Monthly Archives: October 2015

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Plex recently made it’s app for Android TV and numerous smart TV’s available for all to access for free. Until the change the app was only available to Plex Pass members as the company worked through feature sets and other issues. This has been the pattern for the company whose media server apps are becoming standard on streaming devices and Smart TVs.

Plex allows users to access media from network connected devices in the home, via shared servers over the Internet, via web based TV addons and even bookmarked webpages through it “plexit” browser feature.

Once simply a port of XBMC (now Kodi) for Mac the app ecosystem has grown to include homes on Roku, Android TV, The Fire TV, Smart TV’s PlayStation, Xbox, and many more platforms.

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How many times have you found that playback of certain apps in Kodi has stuttered and buffered. A common solution to repair a problem such as that is to clear the cache the system but it may be because you are not getting the internet speed that your cable provider promised. This can be frustrating and a reliable app to test it may well be hard to find. There are a few for Android but there is a new app made specifically for Kodi called Speed Test. Speed test is installable via a repository and is available to the entire kodi community.  I tested my own internet and was hardly shocked to find out that it earned a D. Unfortunately the D does not stand for “Dang Good”. The tool is fast and easy to use. If you would like to add the program to your Kodi build the repository is available bellow.

Speed Test Repo Download here

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In our New Apple TV walkthrough we take a look at the latest streaming player from Apple. We explore the the basic navigation of the TV OS and see how Siri interacts with apps. The new system is bright and friendly yet not even close to what it will be in the end. Check out the video bellow for a demo.

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We got in our new Apple TV and unboxed it for the world to see. I have never been a big fan of unboxing videos but there are a lot of folks who like to see what in the packaging so I have begun to put them together. We have a demo video of the Apple TV in action on the way too.

 

Stream On My Friends

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Sling TV provides a cable like experience to users for a fraction of the cost via an Internet connection and any number of connected devices not named Apple TV. One of the tentpole channels in its basic lineup is ESPN. An under reported benefit of having access to Sling TV is that the service supports Watch ESPN. Watch ESPN, the versatile “TV Everywhere” app gathers all of ESPN’s content together including live feeds from any of the ESPN network channels that a user subscribes to. If you are a sports fan with a device that supports Watch ESPN you should definitely take advantage of this option. Find out why!

Pluto TV is continuing to bring important content to the American people through its implementation of the debate channel. Users with IOS devices, Android devices, Fire TV, And Android TV devices as well as stand alone apps for computers and its website can take in replays of the entire slate of debates that have taken place so far. I checked the website and had a chance to see the Republicans on the attack against each other and of course the current administration. If you would like to see the October 28th debate from CNBC check it out on Pluto TV on any number of formats.

Check out Pluto TV here

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Yahoo Screen had a big win this weekend. It’s first foray into live sports streaming was a rousing success. Yahoo pulled in 15.2 million viewers for a game that most would not tune into given the choice between it and almost any other matchup. Why? Most likely two things. Exclusivity and novelty. People wanted to see if it was going to work. Bloggers around the world were ready to hit Reddit in order to bash the service. Others just would rather watch an actual game than sit through another variety show disguised as a informative sports discussion. But in the end the numbers looked great for Yahoo.

With 15.2 million viewers it shows that people will watch NFL football via the Internet in the same numbers that they will on normal TV broadcasts. The Hollywood Reporter shared numbers from the NFL comparing Yahoo’s stream compared very favorably with to ESPN’s Monday Night Football which gets 13.5  viewers  as well as 17.6 for Thursday Night Football which is split between CBS and the NFL Network. I would be very interested to see how Yahoo’s numbers compare to Thursday Night Football’s ratings when it is on the NFL Network exclusively. Either way this event shows that the viewing public may well be ready to accept more sports via nontraditional means. Whether it be via Yahoo Screen or a dedicated ad supported NFL app the Shield has options outside of the traditional network TV contract.

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Roku has been popular with cord cutters for years.

I have received multiple comments from readers regarding fan noise from the Roku 4. Maybe I was lucky but our Roku 4 has not experienced any problems since it was hooked up last week. The good news is that Roku has a solution for those who are experiencing fan issues. A reader (thanks Jake) spotted a phone number to contact Roku about the issue. Roku will replace your unit if there is a problem with the fan.

How Do I Get In Touch With Roku?

Call 1-888-600-7658

How do you stream the NBA? There are three really great options for NBA fans in the age of streaming. Sports is always a driver for TV and as options have grown it is now quite easy for NBA fans to watch or listen to basketball basketball almost every night of the week. Check out how.

