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Roku 3 Review

The Roku 3 was released in March of 2013.   The box offers modest hardware improvement over the Roku XD, and saw the debut of the a newly designed interface.  If you’re not familiar with the Roku line of product, they basically make Set Top Boxes that allow you to easily connect to your TV to Netflix, MLB, Hulu, Plex, home movies or one of some 700 plus channels identified in the device guide.  Sounds neat right!

Here’s a quick rundown of the Roku 3

Neat Features includeRoku 3
-Headphone jack in the remote
-Plex integration
-RF remote

Things we expected the Roku 3 to do, and it did
-Resolution supported are 480p, 720p and 1080p
-Audio Support is 7.1/5.1 Surround Sound
-HDMI output of course

Things we didn’t expect from the Roku 3
-The bluetooth remote of the Roku 2 is gone, replaced as noted above with a 5GHz ISM spectrum RF remote.  This is a plus for remote cabinet / AV console mounting
-Dropped 480i/NTSC support

ProcessorThe Processor
This is the first set top box that Roku has produced using a dual core processor.  The Broadcom ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor get’s it done on less than 250mw per core and runs 32-bit processors with the ARM v7 instruction set.  What that means to us in plain English is the box is adequately powered to provide a good user experience and interface operation.

The Remote
The remote on the Roku 3 is RF AND IR.  That’s really cool for those that use all-in-one remotes like the Harmony.  What’s even cooler is that the IR remote from our Roku 2 works on the 3 as well!  Dual spectrums remote make the Roku 3 easy to control with the remote of your choice!

Plugs and Slots
The USB port will support local drive mounting and allows the box to play files directly off the attached drive.  File formats supported include MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264); Audio: AAC, MP3; JPG, PNG.  Additional storage is available thru the MicroSD slot. Roku 3 with HDMI This slot can be used for channel storage or additional games.  A nice feature for quick and easy viewing of camera pictures .

The User Interface
The new tiled interface allows for much more imagery during channel browsing.  This is nice for quick searching through your favorites.
The search functionality really works well.  Once you’ve entered your search term, the Roku 3 will search across all available mediums, Netfilix, Hulu Plus, Plex to find the title you’ve searched.

The Viewing Experience
It works.  Just like previous versions of the hardware, the actual viewing experience is largely dependent on your internet connection, and has little to do with the the actual set top box.  This box has adequate power to decode the video and present to your panel.

Things we wished the Roku 3 would do, but it doesn’t
-DLNA
-Provide broader file type support for local media playback, and trans-coding capabilities

While the Roku 3 is an obvious improvement over earlier models, unless you’re just needing another STB, waiting to see what else the market brings may be your best move.  On the other hand, if you don’t have a Roku at all, buying the Roku 3 at $99 is a safe purchase indeed.

We would love to hear about your experience with the Roku 3…good, bad, or otherwise…

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How to watch NFL without cable

Football season can be very demanding for sports fans, so preparedness is crucial.  A good game plan is required to ensure no action is missed.   For a “cord cutter”, the inevitable question arises, how can I watch NFL without cable?  No worries, I’ve listed out a few plays that will have you warmed up and ready for the bone crunching entertainment!     As  we’ve said before, no solution is perfect, but watching sports without cable is totally doable.

Typical antenna installed at chimney

Typical antenna installed at chimney

The Antenna Play

Your first play for watching the NFL without cable starts with a basic HD antenna.  Choosing the best HDTV antenna to start with helps ensure this effort provides good results.   These antenna are not terribly expensive, and once properly installed, will provide you some of the best quality images you’ll see anywhere.  Typically much better than Comcast or DirecTV can provide.  You’ll be pleaseantly surprised how good the picture quality is, and the price is hard to beat!  I’ve installed entire systems for less than 50$, your mileage may vary.

The NFL Sunday Ticket Play

Your second play for NFL without cable works on games that aren’t on your local broadcast stations, like those on Sunday. Currently, DirecTV offers the NFL Sunday Ticket as an ad-hoc service, meaning you don’t to be a subscriber to get this package.  The Sunday Ticket gives you live access to every out-of-market game, every Sunday!   Here’s the catch!  DirecTV states “It’s available to anyone that cannot get DIRECTV at their residence due to line-of-sight issues.”   Hint: This is easily overcome for most folks, especially those that live in apartments or condominiums that don’t allow balcony or roof attachments for dish mounting (in spite of FCC regulations deflating this position).   DirecTV is not interrogating subscribers on their reception capability when signing up for the Sunday Ticket App, they just take your money and give you access.

