Posted by: htguys | November 19, 2015

Podcast #714: Black Friday Preview 2015

Today’s Show:

Black Friday Preview 2015

Black Friday is an ever-evolving event and every year we can’t get enough. This year, some stores are opening way earlier, others are skipping Black Friday altogether. If you’re planning to wait in line, we wish you the best of luck. Just like prior years, the deals are as good as ever. Looking back, the deals we thought were unreal are totally inflated now.  In 2008 the cheapest Blu-ray player was $128 and a 50-inch 720p plasma was going for $900. In 2009 the Blu-ray player price dropped to $78 and you could get a 50-inch 1080p plasma with a Blu-ray player for $1000. Not inflated, last year the lowest price for a tier one brand HDTV was a 50″ Panasonic 1080p LED for only $199.99

Our research came from our favorite goto sites for Black Friday circulars,,, and

WalletHub put together a pretty cool analysis of 2015’s Best & Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals.


The lowest price tier one brand HDTV is at Best Buy

  • Toshiba 49″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (49L310U), $149.99


The largest TVs are at Sears and h.h. gregg

  • Sears – Samsung 75″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN75J6300), $1,999.00
  • h.h. gregg – Samsung 75″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN75J6300), $1,998.00
  • h.h. gregg – Sony 75″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (XBR75X850C), $2,998.00
  • Honorable mention: Wal-mart – Vizio 70″ Smart LED HDTV (E70-C3), $898.00


The list has multiple 720p TVs 32 inches or larger, more than we expected to see. There were three last year.

  • Wal-mart – TCL Roku 32″ 720p LED Smart HDTV (32S3700), $125.00
  • Target – Samsung 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (UN32J4000), $177.99
  • Target – Westinghouse 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (WD32HT1360), $99.99
  • Sears – LG 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (32LF500B), $209.99
  • Sears – RCA 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV/DVD (LED32G30RQD), $199.99
  • Sears – Samsung 32″ 720p 60Hz Slim LED HDTV (UN32J4000), $179.99
  • K-Mart – LG 32″ 720p HD LED TV (32LF500B), $209.99
  • K-Mart – Samsung 48″ 720p Slim LED HDTV (UN48H4005), $429.99
  • K-Mart – Seiki 32″ 720p LED HDTV (SE32HY), $159.99
  • h.h. gregg – Proscan 39″ 720p LED HDTV (FLDED3996A), $188.00
  • h.h. gregg – Samsung 32″ 720p LED HDTV (UN32J4000), $178.00
  • h.h. gregg – Samsung 32″ 720p LED Smart HDTV (UN3234500), $198.00


The list has multiple 4K TVs as well, also more than we expected to see.

  • Best Buy – 10
  • Wal-mart – 2
  • Target – 3
  • Sears – 6
  • h.h. gregg – 24

Deal lists:


Amazon announced in a press release that holiday deals start on Friday, November 20, with new deals added as often as every five minutes for eight straight days – so keep an eye on their Black Friday Landing Page in order to not miss anything! Customers will have access to 10 coveted Deals of the Day starting at midnight on Thanksgiving, and up to 10 more on Black Friday. They can also shop limited-time Lightning Deals on thousands of sought-after products per day throughout the eight days of deals.


Best Buy

  • Logitech Harmony 700 8-Device Universal Remote, $49.99
  • Sony USB Stereo Turntable, $64.99
  • Amazon Fire 7″ 8GB Tablet (Black), $34.99
  • Panasonic Streaming Wi-Fi Built-In Blu-ray Player (BD903), $39.99
  • Samsung Streaming 4K Upscaling 3D Wi-Fi Built-In Blu-ray Player, $87.99
  • Sony Streaming Wi-Fi Built-In Blu-ray Player (BDPS3500), $49.99
  • Onkyo 805W 7.1-Channel 4K Ultra HD & 3D Pass-Through A/V Home Theater Receiver, $249.99
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick, $24.99
  • Google Chromecast (2015 Model), 2 FOR $50.00
  • Google Chromecast Audio, 2 FOR $50.00
  • Roku SE Streaming Player, $24.99
  • Roku Streaming Stick, $39.99
  • Insignia 2.1-Channel Soundbar w/ Wireless Subwoofer, $99.99
  • Insignia Soundbar w/ Bluetooth, $49.99
  • Klipsch Reference 10-in. 300W Powered Subwoofer, $174.99
  • Klipsch Reference Bookshelf Speakers, $124.99
  • Klipsch Reference Dual 6-1/2-in. Floorstanding Speaker, $174.99
  • Klipsch Reference Dual 8-in. Floorstanding Speaker, $224.99
  • Samsung 400 Series 2.1-Channel Soundbar w/ 6.5-in. Wireless Active Subwoofer, $147.99
  • Samsung 500 Series 2.1-Channel Soundbar w/ 7-in. Wireless Active Subwoofer, $247.99
  • Insignia 40″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (NS-40D420NA16), $159.99
  • LG 24″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (24LF452B), $79.99
  • LG 43″ 4K 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (43UF6430), $399.99
  • LG 49″ 4K 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (49UF6430), $499.99
  • Samsung 24″ 720p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN24H4500AFXZA), $147.99
  • Samsung 32″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN32J5205AFXZA), $227.99
  • Samsung 40″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (UN40HS003AFXZA) & Xbox One: The LEGO Movie Videogame Bundle, $499.98
  • Samsung 40″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN40J5200AFXZA), $317.99
  • Samsung 48″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN48J5201AFXZA), $379.99
  • Samsung 55″ 4K 120Hz 3D LED Smart HDTV (UN55JS8500FXZA), $1,499.99
  • Samsung 55″ 4K 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN55JS7000FXZA), $999.99
  • Samsung 60″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN60J6200AFXZA), $697.99
  • Samsung 60″ 4K 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN55JS7000FXZA), $1,299.99
  • Samsung 60″ 4K 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN60JU6390FXZA), $799.99
  • Samsung 65″ 4K 120Hz 3D LED Smart HDTV (UN65JS8500FXZA), $1,999.99
  • Sharp 50″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (LC-50LB370U), $299.99
  • Toshiba 49″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (49L310U), $149.99
  • Toshiba 55″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (55L310U), $349.99
  • VIZIO 50″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV (D50U-D1), $599.99
  • VIZIO 55″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV (D55U-D1), $699.99
  • VIZIO 65″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV (D65U-D2), $999.99



  • Apple iPod Touch (Black, Gold, Grey, Pink, White), $165.00
  • Apple iPad mini 2 w/ Wi-Fi (Black, white), $199.00
  • RCA 7″ Voyager II Android Ad-Free Tablet, $28.88
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7″ Android Tablet (Black, White), $79.00
  • RCA Twin Portable DVD Player, $49.00
  • Sony 2500 Wi-Fi Blu-ray Player w/ PlayStation Now, $45.00
  • Sanyo Bluetooth Soundbar, $35.00
  • Vizio 24-in. 2.1-Channel Soundbar, $118.00
  • Chromecast Streaming Media Player, $20.00
  • Roku Special Edition Streaming Media Player, $25.00
  • Samsung 2.1 Bluetooth Soundbard w/ Wireless Subwoofer, $158.00
  • 40″ 1080p LED HDTV (Brands may vary by store), $149.00
  • 50″ 1080p LED HDTV (Brands may vary by store), $269.00
  • Hisense 55″ 4K LED Smart HDTV, $448.00
  • LG 55″ 4K LED Smart HDTV, $698.00
  • Samsung 32″ LED Smart HDTV (UN32J4500), $198.00
  • Samsung 40″ LED Smart HDTV (UN40H5203AFXZA), $298.00
  • Samsung 55″ 1080p LED Smart HDTV (UN55J6201), $498.00
  • Samsung 55″ 4K LED Curved HDTV (UN55JU6700), $998.00
  • TCL by Roku 55″ 1080p Smart LED HDTV, $348.00
  • TCL Roku 32″ 720p LED Smart HDTV (32S3700), $125.00
  • Vizio 70″ Smart LED HDTV (E70-C3), $898.00



  • RCA 10″ Portable DVD PLayer, $54.99
  • RCA 8″ 8GB Android Tablet, $39.99
  • Samsung Wi-Fi Blu-Ray Player, $52.99
  • Samsung 120W Bluetooth Soundar w/ Subwoofer, $87.99
  • Apple TV, 25% OFF
  • VIZIO 29-in. 2.0 Sound Bar, $49.99
  • Element 43″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV, $169.99
  • Element 50″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV, $239.99
  • Element 55″ 4K LED Smart HDTV, $399.99
  • LG 49″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV, $499.99
  • Samsung 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (UN32J4000), $177.99
  • Samsung 40″ 1080p LED Smart HDTV + Free $20.00 Target Gift Card, $317.99
  • Samsung 55″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN55JU6400FXZA), $797.99
  • Samsung 60″ 1080p 120Hz LED HDTV (UNG6J5200), $697.99
  • Westinghouse 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (WD32HT1360), $99.99
  • Westinghouse 55″ 1080p LED HDTV, $249.99



