Posts tagged review

Logitech Harmony 890 review

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This is an awesome remote with a huge HAF and WAF (Husband Acceptance Factor and Wife Acceptance Factor). I’m really please with it after using it for a week. I really don’t have any remotes hanging around anymore, and not have to point the remote at the device is huge, especially with multi-device macros and sequences. Looking at my pros and cons, it looks like I don’t like it, but it really is one of the best recent gadgets I’ve bought!

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Nokia E61 review

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On my last trip to the far East (China, HK, Taiwan, Singapore) I bought the Nokia E61 phone + PDA. This phone is quad band GSM (for best North America coverage, yes, places in the US still use 850 MHz) with 3G (2100 MHz, Europe only capability), bluetooth, Wi-Fi (802.11g/b). This is a true world phone, expanding its coverage into the previous no-man’s land of Korea and Japan (3G). It also has Blackberry capability via GPRS/EDGE. I paid around $410 USD after tax rebate. It can be purchased on the internet for $350 + S&H.
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Philips 37″ LCD TV review: 37PF7320A/37

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I bought this TV for the bedroom at Costco about a month ago…. The price at the time was $1799 after rebate, it’s now $1699 without rebate.

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D-Link DSM-320 and DSM-520 review

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A friend of mine lent me the DSM-320 (it’s coming back soon, Patrick) and I evaluated it to decide to buy the ($229) DSM-520. Both boxes are UPnP AV streaming devices that let you stream audio, video, etc. from a PC.

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Here’s the differences (all in favor of the DSM-520):

  • Supports WPA encryption on wireless
  • Supports high definition component and HDMI outputs
  • Has plug-in on front for USB drive

First impressions:

  • The box is quick and easy to setup, and found Windows Media Connect, NeroHome and D-Link Media Server without problems.
  • Firmware on both is clunky, and has even crashed a few times on the DSM-520 requiring a reboot
  • D-Link Media Server software is poorly implemented, alternatives including the live video transcoding capable NeroHome (my favourite)
  • Few video formats can be read “out-of-the-box”
  • The current firmware strangely can only be set to FF/Rewind OR jump to location. This is most annoying.

After a few months:

Overall, I still really like the DSM-520, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a high-definition streaming video player for a big-screen TV. It’s relatively inexpensive, and works quite well.

  • You can rip a DVD (I use DVDdecrypter) and play it back later. This is great, but several DVDs change audio language abruptly in mid-movie, requiring the rest of the movie be watched on a computer.
  • NeroHome is my preferred media server, supporting many more video formats for live transcoding than the D-Link Media Server
  • Only D-Link Media Server and NeroHome support fast-forward and rewind (Windows Media Connect 2.0 chokes)
  • I intend to buy an Infrant ReadyNAS NV, which will allow me to stream directly off that, without ever having to keep or turn on a computer in the house (supports UPnP AV).
  • I really wish they’d improve FF/Rev, including both jump, and some kind of “jump forward or backwards a few seconds”
  • I would love to see some kind of webbrowser built-in.
  • Pictures are still broken (either stretched to the wrong aspect ratio, or too small). This needs a bug fix desperately from D-Link

Microsoft XBOX360 review

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This one is not going to be easy for you XBOX fans, but here goes.

I bought the XBOX360 on eBay for $540 including shipping and handling. I have the premium console (list $399 not incl. tax). A quick check of Walmart last week revealed this is now in stock. This is the 2nd version of the XBOX360, with the “orange” screen of death problems (overheating?) worked out.
I bought an extra wireless controller, remote control, and a copy of Quake4.

First impressions:

Graphics and startup are underwhelming. The original XBOX had so much more of a WOW factor, but mainly because of the signature Halo title that accompanied it. The XBOX360 is possibly the loudest device in my cabinet, requiring significantly more sound-proofing than any other component, including my television.