Sling TelevisionSling Television
Sling Television or as most people call it Sling TV is not simply an NBA streaming option, it is a inexpensive TV streaming solution with multiple packages and a core offering of over 20 mainstream TV channels. The reason it’s great for NBA fans is that within it’s core $20.00 package is TNT home of Inside The NBA and the totally outspoken Charles Barkley as well as ESPN. Between ESPN and TNT most NBA fans have at least 2-4 NBA games to watch every week of the season and are blanketed during the playoffs. The best thing is that Sling does not require any sort of long term subscription. Sign up is instant. In order to access the service users will need a compatible device. Sling is supported across a large array of devices from a standalone app for computers, to apps for IOS, Android, Roku, Android TV devices. On TV or on the go fans can take in the NBA at their convenience and enjoy the rest of the channels like TBS and AMC too.

NBA League PassNBA League Pass
NBA League Pass is an Internet based service from the league itself. It offers multiple options. One is an all you can eat package that allows fans to see every team in the league (baring which ever team is shown locally). That means that fans in LA can not watch the Lakers and Clippers with League pass, but Lakers fans in Huston can. The big package has two payment options a one time $199.99 payment and 5 payment plan of $44.99.

Follow one team
New this year is the option to follow one team only. This package costs 119.99 for the one payment option or 5 payments of $26.99. If you really only admire one team this is way to go. I think you might get burned though. There always seems to be a couple of major stories in a season whether it is a flash in the pan like Jeremy Lin’s amazing run with the Knicks or the emergence of a major rookie you may kick yourself for not getting access to the league wide package. On the other hand if you are a real team superfan who hates the rest of the league on principle the one team option is perfect.

Listen
If you will be on the road often during games but have a very dependable cellular network the NBA Audio streaming option may be for you. A onetime payment of $9.99 gets fans access to all of the NBA games. This could really be great for truck drivers and those who will not be able to sit and relax in front of the TV on a regular basis. It’s almost like a satellite radio option.

One Game Options
If you know that you are not going to have the opportunity to really take advantage of one of the bigger offerings available the NBA does offer the option to purchase one game at a time for $6.99. Cheaper than any nose bleed seat this is an easy way to see the “it” game. The price can add up quickly though so consider how many one time games you might purchase. If you only want to take in 9 or so regular season games in one season this would be cost effective. If you are going to want to see more action go with a bigger package.

NBA on TNTTNT Overtime
This is a totally free way to follow the NBA through multiple feeds from TNT. The broadcast is strictly from computers and mobile devices. It lets fans view the game from various angles and perspectives like From the sideline, from the camera on the backboard etc. Its like getting a free seat with limited angles. Fan get commentary and an option to watch the studio show but will miss out on any sort of graphics and so on. With the advent of mirroring options it is possible to view TNT overtime on TV. Mirroring via Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku is quite possible. There is just no dedicated app for the service.

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Roku has been popular with cord cutters for years.

The Roku 4 is the latest product from the makers of America’s favorite streaming box. The new model has a major processor upgrade from a dual core to a quad core processor. The most important upgrade to the hardware though is that the Roku 4 can render 4K video. We had a chance to work with the new product and see what it is has to offer.

Interface
Roku is known for its interface. The Roku 4 has the same standard grid based interface that you find on other models. It displays a 3×3 grid of apps. If you have more than 9 channels on your Roku the grid will continue to grow at the bottom to accommodate. If you have less than 9 channels the grid will change to to reflect that also. The rest of the screen is set up with quick shortcuts to the key features of the Roku, a Home selection, My Feed (the movies you are following) Search (cross platform) Streaming Channels (the channel store) and settings.

Menu Navigation
The Roku 4 navigation from one menu to another is intuitive for a computer but like any system it takes some getting used to. Luckily its main functions are easy to access from the home screen. Roku has not changed much of anything as far as menu navigation but new users will have to take some time to explore it. The most helpful feature is that it is easy to get out of the menus and back to the home screen using the home button. So just remember. If you get stuck in the weeds of the system you can always go home by clicking the house button.

Remote
Unlike Apple Roku does not make money by selling video or other products through the box. While it may derive profit from purchases from third party apps it is essentially an advertising platform which is why there are adds in the search feature and so on. The controller is no exception. Aside from basic control buttons such as the directional button, Search button, Home, back FF, RW, Play Pause and the asterisk, which acts as a settings control there are quick launch buttons for Netflix, Sling TV, Amazon Instant and rdio. This may well change later with a new remote. The companies displayed on the remote pay for placement. Using these buttons will take users directly to the apps. This sort of feature is actually really helpful for those new to the system.

Voice Search
Roku is known for being the only cross platform search that returns from multiple sources without favoring any service. The voice search is an extension of this feature that originally launched with the refreshed Roku 3. We took it through the rounds and it performed as advertised. Understand though it is just a voice search. There is no interactive AI like Siri or Alexa to share the weather or info from Wikipedia. On the other hand the voice search is very accurate and provided the expected results from across a number of apps for all of our queries. You can see the search demonstrated in our video at the bottom of the page. This can be a real time saver and is available via the search button on the remote (it looks like a magnifying glass).

