Plextor PX-B12OU: 3D movies when you’re on the move

3D films are definitely the next big thing and if you have a 3D-compatible display, but nothing to play them on this could be the solution.

The plug-and-play Plextor PX-B120OU is a portable Blu-ray player that comes in at around £92. It looks pretty good, with its ripple design on the top, and can be used to playback in two different ways.

Plextor-PX-B31OU

First, the Blu-ray player can connect via USB to a media centre, laptop or PC. All you need is a system running Windows XP/Vista/7 or above, and 128MB RAM. You will be able to connect direct to a TV when you use the PlexMedia box, which is due to launch next year

So it means you can enjoy 3D playback both at home and when you’re out – a good way to liven up dull car journeys (if you’re not the one driving, obviously).

Discs are top-loaded, which is handy if you’re on the move, as you don’t need to allow space for the loading tray to pop out.

However, the Plextor only offers playback – there is no write function – and it is possible to pick up Desktop Blu-ray drives that play and write for probably around 20 pounds less.

The only reason that we can see for actually buying this is if you have a laptop that does not offer Blu-ray playback, and you want to enjoy movies in the car or on the train, where the USB powered drive would be a bonus.

Marantz Melody Maker: One box to rule them all?

Trying to cram all your audio and TV gadgetry into a suitable space in the living room can be a bit of a headache. With one box for this, another for that, it’s hard to fit everything under the TV, or in a small cabinet, not to mention finding space for all your CDs and DVDs.

So combining all your audio and movie gizmos into one box is an inspired idea from the folk at Marantz.

melody-one

With its stylish aluminium chassis and shiny black top, the Melody Movie System offers a small footprint and yet Marantz says its managed to squeeze into its diminutive frame all the technological know-how it includes in its top-notch Bluray sources – such as the UD9004 (which comes in at a whopping £5,000).

The Marantz Melody Maker doesn’t aspire to such heights – it’s on sale for £799.99. So what do you get for your near-on 800 quid? Well, the remote-controlled box contains a high-quality Blu-ray player with BD-Live capability for exceptional High Definition images, DVD upscaling to 1080p HD resolution,
and audiophile-level CD playback.

You can also use the Melody Maker to replay from iPod, IPhone and iPod touch, listen to radio, and connect to other Bluetooth devices, such as phone or PC, (using an option RX101 device)

Sound comes courtesy of a 140 Watt Class D digital amplifier, to which you can connect stereo speakers, as well as a subwoofer, or choose Dolby Virtual Speakers for a surround sound experience. Marantz says it uses advanced algorithms and extensive room-modelling technologies to create the full home cinema experience from just two speakers.

And for anyone who despairs at the number of cables that spoil their interior design, Marantz has used a nifty bit of cabinet construction to make sure no cables are visible when you view the box from the side.

More at http://www.marantz.com/new/index.cfm?fuseaction=front.markethome&cont=eu&bus=hf

First look: Acer Aspire 5745DG Notebook

Acer-aspire

When it was founded in 1976, Acer’s goal was to ‘break the boundaries between people and technology’. 34 years later Acer most definitely appears to be achieving its aims, as its latest notebook, the Aspire 5745DG, certainly conforms to the PC manufacturing giant’s aspirations to smash the confines that differentiate human beings from the technological creations they produce.

The year 2010 has seen a phenomenal rise in 3D technology stemmed from an urge to blur distinctions between reality and a machine. Being marketed as an ‘advanced 3D entertainment centre’, the Aspire 5745DG, takes 3D technology to new frontiers, enabling users to witness a multitude of multimedia facets with greater depth and excitement.

By incorporating NVIDIA 3D Vision Technology, the Aspire 5745DG facilitates visuals that literally pop out of the screen, thus enabling games and movies to ensconce viewers into the action with a renewed vigour and depth, unachievable by mere 2D computers. Home-made videos, when played with Acer Arcade Deluxe, shuttles users back to the action so they are able to relive special occasions more vividly.

Preview video:

Coming equipped with Blu-ray Disc drive that plays multi-channel surround sound, sound effects and music are delivered in high-definition and to pinpoint accuracy and with Acer Arcade Deluxe millions of videos, songs, photographs and films can be simplistically managed.

