News / Media

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide 2010 Part 1

A/V gear, gadgets, Blu-ray movies, video games, and more for your holiday shopping.

November 04, 2010 by EH Staff
Can’t believe the Holiday Season is here? Neither can we, but it’s time to get that shopping done to avoid the mall crowds.We’re here to make your shopping - for electronics geeks, anyway - much easier with our Ultimate Gift Guide 2010 - a comprehensive list of electronics goodies.Have a gadget fanatic on your list? We have you covered. Blu-ray fan? We’ve rounded up some of the all-time best Blu-ray box sets that are sure to score with anyone on your list.There also are a lot of popular video games out or hitting the shelves in the next few weeks, so make sure to check out our must-have games.

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Samsung BD-C5900 3D Blu-ray Player
This Blu-ray player has just about everything you need to future-proof your entertainment system for a while. You get Blu-ray playback, 3D Blu-ray playback, support for loads of over formats and optical discs (including MPEG2, H.264, VC-1, AVCHD, DIVX HD, MKV, MP4, WMV9, 3GPP, HD JPEG formats). Then there are Samsung Apps, so you can access Netflix, Blockbuster, YouTube, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter and more (and we’re guessing the Apps list will continue to grow over the next years). About the only thing it’s missing is built-in wireless, but if you need that, it supports the LinkStick wireless adapter as well. All this in a package that weighs only 3.8 pounds.

Sony BDP-S770 Blu-ray Player
No more reason not to upgrade to Blu-ray. A player like Sony’s BDP-S770 offers enough for everyone. Along with regular Blu-ray discs, there’s 3D support for you to enjoy the latest hits. There’s DVD playback, so you don’t have to chuck your movie disc library. There’s Netflix and Amazon streaming, so you can pick an on-demand flick. There’s even DLNA certification, meaning it can tap into your network-stored media and watch home movies. The BDP-S770 has built-in WiFi, and a BD remote app lets you use your iPhone or iPod touch as a controller.

Bose SoundDock Series II
The iPod has become a necessary accessory for any workout. Dealing with sweaty earbuds, though? No fun. Let your loved-one lose those little plugs once and for all during home routines. Bose offers a handy iPod docking station, the SoundDock Series II that blasts tunes through its integrated speakers. A handheld remote is included so you can control your music from the treadmill.

Chief Automated Swing Arm Mount
If your home gym already has a TV, treat your family to a motorized arm that can reposition the set for optimal viewing. You’ll be able to see the set from the stationary bike, then press a remote control button to swivel it toward the treadmill. Chief Manufacturing’s Automated Swing Arm Mount (PXR) can support up to a 65-inch flat panel TV, and extend the display 27 inches from the wall, swivel it 90 degrees and tilt it 12 degrees.

Optoma PT100 Projector
The PT100 video projector from Optoma shoots a 60-inch widescreen image onto a wall or ceiling from less than 10 feet away, creating an instant big-screen viewing environment. The portable unit can be moved from room to room, and a variety of video components, including game consoles, computers, video player and even handheld devices, can be connected to it. A built-in 1.5-watt speaker precludes the need for an external audio system.

Lutron Maestro Wireless System
Some get-togethers are wild and crazy; others are relaxing. A lighting system like the Maestro Wireless from Lutron Electronics can set the mood for any gathering by adjusting the intensity of the lights to preset levels—all from a handy little remote. Setup is easy. Wireless dimmers install in place of a room’s standard light switches. Lighting levels are then set manually and programmed into a button on the handheld controller. The system comes with one dimmer (available in seven gloss and 20 satin finishes) and one controller.

Panasonic iPod Frame
Give that iPod user on your list a frame digital photo frame that can display video that’s stored on their mobile device. Music can be played while the 9-inch screen shows the pics. Other features include an Adjustable Angle Display, memory card slot and power-saving function.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 24 Nov 2010 20:39:00 GMT

Netflix Launches Streaming Only Service In U.S.

Prices for rent-by-mail will rise, an indication the company is pushing subscribers toward its $7.99/month higher-margin streaming video services.

By Antone Gonsalves November 22, 2010

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Netflix has launched a streaming-only video subscription service in the United States and has raised the price of its combined unlimited streaming and rent-by-mail service by $1. In launching the streaming-only service, Netflix said Monday subscribers were watching more content streamed over the Internet than on DVDs delivered by mail. Analysts expect Netflix eventually to drop the rent-by-mail service for the higher-margin streaming service.