  • Samsung Smart Blu-ray Player w/ Built-In WiFi (BD-J5700), $49.99
  • Curtis Compact DVD Player (DVD1041), $19.99
  • LG DVD Player w/ DivX Playback (DP132), $29.99
  • Nakamichi 300W Bluetooth Soundbar w/ Wired Subwoofer (NK6), $99.99
  • Samsung 2.1-Channel 120Watt Soundbar w/ Subwoofer (HW-J355), $89.99
  • Samsung 2.2-Channel 350W Sound Tower Speaker System (TW-J5500), $249.99
  • LG 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (32LF500B), $209.99
  • LG 50″ 1080p 120Hz LED Smart HDTV (50LF6100), $549.99
  • LG 60″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart TV (60UF7700), $1,399.99
  • RCA 32″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV/DVD (LED32G30RQD), $199.99
  • RCA 40″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (LED40G45RQ), $269.99
  • Samsung 32″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN32J5205), $229.99
  • Samsung 32″ 720p 60Hz Slim LED HDTV (UN32J4000), $179.99
  • Samsung 40″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN40J5200), $319.99
  • Samsung 48″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN48J5200), $429.99
  • Samsung 55″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN55J6200), $579.99
  • Samsung 55″ 4K 60Hz Curved LED Smart HDTV (UN55JU6700), $999.99
  • Samsung 55″ 4K 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN55JS7000), $999.99
  • Samsung 60″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN60J6200), $699.99
  • Samsung 65″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN65J6300), $1,099.99
  • Samsung 65″ 4K 120Hz Curved 3D LED Smart HDTV (UN65JU7500), $1,799.99
  • Samsung 65″ 4K 60Hz Curved LED Smart HDTV (UN65JU6700), $1,499.99
  • Samsung 65″ 4K 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN65JU6500), $1,399.99
  • Samsung 75″ 1080p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV (UN75J6300), $1,999.00
  • Seiki 20″ 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (SE20HY), $99.99
  • Seiki 43″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (SE43FK), $279.99



  • Amazon Fire 7″ 8GB Tablet w/ Cover & 32GB MicroSD Card (Black) + $10.00 Back in SYWR Points, $54.99
  • Samsung Smart Blu-ray Player, $49.99
  • Curtis Compact DVD Player, $19.99
  • LG DVD Player w/ DivX Playback, $29.99
  • Samsung Progressive Scan DVD Player w/ 1080p Up-Conversion, $39.99
  • Sylvania 7″ Portable DVD Player, $39.99
  • Samsung 2.1-Channel 120W Soundbar w/ Subwoofer, $89.99
  • LG 32″ 720p HD LED TV (32LF500B), $209.99
  • LG 50″ 1080p LED HDTV (50LF6000), $449.99
  • RCA 50″ 1080p LED HDTV (LED50B45RQ), $399.99
  • Samsung 32″ LED HDTV, $179.99
  • Samsung 43″ 1080p LED HDTV (UN43J5000), $339.99
  • Samsung 48″ 720p Slim LED HDTV (UN48H4005), $429.99
  • Seiki 32″ 720p LED HDTV (SE32HY), $159.99
  • Seiki 43″ 1080p LED HDTV (SE43FK), $279.99


h.h. gregg

  • Swann Xtreem QuadForce 720p Video Drone, $79.99
  • Garmin 5″ Touchscreen GPS w/ Free Lifetime Maps, $79.99
  • Samsung 3D Wi-Fi Smart Blu-ray Player, $64.99
  • Samsung 4K Upscaling 3D Wi-Fi Smart Blu-ray Player, $89.99
  • Samsung Smart Blu-ray Player, $49.99
  • Samsung Wi-Fi Smart Blu-ray Player, $54.99
  • Sony 4K Upscaling 3D Wi-Fi Smart Blu-ray Player, $99.99
  • LG DVD Player, $24.99
  • Portable 9″ DVD Player, $39.99
  • Proscan DVD Player, $9.99
  • Bose SoundTouch 130 Home Theater System, $1,349.99
  • iLive 37-in. Bluetooth Soundbar, $34.99
  • JBL 2.1 Channel Soundbar w/ Wireless Subwoofer, $249.99
  • Polk Audio 100W 10-in. Monitor Series Powered Subwoofer, $98.99
  • Sony 2.1 Channel Soundbar w/ Wireless Subwoofer, $349.99
  • Amazon Fire TV 4K w/ Voice Search, $74.99
  • Amazon Fire TV w/ Game Controller, $139.99
  • Apple TV, $59.99
  • Apple TV 64GB w/ Siri, $179.99
  • Chromecast Media Player, $29.99
  • Roku 3 Streaming Player, $79.99
  • Roku Streaming Player, $19.99
  • Roku Streaming Stick, $39.99
  • LG 2.1-Channel Soundbar w/ Wireless Subwoofer (LAS454B), $139.99
  • LG 700W Bluetooth CD Music System, $149.99
  • Samsung 2.1-Channel Soundbar w/ Subwoofer (HWJ355), $89.99
  • Samsung 2.1-Channel Soundbar w/ Wireless Subwoofer (HWJ450), $149.99
  • Samsung 2.1-Channel Soundbar w/ Wireless Subwoofer (HWJ550), $249.99
  • LG 43″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV (43UF6430), $398.00
  • LG 49″ 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV (49UF6430), $498.00
  • LG 55″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (55UF6430), $698.00
  • LG 65″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (65LF6450), $998.00
  • Samsung 32″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN32J5205), $228.00
  • Samsung 40″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN40J5200), $318.00
  • Samsung 40″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN40JU6400), $448.00
  • Samsung 43″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN43J5200), $368.00
  • Samsung 48″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN48J5200), $428.00
  • Samsung 48″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN48JU6400), $598.00
  • Samsung 48″ Curved 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN48JU6700), $798.00
  • Samsung 50″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN50J5200), $498.00
  • Samsung 50″ 4K S Ultra Smart HDTV (UN50JS7000), $798.00
  • Samsung 55″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN55J6200), $578.00
  • Samsung 55″ 4K S 3D Ultra Smart HDTV (UN55JS8500), $1,498.00
  • Samsung 55″ 4K S Ultra Smart HDTV (UN55JS7000), $998.00
  • Samsung 55″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN55JU6400), $798.00
  • Samsung 55″ Curved 4K S 3D Ultra Smart HDTV (UN55JS9000), $1,998.00
  • Samsung 55″ Curved 4K Ultra 3D Smart HDTV (UN557500), $1,298.00
  • Samsung 55″ Curved 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN55JU6700), $998.00
  • Samsung 60″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN60J6200), $698.00
  • Samsung 60″ 4K S Ultra Smart HDTV (UN60JS7000), $1,298.00
  • Samsung 60″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN60JU6400) + Free Samsung Soundbar, $898.00
  • Samsung 65″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN65J6200), $898.00
  • Samsung 65″ 4K S 3D Ultra Smart HDTV (UN65JS8500), $1,998.00
  • Samsung 65″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN65JU6400), $1,298.00
  • Samsung 65″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (UN65JU6700), $1,498.00
  • Samsung 65″ Curved 4K S 3D UHDTV Smart TV (UN65JS9000), $2,998.00
  • Samsung 75″ 1080p Smart HDTV (UN75J6300), $1,998.00
  • Seiki 65″ 4K 120Hz HDTV (SE65UY04), $598.00
  • Sony 43″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (XBR43XB30C), $698.00
  • Sony 49″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (XBR49XB30C), $798.00
  • Sony 55″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (XBR55X810C), $998.00
  • Sony 65″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (XBR65X810C), $1,498.00
  • Sony 75″ 4K Ultra Smart HDTV (XBR75X850C), $2,998.00
  • Haier 48″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (48E2500), $288.00
  • LG 43″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (43LF5100), $298.00
  • LG 49″ 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV (49LF5100), $368.00
  • LG 55″ 1080p LED HDTV (55LF6000), $548.00
  • Proscan 39″ 720p LED HDTV (FLDED3996A), $188.00
  • Samsung 24″ 720p LED HDTV (UN24H4000), $128.00
  • Samsung 24″ 720p LED Smart HDTV (UN24H4500), $148.00
  • Samsung 28″ 720p LED Smart HDTV (UN28H4500), $188.00
  • Samsung 32″ 720p LED HDTV (UN32J4000), $178.00
  • Samsung 32″ 720p LED Smart HDTV (UN3234500), $198.00
  • Samsung 40″ 1080p LED HDTV (UN40H5003), $278.00
  • Samsung 48″ 1080p LED HDTV (UN48J5000), $398.00
  • Seiki 55″ 1080p 60Hz LED Streaming HDTV (SE55FGT), $298.00
  • Sharp 55″ 1080p Aquos LED Smart HDTV (LC55LE653U), $488.00


Download Episode #714

Posted by: htguys | November 12, 2015

Podcast #713: AppleTV Gen 4 Review

Today’s Show:

AppleTV Gen 4

It’s fair to say there are three big names in streaming set top boxes, Roku, Apple, and Amazon. Yes we know there are others but these are the biggest right now. We reviewed the Amazon Fire TV a few shows ago (Podcast #710) and we will review the Roku 4 in the near future but today it’s the AppleTV 4. It comes in two incarnations, the 32 GB will run you $149 and the 64GB will run you $199. We took the 64 GB version for a spin. The one big feature that is missing is that the AppleTV does not support 4K. Is that a deal breaker? Read on to find out.