While the price is a little steep at $250.00, I appreciate the fact that they’ve reduced the package by $100.00 from last year. As an aside, I’ve heard multiple reports that the price is negotiable ($200), so don’t hesitate to ask for a discount.  The same subscription also allows you to view the games on your PS3, so at least the money has dual purpose, if you have a PS3 at the house.

What about picture quality?

Picture quality is outstanding on the iPad!  On occasion, I experienced a slight degradation in quality, but it seemed to only be intermittent, and not very frequent.  Overall, I’d say the stream is very watchable and provides a good user experience.  The user interface is easy to navigate and obviously customized for the online viewing experience.  I imagine at some point they will rework the app to include more stat’s and hopefully some fantasy football league data.

Airplay button

The AirPlay button

That little square with an arrow pointed up is the AirPlay button.  And if it worked all the time, it would be great!  Unfortunately, streaming these games to your TV using AirPlay is getting very mixed results from folks. Apparently the NFL has blocked AirPlay streaming from within the App, but some users are reporting AirPlay Mirroring to work. Mirroring requires the use of a special cable that connects your iPad directly to the TV using an HDMI signal. While the quality should be good, I don’t think the screen resolutions will match up properly, so you may have only a small portion of your TV screen showing the game. I’ll be picking up a cable to try this out for myself.

Also worth noting is that the iPhone 5, and it’s counterpart, iOS 6, are in no way compatible with the NFL Sunday Ticket version 1.8.1.   Actually, any device running the new iOS 6 breaks the app.  If you have an iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, or iPad, DO NOT upgrade your device to iOS 6, or you will be left in the cold waiting on a new release of the Sunday NFL Sunday Ticket App.

If you have comments or suggestions on using the NFL Sunday Ticket App, we would love to hear from you. I’m especially interested to hear about successful use of AirPlay to view Sunday Ticket on a TV.  Drop us a note in the comment section below.

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How to Watch the 2012 Olympics Live without Cable

NBC Streams to Pay TV Subscribers

NBC has extended viewing rights for their Live Video feeds to any “subscriber” of their MSNBC AND CNBC programs, on Cable, Satellite or Telco TV providers.  What this means is if you have BOTH of those services at home, you are also able to view the 2012 Olympics Live Video Feeds. You must be a Pay TV subscriber to view their 3500+ hours of streaming video content this year unless…

NBC Provides Live Video Tease

Even though NBC is requiring Pay TV Authentication to view their live video streams, they are letting you watch the stream without the afore mentioned authentication for a short period of time…but only a few hours…and only if you can get it to work. Basically they are saying, if you don’t know the password to authenticate with your content provider (DirecTV, Cox, ATT, other) they will give you a temporary pass to watch live streams. This same temporary pass seems to be available on the mobile app, but with mixed results in performance, and working at all.

A Better Way to Stream the 2012 Olympics

Anyone with an internet connection in the UK is able to watch live streams of the Olympics at bbd.com. Those outside of the UK however, aren’t able to view the live streams due to geographic blocking by web servers.  Sometimes, locations are blocked inaccurately, due to poor reporting by ISP’s to IANA about how they have allocated IP address space around the world.  If this is the case for you, there are a few ways around this geographic blocking issue. Below, we’ve listed two.

1. Sign up for a VPN service. This will allow you to view the BBC site, and appear as though you are in the UK. Setting up the Witopia VPN Service is fairly straight forward with solid FAQ’s for help, and online assistance if you get stick. During the signup process, you’ll have the option of choosing which country and city your want your traffic as coming from, avoiding the geographic blocking being employed by the BBC website. Once you have the VPN setup on your computer, simply point your browser to www.bbc.com and start streaming those 2012 games.

2. Sign up for a DNS Routing service. These types of services, like the one above, works behind the scenes to make your traffic appear to be coming from an un-blocked location. The added benefit to using a DNS Redirection services is that you connection isn’t slowed down by the added layer of a VPN as in the first solution. Additionally, there’s no software to install. Setting up this service is even easier that the one above. Start by setting up an account at UnBlock-us.com. The signup is quick and easy, basically just asking for your email address, and the country you want to show your traffic as coming from. Choose the UK as your “location”, then move on to your computer network settings to make the DNS changes that are necessary.

You’ll need to change your Adapter settings, DNS entries toMake them 208.122.23.22 and 208.122.23.23. UnBlock has detailed how to documentation on their Support Center if you need more info.

DNS entries for unblock

The setup process is complete. Point your browser to www.bbc.com and watch the 2012 games, without cable!

How has your Olympic viewing experience been?

We’d love to hear about how you’re watching the Olympics and from where.  Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

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Fanhattan iPad App Aggregates Movies and TV Shows from Netflix, Hulu Plus and iTunes

The future can be annoying as hell sometimes. With an array of choices from Netflix and Hulu to iTunes, Amazon and more, finding a particular series or movie is increasingly more confusing and fragmented. The process of finding and watching on-demand entertainment is exhausting, not entertaining.

