End of the year roundup articles are a great sources of research for future purchases. Its allows you to quickly weed through the latest hype and view the products that clearly made a lasting impression on the reviewer. At Cnet.com Steve Guttenberg has compiled a what he deems the 10 best audiophile speakers under $3500 a pair . At $1,895 a pair Magnepan's MG 1.6/QR, pictured above, took the top spot. Jerry Del Colliano at hometheaterreview.com also compiled a list of the 10 best audiophile speakers but didn't restrict the price point and focused more on the speakers that he views will have the most money to value ratio for the future generation of audiophiles. His counter list can be found here.
Elan is set to launch a brand new range of automation products for 2010. The g! control system which they describe as their "biggest" in the companies history will launch in two phases, with the software available in April and the hardware coming in September. The software works with legacy Elan and HomeLogic systems. The announcement didn't really include too many details but the company says the system is a mix of Elan and HomeLogic, the IP-based control systems acquired by Elan, with a consistent interface across all platforms, which include an OLED display, iPhone, PC and TV. Integrators will be able to put together a decent multi-room system for less than $5,000, competing in price point with both Control4 and the Crestron Prodigy line. From the comments posted below the CEPro announcement however, it looks as though some system installers may need more convincing before this release is accepted as a real breakthrough.
At a press event Monday Boxee, the open source media center, unveiled it's new beta as well as a prototype dedicated set-top box they built with partner D-Link. The Boxee Box will cost around $200 with a RF remote, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and outputs for HDMI (the only video output), optical audio, analog stereo audio, as well as two USB slots the company envisions being used to add a webcam, external hard drive or antenna for receiving over-the-air programming. It comes with a simple multi-directional remote. The new beta version of the Boxee software, which launches to the general public over the next four weeks and goes fully public in January features a completely redone interface as well as several new social networking features. You can follow the development and view some of the beta's screen shots at the Boxee Blog.
Last week the FCC admitted that CableCARD, a system originally designed to open up the market for video content, is a failure. According to their own document, “The Commission’s CableCARD rules have resulted in limited success in developing a retail market for navigation devices. Certification for plug-and-play devices is costly and complex.” Ars Technica points out that in the FCC report, a grand total of fourteen non-leased set top boxes were available in the US at retail in 2008. That means that nearly every set-top box in the US is leased by a cable company, allowing them virtually unlimited pricing control and no incentive to innovate. Until very recently, you couldn't even get your Windows PC to be a DVR unless you bought it OEM from HP or Dell or someone, where they would install the CableCARD for you at the time of purchase. The FCC is currently taking suggestions on how to replace CableCARD with something that would actually make the network open.
HTPC remotes that work seamlessly with web browsing or other applications not specifically designed for couch computing are few and far between. The Logitech's diNovo Mini keyboard is $150 dollars and is still fairly large, the Air Mouse Pro iPhone / iTouch application is a great if you already own either device. Lastly an unknown company called EFO makes a BlackBerry sized device that has a trackpad and QWERTY keyboard and only cost $40 dollars . The kit comes with a USB receiver, rechargeable Li-ion batteries and doesn't require any software or drivers to work with Windows, Mac, Linux or any of the game systems that allow USB keyboards. ExtremeMHz has a review of the unit here.
These Cubic Switchplate by Design Glut create the illusion of a three dimensional cube-shaped light box or wall plug without taking up anymore real estate than a normal flat switch. A clever $8 item.
The Chumby is a small alarm clock sized embedded computer which provides Internet and LAN access via a Wi-Fi connection. Through this connection, the Chumby runs various software widgets allowing the device to act as a internet radio player, video player, picture frame, alarm clock, stock ticker and currently has over 1500 different available widgets. All widgets are free with no subscriptions to pay and no plans to sign up for. The newest version, the Chumby One, features a 3.5 inch LCD color touchscreen, a 454 MHz ARM processor, 64 MB DDR SDRAM, 2 GB internal microSD card, AC or battery power, 2W mono speaker, Accelerometer and Wi-fi connectivity (802.11 b/g) all for $99.