Whilst its large capacity disc drive guarantees plenty of storage space, up to 16GB of DDR3 memory ensures for fast and efficient multitasking. And by integrating Intel Core i7, i5 and i3 Mobile CPU processing power, the Aspire 5745DG has been built to handle the most demanding of workloads. The limitless world of the internet is instantly at your fingertips with the Acer Aspire 5745DG, thanks to a 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi CERTIFIED network.

Aesthetically the Aspire 5745DG could not come much more aerodynamically elegant, causing users to astonishingly muse how something so sophisticated, powerful and ‘real’, could be containing within something so streamlined and small.

Our only fear now is that with technology this sophisticated and ‘authentic’, will we be able to regress back to the duller world of the two-dimensional?

3D Round up: Roxio, Buffalo, Lumix GH2 and MiBody


Roxio-Creator

With 3D technology entering the market almost on a daily basis, here’s a few more gadgets offering the consumer 3D functionality at affordable prices. Roxio has proved itself a pioneer with Roxio Creator 2011, the first digital media suit that lets you convert 2D photos and videos into 3D, in your own home.

Your existing photos and videos can be burned to disc or even uploaded to YouTube and Facebook (the software automatically adds the correct 3D tags for YouTube).  You don’t need any special hardware and Roxio has kindly included a pair of anaglyph glasses (the cardboard kind that you used to get back in the day) so 3D can be enjoyed ‘straight out of the box’.

It also allows the user to: Edit and share photo, video and audio projects; burn, copy and backup to CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray discs; convert video content from your PC to your handheld device for mobile viewing; digitise VHS tapes, cassettes and LPs, and capture audio from the web and record video from YouTube. It also offers video tutorials.

While Creator can convert 2D movies to 3D, it won’t work for HD videos, which is a shame. As well as being able to add 3D to your photos, it’s also possible to create true 3D images by combining two photos taken from a few inches apart. Reports indicate that the 3D images do lack somewhat in vibrancy, but if you want to make a first foray into the 3D experiment, it might be worth a punt. Not bad for a price tag of £49.99
More at Roxio.

For a rather more substantial investment of £199.99, the Buffalo Technology Blu-ray USB 3.0 drive allows users to convert regular movies to 3D and upscale DVDs and video files to HD quality.

buffalo

It also offers fast back up to Blu-ray technology and improved playback and burning performance of Blu-ray discs, DVDs, or CDs. The 12-speed drive can be used to back-up videos, photos and music and to standard DVD and CD. The Blu-ray writer can write up to 50GB, on a double layer disc.

Users can start burning and playing Blu-ray discs quickly using the high speed USB 3.0 connection by simply plugging the device into a computer and installing CyberLink Media Suite Software. Only one device will be needed for all optical media as the Blu-ray USB 3.0 drive is compatible with all DVD & CS formats. Find out more at here.

Panasonic Lumix GH2

Keen photographers who want to start taking their own 3D images will be excited by the Photokina launch of Panasonic’s Lumix GH2 (well, I was, anyway!).

The new lens is a world first – the first interchangeable lens that allows the photographer to shoot in 3D; the optional 12.5mm f12 has two optical elements and creates stereoscopic photos that can be used with most 3D displays. A firmware update will also allow you to use the lens if you have the Lumix G2. Prices for the Lumix GH2 will start at £900 when it’s available in November and that 3D lens will set you back another £249.

More details on the camera here.

Video fans will be glad to know that they don’t need to spend anything like that to get 3D – it’s available in the shape of the pocket-sized Aiptek I2 priced at around £130.

This compact, twin-lensed camcorder shoots 2D video in 720p and 3D video at half that resolution. It can also take 3D photographs. Once you’ve shot your video, you can watch it on a 3D-enabled television or use the included software to convert the video and watch it on any television along with red and blue 3D glasses. There is also a small 3D display on the back of the device, which will give you an idea of how the finished film will look. At this price, don’t expect to be creating the next version of Avatar, but nevertheless it looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Finally, something we never suspected would incorporate 3D technology is the HoMedics MiBody 360 Pedometer (£49.99). Now this might sound a bit Big Brother-ish, but it can track your movements, keeping count of steps, distance and calories burnt, thanks to the 3D accelerometer technology, which ensures the pedometer works in your pocket, in a bag or round your neck. It has a 15-day memory and the results can be uploaded to your PC for further analysis.