  • Glass Touch Remote – Fluid and precise control with a swipe of your finger
  • Voice Control (Siri) – Just say you want to watch or ask about the weather
  • New UI Design
  • Fast app switching – Double tap the home button and toggle between open apps
  • App Store – Third party games and entertainment are now available
  • iTunes, Home Sharing, and Airplay

If you have owned a previous version of the AppleTV you won’t be too surprised at what you find in the box. The AppleTV 4 is about twice as thick but about the same in the other dimensions. On the back Apple added a USB-C port but eliminated the optical digital port. In fact to install our new unit we literally unplugged the existing cables from the Gen 3 and then plugged them into the Gen 4. Since the power supply is internal to the box, Apple used the same power cord between versions. This also helps in being able to find a spare plug in your power strip.

Then we walked through the screens to get our AppleTV online. It was straight forward but then it became a major hassle. The only way to enter data was with the remote. Ara has a long password so it was a pain to enter it using the remote. There is no mobile app to do this as there is on the Gen 3 AppleTV. This is a major oversight by Apple. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just for setting up your iTunes account or your Homeshare, but you have to do the same thing with Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and on and on. To make matters worse, Ara has three AppleTVs so it needs to be done at all three TVs.

We were perplexed as to why Apple just didn’t keep the cable system login on file and not force you to verify it with every video app you download. And why not have the capability to replicate another AppleTV on your network. What we really didn’t understand is how could Apple release the AppleTV without a companion iPhone/iPad app? By the way, the current IR remote still works with the Gen 4 AppleTV. We had to switch our Simple Control remote back to IR so that we had the ability to control it with the iPad. But realistically once you use Siri you don’t want to go back!


Now that you have gone through the headache of setting up the AppleTV it’s time to start watching. And here is where the product does quite well. In actuality from a picture and sound point of view, there isn’t any difference between the Gen 3 and Gen 4. But that’s not a bad thing. The picture and sound quality of the Gen 3 was already very good.

But what about 4K? We don’t know why Apple didn’t release a 4K model. At this point in time it really doesn’t matter especially if you are watching on a TV that is less than 70 inches. To be honest sitting at 12 feet you probably need 100 inches to see the difference in 4K and 1080p if all other things are equal. Not going 4K probably kept the price down. Once we get content that makes use of the wider color gamut and HDR you will probably see a 4K AppleTV. In the meantime don’t get hung up the lack of 4K.

If picture and sound quality are the same why do I care about upgrading? Good question! You may not need to upgrade now. The big thing is that there is an App Store for the AppleTV and that means there will be all kinds of apps in the future that will make the AppleTV a very versatile box and platform. We can see the day when the major networks will have apps for their channels and you can tell siri to launch the app. You will be able to say, “Watch ESPN 2” and the AppleTV will go there. In fact you can launch ESPN now via voice. You can launch any app via voice and it launches right away. We even asked Siri to play the latest episode of Brooklyn 99 on Hulu and within a few seconds Jake Peralta was screen making us laugh.

The other feature that I (Ara) really like is the “What did he/she Say” capability. Have you been watching a show with someone who for some reason never understands what was just said? It can be very frustrating!! This feature was made for you. You simply pick up the remote and hold the Siri button and say, “What did he say”. Then Siri backs up about 15 seconds and turns on subtitles for you. Once you hit the point where you asked the question Siri turns off subtitles. If the application does not support the subtitles activation, Siri just rewinds 15 seconds and lets you listen harder.

You can also ask Siri, “Who’s in this”? You are then presented with a list of the actors in the show. But as far as we could tell, it only included main characters (regulars). Which was a bummer because I actually wanted to use it because I recognized someone and wanted to know where I saw him before.  You can also ask about weather and sports scores. An advantage the AppleTV has over the fire TV is that the results only show up in the lower third of the screen while the show continues to play. If you swipe the remote up then the show is paused until you clear the screen.

There are games and a dedicated game controller. We downloaded a rudimentary game which was kind of fun. We see the potential there but right now we didn’t see any sophisticated games. It should be straightforward to port iOS games so look for this category to increase very quickly.

  • Siri integration into the improved touch remote
  • Voice commands that really work
  • First rate developer tools that should make for great apps
  • No iOS remote
  • No centralized password storage for use across different apps


The fourth generation AppleTV feels like it was taken out of the oven a little early. But it’s nothing that another 10 minutes of cooking time couldn’t fix. We fully expect the true potential of this device to be achieved as developers release new and interesting apps. If you want to jump in now, you won’t be disappointed. You may just get a little frustrated with the setup.

Download Episode #713

Posted by: htguys | November 5, 2015

Podcast #712: Pioneer Elite VSX-90 Receiver Review

Today’s Show:

Review: Pioneer Elite VSX-90 7.2 Channel A/V Receiver

The HT Guys upgrade equipment faster than most just so we can stay on top of the latest technology. So when the 4K Fire TV product was released and our current receiver could not send a 4K signal to the TV we figured what better reason to upgrade. We chose the Pioneer Elite VSX-90 7.2 Channel Receiver with Atmos mainly because it is a capable receiver and it didn’t break the bank (Buy Now $699.99)


  • 7 HDMI inputs with 2 outputs
  • 100 W/ch (8 ohms 20 Hz-20 kHz THD 0.08 % 2ch Driven FTC)
  • 4K 60P Ultra HD upscaling and pass-through
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Simplified connection and setup
  • Dolby Atmos
  • DSD playback
  • Subwoofer EQ and dual subwoofer pre-out
  • Spotify Connect and Roku ready
  • Energy-saving ECO Mode
  • Intuitive setup with icon-based Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • Offers both RS-232c interface and full IP control


We have gotten really good at swapping out receivers. Probably a skill most will never need to master but it helps us from time to time. Our speakers are connected via Banana plugs so recabling the receiver took about three minutes which included 7.1 speakers, 5 HDMI connections, Ethernet, and power.

Then we ran the calibration setup which Pionner calls MCACC Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration. The VSX-90 uses the Pro Version of this technology. Like pretty much every other auto calibration system, Pioneer’s measures every speaker noting size and distance, sound levels and timbre from the listening point. The subwoofer is also analyzed and adjusted using four different frequency parameters to correct phase and timing errors.

The VSX-90 uses the ES9006 Sabre Premier audio DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) which should provide smoother audio. And you audiophiles may like to know that there is support for 192 kHz 24-bit AIFF, Multi-channel WAV, FLAC, and Apple Lossless up to 96kHz 24-Bit.

The VSX-90 offers both RS-232c interface and full IP control providing compatibility with the most popular home automation systems. For custom-installed home theater solutions, it offers multi-zone capability audio video support. For tablet and smartphone users there is the iControl AV5 app available to make using the receiver a breeze.


First up is video. The main reason we upgraded our receiver was to be able to pass 4K content from our Amazon Fire TV device to the 4K TV.  In this regard it is important to note that only the first three HDMI ports are HDCP 2.2 compliant and without that you won’t be able to pass protected 4K content through to the TV. The receiver will upscale all digital content to 4K but we found that the best picture was obtained by simply passing the original signal (Pure Mode) through and letting the TV do the upscaling.

The Amazon Fire TV looked fine with 4K content (See Review Here) that was unprocessed by the receiver. We subjectively compared the video straight from the Fire TV to that of video that went through the reveier. We could not see any difference which is what you would expect in the Pure mode. It should be noted that this receiver does not have video processing beyond a scalar. In general we feel this is a good thing because we have not found a good receiver that also processes video well.