Fanhattan is a new entertainment discovery service and they’ve set out to help simplify (and beautify – the interface is slick and elegant) the process of navigating various digital content sources. See the sizzle video below or watch Walt Mossberg’s video review for the gist of Fanhattan’s magic.

As of this post, Fanhattan is only available for the iPad, but they plan to branch out with a web and TV app in the near future.

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Video

Boxee Box Review

If you read my post on Roku and you’re still on the fence about purchasing a streaming entertainment box for your TV, let Cali from GeekBeat.tv introduce you to the Boxee Box. It might just convince you to get rid of cable once and for all.

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Articles

Everything You Need To Know About Roku

In short, the Roku is a streaming entertainment device for your TV. With a Roku box you can instantly stream tons of programming over the internet right to your TV – watch movies and TV shows from Netflix and Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video, listen to music through Pandora or even catch the ballgame through NBA League Pass or MLB.tv.

Roku XD streaming entertainment device

Roku XD will stream TV shows, music and movies over the internet to your TV.

Content on the Roku comes in the form of “channels.” Each separate channel supports content from a different partner. These channels come in both free and pay form. Some of the most popular free channels are Pandora, Revision3 and Roku Newscaster which connects the free podcasts from CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN and more into one neat little channel. Premium pay channels include Hulu Plus, Netflix, MLB.tv along with a few others.

There are currently three versions of the Roku player – HD, XD, XD|S. The main distinguishing factors among the three models are the quality of the picture (all get high-definition, but the HD only receives 720p, while the other versions are capable of 1080p), the speed of their wireless connection and the addition of a USB port on the XD|S. Models range in price from $60 – $100, require no extra computer to work and incur no additional monthly bills outside of your existing subscriptions (like Netflix, Hulu Plus or MLB.tv). In my experience, you can get a Roku up and running in about 10-15 minutes – you simply plug it in, add it to your home network and you’re ready to roll.

I have a Roku XD and I really like it. It’s small, light weight and takes up very little space. It simply just works. The only draw back for me is the integration with iTunes. I haven’t been able to figure out how to stream my library to my Roku (if you have an answer, let me know in the comments below). Depending on the programming you watch, the Roku could be a great setup for your living room, bedroom or kids room. They’re cheap and powerful.

You can find Roku at retailers like Best Buy and Radioshack or numerous places online. They come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

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Watch March Madness On Your Desktop or Mobile

NCAA March Madness iPad App

NCAA March Madness iPad App

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins tomorrow and if you’re anything like me, you start to get really antsy behind your desk. Little work gets done as you clamor to your pristine picks only to have your heart torn out after the second day of upsets. Here’s how you can watch every game online or through your mobile device.

If you’re stuck staring at a computer, tune in to every game live on the NCAA March Madness on Demand site. They’ll be streaming games all month long through the final game until a champion is crowned. No cable? No problem.

If you’re on the go and an iPad or iPhone owner, download the official NCAA Basketball app. You can stream live games over Wi-fi and 3G connections, get alerts about your favorite team, comment and manage your bracket. Android owners will have to wait another year.

 

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Connecting Your iPad, iPhone or iPod to your HDTV

The iPad 2 was released Friday and with it came  lots of hype around a slimmer design, faster chips and included cameras. But, being a cord-cutter, I was much more interested in a small accessory that was demoed at the keynote.

Connect your iPad to your HDTV

Apple Digital AV Adapter is $39

When Steve Jobs showed off the Apple Digital AV Adapter ($39), I got giddy like a school girl. This little adapter would make it possible for you to mirror whatever is on your iPad, iPhone 4 or iPod Touch screen — apps, presentations, websites, videos and more — all on on your HDTV or HDMI-compatible display and up to 1080p HD (movies play at up to 720p). Everyone can sees what’s on your display — even when you rotate iPad from portrait to landscape or zoom in and out. Video mirroring is built into iOS so it’s very smooth and polished. No settings to tinker with or configuration needed.

The Digital AV Adapter also comes with a second 30-pin connecter that gives you the option to charge your device at the same time. No need to worry about running out of juice in the middle of your juicy slideshow.

I created a video to show you mirroring of a movie, Hulu Plus app and the PBS app. In my experience, it worked very smooth although you may want to adjust the settings of your TV for a few of the apps. Time will tell if apps could potentially block this feature in the future.

Note: Only the iPad 2 supports 1080p mirroring for apps. The original iPad, iPhone 4, and iPod Touch 4th gen will only support 720p mirroring. Video on all devices displays at 720p. For more information, check out the product page.

 

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