I, for one, am completely tired of all the fluctuating going on in the online DVD rental space. Prices have been raised and lowered more times than I can count on one hand. Yesterday I received an email from Blockbuster stating that my monthly cost would be climbing up from the $15 range to the $18 range for my “3 at a time” plan starting August 19, 2005. In fact, Blockbuster has raised the pricing on all of their plans so that they now cost exactly as much as similar plans on Netflix, those being the 5-out and 8-out plans at $29.99 and $47.99 respectively. The interesting thing here is that while Blockbuster Online has hit the 1 million member mark - and plans on doubling that within the next seven months - the company’s “No More Late Fees” mindset has resulted in a loss of about $140 million. I guess that is cause for raising prices wherever they can.
More interesting, however, is the fact that Blockbuster Online will now be giving an added bonus to its members on a monthly basis. If taken advantage of, then you actually come out ahead even with the extra $3 per month hit. For example, this month in addition to the two in-store game or DVD rental coupons that is a standard feature of the Blockbuster Online service, they are also giving out free previously viewed titles to Online members as well. There is a list of about 25 movies that you can choose from. I even had a fourth offer in my account, which allows me to purchase an previously viewed title selling for $9.99-14.99 at the price of $7.99. Not too shabby.
If you’re anything like me, your living room is probably cluttered with remotes. OEM remotes, “universal” remotes, and remotes for the air conditioner you left behind when you moved. Men love ‘em; there’s nothing like the feel of a plastic remote (or five) in your hand to make you feel like you’re in control. Women, on the other hand, see the remote as a bone of contention and the more of them there are, the more contentious the bone.
We asked our friends at Logitech if they could solve the problem, and they sent us their top-of-the-line programmable remote: The Harmony 880. Logitech has designed the remote to be used in conjunction with HDTV and PVR devices, and makes the process of doing things like changing the aspect ratio of your HDTV from 16x9 when on a DVD source, to 4x3 Expanded when on a TiVo. Most importantly, they tout the remote as being easy to set up and easy to use. We’ll just see about that.
First revealed at this year’s E3, the X-Fi line of Sound Blaster sound cards are now ready for the market. The new cards are designed specifically to power Creative’s new Xtreme Fidelity audio standard, which promises to hit new heights of audio versatility and performance. Creative has long been the leader in the sound card business, and will release four versions of the new card to Best Buy stores later this month, the Elite Pro ($399), the Fatal1ty ($279), the Platinum ($199), and the XtremeMusic ($129). As is the common rhetoric in the high-tech world these days, Creative is promising that these new cards will “eventually and completely replace the old hi-fi equipment in the home.”
Now, the cards seem great, but my question is this: How many of our readers really are replacing standard living-room audio/visual entertainment components with PC upgrades? We’d love to hear from those of you parting with your more traditional home theater elements and what you’re using instead.
Read More | Creative Press Release
You know, something can be said for having a dedicated hardware device that can do one thing well, as opposed to a PC software equivalent that can’t seem to get it quite right. Take the Hori Memory Stick PRO Duo Video Recorder for example. It allows one to record video content directly to a Memory Stick, rather than having to go through a clunky conversion process using software that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. The device allows for four different recording preferences, the following being for a 1GB Stick:
150 minutes - 320x240, 30fps, 768kbps/128kbps, Stereo
270 minutes - 320x240, 15fps, 384kbps/128kbps, Stereo
530 minutes - 320x240, 15fps, 192kbps/64kbps, Stereo
1070 minutes - 116x112, 15fps, 96kbps/32kbps, Mono
Takes me back to the days of SP, LP, and SLP. Nonetheless, the price on this one isn’t bad either - about 11,800 YEN in Japan, which roughly comes out to about a hundred bucks in the US.
Read More | PSP 411
Fox has now joined the bandwagon that is Podcasting, or blogcasting. The FOXcasts are narrated by Michael Krogmann, and are free to download. This idea is nice since you don’t have to be tied to a TV set to get an idea of what an episode is about. Only problem is that the site lacks updates, or content for that matter. Hopefully they’ll get on the ball and give us some more.
Read More | FoxCast
We all know that the Xbox 360 is going to be a go-between for digital content. You will be able to use it as a Media Center Extender, even for high definition content. In fact, this console will most likely be the reason that I purchase a Media Center PC. The following quote, albeit by a Microsoft representative, puts it all into perspective:
Over the next 10 years, there is a revolution that’s going to take place in TV moving to 16-by-9 screens and moving to high-definition format. And Xbox 360 is going to be a driving application for people to get high-definition television. Every Xbox 360 game will play on a regular TV, but they will all also support high-definition TV, and once you see a game in high definition, you never want to go back…every Xbox 360 will be what’s called a Media Center Extender, and that means if you have content on your Media Center in the home and you have a network, you’ll be able to play that content on your Xbox on the TV that the Xbox is connected to, which gives you the ability to distribute your music, your photos, your video, throughout the home. You’ll also be able to take a camera, a digital camera, a digital music player, plug it into an Xbox 360, see your photos, play your music.”
That’s from Robbie Bach, Xbox Chief Officer, Home and Entertainment Division. The launch just can’t come soon enough for me.
Read More | DigitalTechNews
Screen Innovations is set to unveil its newest projection screen creation at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Expo in Indianapolis this September. The “Mirage” screen employs a patented filter that removes the nuisance of ambient light, including the brightness associated with daylight viewing. What remains is a clear, crisp picture from the desired projection source. If the screen operates as promised, and is within a somewhat-decent price range, it could greatly increase the market for front-projection home theaters. More details will follow as the expo draws closer.
Read More | Screen Innovations
For those not yet able to afford both the Hi-Definition TV and a good media center to go with it a company called TViX has the perfect solution for you. The TViX-HD M-5000U not only features a tongue twister of a product name, but also the power to display 720p and 1080i content from a portable USB hard-drive of from a share on your network on your TV via component video or DVI/HDMI connection. The small cylindrical device is capable of playing WMV9 hi-definition content, and can play .TS files directly that have been downloaded from a cable box or satellite provider for delayed playback. The M-5000U will also work as an HDTV tuner with an added tuner box. Supporting WMV9, DivX, XVid and MPEG 1/2 as well as AAC, MP3, WMAM, PCM, OOG and every common static image format this seems to be an all in one wonder that can bridge your living room with your office. The only things missing from their website are a launch date and a price, although I’m sure it will be cheaper than a Windows Media Center - the only real competition when it comes to getting your computer based Hi-Def content on your screen.
Read More | TViX HD-5000U
So you are digging Tivo but haven’t bought one yet for whatever reason. Well now’s your chance to get your hands on one for free if you pay for a full year of the Tivo service up front. They are probably giving the 40 hour version away since its being discontinued. Nonetheless, it’s a very good deal for a service you’ll end up paying for anyways – so why not get something in return? Offer ends on 7/27/05 so get it quick.
Read More | Tivo Offer Page
Elgato systems just announced the EyeTV for DTT, a highly portable USB2.0 digital TV tuner for the Mac. The EyeToy is bus powered and thus requires no external power supply or adapter. The Eye Toy comes bundled with software to enable the user to perform PVR functionality - pause, repeat, and recording live TV for later transfer to a Sony PSP, iTunes, DVD-R’s, or other digital video devices. With a small and powerful tuner like this for digital TV broadcasts Apple’s brand is one step closer to having the Digital Media Trinity. I wonder how Sony feels about their use of the name Eye Toy?
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