Then it was time to listen to some audio. We had high expectations due to the Sabre DAC and we weren’t let down. Our listening material included lossless audio, 256 Kbps AAC, and streaming audio. Everything we listened to had more punch and the midrange sounded clear and crisp. If we had to sum up the listening experience it would be that the music sounded bright. The VSX-90 had no issues with reproducing an accurate sound stage with good instrument separation. When it came time to watch (listen) to movies we were impressed with how good our subwoofer sounded. Same subwoofer same Dolby True HD content but a noticeable improvement in the bass.

The only real complaint we had with the unit was source switching. Whenever we switched between sources it took as long as six seconds to get video back on screen.

Odds and Ends:

  • Dolby ATMOS sound technology – We did not test this feature
  • Remote – Typical receiver remote.
  • Multi-zones – The VSX-90 can send audio and video to a secondary room.
  • WiFi – The unit also has dual antennas to extend the range.
  • MHL compatibility – One port
  • Bluetooth and Airplay
  • Streaming Music – vTune, Pandora, and Spotify ready


The Pioneer Elite VSX-90 is a feature rich receiver that won’t break the bank and allow room for some future growth. You may not be in a position to upgrade to Atmos but it’s nice to know that when you want to the VSX-90 will be ready for you. It’s relatively easy to setup and configure with the use of the onscreen instructions. For those who really like to listen to high quality music this receiver fits the bill. We couldn’t ask for a better mid-range AVR to handle both movies and music.

Download Episode #712

Posted by: htguys | October 29, 2015

Podcast #711: Instant Home Theater in Two Hours or Less

Today’s Show:

Instant Home Theater in Two Hours or Less

Amazon Prime changed the game. You can have pretty much anything you need, including an entire home theater, delivered to your home in two days or less. And you never have to get off the couch. A recent conversation with a friend who needed a TV and an HDMI cable and had them delivered in an hour using the new Prime Now app got us thinking. What if you wanted an entire home theater delivered to your home within an hour or two? Is that even possible?

The scenarios are endless. You have company over and everyone decides to watch a movie, but they brought kids and the kids need something to watch too. Or you and your family, friends, guests, whatever can’t decide if you want to watch a live sports event or that night’s episode of Dancing with the Stars, so, in the spirit of ‘why not both?’ you need to add a second home theater to keep everyone happy. Or, simply, just cuz.

Prime Now is a new service from Amazon, available to Prime members in select markets at no additional charge, that allows you to order products for delivery in two hours, sometimes less, depending on your proximity to the distribution center. We assume the products available may vary by market, since not all distribution centers would have the exact same inventory, so this adventure is what the HT Guys would be able to put together from their local distribution center in Orange County, California.

Prime Now is currently only available as an app for your smartphone. You cannot tap into it from your computer, not yet at least. For our discussion we’ll provide links to the products at the main Amazon website, but if you want to get them delivered in an hour, you’ll need to download the app and find them there.


Every home theater needs an HDTV. What options are available from Prime Now? We assumed they would be small TVs, easy to store and easy to deliver. What we found surprised us. There were a bunch of options for HDTVs from Prime Now. Small TVs, like you would imagine, a 32” model from LG or Sharp, 43” options from Vizio and Sharp, etc. But they also had some bigger sets available. There’s a 50” Vizio, a 55” Vizio, and a 55” LG. Sure 55” isn’t huge, but it isn’t tiny either. A 55” TV would make a pretty good cornerstone in a 2 hour or less home theater.

LG Electronics 55LF6000 55-Inch 1080p 120Hz LED TV. If you buy it from the Amazon website, you’ll pay $647.99 and the strange thing is, it isn’t available for Prime shipping – you actually pay an extra $36.36 for shipping. If you buy if from the Prime Now app you pay more than $100 less, $538, and you get same day shipping. That’s a great deal.

VIZIO E50-C1 50-Inch 1080p Smart LED HDTV. Probably not the way to go unless you’re a huge Vizio fanboy, the TV is 50 inches compared with the 55 inches of the LG, but you only save $10. It costs $528 from both the Amazon website, where it is available for Prime shipping, and from the Prime Now app. The consistence makes sense, but the price for the screen size doesn’t.

VIZIO M55-C2 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED HDTV. If you want to go super impressive in a couple hours or less, there is one 4K TV available from Prime Now. For some reason this one is also more expensive from the website than from the app, and isn’t available for Prime shipping from the site either. At you pay $921.99. Although the shipping isn’t Prime, it is free. From Prime Now you only pay $849.99.


But what if your emergency home theater needs to go really big? You want to watch in the backyard by the pool or set the kids up in the front yard so they can share with the whole neighborhood. Prime Now has you covered there as well. These should be much easier to stock and ship, making it that much easier to be an instant hero.

Optoma HD141X 1080p 3D DLP Home Theater Projector, $574 from Prime Now, 3000 Lumen

Optoma HD26 1080p 3D DLP Home Theater Projector, $649 from Prime Now, 3200 Lumen

BenQ W1070 1080P 3D DLP Home Theater Projector, $696 from Prime Now, 2000 Lumen

And of course you’ll need a screen. The Epson Duet 80-Inch Dual Aspect Ratio Projection Screen is $105.78 from Prime Now, includes a floor stand and can be expanded to the size that best meets your needs – old school 4:3 or widescreen 16:9.

Surround Sound

This is where it gets tricky and you have to be a bit creative. We didn’t find any AV Receivers through the app, and the speakers we could get were all more computer speakers than home theater speakers. That said, the Logitech Surround Sound Speakers Z506 would probably do a decent job for you, and at $57.99 they aren’t going to break the bank. You get a center speaker, four satellites and a subwoofer for that price. Certainly better than the built-in TV speaker.

There are a couple of sound bar options, like the VIZIO SB2920-C6 29-Inch 2.0 Channel Sound Bar for $78 or the VIZIO SB4051-C0 40-Inch 5.1 Channel Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer and Satellite Speakers for $348. With the inclusion of the wireless subwoofer and satellites (which are not wireless), the SB4051-C0 is probably the best option available to us in the Orange County area. And it has built-in Bluetooth if you want to stream music to it from your smartphone or tablet.

But if you want to be creative, you can get a Sonos Playbar TV Sound Bar for $699, add a couple Sonos Play:1 speakers at $199 each for surround sound and cap it off with a Sonos Sub Wireless Subwoofer to make it go boom for another $699. At a total cost of $1796 it isn’t cheap, but at least you won’t have to buy speaker wire (yes, that is available on Prime Now) and they can be used to stream music as part of a whole house audio system if you need them to as well.

Odds and Ends

Pretty much any cable or wire you’ll need to connect a home theater is available from Prime Now. They have a plethora of choices for OTA antennas and a couple set top bot OTA tuners if that’s how you choose to get content onto your instant home theater. There are a few Blu-ray players, like the Samsung BD-J5100 for $57.99 or the Sony BDPS6500 that has built-in WiFi, does 3D and has 4K upscaling for $128. And, of course, a wide variety of Blu-ray movies if you need something to watch. Or, you could certainly pick up a Fire TV Stick for $39.99 if you want to stream all the content you already get for free as part of your Prime membership (the standard $99 Fire TV wasn’t available to us as an option through Prime Now. Seems like they’re out of stock everywhere until early November).


All in all, you can build a pretty killer home theater setup and have it delivered to your door in under 2 hours, should you need it in a pinch. A 3200 lumen 1080p projector, an 80” screen, a sound bar with wireless sub and satellites, and maybe a fire TV stick to round out the package would be about $1145.

And one really interesting tidbit we found in our research is that pricing on Prime Now can sometimes be better than the Amazon website. Talk about win-win. Get the product in an hour or two and pay less for it.

Download Episode #711

Posted by: htguys | October 23, 2015

odcast #710: Amazon Fire TV (4K) Review

Today’s Show:

Amazon Fire TV (4K)

We are big fans of streamers. Whether it be Roku, Apple, or Amazon there is a streamer out there that makes watching movies as convenient as pressing a button on your remote. So when all three updated their offerings we knew we were going to be spending some time in front of the TV evaluating them. First up is the Amazon Fire TV in 4K (Buy Now $99).


