Pioneer BDP-140: Networking and 3D Blu-ray media powerhouse

The Pioneer BDP-140 is the first model from Pioneer’s new 3D Blu-ray player range. With the high level of competition, it’s a difficult market to enter, so Pioneer have picked a unique selling point: it’s all about the networking.

BDP140

The BDP-140 has an Ethernet port (for wired integration), as well as wifi (via the Pioneer AS-WL300 wireless LAN converter) to connect the 3D Blu-ray player to your home network. This’ll unleash a wealth of content options.

By hooking up 3D Blu-ray with the internet, users will be able to use BD-Live to stream web-based extras onto the system.

An internet-connected BDP-140 also brings YouTube videos and Picasa photo albums to your TV, utilising the same interface used for all the other types of playback. Other developers, take note: a unified interface is key to internet TV.

The player is also DLNA certified, so video, audio and photo from compatible computers (or tablets/phones) can be streamed straight to the device and onto the big screen.

The supported formats include MKV, DivX Plus HD, WMV and MP3, plus a JPEG viewer for photo slideshows – all playable via CD, DVD, USB or LAN.

A real killer-feature is the iPhone and Android remote control app. As long as the player is connected to the internet, Pioneer’s iControlAV2 app allows wireless control of playback and navigation functions.

It wouldn’t be much of Pioneer product without great sound – and so you’ll find support for a broad range of audio and video disc types, as well as a developed multi-channel audio experience.

High-definition audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio are supported, outputted natively as bitstream or decoded internally and output as uncompressed multi-channel LPCM on HDMI. For non-audiophiles, the means sweet sound.

And – like all Pioneer products, it comes in a wonderful bachelor black – the industry standard for serious audio/visual hardware.

Get smart with the latest release from Dune – the HDI Smart B1

If you want to enjoy your multimedia in full HD – that’s 1080p – then take a look at the all-singing, all-dancing Dune HD Smart B1 High Definition Network Media Player with Blu-Ray Player.

The makers promise you the full cinema 3D experience, from the likes of 3D Toy Story 3 – from the comfort of the couch – thanks to its “RealD” compatibility.

Dune-HDI

The box also offers compatibility with multiple formats, so you can watch HDD, Blu-Ray and DVD from your local network or an SD Memory Card – and if you’re listening to your favourite tunes, it offers Dolby True HD techology too. But it doesn’t stop there. No, you can also surf the web on your TV using the built-in Web browser – and catch up with your soaps using the likes of BBC iPlayer,

Iphone and Ipad owners can also download a free control app, which turns your Mac device into a remote control for the HDI Dune, using the magic of Wi-Fi.

If you don’t want to splash out the full £249 now, opt for the Dune HD Smart H1 (£179) or Dune HD Smart D1 (£199) and you can choose to add a Blu-Ray player later on, although at £139, it makes the device more pricey in the end.

The HDI Dune is available from www.amp3.co.uk.

AirTies: Hands on

Let’s face it: streaming video technology tends to be a bit crap. The problem is, manufacturers make bold claims such as a line-of-sight range of 50 metres. And then when you bring it home, you get two metres and a kick in the face (metaphorical).  We met the nice people at AirTies, who then promised us a streaming video range of 50m LOS. Uh-oh.

AirTies

And everything turned out okay. The range held up in our real-world conditions, and we were streaming. Proving the device isn’t useless, let’s talk about the features.

The wireless inside the system works in either 2.4 or 5 GHz – 802.1 1b/g/n. The company seemed particularly excited by the 5 GHz band. It allows high-speed 300 Mbps transfers, which means the three HD streams can travel across the device without losing any quality.

It also means that the already crowded 2.4 GHz network will not interfere with your streaming operations. It also means that you’re not at risk from microwave interference.

And even if you do choose to operate on a slower speed, AirTies has a unique software that detects interfering channels and cycles through alternatives until it finds the least crowded network. Due to 2ms buffer on video content, the routers can do this without interrupting the streaming content. From our tests, that’s entirely true.

Setup is simple. The Air 4420 routers (of which you get two in the Wireless Kit) have a one-touch network set-up. Plug one into your existing route, the other into your DLNA-compatible device, and push a button on each. That’s it. The routers will then talk to each other and create a secure WPA connection. There’s a web-interface to access this later, but you’ll probably never need to.

If you have trouble with the device’s range, and always buying more and create a mesh network, extending the range by another 50m LOS.

There’s even a USB port for plugging in a USB stick or external hard drive. Any files on the USB device can then be accessed remotely over network. Every AirTies box can have a different USB device, and it does the same for USB printers, too.  A DLNA streamer with a built-in Media Server? Sweet.

All-in-all, it’s a great offering. For £89.99, you can get your DLNA TV connected, hook up your console to the internet at speeds of 300Mbps and create your own media server (or two). Oh, and we got it working through 10M and two quite thick walls.

