD, Virgin TV, PS3, Xbox with Surround Sound systems and AV Amplifiers. It also eliminates digital-to-analog conversion between your video sources and display for the most accurate high definition picture. This brand new series is structured to the highest standard with exclusive technology and construction for precise, high bandwidth signal transfer. Heavy gauge, multi stranded copper conductors maximize digital signal transfer for precision 2160p video reproduction with deep, extended colour.

Key Features:
  • Length: 1 Metre/ 1m HDMI Cable
  • 3D and Ethernet Ready
  • Delivers Up to 4k x 2k resolution.
  • Male to Male Connectionli>
  • 24K Gold-plated Connector Plug Contacts
  • High Speed (Catergory 2)
  • Mylar Backed Foil
  • HDMI 1.4 increases its single-link bandwidth from 165MHz (4.95 gigabits per second) to 340 MHz (10.2 Gbps) to support the demands of future high definition display devices, such as higher resolutions, Deep Colour and high frame rates.
  • 28 AWG Cable
Compatible With:

  • Blu-ray Players
  • Playstation 3 (PS3) & Xbox 360 Elite
  • HDMI Supported Laptops & PCs
  • Satellite HD Receivers
  • HDTVs, Projectors & Displays
  • AV Receivers/Amplifiers
  • HDMI Switchers & Splitters

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New XO Pro 10 Metre v1.4 with 3D HEAC

New XO Pro 10 Metre v1.4 with 3D HEAC – High Speed HDMI with Ethernet, 3D and Audio Return Channel is the latest version HDMI cable from our XO Pro Gold HDMI Cables range. XO Pro 10 Metre hdmi cable  is perfect to use with either Games Console(ie PS3 or XBOX 360) or installing with a HD home theatre/ media systems and designed to optimise the performance of next generation HD appliances (ie 3D HDtvs, Blu-ray players and Games consoles). Ultra HD resolution is supported up to 4k2k delivering astonishing frame rates with zero signal loss and displays the vibrant colours and solid blacks that your HDTV is capable of without the digital artefacts or ‘sparkles’ introduced as a result of low quality cable design with higher.  It looks like everyone wants in on the HDMI experience, whether for home theaters, game consoles, Blu-ray Disc players, HD DVDs and other HDMI equipped gadgets. Granted, there’s nothing that compares to the HDMI experience at the moment (not even DVI) and I have nothing against HDMI.  XO Pro Gold HDMI Cable features the HDMI Ethernet Channel technology which incorporates data, audio and video signals into a single cable. Thus, you can enjoy excellent (the best) HDMI connectivity with flexible networking on your home entertainment systems. Before the introduction of the Ethernet channel, you’ll need different wires to connect your home entertainment systems to the internet, but with this feature, all you need is the Pro Gold Red HDMI cable.  The 100Mb/s HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC) between HDMI connected devices supports a resolution of up to 4096x2160p24 or 3840×2160 at up to 30Hz.

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The 5×1 Mini HDMI switch has not only has the key-press-switching function, but also has the IR remote control and intelligent function

This XO5x1 Mini HDMI switcher not only has the key-press-switching function, but also has the IR remote control and intelligent function. That is to say, as soon as the power supply of the source equipment is switched, this switches will respond automatically. The display will automatically change to the source in use or last powered so there is no need for an extra remote control to clutter up system like many older technology switchers.  This device will allow to switch between 4 HDMI signals from Sky / Virgin Media / Sony PS3 / Blue Ray / HD DVD / Freesat Device, to one display device.

The XO 5×1 Auto Mini HDMI  Switch has the key-press-switching functions and also the IR remote control and intelligent function. This means once the power supply of the source input is switched on, the switcher will respond automatically. SMART AUTO-SWITCH technology means the display will automatically change to the source in use or last powered so there is no need for an extra remote control to clutter up your system like many older technology switches. Just hook up all your AV kit with quality Cablesson HDMI cables, stash the switch box out of the way and continue to use your existing remote control set up as usual. This XO 5×1 Auto Mini HDMI  Switch will route the High Definition Video signal and digital audio from anyone of the sources to your High Definition display unit. The XO 5×1 Auto Mini HDMI  Switch is compatible with HD-DVDs, SKYHD, VIRGIN V+HD, PS3 and XBOX 360, Blu-ray Players.

The XO 5×1 HDMI Switch routes high definition video (in multiple resolutions up to 1080p) and digital audio from any one of the two sources to display unit. Two inputs accommodate the simultaneous connection of up to two high definition video sources, such as satellite systems and HD DVD players.

Specifications

  • Version 1.3
  • Deep Colour/ XV Colour supported
  • Multifunctional Switching: Intelligent or Mechanical
  • IR Extender Receiver (Included)
  • IR Remote (Included)
  • Supports video resolution 1080p
  • Supports 250MHz/2.5Gbps per Channel (7.5Gbps all channel) bandwidth
  • Supports 12bit per channel (36bits all Channels)
  • HDCP Compliant
  • Supports uncompressed audio such as LPCM
  • Supports compressed audio such as DTS Digital, Dolby Digital (Including DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD)

 

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