Channels
Which platform has the most channels is going to be in flux so we are not going to go there anymore. Roku used to have a legit claim of the largest app store in the industry but Amazon has been super aggressive releasing new apps of late and may have surpassed Roku. Apple TV could do the same. Roku has a diverse Channel (app) selection that includes all of the household name apps and a lot more. This includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, Watch ESPN, Sling Television, PBS, CBS All Access, NBC, and more than 3000 others. The largest channel section is a group of religious channels that can range from a church of 50 members to major operations like Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church but there are many many choices across 23 genres as well as prefab collections like Most Popular, Top Free, New and Featured. This does not even cover private channels which add an entirely different element to the experience.

Headphone Jack
This is a feature that Roku pioneered a few generations ago. The remote for the Roku 4 has a headphone jack built it and the device itself ships with simple earbud headphones. What this lets you do is use the headphones to listen to audio privately. This is helpful when you don’t want to disturb others or even used as a sort of music player while you are in the home and doing chores. Listen to podcasts and music while you work. While I often see people tout it is a solution for not disturbing a partner trying to sleep in say the bedroom other reviewers discount the residual noise that still blares from the headphones as well as the brightness of the TV screen in the first place. Just in case you were wondering the remote supports other headphones besides the ones that ship with it. The feature has proven popular enough to be copied by some of Roku’s competitors in one way or another.

Remote Finder
How many times have you called your own cell phone when you misplaced it? Have you ever wished you could do the same with a remote? Call me old fashioned but while Roku has a wonderful remote app for smart phones and tablets I prefer the actual remote. There is a button on the top of the device that when pressed will cause the remote to ring (provided it has working batteries) Once one finds said remote and presses any button on the device the ringing stops. I think that users will find this feature iminently helpful.

4k Section
This is a great idea on Roku’s part. For all of the talk of 4k content in general there is not a ton to take in even on the Roku 4. The good news is that in true Roku fashion the Roku 4 has a 4k video section listed in the Streaming Channels section.  The 4K UHD Content Available listing will list apps that have 4k content on tap. And for more exact results there is the 4k Spotlight channel that can be added to the channel lineup which lists 4k content available to view or purchase based on what is available on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Plex and Vudu, MGo and Toon Goggles. I don’t know if companies pay to listed on the 4K spotlight or not. There is not a gigantic selection at the moment, 133 movies, 42 TV shows and 27 assorted videos from YouYube but I would expect those selections to grow overtime.

Games
Roku does not try in any way to pass itself off as a game machine in the way other devices do and the game selection makes that point in spades. The old standby game for Roku since the intro of the Roku XS had been Angry birds. But as of August 2014 the contract between Rovio, which looks like it is trouble, and Roku ended meaning that the game was no longer available for download. The device still offers at this point 111 games. Most are puzzle and trivia style games and include some old favorites like 80s and 90s favorites like Tetris and Galaga and interactive trivia game You Don’t Know Jack along with a number of simple platform games. One of my favorites is Snake. In general the games are more of an added bonus and time killer than they are a full fledged entertainment option.

Mirroring
Like the Roku 3 and Streaming Stick, the Roku 4 supports Mirroring via Miracast. The function is still listed as Beta but did launch. We mirrored my Toshiba Satellite Laptop to check the functionality. Mirroring on a Roku is not perfect the way that AirPlay on an Apple TV is but it will allow users to access web based content on the Roku that might otherwise be missed. I would like to see the Roku devices fully support this feature going forward.

Specs (from Roku.com)

Networking
802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless
10/100 Base-T Ethernet

Video Outputs
Up to 4K UHD (3840 × 2160) on 4K UHD TVs
Up to 1080p HD (1920 x 1080) on HD TVs
Up-scales 720p to 1080p HD on 1080p HD and 4K UHD TVs
Up-scales 1080p HD to 4K UHD on 4K UHD TVs
4K UHD 60 fps HEVC Playback
4K UHD 30 fps VP9 Playback (YouTube)
Playback from USB drives

Audio Output
Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound passed through via HDMI or optical output

Storage Expansion
microSD card port for additional game and channel storage
USB port for personal media expansion

Remote Control
Enhanced remote with voice search, point anywhere use, headphone jack, and motion-control for
gaming. Player includes IR receiver, compatible with various universal remotes.

Speaker for Remote Finder alerts

Power Consumption
12.4W (typical) when streaming 4K UHD video

Power Input
12V – 2A power adapter

USB Media Formats
Video: MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264), HEVC (H.265)
Audio: MP3, Apple Lossless, WMA, AAC
Image: JPG, PNG, up to 4K UHD resolution

Size
6.5 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches

Weight
0.9 lb.