AirTies: Dry your hair, cook dinner – and still enjoy a wireless connection

Connected TVs are big news nowadays – with the ability to download videos and catchup TV direct to your TV set, they sound like the perfect multimedia solution. But because our homes are so full of gadgetry (maybe some more than others!) there’s an added problem.

Wireless connections can be at the mercy of signals from other gadgetry such as microwaves and hair dryers, which means that your connection can prove jittery and suffer from lag.

AirTies-unit

Step in the good folk at AirTies, who have taken pity on us techno geeks by coming up with Air 4420, a solution that connects hybrid and IPTVs and Ethernet-enabled TVs and players wirelessly to your home network and the internet – and they promise it can all happen with one-touch self-service installation.

The Air 4420 wireless devices are installed in pairs. One is connected to the IP Gateway while the other connects to the IPTV set top-box or the Ethernet port of a network-enabled TV or player. Next, says AirTies, you simply press a button to wirelessly connect the TV or the player to the net or your home network. If you have several TVs, wireless repeaters can be added to extend the wireless range.

Because Air 4420 operates at 5GHz frequency, it offers 22 channels for interference-free, high-speed 300Mbps wireless networking, so you can watch High Definition video, listen to music or view photos at high speeds.

Add an external USB disk drive and you have a UPnP AV compatible media server which will allow video, music and photos to be displayed on UPnP AV compatible TVs and players.

For more details log on to www.airties.com

Roxio Creator 2011 review: 3D LOLcat fun

3D: love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. It’s infiltrated movies, taking over television and now it’s working its way into Roxio’s home video editing software. We got our hands-on with the latest version, Roxio Creator 2011 Pro, to see if adding 3D will make it an Avatar-style success, or just daze and confuse users.

Roxio-Creator-2011

The software lets users transform videos and photos into 3D, as well as edit true 3D video recorded on a 3D camera. Unfortunately, with both videos and images, the old-fashioned anaglyph cyan/red conversion procedure sometimes adds a subtle feeling of depth to the action – other times, it does nothing at all. It’s both temperamental and difficult to use.

Obviously, this isn’t Roxio’s fault. The cost of converting a feature-length film into 3D sometimes racks up into hundreds of millions of dollars – and it still doesn’t produce great results (Clash of the Titans, anyone?) The idea that it would work flawlessly in reasonably-priced home software is optimistic at best, lying at worst. Despite offering to convert 720p HD movies on-the-fly, Roxio’s 2D to 3D conversion is not worth the steep-learning curve.

That’s not to say the entire 3D offering is bad. If you have a native 3D camera (either anaglyph or stereoscopic), this is one of the few pieces of off-the-shelf software that lets you edit it – you’ll get an infinitely better effect than conversion. 3D monitors and camcorders are yet to really penetrate into the market, however, so this really is for more specialised users.

Once edited, you can output in a variety of industry-standard 3D formats: standard side-by-side, one over the other (for playback on a 3D projector) or even old-school red/cyan. Roxio’s even included the option to upload directly to YouTube 3D.

While 3D may be a bit of a letdown, there are definitely two features that make Roxio worth looking at. The first is the Roxio Streamer feature. Running this adds a DLNA-compatible server to your PC, which allows you to stream content from your computer, over the local network and into compatible devices (game consoles, media hubs). It also connects to a web service, so you can stream over the internet to other PCs.

It can also serve files to Android and iPhone smartphones – as long as your pay a £15 annual subscription to be a “Premium” user. The extra costs are a constant annoyance: more effects, more soundscapes for the audio manager, Blu-Ray playback – all optional extras.

The feature that keeps Roxio on our hard drives, however, is the automatic video editing. Simply drag and drop in your video files, choose a mode, some timings, pick a soundtrack and Roxio will mix it together and output it to a format of your choice – all automatically. The results are surprisingly good – like a slideshow for your videos. It’s great for mixing-down holiday videos, removing the labour of stringing all those clips together.

It’s certainly better than the old Roxio, taking the best bits and adding more. The 3D addition is decidedly average, however, and if you’re interested in making your old 2D movies into 3D, you should probably give this a miss. In fact, maybe give up altogether. For native 3D editing, this is as powerful a solution as you’ll find on the mass market – but you’ll need the equipment to make the most of it.

Acer liquidmini: DLNA magic in the palm of your hand

You probably know Acer for their desktops and laptops. Last year they ventured into phones and introduced the liquid range. Now they are follow up the powerful Acer liquidmetal with Acer liquidmini. It is the smallest phone in the liquid range with a 3.2” screen but it certainly packs a lot in it.

Liquidmini

One of the standout features is it is DLNA certified so you can wirelessly view files from your computer on the phone. A lot of TVs are now DLNA enabled so you can stream music and video from the liquidmini to your DLNA enabled TV. The liquidmini also comes preloaded with the Acer Social Jogger App which aggregates all the updates from Facebook and Twitter into one feed for you read. Acer liquidmini comes with Android 2.2, also known as Froyo, providing fast access to internet. It has all the usual specs you can expect including 5MP camera and 512 MB RAM. You can expand the memory as it has a Micro SD slot, perhaps store a movie and stream it to your TV?