  • All-new Amazon Fire TV now supports 4K Ultra HD for true-to-life picture quality. Watch high-definition 1080p streams on Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu and more, even without a 4K TV.
  • Now with Alexa, use your Fire TV Voice Remote to check sports scores or the weather, play music, and more – instantly
  • Enjoy over 250,000 TV episodes and movies on Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, and Showtime Anytime, plus games, music, and apps
  • Cutting the cord? Watch the best of live TV on NBC News, NBA Gametime, and Sling TV, which includes ESPN, CNN, HDTV, AMC, A&E, Cartoon Network, and more.
  • Say it. Watch it. Simply say the name of what you want to watch and start enjoying in seconds.
  • Now with 75% more processing power, a dedicated graphics engine, better Wi-Fi support, 2 GB of memory, 8 GB of storage and expandable storage of up to 128 GB
  • With over 800 games – the most games of any other streaming media player – there is something for the entire family, including Minecraft, Lego Star Wars, and Pac-Man 256
  • Amazon Prime members get unlimited access to Prime Video, including original programming like Transparent, plus over 1 million songs with Prime Music


The physical setup is simple, connect the device to your TV (or receiver) via HDMI, connect the Ethernet cable or use wifi, and the plug it into power. If you are a Prime member it is already configured to your account so you can start watching Prime content immediately. The Fire TV comes with a few programs already installed but if you want Netflix or Hulu you’ll need to install them. That takes a couple of minutes depending on your internet speed. You’ll also want to update the firmware on the device. The main reason is that you get Dolby Digital Plus instead of Stereo on Netflix! Also, an update for older Dolby Digital systems (not Dolby Digital Plus) will be distributed on November 30th.

We did run into a few issues that were not a fault of the Fire TV but issues that you may run into as well. The first time we connected the device to our receiver, a Denon, that did not support HDCP 2.2. Of course everything worked, we just couldn’t get an 4K content to display. A message on the video setup of the Fire TV told us that the port is connected but since it does not support HDCP 2.2 we would only be able to get 1080p.

We first verified that the TV supported HDCP 2.2. And it did on all HDMI inputs but only input five was HDMI 2.0. As it turned out, you can get 4K content over HDMI 1.4 as long as it supports HDCP 2.2! Next up was to upgrade the receiver. See what we do for you guys!! We ended up buying a Pioneer Elite VSX-90 7.2 ATMOS receiver. A review on that will be coming in a few weeks. We also verified that we were using high speed HDMI cables. For our test, they were Amazon Basic HDMI cables that cost about $10.

All the pieces were in place and we were ready for 4K! Unfortunately, there wasn’t any to be had. As it turns out only the first three HDMI ports on the VSX-90 are HDCP 2.2 compatible and it says that nowhere except in some tiny print in the manual. In fact the sticker on the front proudly proclaims 7 HDMI inputs and HDCP 2.2. Regardless, the Fire TV was moved to an input that supported HDCP 2.2 and the message saying that 4K was not possible went away.

One last note. Removing the battery cover on the remote is one of the most difficult things I have had to do for any device I have owned. Seriously?? What were they thinking. Fortunately there is a video that will help you with this task (


For our testing we looked at three apps, Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos, and Slingbox. There are plenty of video apps but we figured that Netflix and Amazon have a decent amount of 4K content so it made the most sense.


The Slingbox app makes the Fire TV a killer product… well if you have a Slingbox anyway. You could take the Fire TV with you on vacation and have access to all your TV anywhere you go. Or you could setup a Slingbox someplace where you want access to local content and access on your TV at home. Regardless, this is a cool feature. Unfortunately it didn’t work. The Slingbox app kept trying to load and never really worked. We’ll try again later but right out of the shoot there were issues. In general, we found there to be some quirkiness with the player. Amazon may be one or two firmware updates away from a rock solid system.


Next up was Netflix and some 4K content. Amazon is touting something called ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction). Its supposed to start streaming instantly. Here is what we found. If you select a movie and take the time to read the description or just look at the album art for a few seconds, streaming will start right away. But if you randomly select something that you would typically watch and hit play immediately the show will buffer. So the advanced streaming prediction is more like rudimentary prediction. In reality waiting a few seconds for you selection to start is not a big thing. But what a cool acronym right?

We loaded “The Black List” since it was a 4K show. It started rather quickly and the receiver displayed DD+!! But to be honest, it didn’t sound much better than straight Dolby Digital. We are sure that is because the source material was probably not mastered for it. As far as the video goes, the picture looked very good. But is it better than 1080p? Some will be upset at us for saying this. But on a 70 inch screen sitting 12 feet away we couldn’t see any difference between the 4K and 1080p version of the identical show. And to be complete, we also watched the same material on the native Netflix app on the Vizio P-Series with the same results.

This is no surprise. There are many calculators out there that will tell you what resolution you can discern at what distance with normal (20/20) vision.  For our readers/listeners outside the US, 20/20 vision means you can see what people with normal vision can at 20 feet. If your vision is 20/40, you see at 20 feet what people with normal vision see at 40 feet. The calculatorstell us that with a 70 inch screen you will need to be seated between 4.5 and 9 feet (137 – 274 cm) to see the difference between 1080p and 4K.

The picture still looked good. It was sharp, color was good, and it played without any issues. We will say that the quality is approaching Blu-ray and that is a good thing. Streaming high quality content for those of us that have high speed Internet is the dream right? But is it better than the older version of the Fire TV. Not really.

Amazon Prime

Amazon prime is similar to watching Netflix but without the same breadth and depth of content. There are Amazon originals like a cop drama called Bosch. It’s actually pretty good and that is a good reason to invest in this product. Amazon will only get better and deeper in the future. Plus there are so many benefits to being a Prime member.

Odds and Ends

  • Voice Control – The remote has a button that you press and hold while to say commands. Basic stuff like, “What’s the weather like” and “Did my team win” work great. Finding shows only works in Amazon content. You can’t say stuff like, “Show me movies starring Harrison Ford”.
  • Music – If you have your music in Amazon’s ecosystem you will have access to it through this device. All your playlists and radio stations are available to you. Plus you have access to Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Spotify will be available at some point in the future
  • Navigation – Navigation is fast and fluid. But the GUI is cumbersome to navigate. It would be great if you could launch apps with your voice.
  • Games – There are plenty of games and a dedicated game controller. We did not test any of these. But don’t expect an Xbox or Playstation like experience.
  • SD Card Slot – you can use microSD card up to 128 GB to make room for more games and apps.
  • Plex Support


We have seen so many of these boxes and no one of them is the be all end all. That is still the case with the 4K Fire TV. If you are a Roku or AppleTV customer should you switch? Certainly not. If you have a Roku, AppleTV or any other set top box and you are a Prime member should you get this box as well. Sure! Well if you have $99 just laying around. The Fire TV makes a good addition to your home theater without taking up much real estate. Just stack your other box on top of it and use it when you just can’t find something on your Roku or Apple TV.

Download Episode #710

Posted by: htguys | October 16, 2015

Podcast #709: CEDIA Expo 2015

Today’s Show:

CEDIA 2015

Each year CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) holds an event where the industry gathers to show off their wares. Kinda like a mini-CES, but also like a best of CES, we’ve been to a few of these and actually enjoy the show more than CES. It takes the parts of CES that we are interested in and compresses it down to a more manageable show. We didn’t go this year but that won’t stop us from talking about some of the products we think are interesting. This year the show was from October 14-17 in Dallas, TX.

Sony Electronics Announces 4K Home Theater Projectors at CEDIA 2015

Sony Electronics is expanding its home theater line-up by announcing new projectors at CEDIA 2015. The new projectors include the VPL-VW665ES and VPL-VW365ES, which deliver native 4K resolution and a new long-lasting lamp gives both up to 6,000 hours of performance, with high brightness and high contrast for even more vibrant images.

The VPL-VW665ES is compatible with HDMI input of HDR (High Dynamic Range) content with a 300,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Sony is developing HDR support across its portfolio and the VPL-VW665ES gives home cinema enthusiasts the opportunity to experience total immersion in whatever they are watching. The new VPL-VW665ES and VPL-VW365ES use advanced SXRD™ panels for a native 4K picture, with no artificial manipulation of pixels.

Both new models allow users to enjoy up-to-date 4K content services through the latest connectivity options using the latest HDMI standard and HDCP 2.2. The new projectors will be available in October 2015 at a suggested retail price of $3,999 for the VPL-HW65ES, $9,999 for the VPL-VW365ES and $14,999 for the VPL-VW665ES.

SunBriteTV Unveils 84-, 55-Inch Outdoor 4K TVs

SunBriteTV has announced its entry into 4K UHD with two new outdoor televisions, including an 84-inch Pro Series model (SB-8418UHD), its largest screen size to date, and a 55-inch Signature Series unit (SB-5574UHD). Designed for permanent outdoor installation, both the SB-8418UHD and the SB-5574UHD feature weatherproofing technology that protects internal components from rain, snow, dust, salt corrosion, insects, and humidity. Specialized high-brightness anti-glare screens differ from those of indoor televisions for a 3840 x 2160p 4K UHD viewing experience. Both units come with a 20W detachable weatherproof speaker bar.

Shipping dates and pricing for both units will be released later this year. The SB-8418UHD, part of SunBriteTV’s Pro Series, also features a glass shield to provide extra protection for the LED panel. The unit has an (800 NIT) LED screen and Direct Sunlight-Readable capability with a built-in heating and cooling systems that keep it operating in temperatures from -40° to 122°F. The SB-5574UHD has a 3.5-inch depth and is fully functional in temperatures from -24° to 122°F.