1 month later:

Beefs:

  1. Stupid thing won’t stream video off my computer. I BOUGHT IT FOR THAT. (Windows Media Connect gives it the ability to stream music or photos only!) I ended up buying a D-Link DSM-520 to do what the XBOX360 won’t. To summarize the problem, XBOX360’s only stream VIDEO off an attached HDD, iPod, or Media Center PC. So you say, why wouldn’t I move my PC to Windows Media Center? Firstly, Windows Vista will have this feature built-in according to the pundits, just a matter of waiting for the release. Secondly, I run Windows XP Professional, Home and Media Center are huge steps down from this full featured OS.
  2. Games suck and are slow. Quake4 is clearly a bad port onto the console, and graphics are average, and occasionally jerky. Shame on them. On the other hand this is the first time I’ve heard anyone swear in a video game.
  3. Must…… release……….. Halo………… 3.
  4. Can’t download and play, or in fact, download and do anything (need to stay on the download screen or your download is fried).
  5. Can’t surf the net. This would be nice.
  6. No HDMI. And they call themselves high-definition.

Things I like:

  1. It’s kind of a cool, well-designed box
  2. Wireless controllers are awesome.
  3. Plays classic XBOX games like HALO2 quite well, in high-definition widescreen.

What I would buy now:

My XBOX360 is for sale. I really like the DSM-520, and can wait for Halo3 and the HD-DVD add-on drive for the XBOX360. The DSM-520 is really good at what it does! See my review on that in upcoming posts. The XBOX360 is just not what I wanted or needed. I suppose if I had a terabyte of storage on a noisy Media Center PC in another room, this would be an awesome solution for me, but right now it bites.

JVC HD-61Z786 HD-ILA projection television review

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Well, I bought the television in August 2005, so I figured it was time for me to write a review. I bought it for $3100 USD from Ultimate Electronics in Boulder, CO. Interestingly enough, I had to talk my wife OUT of buying the 70″ model of the same television (given living room size, you’ll have to forgive me, but 70″ is JUST TOO BIG.
First impressions:

This TV is bright, and the colors are fantastic and bright. The 720p three-chip LCOS is spectacular, and my four high-def sources are well-served by the TV. For reference, my high-definition sources (all dutifully set to 720p, regardless of source image) are:

  1. Hughes HR10-250 High Definition DirecTiVo
  2. NeuNeo HVD108 High Definition (upsampling) DVD player
  3. D-Link DSM-520
  4. Microsoft XBOX360

I’ve also tested the other sources:

  1. Laptop computer (SONY Vaio VGN-T350P) with VGA output
  2. Internal ATSC tuner on the JVC

6 months later:

Well, I still really enjoy the TV, but here’s some of my beefs.

  1. It’s loud, I put sound-absorbent panels on the wall to dampen the fan noise. It still bothers me, and sets up resonances on the cabinet from time to time which can only be solved by “hitting the TV”.
  2. Only 1 HDMI input (heck, I have 2, soon 3 HDMI sources, what am I supposed to do? I’m thinking of buying a multi-HDMI input receiver to do the switching, but REALLY!)
  3. Input switching is ponderously slow. I mean seconds slow. I think discrete codes and a Pronto Neo universal remote will solve this, but for now, ugh.
  4. Scaling options for different source aspect ratios are non-existent! My Panasonic plasma could do all kind of anamorphic scales to put a 4:3 image on a 16:9 screen. This doesn’t do any of them. I really miss this, and this REALLY takes from it’s ability to be a suitable HTPC monitor (it can’t even accept a 720p on the VGA input!).
  5. HDMI input claims not to accept DVI signals (from computers). I don’t even know if this is true.
  6. Only 2 component inputs (yes, with 4 sources, I use HDMI, and use receiver to switch 2 high-definition inputs to get to 3 component inputs and 1 HDMI)
  7. Low-definition content looks terrible. I’m not even sure anyone can do this right except for Faroudja (not even Genesis!). This is the model that supposedly has an improved scaling engine, but I see no evidence of this.

Here’s what’s good:

  1. There ain’t no color wheel. I find wheel noise even more compelling that the fan noise on this unit.
  2. Colors are still great, bright. Even with direct sunlight on the screen (a common problem in Boulder) the screen still works.
  3. Sharpness on high-definition inputs is spectacular.
  4. It works at altitude (I live at 7400 ft)
  5. It’s really thin, much thinner than comparable DLP units and LCD units.
  6. It’s not washed out like the SHARP I was considering in the same period.