One thing it does lack is the screen resolution. It has 3.2” HVGA (320×480) screen resolution. When so many smartphones have AMOLED screens and offer HD resolution, this is disappointing. However, Acer has made this with the user in mind as it has a unique user interface installed by Acer over Android. This allows for you to see information even when the screen is locked and quickly start up most used applications. If you are bored with the boring silver and black look of phones, the liquidmini comes in various colours, including blue, lime green and pink. Acer liquidmini is a mid-range with some good features. It beats the HTC Wildfire but not quite up to the iPhone 4.

Available from 11 April. Unfortunately no price has been announced.

TWIG: Three’s Human Hotspots, Chilli WatchCam and LG’s NetCast

The Week in Gadgets

If you see one of these dudes in the streets, sidle up to them, they’ll probably have something you’ll find useful  – wifi. The ‘Human Hotspots’ will use Three’s MiFi®, which uses Three’s 3G network to create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

Three-Human-HotSpots

I own a MiFi (I went out and bought one … well it was online so I stayed in and bought one … the point is Three didn’t give one to me) and it’s a spectacularly useful device – especially with the array of tablets, smartphones and gaming devices I carry on my person. Research by Three has shown that one third (31 per cent) of Brits are planning to buy one of this year’s hot mobile gadgets such as a tablet, Sony Playstation PSP and an Amazon Kindle, as a gift this Christmas, while 60 per cent of people already own a mobile gadget themselves.

You’ll find Three’s Human Hotspots in:

  • London  (Friday 19th November, if you can turn back time)
  • Cardiff (Friday 26th November)
  • Bristol (Saturday 27th November)
  • Nottingham (Saturday 4th December)
  • Newcastle (Saturday 11th December)

It seems like only yesterday that we were looking at Swann’s range of spy gadgets. Because it was. But it you didn’t quite get your fill of espionage related goods then you are in lucky as Chilli Technology have released the Watch Cam, a £44.99 time piece with a secret. Well a secret heavily implied in the name. The Watch Cam comes equipped with audio and video recording capabilities and can take jpeg stills as well. Recording is a one-touch affair and videos can be played back or edited on the PC. The internal memory is 2GB, which stores up to 2 hours of video captured via the 1.3 Megapixel/CMOS image sensor. The resolution is nothing fancy – simple 640 x 480 VGA, but you are unlikely to record a feature film on a watch (insert Clockers, Watchmen or War and Timepiece joke here). The battery should accommodate 2.5 hours of recording time. Chilli-Tech.

Own an LG TV? There’s a chance it just got a little bit better. Unlike the rapidly disappearing functionality of the Google TV, LG has enhanced its NetCast service to bring more internet TV services to users. Apps for your TV are the “next big thing” and LG have expanded their service offering to include Acetrax, Picasa, Google Maps, Facebook™, Twitter™ and an internet radio application. Bear in mind that a lot of these TVs feature DLNA, which means they can access your movies, pictures and music streamed over your home network. Which is insanely cool and slowly makes those set-top boxes piling up under your TV obsolete.

Acer Aspire RevoView Networked HD Media Player – Digital media content viewed simply

Although it was announced way back in May, Acer have only just released the new RevoView Networked HD Media Player, conveniently in time for the Christmas shopping market we can assume. The RevoView is being marketed as being the ‘best TV companion’ for its abilities to playback media content from all DLNA certified devices, so that users can share and enjoy digital media content simply and effectively.

Acer-Aspire-RevoView

In short, Acer’s new device is a DLNA certified media player, which, with its network capability and full HD 1080p playback via the built-in HDMI interface, enables watching digital content on a high definition TV easy and intuitive.

It is the simplicity of how the Acer Aspire RevoView allows digital content to be viewed and enjoyed on a TV that gives Acer’s latest gadget greater appeal over other media players. In just ‘four simple steps’ consumers of the RevoView can effortlessly glide through video, photo collections and music.

Users just simply save content onto a USB device or memory card, plug in the device or card into the Aspire RevoView, connect the machine to a TV and sit back, relax and enjoy digital media collections in HD on a television.

An Ethernet port provides direct access to the internet, enabling users to watch YouTube videos in HD on their own TV or casually browse through Picasa or Flickr photo slide-shows in the comfort of their own living room.
For even greater comfort, user friendliness and to avoid having to wearily walk over to the machine itself to control digital media libraries, the Acer Aspire RevoView comes equipped with a 26-key remote control with ‘hotkeys’, enabling users to navigate favourite functions with greater ease, accuracy and swiftness.

Another plus of the RevoView, which is definitely worth mentioning, is that it can be used as an external USB hard drive, to help ease congestion of rapidly mounting digital libraries.

Being neatly and compactly designed, the Acer Aspire RevoView, with its high storage capacity, seamless playback functionalities and reserved £119.99 price tag, could well be a good companion for a Christmas stocking as well as a TV.