Netflix launched the latest offering two months after launching the same service in Canada, which was successful enough to convince the company to begin the service in the U.S. The price in both countries is $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming.

In announcing the streaming-only option, Netflix raised the price of its combined unlimited streaming and rent-by-mail service by $1, to $9.99 a month. For that price, subscribers can only have a maximum of two DVDs out at one time. Plans that allow more videos to be taken out at one time have also been increased from $3 to $8 a month, depending on the number of videos a person can rent at one time.

The new prices go into effect immediately for new subscribers and in January for current members.

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Posted by chantal Tue, 23 Nov 2010 17:23:00 GMT

Vizio Adds 3D TVs, Blu-ray Players

New 3D TVs come in 55”, 47” and 42” versions with LED backlighting and Internet apps.

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By Grant Clauser November 17, 2010

Vizio is giving its XVT line a 3D upgrade. Vizio just launched three new 3D TVs to round out a product family that includes 3D active shutter glasses, two 3D Blu-ray players, high-speed HDMI cables and a Wi-Fi router optimized for the web-based apps available on many of the company’s products.

The XVT 3D TVs come in three sizes: 55”, 47” and 42”. All three 1080p LCD TVs use LED backlighting, but the two larger models employ a local-dimming full away system, while the 42” model uses edge-lit LEDs in a system Vizio calls Razor, also with local dimming. All three models feature Vizio’s Apps (VIA), as does the Blu-ray player…

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Posted by chantal Mon, 22 Nov 2010 19:15:00 GMT

Step Back and Rise Door Opening System, from Inca

Inca manufactures a complete hidden door automation mechanism that will retract a door in a wall stepping back out of the jamb and then lift the door out of the portal or the door frame. This mechanism consists of moving bearings in milled guides and adjustable fittings to attach to your door.

The motorized moving bar can be made to carry doors that weigh up to 150 lbs. without any difficulty. These machines are assembled to order. Each machine has an external junction box on a 25’ cable. All aluminum construction provides good corrosion resistance. The universal J-box accepts a wide range of controls including: radio, touch-screen, 12 VDC, dry contact, IR, and switch.

Posted by chantal Fri, 19 Nov 2010 17:26:00 GMT

Denon AVR-4311CI AirPlay Receiver First Look

by Tom Andry — last modified September 15, 2010

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Product Name: AVR-4311CI AirPlay Receiver

Manufacturer: Denon Electronics

So, what do you want in a receiver? What do you need? More importantly, what do you think you’ll need a year from now? Two years? Three? Are you interested in the latest protocols, like Apple’s new iTunes AirPlay? If you are only shucking out $200, $300, $500 for a receiver, you may well expect to upgrade every year or three. At that price point, for many, it is practically an impulse buy. But you know you’re not getting the latest features, the best amps, or all the current technology and components that are available. But if price is all that matters and you’d rather take a $500 hit every couple of years rather than a $2000 one and hope that your receiver keep you happy long enough to justify the price, that’s up to you.

Eventually, you’ll be tempted. You’ll see a new receiver come out and look at the feature set and think, “My God, it’s full of stars,” (or something to that effect). You’ll take a look at the bank, remember you’ve got a bonus check on the way, and start value shopping for B-stock. But right as you are about to pull the trigger, you have a moment of panic. Should you do it? Should you spend all that money? Will you feel like a new man the next day or will you feel like sitting in the shower, fully clothed, crying?

And then, on top of that, Denon recently announced support for Apple AirPlay, the company’s new wireless audio protocol that will support multiple products across the board. According to the Denon website:

Coming in the Fall of 2010 is a planned upgrade that provides Apple iTunes AirPlay compatibility that lets you stream your favorite music to the AVR-4311CI….

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Posted by chantal Thu, 18 Nov 2010 21:00:00 GMT

JVC 3D Projectors Get THX Certification

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JVC announced Tuesday that its 3D home theater projectors are the first of their kind of receive THX certification. The four projectors, introduced at CEDIA Expo in September, will arrive later this month.