What would I buy today:

Honestly, I like the TV a lot. That being said, the new round of 65″+ LCDs (SHARP, etc.) are finally losing that “washed-out” look, so I may opt for one of these soon, and end up with the 61″ in the bedroom. I will never buy a DLP, because the color wheel throws away so much brightness potential (1/3 the time illuminating each color!). Also, after the newest round of 1080P lieing from Samsung (their so-called 1080P set was only 1280×720, hey, that’s my resolution AND needs a color wheel) I’m inclined to go to LCDs and forever forego projection.

NetGear SC101 review

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Do not buy the SC101 from NetGear. Since I work at a hard disk company, this box seemed to make a lot of sense ($119 including shipping), but it’s still buggy as hell. I put two 500GB drives (mirrored) in the box, thinking it would be a good idea to use EMC-Dantz Retrospect to back up my striped terabyte in my desktop. It hangs every time. Unlike other NAS boxes, this is actually a SAN box (I know, I know SANDBOX, hehe). Well, the main difference between NAS and SAN is that the SC101 appears as a LOCAL drive, requires special drivers that don’t work on anything but Windows, and hangs the computer on large transfers (like a backup). It’s clear that ZETERA (the company making the drivers, etc.) has not worked out the bugs on this system. I’ll revisit this review if new drivers solve the problems I’ve been having.

Well, I guess I can use it for other stuff, but it’s been a sincere waste of time, and I’m contemplating moving to USB external storage for backups (or using a second internal terabyte to backup the first).

Mac Mini review

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OK, my Mac Mini arrived on Friday, and I spent the weekend playing with it. Overall, a good little machine, with a really sexy user interface, and a lot of power under the hood. This is my first time using a Mac in almost 5 years, so a lot has changed (including Mac OS X)

Here’s some notes, on my use of this machine to drive my 16:9 plasma (Panasonic, 852×480 real resolution, VGA input) and home theatre setup (Yamaha RX-V1400, connected optically):

  1. They really, really should have made the 3.5 mm audio plug be the dual use analog/digital audio plug like the Apple Airport Express.
  2. They really need to work on uninstallers and the device driver interface. Take one step beyond a basic installer, and you’re typing unix SUDO commands at a command line.
  3. My M-Audio Transit is still not working, because it’s not streaming AC-3 audio to the optical out port.
  4. I ended up buying the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard (very nice), but I had to pick the non-bluetooth RF Gyration mouse.
  5. Sync for Palm is built into the OS, but sync for PocketPC isn’t. I had to buy the $40 Missing Sync program to do this. (I have an iPaq 1945)
  6. Sync for my Motorola V600 phone is built right into the OS.
  7. For wish list, I wish the device had a 1000BASE-T port.
  8. Strangely enough, OpenOffice sucks on the Mac. It uses the X11 server software (free), so it looks like a bad port onto the Mac. I’m going to try out NeoOffice which claims to solve this huge discrepancy, but (gasp) I may be forced to use Office:mac to do the heavy lifting.
  9. The resolution I like best is 1024×576 (native 16:9) but the Mac reverts to a much higher resolution every startup. Don’t know how to fix this.
  10. Maybe a little too much of the power of this Mac is hidden under the hood. I wish some things were a little more configurable, or a little less rigid.
  11. Safari is a very fast browser: I tried IE, Camino, Firefox, and they’re all slower.
  12. Windows Remote Desktop Client works great on Mac OS X
  13. All those cool expanding application dock animations are turned off by default.
  14. Natively, Mac OS X can read PostScript, and even interpret it for non-Postscript printers. (I’m told it can also write)
  15. Fire, a multiprotocol IM client for Mac, blows Messenger,etc, out of the water.
  16. I managed to get my PostScript laserprinter up and running, but to my consternation I had to enable AppleTalk on it to make this work. I’m sure there’s another way, but I haven’t figured this out.
  17. I have not got shared printing onto my Canon i9900 working on the Mac, even though I can apparently print to a printer connected to a PC.
  18. File sharing to the PCs works like a dream, and is really easy to use.
  19. I don’t like the Tomato BitTorrent client, I’ve been recommended to use the shareware Acquisition, but may try something cheaper like mlDonkey with the GUI mlMac, which is apparently fairly good (and free!) and supports a huge variety of protocols.

That’s all for now….

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