Nero saves the day: Nero 10 Platinum HD

Nero is an ambitious word. It’s tried to grab as many varied uses as possible: Crazed Roman Emperor, corporate coffee-joint, the New England Role-playing Organisation. For over 300 million users, however, the word is more familiar for burning CDs. Recently, the company behind the Nero Burning ROM software has become every bit as ambitious as the name it uses. Enter Nero 10 Multimedia Suite PLATINUM HD – your ultimate solution to CD burning, video editing, media-organising and system back-up’ing.

There’s so much included in the new Nero 10 PLATINUM HD package that it’s difficult to find somewhere to start. Perhaps the best bet is to begin with the software which left our jaws a’gaping:

Nero

Nero Vision Xtra: HD Editing for the Family
Although Vision Xtra originally joined the Nero 10 family back in April, this HD update has really brought the program into its own. The major upgrades are the ability to playback Blu-ray discs and the addition of “Nero Creative Packs”.
Blu-ray playback adds to the software’s existing Blu-ray options – authoring and HD editing, to make the package the complete HD circle: play, edit and create. It’s nice that the features are all enclosed in one place – even in the infinitely simple iLife you’d have to switch between programs to author a disc (and in iLife Blu-ray is unsupported).

In terms of video editing, the program’s closest competitor is another Apple product: iMovie HD. Vision Xtra has definitely taken inspiration from the simplicity of Apple’s editing software. You won’t find the plethora of options you’d get on Final Cut or Premier Pro, but you also won’t have to spend three hours YouTube’ing tutorials.

As well as adding 50 new transitions and 30 effects, part of the “Nero Creative Packs”, the new edition adds a template for picture-in-picture. Sixty-six templates, to be exact. Simply drop a template onto the editing timeline, drag in some clips and you’ll have a nifty PiP effect in no time.

With the myriad of new effects and transitions, Nero decided that it’d be a good idea to create a “favourites” menu. If you like a particular effect, or want a coherent video style, this not only speeds up editing, but removes the annoyance of scrolling through menus time and time again.

Behind the scenes, they’ve also beefed up the software. You can now export movies in Flash format, as well as PowerPoint video. There’s also added support for multi-core CPUs, NVIDA GPUs and background rendering, improving the preview quality immensely. Although there is no native 64-bit support, Nero engineers were quick to inform us that for video editing, the performance gains from 64-bit architecture would be minimal.

The mixture of powerful editing tools and a simple interface means that for families, or people without much spare time, putting together a movie is painless. Sure, you won’t see James Cameron authoring Avatar 2: A Bit of a Cash In on it. But for home users, the simplicity encourages you to give it a try – to turn those holiday clips into a video, rather than mere hard drive filler.

MediaHub: Possibly the Simplest Way to Transfer Media, Ever
MediaHub lets you store all your videos, pictures and music in one place. It does this by importing information from iTunes and Windows Media Player, as well as Windows 7 libraries. And it plays Blu-ray discs.

It’s also mighty fast. If you set it as your default image viewer, the loading time is as instant as Windows Preview. You then click the “MediaHub” button at the bottom, and it’ll boot up a bunch of editing options – “enhance, adjust, effects”. It also has tools to auto-enhance, remove red eye, crop, put together a little slideshow, e-mail a photo to a friend (and it scales it down for you, which is pretty neat). Really, it’s all a bit Picasa, except with less options and plug-ins, and better video file support.

The real selling point is the “Move It Plug-in”. If this has been done before, it has never been done as well as this. Every time you plug in an external device, be it an iPhone or a camcorder, MediaHub takes note. It then lets you re-encode media on-the-fly, specifically to that device’s resolution and playback options.

In essence, it automatically optimises any media for playback on your devices. You’ll get the best possible picture, the least possible disk usage, the most possible battery life from your gadget and the easiest conversion ever.

The Other Stuff:
There are a bunch of other updates around the included software, including a command-line interface for Burning ROM and faster performance in Back It Up, but these are really specialist areas and optimisations, rather than the features that have kept us impressed.

For £79.99, it’s quite the bargain – especially when you factor in the estimated cost of £11 per unit for a Blu-ray license. What’s really tempting, however, is if you already own the old Nero 10, because updating will only cost you a cool £19.99.