The certification was given to the Reference Series DLA-S60 and DLA-R550, as well as the Procision Series DLA-X9 and DLA-X7. The first two are from JVC’s Professional Products Company, while the later two are from JVC U.S.A…

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Posted by chantal Wed, 17 Nov 2010 17:10:00 GMT

Test Report: Sony STR-DA4600ES A/V Receiver

By Daniel Kumin November 2010

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A generation ago, Sony ruled the consumer electronics world, establishing new market segments with every innovation and instantly owning whatever existing ones it chose to enter. Today, although it’s still a consumer electronics force to be reckoned with, Sony has to step into the cage and compete like everybody else. Fortunately for the storied brand, it continues to do so with designs like the new STR-DA4600ES A/V receiver.

The DA4600ES is as fully featured and innovative an A/V receiver as you’ll fi nd in the just-shy-of-flagship category — where most of the luxury-class receiver dollars actually get spent. Its list of goodies, both techno-useful and pure farkle, would fill a page by itself, and the receiver’s English-language manual runs to some 169 pages. Despite these riches, the newest Sony is a comparatively svelte unit, considerably smaller than the cruiser-class behemoths of a few years back. This appears to be a general industry trend, and it’s one that I heartily applaud.

After the usual plugging in of cables and speaker wires, I fired up the Sony’s auto-calibration routine using the supplied mini-mike. (The DA4600ES incorporates Dolby PLIIz, with the option of “height” channels; I connected a small two-way speaker pair mounted near the ceiling and astride my projection screen.)

The automatic routine proved impressively quick (less than 30 seconds) and yielded generally correct levels and accurate distances. However, my dipole surround speakers were balanced a bit high (this is normal, since the dipole null “fools” single-point mikes slightly), and the subwoofer a lot high — nearly 10 dB. After correcting these things manually, I set about comparing the Sony’s three auto-cal EQ algorithms, dubbed Flat, Engineer, and Front Reference. (Engineer is said to duplicate the response of Sony’s “listening room standard.”) These sounded just about as their names suggested: Flat a bit brighter and “narrower” than uncorrected, Front Reference along the same lines but rather less so, and Engineer euphonically fuller and rounder, which should make it the favorite of most casual listeners who get this far. That said, I did all of my evaluative listening with the auto-cal results defeated following a carefully performed manual level/distance setup. (The Sony DA4600ES provides no visual display or data dump that lets you check out the EQ results.)

I expect any 100-watts-plus A/V receiver these days to provide generous real-world power, and the Sony met this expectation without apparent effort. Close 2-channel, full-range listening revealed clean, dynamic sound at quite high levels. For example, when heard on my moderately low-sensitivity long-term speakers, a solo Brahms set by the incomparable pianist Richard Goode (on an Elektra/Nonesuch CD) sounded meaty and round, yet squeaky-clean, even at page-turner volume — that is, what you’d hear sitting on the bench next to the player. Even the two-fisted Rhapsody No. 4, in E-fl at (Op. 119), sounded clear, marvelously articulated, and convincingly Steinway.

I’m a fan of Dolby PLIIz’s height channels (and also those of Audyssey’s DSX). Playing the same recording via PLIIz produced a quite believable feeling of listening live in the great man’s own studio. The height contribution was decidedly subtle and almost perfectly inaudible as height per se, but the totality of the effect was impressively natural, especially on well-crafted acoustic classical and jazz recordings. (Solo piano reveals synthetic-sounding surround as well as any music.) Point is, on the Goode recording and also on the multichannel SACDs I listened to, the Sony impressed me with its solid, clean, dynamic amplifi cation services.

I also auditioned Loud, the guitar documentary featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. The Sony, reproducing the transparent and involving DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, did its part to help make the film sonically compelling and a certain amount of fun.

The DA4600ES’s video processing includes upconversion of incoming analog composite- and component- video signals for 1080p output over HDMI. (Signals arriving via HDMI are a strictly a what-comesin- goes-out affair.) This worked well, though I occasionally saw some slight moiré artifacts on moving diagonal lines. Additionally, the Sony’s conversion of analog signals for HDMI output seemed to reduce picture detail very slightly.

Unusually, the Sony can also (and simultaneously) upscale a component-video source to 720p or 1080i format for its Zone 2 component-video output. Even more unusually, this output is routed through both a conventional component-video connection and an RJ-45 (Ethernet-type) jack ready to connect to Sony’s CAV-CVB1 HD-component balun — about $75 from online vendors. (A search of Sony’s own main Web site for information regarding this product turned up nothing. Big companies: Gotta love ’em.) Of course, the DA4600ES also has a plain ol’ composite-video output for Zone 2 video.