Epson Unveils New Line of Premium Ultra-Bright Pro Cinema Projectors

Epson unveiled an expanded line of Full HD 1080p Ultra-Bright Pro Cinema Projectors, the Epson®  Pro Cinema G6970WU, Pro Cinema G6570WU, Pro Cinema 4855WU, and wireless Pro Cinema 1985. Featuring up to 6,000 lumens of color brightness and 6,000 lumens of white brightness. Epson’s latest projectors provide custom installers, sports and AV enthusiasts versatile solutions specifically designed to provide exceptional image quality and wireless connectivity in large, open ambient light environments that compete directly with traditional flat panels.

The Pro Cinema 1985 wireless projector shines bright and supports the latest in connectivity – transforming the projector into a versatile home entertainment hub. Users can stream media from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop using wireless projection with Miracast® and Intel® WiDi. For brilliant entertainment right out of the box, the projector features built-in sound and two HDMI® ports to connect cable and satellite boxes, gaming consoles and more. In addition, the Pro Cinema 1985 supports MHL-enabled devices, including Chromecast, Roku®4 and Amazon® Fire TV Stick.

Pro Cinema G6970WU: $6,999 MSRP, 6,000 lumens
Pro Cinema G6570WU: $5,499 MSRP, 5,200 lumens
Pro Cinema 4855WU: $3,099 MSRP, 4,000 lumens
Pro Cinema 1985: $2,499 MSRP, 4,800 lumens

The Pro Cinema G6970WU, G6570WU and 1985 will be available in November through CEDIA and specialty dealers. The Pro Cinema 4855WU is shipping now.

Control4 Delivers Enhanced Smart Home Security and Entertainment Experiences

Control4 released OS 2.8, the latest version of its smart home operating system. With OS 2.8, Control4 rolls out a reimagined smart home security experience that easily integrates with today’s leading security systems, smart locks and cameras; offers native streaming of music services from Pandora, Deezer, and TIDAL; and updates other capabilities to make it easy for Control4 homeowners to search, browse, listen and watch their favorite media. Additionally, OS 2.8 delivers a number of enhanced dealer tools, most notably the ability to back up Control4 projects to the cloud and all-new “experience” drivers that simplify the creation of personalized smart home experiences.

Specifically, Control4 OS 2.8 brings several key new home security enhancements, including:

  • A new user interface for families to arm or disarm their systems – or get emergency help – with a single tap directly on their touch screens, TV remotes, smart tablets, and mobile phones.
  • A new iOS and Android mobile interface to manage smart locks, for family members to easily lock or unlock a door, add or delete users, and grant temporary home access.
  • All security zones are now available in a single interface and simplifies the management of all the security zones in the smart home, including the ability to close a gate or a garage door with a single tap.
  • A new searchable event-history agent that records security incidents throughout the home to provide a sequenced and contextual understanding of activity, which in turn can be used to inform homeowners via mobile alerts and push-notifications that are timely and relevant.

Control4 has also announced new “experience” drivers that help simplify programming for highly-personal experiences inside of a Control4 Smart Home.

  • The all-new MockupancyTM capability remembers the every-day routines and actions of the household within the home, allowing a Control4 homeowner to play back those routines and actions while they are away – simulating the organic feel of an occupied residence. Specifically, Mockupancy can coordinate lighting, shades, and even TV entertainment and music streaming to mimic normal household occupancy.
  • The all-new Snapshot driver simplifies the capture of the current state of connected devices throughout the home, including lighting, entertainment and comfort control. A dealer can then program the system to recall the scene with a single tap or button press.
  • The driver database has expanded to integrate over 9,500 compatible devices; Control4 has released free drivers for over 700 devices since the acquisition of Extra Vegetables in September of 2014, including popular smart devices from Amazon, Sony, Samsung, TiVo, Hunter Douglass, Bang & Olufsen, and Bowers & Wilkins among many others.

IC720 full 360 x 360 DIY home security camera

The security manufacturer IC Realtime has been innovating in the camera category for a long time. At the 2015 CEDIA Expo, dealers can see the company’s new IC720 camera. Utilizing IC Realtime’s 360-degree by 360-degree virtual reality technologies, users can see 360-degrees horizontally and 360-degrees vertically in HD in real time. The IC720 is a pro-level product with a 24-megapixel dual-sensor 4K virtual PTZ product that works with IC Realtime’s app. The ALLie is a $599 product for DIY’ers. ALLie incorporates Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and 8GBs of memory.

LP Smart Products Collaborates With Elite Home Theater Seating To Design Smart Seating Of The Future

Leggett & Platt Smart Products announced a collaboration with Elite Home Theater Seating Inc. at CEDIA EXPO to create technology-enabled, high-end theater chairs that can detect human occupancy. The seating combines LP Smart Products’ LPSense® and LPConnect® technology in its launch of LPConnect Package with Elite’s luxury handmade theater seating. The LPConnect Package can be implemented into any piece of home furniture and includes several customizable features including auto stop safety control, easy integration with existing automation systems, memory presets, and control over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth low energy, and Zigbee.

When implemented into Elite’s theater chairs, individual preferences can be stored into memory presets using LPSense and LPConnect. Its LPSense technology uses capacitive sensing to detect human presence and trigger actions based on activity, such as playing or pausing a movie when the user gets in or out of the theater chair. The chair and other connected furniture can also be programmed to adjust room settings with its LPConnect technology.

Fibaro gesture control and first Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell/intercom/security camera

To enable gesture control of devices connected to Fibaro’s Home Center 2 Z-Wave hub, the company developed a battery-operated panel that can be placed behind picture frames, behind walls or under countertops to sense the capacitance of a moving hand. The panel recognizes six gestures: up, down, left, right, circle left, and circle right. It also recognizes combinations of gestures. Consumers would program in the devices or scenes that a gesture would control. The panel, called the Swipe, will be available the end of November at a targeted $149.

The company’s first intercom/doorbell with integrated camera features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Power over Ethernet. The device, called the Fibaro Intercom, gets power from an existing doorbell system. It uses motion and sound sensing to launch 4K video recording, sends doorbell video over Wi-Fi for in-house or remote viewing on a mobile device, and incorporates Bluetooth. With Bluetooth, the Intercom senses when an authorized user’s phone is within a set range, then automatically sends a 12-volt signal to unlock a connected electronic lock. Also to unlock a connected electronic lock, users rotate the device’s bezel to enter a numeric security code. It will be available in December at around $500.

Kaleidescape Unveils Strato 4K HDR Movie Player, New Alto Players, Terra Server

The award-winning Kaleidescape Strato is the world’s first and only 4K Ultra HD high-dynamic-range movie player. Strato plays movies in true 4K Ultra HD at up to 60 frames per second, without startup delays, buffering messages, or quality drops that are so common with streaming services. Strato supports lossless multichannel audio including Dolby Atmos, and bit-stream pass-through of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The Strato onscreen user interface is also displayed in 4K Ultra HD, at 60 frames per second, resulting in fluid animation and a stunning visual impact.

Strato can be purchased with or without an internal 6 TB hard drive that can store up to 100 4K Ultra HD movies, 150 Blu-ray quality movies, or 900 DVD quality movies. Strato equipped with internal movie storage can be used standalone or in a system with other Encore components. Strato without internal storage plays movies from any movie server or disc server in its Encore system.

Kaleidescape Terra stores movies on hard drives and serves them to movie players in the home network. Terra also provides computing and caching services that enhance the performance of Strato and Alto players. A single Terra can simultaneously serve up to seven 4K movies, or up to 15 Blu-ray quality movies.


Over in the whole-house audio category, wireless category leader Sonos is not resting on its past accomplishments. A few weeks ago the company introduced its new Play:5 active loudspeaker that incorporates new drivers, amplification, crossover networks and a new industrial design. Headlining its software tweaks, the company has added its TruePlay auto room equalization technology.

Demonstrating the technology, Sonos asks dealers to watch a quick video that shows how simple the EQ is. Taking approximately 55 seconds, TruePlay uses the microphone in users’ iOS devices to measure room interactions. Once completed, TruePlay cleans up common sound issues such as muddy bass and smeared top end. Summing up the technology, Sonos states it underscores its pursuit of “pure musical truth.” The tenets of its musical truth include full-frequency clarity, stereo imaging and well defined bass performance.