Sony announce raft of new 3D devices and content

Sony-3D

With Sony going 3D crazy this week, they have launched their new 3D plans consisting of a raft of different 3D content that will be available over the next 6 months; comprising Games, Movies, Music, Sports, and hardware.

First off will be 3D gaming and this will come via the Playstation Network, those of you who have stumped up the cash for a new 3D enabled TV will probably want know. What can I watch in 3D now? The answer is games. You will be able to download the 3D update and will be awarded WipEout HD, SuperStardust HD, Pain, and finally MotorStorm Pacific Rift Demo all for free in full 3D glory.

Sony have already confirmed that Sony Pictures will be making their next three blockbusters in full 3D glory, these will include; the new and un-named Spider-Man, The Green Hornet and last but not least the new Resident Evil: Afterlife.

More family friendly content will come via Monster House and Open Season and with Sony have confirmed that Sony Music will get involved in the 3D revolution with music videos from Shakira, SIA’s gig at the round house in London, iconic music videos, which will be remastered into 3D. And finally, Jimi Hendrix will be brought back to life with many of his classic videos making the jump from 2D to 3D.

Sony will of course be filming the World Cup in 3D but you won’t be able to watch it in the comfort of your own home unless you live in South Korea or America. But all is not lost, as they will be previewing content at their 1,300 affiliated Sony stores across the UK and in selective cinemas.

Hardware-wise you will be able to pick up Sony’s new Bravia 3D TVs with 200Hz high frame rate technology and with full 1080p resolution – you’ll have never seen 3D quite like this.

Spearheading the revolution will come via from a complete range of Sony Blu-ray Home Cinema Systems. A 3D firmware update will be released in line with the overall 3D launch on June 12th. The BDP-S570 Blu-ray player model, now on sale, is the first with 3D playback out of the box

Another part of the revolution will come via Sony 3D glasses, using active shutter technology to deliver full High Definition 3D are designed for both comfort and stamina. Smaller pink and blue glasses are available for people with smaller face such as children, and with a battery life of approximately 100 hours and an auto shut off function – the Sony glasses will allow you to enjoy the 3D action for longer.

Elsewhere you be able to pick up a world first 3D compatible NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras, which in conjunction with a compatible Bravia 3D televisions. The high-speed burst of frames is stitched together automatically to create detail-packed 23 megapixel panoramas with a 226-degree effective angle of view. And finally Sony is going to make a 3D laptop – what next a 3D radio? Only time will tell.

Pioneer have plans on your living room: New range of iPod docks, AV receivers and Blu Ray players

Latest Gadgets went down to a Pioneer product launch and were dazzled by an array of AV receivers, speakers, Blu Ray players, iPod Docks and earphones. Here are just some of the things we saw.

Pioneer-Product-Launch

AV Receivers are no-one’s idea of sexy but the entry to mid-level VSX range were feature-filled work horses. HDMI 1.4 support enables them to handle 3D Blu Ray content, they can stream audio over Bluetooth and the free iControlAV iPhone app allows you to control inputs and fiddle with the dynamic range via the accelerometer (more fun than it sounds). They can also connect to internet radio over the home network. Yours to buy from June 2010 except for the premium glossy black VSX-1025 which will be available in July.

Plugged into the AV Receivers were the BDP LX53 and BDP-330 Blu Ray players, which have built in Ethernet and optional wireless dongles. Both support support 36-bit Deep Colour, can upscale DVDs and connect to youtube. And of course they work with the iControlAC iPhone app as well.

Pioneer also had three iPod docks on display – the XW NAC3 and XW-NAC1 and the XW NAV1. The creatively named XW NAC3 and XW-NAC1 both come equipped with docking stations for two iPods or iPhones at once. Silly at first glance, the “SHUFFLE” function means music can be played back from both of the docked iPods or iPhones at random. Powerful mathematics is at work allowing for a DJ-like effect transitioning from one track to the next relatively seamlessly. It’s not quite DJ Shadow-in-a-box but it’s fine for background music and perfect for Bring-Your-Own-iPod style parties.

The top of the line XW-NAC3 model offers internet connectivity via a LAN interface and is DLNA certified. The words DLNA are normally enough to have me reaching for my wallet, as DLNA devices are awesome. The XW-NAC3 is no exception. When hooked up to the net, you can access internet radio or play back music from DLNA compliant home servers – theoretically you can playback all the music in your house. There is a USB port for connecting mass storage devices to playback a variety of formats (MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV or even FLAC). files stored on it. There is even a clock.