The DA4600ES is the first Sony I’ve used with full networking capabilities. Sony certifies the DA4600ES as DLNA-compatible in Windows environments, via Windows Media Player’s media-sharing functions or compatible servers. Since my media world is Macbased, I cannot comment on this, but I can say that the receiver worked reasonably well with Twonky Media, a DLNA-compatible Mac OSX/ Linux server. (There’s also a Windows version.) However, the Sony is not compatible with Apple lossless, FLAC, or video formats other than MPEG-2 and WMV. Also, iTunes — at least, iTunes on a Mac — seemed to confuse it: I needed to restart both my computer and the receiver before the DA4600ES’s Server page would recognize content. On the plus side, the Sony’s onscreen serveraccess menus scroll much faster than many I’ve used, making file selection quicker. Still, as with so many other network-capable receivers, there’s no search or indexing feature, and scrolling through long alphabetic lists, even those divided up by artists or albums, can be quite tiresome….

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Posted by chantal Mon, 15 Nov 2010 18:06:00 GMT

Yamaha Debuts BD-A1000 Universal 3D Blu-ray Player

As part of the company’s Aventage line, the new player does 3D, Netflix, YouTube, and much more.

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November 01, 2010 by Rachel Cericola

Welcome to the party, Yamaha. Today, the company announced its first universal Blu-ray player, the BD-A1000.

What makes this player “universal?” Typically, this means that the unit will have some love for both SACD and DVD-A. The announcement sort of left that part out, but the Australian Yamaha site is confirming support for both formats.

Aside from that, the BD-A1000 can do Blu-ray 3D and 2D playback, as well as stream up additional content from Netflix, Blockbuster and YouTube. If we’re not mistaken, this is actually Yamaha’s first player to handle 3D playback—at least the first one available.

Other features include dual USB ports (front and back), as well as RC-232C integration control, an on-screen display GUI, and detachable power cable. It also offers HD Audio decoding, 1080p/24Hz-compatible HDMI and 7.1 multi-channel analog output with four 2-channel DACs…

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Posted by chantal Fri, 12 Nov 2010 17:44:00 GMT

Netgear Partners with Roku on $90 Set-top Box

The latest streaming machine will provide access to thousands of movies, TV shows, music, sports, and photos.

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October 28, 2010 by Rachel Cericola

Streaming set-top boxes could be a hot gift item this year. Roku wants to remind you how affordable they are, and they are getting the word out with help from Netgear

Netgear just announced plans for its own box, the $90 Netgear Roku Player. The compact box looks exactly like everything in Roku’s line, with the exception of the brand name emblazoned across the front.

The Netgear Roku Player promises a 1080p image (depending on the content), via built-in Wireless-N and Ethernet. The box also has HDMI, composite video and stereo output options for connecting to any TV.

Netgear’s box boasts access to over 100,000 movies, TV shows, live sporting events, music, and more, all through Roku content providers, such as Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, Vimeo, Pandora, MP3tunes, SmugMug, and Flickr. Sports fans can also tap into MLB.TV and UFC channels. Netgear says that more options will be coming soon…

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Posted by chantal Thu, 11 Nov 2010 17:12:00 GMT

New Crestron 4" Widescreen Touch Panel: Designer Looks and Single Wire Installation

October 28, 2010 By Mark Elson

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Crestron recently announced the arrival of their new TPMC-4SMD - a 4” widescreen, designer touch panel that installs with a single wire via PoE (Power over Ethernet), delivering control, video, intercom, and power over a single high-speed Ethernet connection, no electrical outlets or control wire needed. “The TPMC-4SMD is designed to simultaneously run multiple formats and media players, including Flash®, HTML5 and H.264 video,” explained Vincent Bruno, Crestron Director of Marketing. “Richer graphics and amazing interactive animations really enhance the user experience.” Additional features include streaming video, 2-way IP intercom, white LED backlit buttons and a built-in proximity sensor that will wake the 4SMD automatically, without having to touch the screen…

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Posted by chantal Wed, 10 Nov 2010 17:10:00 GMT