Download Episode #709

Posted by: htguys | October 8, 2015

Podcast #708: Chromecast Audio

Today’s Show:

Chromecast Audio

We have been enjoying whole house audio for years now. Braden has a nice Sonos system in place while Ara has gone with an Airplay solution. We each have multiple zones including the garage and bathrooms where we can listen to our music in a casual setting. The Sonos solution uses Sonos designed speakers or it can use a bridge to add powered speakers or receivers to the system. Apple uses their technology called Airplay which allows you to connect powered speakers connected to an Airport Express or one to the many receivers and third party powered speakers that support Airplay.

Both systems are flexible and reliable. You can mix and match speakers, receivers, and even set top boxes. You can choose to have different music playing in the various zones. And everything can be controlled from the palm of your hand.  The systems can cost a few hundred dollars all the way up to thousands.

The playing field just got a little more crowded with the introduction of the Chromecast Audio. It’s a small device about the size of three silver dollars stacked on top of each other and it only costs $35! And no you can’t get it at Amazon! Seriously…what are those guys thinking?

The Chromecast Audio plugs into your powered speaker via the 3.5mm audio input jack for streaming music through WiFi. If your speakers or receiver only accept RCA inputs you can use a cable that is 3.5mm on one end and RCA on the other. Once set up, simply use your iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet, Mac and Windows laptop, or Chromebook to send your music to any zone in the house.


Setup is quite easy. First connect the Chromecast Audio to power and use the supplied 3.5mm cable to your speakers. Then download and launch the Chromacast app for your mobile device. Follow the onscreen steps and in less than a minute you will have your fist audio zone up and running. Repeat the steps for each zone you are setting up and just like that you have multiroom audio! Depending on the speakers you choose you can spend anywhere from $50 up to $500 or more per zone. But if the listening is strictly causal and for ambiance you can easily setup up a five zone system for less than $500!


To start playing audio (on an iOS device anyway) you simply launch an app that is Chromecast capable select the speaker and enjoy. Google Play, Pandora, iHeart Radio all support Chomecast Audio. In fact the list of supporting apps is quite large. Check out the Chromcast Audio website for a full list. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly for iOS users Apple’s own apps do not support the Chromecast Audio.

Once you have started streaming control is handed off to the Chromecast which streams directly from the cloud. So if you get a call or notification you don’t stop or interrupt the music. This is a nice feature if you are having a party and you don’t want the music to stop. If you are at home and you prefer it to be quiet you can always pause the track.

You can also cast from a desktop Mac or Windows PC but you’ll need to use the Chrome Browser and install the Chromecast Extension. Once you do this any audio that is coming into your browser can be sent to the speakers.

So far the experience has been real nice, but what about the audio quality? Well how much quality can you expect from a device that costs $35? We found the audio was a little thinner than when listening through the same speakers connected directly to the phone or tablet. The lows didn’t have that punch and the highs just seemed washed out. We couldn’t find detailed specs on the converter used but that’s probably because it’s not very good. In general we found the Sonos did a much better job. But this isn’t a real knock on the product. It’s just a reminder not to expect miracles from the device. For what it is, the Chromecast Audio is a nifty little product that does a decent job.

The current firmware does not support sending audio to multiple zones at once. Google says there is an update coming later this year that will enable that feature.


Let’s be honest, the Chromecast Audio is not going to win over any audiophiles, but what it will do is make it possible for just about anyone, with a limited budget, to deploy a multi zone audio system for casual listening that won’t break the bank!

Download Episode #708

Posted by: htguys | October 2, 2015

Podcast #707: United Object Smart Beam Laser Projector

Today’s Show:

United Object Smart Beam Laser Projector

You could probably start a pretty healthy debate if you asked a group of home theater enthusiasts what the single most important piece of gear is if you want to truly transform a home video system into a legitimate home theater. Surround sound is important. Without surround sound you’ll never feel like part of the action, and your home theater will never feel like a movie theater. The subwoofer provides the punch you need to really feel the action; the center channel provides all the on-screen action and the surround speakers put you right into the middle of that action.

Equally as vital, however, is the front projector. Sure TVs are getting bigger, and they’re really good – even at the really big sizes. To be honest, big TVs that are really good is a relatively new phenomenon. In the past the really big screens, the rear projection screens, were good, but they were really more about size than quality. But not true today; there are some killer home theaters built around large plasma and LED TVs. But for the authentic big screen experience, you really need that big screen. Something you can still only get from a front projector.

But if you turn that debate inside out a bit, if you ask about the single most important piece of equipment for a portable theater setup, the answers change. Surround sound isn’t as important, because who would travel with 7 speakers. Obviously you wouldn’t travel with a full television set, so you could say a really good, portable screen is key. But most people would tell you the projector is the most important. And small projectors, pico projectors, are starting to really develop into a strong category.

One such pico projector that’s getting a lot of attention is the United Object Smart Beam Laser pico projector. Not only is it tiny, small enough to fit in any travel bag, it has some unique features that make it quite compelling as the centerpiece to your portable home theater. We had the opportunity to play with one recently and it was a lot of fun. Granted it won’t ever be able to anchor your true home theater experience, it is cool enough to anchor your portable video needs and turn any portable electronic viewing device, like a laptop, tablet or phone,  into a portable home theater rig.


The United Object Smart Beam Laser Projector is square. It measures about 2.2 inches on a side and can fit in the palm of your hand. They bill it as the smallest HD laser projector in the world. It has a maximum brightness of 60 ANSI Lumens using, of course, a laser power source. The display itself uses LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology and is capable of 720p (1280×720) HD video resolution. It’ll go as small as 20” all the way up to a maximum 100” screen. You can buy it online direct from United Object for $419. Or from Amazon for the same price, but you do get Prime shipping.

Setup and Use

The projector needs power and a video source. It includes the power cord and an MHL cable, but you can also use micro HDMI, but you’ll need to provide your own cable for that. The unit is battery powered and the manual claims you can get up to 120 minutes of video from a full charge. We didn’t test that, but because it also supports a couple wireless video options, you don’t need to have it plugged in at all times to use it. You can connect to it using Miracast, mirroring from iOS, or using DLNA over WiFi.

Plugging into power is, of course, trivial. Once that’s done, plugging in a micro HDMI cable (you can get from Amazon for a couple bucks) and using the Smart Beam like a traditional projector is a snap, assuming you have a device that supports either HDMI or MHL. At that time, you have a 2-inch cube portable projector that fits in the palm of your hand. The Smart Beam includes an MHL adapter that is needed for some MHL devices, but we went with straight HDMI and it was ridiculously easy to setup and use. It took all of 30 seconds.

Going wireless really doesn’t take that much more work. When you turn it on without an HDMI/MHL input, the home screen shows you a Miracast Device name to connect to. We assume that is trivial, but didn’t have a Miracast device handy, so we didn’t try it. To use it with iOS or DLNA, you have to switch it to DLNA mode by tapping the power button twice quickly. Then it turns into its own WiFi hotspot and tells you how to connect to it. You join it as if it were a standard, open WiFi network and use AirPlay to mirror a device to it or DLNA to send content to it. This added an extra minute or two to the setup.


One really cool feature of the projector is that it will auto focus for any supported screen size. You can’t zoom, so you have to move it to the proper distance to get the right screen size, but once you have it at the right distance, it’ll automatically focus for you. We found the focus to be much sharper at larger screen sizes than smaller ones, but that could also be a function of how far we were from the screen, so the slight fuzziness of the picture diminished the further away from it we sat. The auto-focus feature makes it just that much easier to use.

For video, the LCoS laser display was surprisingly good. At 60 ANSI Lumens it is absolutely critical that you control ambient light, but in a sufficiently dark room, the projected image was quite good. It doesn’t have the resolution needed for crisp text display, especially at smaller font sizes, so it probably wouldn’t be an ideal projector for all business use cases. But if your business presentations tend to be more graphical in nature, it could work for you.

Using it as a portable video projector, however, is probably the manufacturer’s ideal use case. For video, we found the colors and contrast to be quite good – of course assuming you have a dark room and a good screen to project onto. The clarity of the picture was a bit softer, and perhaps slightly grainier than other 720p projectors we used, but certainly not to where it was terrible or distracting. The built-in audio is what you would expect from a package that size. It gets the job done, but at about the same quality as the speaker built into your laptop or phone.


All in all, we’re excited about where the pico projector technology is headed. You still have to deal with a good deal of trade-offs in brightness and picture quality, but they are improving. We can see a day in the future where you could have video screens all over your home, much like you have with whole-house audio, using pico projectors. Or where multiple pico projectors working together, like surround sound speakers in your home theater, could transform an entire room into a 360-degree panoramic viewing experience. Talk about being in the middle of the action. Add 3D to the mix there, and you’ve got yourself a holodeck. Sure, it might be a dream right now, but at the rate technology is moving these days, you really never know what tomorrow holds.

