Thursday, December 11, 2014

Streaming 4K - is it ready?

I find it fascinating that the first 2 "network" options I have for watching 4K content are from Netflix and Amazon. DirecTV has announced a 4K channel in the future,

Netflix announced their capability sometime ago and even though I bought a 4K TV a few months ago, it was only a few weeks ago that I tried out the capability. 

I have to admit I spent some period of time trying to figure it out. I could not get the 4K option work on my XBox One or FireTV, etc, and then finally read up and realized I had to use the Netflix app in the   Samsung TV itself to see the content options. 

Netflix looks gorgeous in 4K. There is a dedicated "row" of content options for 4K. However, despite the fact that I have 45 Mbps of bandwidth, it does buffer and crash the app...a lot. 

Amazon, which announced their option only 2 days ago, is a much bigger challenge for content discovery.  I cannot find a 4K area on the UI, but was able to search for content on my phone. Ironically, looking up a CNET article was the best source for finding available content. There was a lot of rebuffering, though unlike Amazon, it did not crash the app.

I did a bunch of comparisons to 2K content on the Xbox and was hoping the 4K upscale would be nearly as good, but it wasn't. 

So I am glad the shift to higher quality content has started, but we are a long ways from this being a viable, main stream content option. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Home Automation - WeMo WiFi Bulbs

I wanted something to be able to automatically control the garage light settings as well as the front porch. Already had a few WeMo switches for lamps and light switches for bed rooms.

Easy install. Took about 4 minutes total. 
Functionality is great. Of course, unlike with a switch installation, you need to leave them "on" so this really only works in places where you aren't wanting to turn on the lights at other times (without getting out the app). 

Bought a few of the Sylvania IQ bulbs to go with this (front porch). Also very easy to add to the app.

You can get all of this on Amazon with this search.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Casting for Second Screen Continues to Improve

If you read our research a few months ago, you noticed that casting via the Google/Netflix API driven capability has continued to improved across a multitude of apps.

However, a recent review of YouTube and Netflix in my own digital living room (yes, not the average home) reveals that the pair of apps continues to update their list of capable devices in a pretty aggressive fashion. In the image below (Netflix) you can see they have added Amazon's FireTV, the Xbox One, and the latest Samsung TVs (at least). Full disclosure, I don't have a PS4 to test against. It did not detect my Roku. My Amazon FireTV stick requires the user to select a casting mode before the apps will detect it. 

Of course the "rest" of the casting apps (HuluPlus, Flixster, etc) still only detect the Chromecast device itself. A likely scenario is that Google and YouTube will continue to push the envelope (they require new apps to enable casting to get onto their device) and others will follow. 

The other likely result is that the value of casting as a feature for sharing 2nd screen content will grow but the value of the Chromecast device itself will diminish over time.