The XW-NAV1 goes far beyond an iPod dock as is more of a digital media player. It has an iPod dock (obviously) but also features an FM tuner, CD/DVD player and can connect to a TV via HDMI for a high quality, upscaled Audio/Visual experience. The composite video out allows you to watch video stored or streamed via the iPod on a TV and a USB port plays back most media files. A neat CD-to USB ripping function lets you copy CDs onto USB without getting a PC involved.

The XW-NAC3 and XW-NAC1 iPod speaker systems will be available as from June 2010, followed by the XW-NAV1 in July.

Nero Multimedia Suite 10 addresses the burning issue

Nero Burning ROM has one of my favourite product names jokes for the past 10 years (and I always fiddle whilst burning my CD-ROMs). As a college DJ I used Nero to burn mix CDs most of the way through uni, compile photos onto photo CDs and even transfer the occasional movie file to DVD. However times have changed and I no longer burn as much media as I used to. I can DJ off iPods of Laptops (Serato/Native Instruments make some wonderful devices). Things have moved online for photosharing (Flickr, Picasa) or even general files (words can’t express how much I love Dropbox). Even media plays back effortlessly across my network – I have an Apple TV & LG BD390 and Packard Bell, Western Digital and Popcorn Hour all provide similar products.

Nero-Multimedia-Suite-10
A CD from the olden days

I still burn media occasionally but it’s no longer the first choice for sharing media. Nero have addressed this with the release of the Nero Multimedia Suite 10, which is a 3-in-1 package of Video Editing, Burning and Backup. Nero now has a foot firmly in both camps – physical and online media. NMS10 allows you to manage all your media, burn it to physical discs or share it online as well as the ability to securely back it up.

Video Editing
My favourite new feature was the in built Video Editing – very powerful yet flexible solution. Working with pretty much any format you can throw at it you can edit and export easily to various sites with relative easy. Out of the box it allows pretty impressive Video editing – not dissimilar to iMovie HD and in some areas edges towards Final Cut Express. You can make quick, simple edits for standard footage or you can really get your hands dirty with advanced video editing and authoring tools for Standard and High Definition movies. It includes features such as true multi-track editing, advanced Picture-in-Picture and overlay effects with full key frame control, Chroma Key, Image Matt, Lens Distortion, Edge Feathering and has 60 Menu Templates.

Nero MediaHub
As the name implies this is a Media hub for playback, management and simple editing of multimedia files and as you would expect allows you to quickly organise, sort, search, play back and share music, photo and video files. It does pretty decent work as a one stop shop – from the same window you can playback the most popular audio, video and photo formats such as AVCHD, MKV, FLV, FLAC, DVD, non-commercial Blu-ray, MPEG-4 AVC, (S)-VCD, AVCREC, audio CDs, as well as music play-lists and slideshows. It is pretty easy to publish music, slideshows and video projects to CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs (including 24 progressive frame high quality cinema formats) or upload to leading social media communities, including YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and even the My Nero community.

Nero Burning ROM
If you do need to burn things Nero have you more than covered with a serious burning package. SecurDisc™ 2.0 technology is used to increase the lifespan, reliability, security and integrity and now includes support for Blu-ray Discs, in addition to CDs and DVDs making data readable regardless of scratches, age or deterioration and accommodates password protection and encryption, while ensuring its authenticity with digital signatures. Using the Nero DiscSpan and Nero DiscMerge utilities, you can burn oversized files to multiple discs or different types of media.

Nero BackItUp & BurnEasily back up files, folders, drives and the entire system in a few easy steps and protects entire systems from the effects of hard drive crashes, system failures and virus attacks. The built in one-click Autobackup function, automatically backups files either in the background or via scheduling and can also recover data from digital cameras, thumb drives or damaged media. There is also a syncing feature keeping files or folders organised on hard drives, flash drives or online.

For the price it is hard to find fault with this package, covering as it does the latest and greatest technology for burning physical media, robust online back up and surprisingly advance video editing facilities.

Nero Multimedia Suite 10 available now at www.nero.com for £59.99. Starting April 12th, Nero Multimedia Suite 10 will be available in retail stores worldwide with a suggested retail price of £59.99.