Download Episode #707

Posted by: htguys | September 24, 2015

Podcast #706: Ultimate DVR

Today’s Show:

Ultimate DVR

We have been using DVRs now for the past 10 years or so and they have come a long way since when they were first introduced. But with that said there are still a few features that could take the DVR to a whole new level. We have a few ideas for the Ultimate DVR and so do you.

Pause In One Room And Pick Up In Another

Most of our DVRs can already pick up recordings in different rooms at the last played spot but it’s a bit cumbersome. The way it works for most of us is to turn on the TV in the other room go to the recording list select the show and then hit resume. We would like to make it simpler. How about when you hit pause you are given an option to select another TV for continuation. Then you turn off the TV and go to the other room and turn on the TV. A dialog box will already be displayed on the screen asking you to hit play to resume. With a single click of the remote you are back in business!

User Profiles

User profiles would make life much easier for homes with multiple inhabitants. The interface should allow for quick filtering of the recorded programs based on users. That way we don’t see the shows that our children and/or spouses recorded. Anytime a new program is added to the season pass manager it will show up in everyone’s list until you accept or reject it. You can also show the full unfiltered list with a simple toggle.

But the real power will be in tracking where you were in a program. If someone in your household watches a show that you also have in your list it should not indicate that its been watched by you until you watch it. If someone else is 30 min into the show and you are 15 min into the show the DVR should keep track of that as well.

True iTunes/Netflix/Amazon/Youtube Integration

It would be great if you could log in via your DVR and then whatever subscriptions/TV/movies you have purchased would show up in the program list. Sure you can switch over to a Smart TV application or external set top box. It would be really cool if they just show up in the playlist.

Listeners Ideas

I would like to be able to record 4-6 shows simultaneously, watch DVR from my phone, set recordings more easily (too many steps), watch from any TV/device.

-Shawn in Stafford, VA via Facebook

Due to there being so much content out there to watch, some intelligence can be added to recommend shows that you would like based on what you record and shows that you watch via the “Catch Up” feature. I find that there is a lot of good stuff out there, but we just don’t seem to find it and if we do find it, the shows are a few episodes in already.

For shows that you generally record, highlight them within the “Catch-up” section. I prefer to watch via “Catch-up” then via the recorded shows since then I don’t have to skip commercials.

-Glenn in South Africa via Facebook

Cloud based dvr so that recordings are available to view on all devices. Could be practical now that dsl speeds are much higher these days.

Integration of catch – up and on demand within the EPG. This could allow for scrolling ‘back in time’ through the epg to launch a catch up show, straight from the epg itself.

-Duncan via Facebook

In today’s day and age, if a game runs late, the dvr should automatically adjust

-@409SWH via twitter

An interface that’s easy to use with less clicks. The @XFINITY X1 DVR is example of poor/stupid UI.

-@HiFiGuy528 (and many others!) via twitter

Honestly, way before any fancier feature, I’d just like the damn thing to work SMOOTHLY. My Comcast box is just slow enough responding to button presses that it drives me crazy. I spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to fast forward through commercials without overshooting the beginning of the next program segment. Then, rewinding… Then, oops, back forward… Then back… Then screw it, I’ll just watch this last commercial. At the end of a program I hit stop and WAIT for the option to delete, then hit OK and WAIT for it to delete, then WAIT for it to respond to the “exit” button for the DVR menu to go away. Then I’m about 10 seconds away from smashing the remote. Also, on the Comcast DVRs, you have to add about 3 minutes to every recording because the thing acts squirrelly near the end of any recording, in ways too specific and weird to explain here. Oh, AND, for no reason, they changed the play button’s function during playback from simply showing the play timeline to now pausing the program. GRRR…. So the feature I want the most? JUST WORK RIGHT.

The next complaint is simply the guide / schedule. Program reruns show up as new and either don’t get changed to a rerun listing until right before it airs, or never change and get recorded, filling up the drive. And our local PBS station CONSTANTLY has errors in listings. On other stations, series recordings just disappeared for the upcoming season, and we had to re-create them. Nuts.

So then after all the basic stuff, I’d like one DVR that remembered where you were in any recording, no matter how you were playing it back (recorded or on demand), and could play back to TINY little players around the house, or as DLNA to anything that uses that standard, or to mobile devices wherever I am. But mostly I don’t want big ol’ boxes with every TV simply to be able to see HD. That’s infuriating, and one of the reasons I was so excited to recently read about efforts to set a software standard by the FCC that could be licensed to whomever, so we don’t all have to rent so many infernal boxes! :-)

-Lee via Facebook

I would like DVR’s to go away. All shows should be available from any device at any time, including FF/RW capability. My cable company (Brighthouse) only has shows available from the current season and FF does not work. The capability to download a show to a mobile device so it can be played off-line should be available as well. So far, I have only seen this from Amazon.

-Andy via Facebook

  1. External HD with no size limit (user upgradable/replaceable)
  2. easy downloadable recordings (for archiving)
  3. easy way to backup all settings to an external computer

-Bob via email

Download Episode #706

Posted by: htguys | September 18, 2015

Podcast #705: Yonomi – The Automation Consolidation App

Today’s Show:

Yonomi – The Automation Consolidation App

Being able to control anything and everything in your home from your smartphone is pretty cool. Having to open multiple apps to do it is kinda lame. That’s what the developers behindYonomi are hoping to solve for you. Sure if you have a central server or hub, you can do it all there and control everything with one app, but is there really one server that can control any smart device? We haven’t seen it yet.

Of course, Yonomi can’t control any and every smart device you can imagine, but because their approach is different, they have support for more than you can imagine. And it feels like it will be easier for them to add support for more devices faster than a server or hub product could do.

About the App

From the Website: “Smart devices are here: Wireless thermostats, activity monitors, networked music systems and a whole host of devices in the home. Wouldn’t it be great if they all could communicate together? Wouldn’t it be even better if they worked in unison to make your daily routines easier and more enjoyable? Now there is an app that does all that and works in the background so you can get back to the things that really matter.”

 “Yonomi resides on your phone and in the Cloud. No need for a hub, controller box or other additional hardware. Yonomi magically finds and enhances your existing connected devices allowing them to interact with one another in ways never before possible.”

Supported Devices

  • August Smart Locks
  • Belkin WeMo Switches, Plug Modules, Motion Sensors, Bulbs and Netcams
  • Belkin Wemo enabled Crock-Pot
  • Belkin Wemo enabled Mr. Coffee
  • Cree LED Bulbs
  • Egg Minder
  • GE Link LED Bulbs
  • Jawbone UP
  • Mimo Baby Monitor
  • Nest Thermostat and Smoke Detector
  • Parrot Flower Power
  • Philips HUE Lights
  • Quirky Aros Air Conditioner, Door & Window Sensors, Water Sensors
  • Sonos Devices
  • Withings Pulse, Activite, Smart Body Analyzer, Wireless Scale

Using the App

First of all, the app is totally free. We aren’t sure how they plan to make money and stay around for the long run, but hopefully they have a plan. It is a bit scary to rely on it as your home automation server to only have it disappear out from underneath you. But then again, it’s free, so you’ve lost nothing but the time it took to get it up and running. Installing the app is as easy as any other app. Then you register by providing your name, email address and a password. Once done, it scours your WiFi for compatible devices and adds them.

Once you have some devices in the app, that’s when things get really fun. It starts by suggesting routines that match with the devices you have. Almost like a Harmony remote, when you add a TV and it tells you that you should really have a Watch TV activity, etc. But it goes way beyond just the devices it found. You can tell it where your home is located and it can use date and time, sunrise and/or sunset, the location of the phone (you leave home, you arrive home, etc) and a lot more to customize your routines.

Much like an automation hub or server, you can configure all kinds of routines to occur based on your life, and even things you didn’t know your devices could do. You can have your Sonos speakers talk to you, like saying ‘Don’t forget your lunch’ at 7:45 in the morning as your kids are headed out the door for school, then play Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) by Bananarama as they’re walking out. Or it can say, “Welcome home, Dave” when you get back from a long day at work, then start playing your favorite relaxing slow jam mix to help you de-stress. Even turn on some lights and start a pot of coffee.

Events that occur on the phone can set off routines in the smart devices as well. Flash the lights in the whole house when you get a phone call. Mute the Sonos speakers, or pause the music, when you answer or make a call. Have the Sonos speakers announce the weather when you shake the phone. It’s fun, easy to use, and very easy to configure. Because the app works with the Sonos Playbar, there are a bunch of cool potential routines to tie into your home theater as well.

We didn’t get the chance to try it on multiple phones, to make sure they could set independent routines, like different slow jam mixes when different people arrive home, but since the phone was added as a supported device during setup, we assume it would be as simple as logging into the app with the same account and creating some new routines. We’ll try this later and report back.

Download Episode #705

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