Briz Solar Powered Window Blinds designed by Nari Kim and Phullip Lim uses water as a cooling agent. There are two pipes beneath the blinds which help to circulate water which gets evaporated as dry mist. It is this mist which cools the breeze which enters the window. So you get natural air and the sunlight streaming through the blinds is collected and used to power the cooling system.
Asus recently demonstrated a revised version of the Asus Eee computer-in-a-keyboard. Asus has replaced the previous 5-inch resistive touchscreen with a capacitive version and will support gesture control features akin to Apple’s new Magic Mouse. The wireless receiver will not be internal as originally planned, and they have moved the antennae outside the keyboard hull. While testing the internal version, Asus discovered that the keyboard's metallic body "greatly" reduced the antennae's reception but because Asus liked the metallic look, the company decided to stick with aesthetics and make the wireless receiver external. The bad news is that Asus doesn't plan to ship till sometime early next year.
The Wall of Sound by Brothers is a $4500, handcrafted iPod dock with a simple 3' x 4' frame that weighs in at 225 pounds. The 125-watt system promises a frequency response of 40Hz–20,000kHz, 95 dB sensitivity and is powered by a built-in tube amplifier. Brothers are taking pre-orders now for their second production run as the first run is already sold out.
Engadget has a short tutorial on how to automatically remove commercials from all your recorded programs within Windows 7 Media Center. By installing two free utilities and ShowAnalyzer ($30) you can have the software analyze your shows and detect and remove all of the commercials without any interaction. Engadget also explains how to setup rules for preventing commercial free channels like PBS from being processed. Complete article is here.
Next month, custom solution provider Triad Speakers, Inc. will begin delivering dealers its DesignerSeries invisible speakers. When installed, the speaker's flat surface can be plastered over with a 2mm skim coat of plaster and paint, texture or wallpaper and becomes completely invisible. The transducer, which functions much like a magnet and voice coil in a traditional loudspeaker system, is attached to the aluminum honeycomb core which serves as the vibrating element to generate sound waves. The principle is similar to that of a piano or guitar wherein the strings are amplified by the soundboard. The panels require only 25.5 mm of mounting depth; they are designed to fit easily between the wall studs in typical home construction. The DesignerSeries consist of three monaural and two stereo versions. The models use either one (small rooms), two (small/medium rooms) or four transducers (large rooms) each per panel providing 95, 99 and 105 dB maximum loudness respectively. All are capable of frequency response from 100Hz - 20 kHz and must be used with dual channel analog 120Hz filters with limiters. For deeper bass response, a Triad InWall Subwoofer may be added. MSRP for the monaural versions (small, medium and large rooms) are $550, $750 and $1,050 (each). MSRP for the stereo versions (small and medium rooms) are $740 and $1,040 (each).
HP has announced its new HP LD4200tm 42" LCD display with touch functionality. The LD4200tm is aimed at businesses for displaying interactive graphics, text, video and advertisements and feature full 1080p resolution, 1000:1 contrast ratio (3000:1 DCR) and 178 degree viewing angle. The HP LD4200tm 42-inch wide-screen LCD monitor starts at $2,799 and is expected to be available in December. HP also announced its L2105tm , a consumer level 21" multi-touch 1080p monitor retailing for $299.
The BeoVision 10 is B&O's slimmest 40-inch flat screen TV to date. The entire TV solution is covered by an elegant front glass with a sophisticated anti-reflection coating and framed by a high-gloss polished aluminum profile on both front and rear. The screen has an electric curtain and is based on LED-backlight, 200/240Hz LCD panel offering 1920×1080p Full HD resolution. It has integrated stereo speaker placed below the screen and covered by a fabric front. The BeoVision 10 is available now, priced at around $8,750.
The Patriot Box Office all-in-one media player can do full 1080P HD video with support for the most popular media formats (H.264, ISO, VOB, DivX, xVid, MKV, MOV, MPEG and more). The box includes three USB ports for any USB storage device, internal 2.5" hard drive (not included), UPnP streaming, 10/100 Ethernet connection and optional WiFi USB adapter. The Patriot Box Office will retail for $129.99 but if you pre order from Amazon you can get a $30 mail in rebate and a free WiFi adapter.
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