Sunday, November 29, 2015

The WiFi enabled Video Doorbell by Ring

I had been meaning to try this device for quite sometime, but it's predecessor (the Bot) had too many issues to justify an install. I looked high and low for an alternative and then this summer Ring deployed their newest product (now called "Ring").

I would say right off the bat that the install was incredibly simple. Took me less than 20 mins, came with the right screw drivers and even a video to demonstrate the installation procedure. 

The doorbell part works beautifully. When someone rings, it not only sounds the normal chime but also alerts any iOS devices with the app installed, allowing someone to see the person at the door on video, hear them and speak to them (awesome if you are in the back yard or not at home when a package requiring signature arrives). 

However, the other touted feature is the ability to detect motion at your door and record a brief video while alerting you (a security feature). I experimented with various ranges of distance but nearly all of the distances have too many false positives (i.e. the wind moving a flag, etc). When it is dialed back, it often misses the video capture of real motion because the device does not have the horse power to start video capture quickly enough. 

The video playback feature is commercially reasonable. Less than a few dollars per month to have every 30 second video accessible in the cloud. However, about 1/3 of the time, the encoding / transcoding of the video fails in various parts of the video. I can't tell if it is the hardware or the service they are using for the transcoding and deployment to the service. 

Conclusion: if you need a replacement door bell with a video option, this is worth the effort. However, if you can wait until the next version (better processor, faster recording start, better motion/IR sensing algorithm), I would wait. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The new Amazon FireTV Stick

My new and improved FireTV stick arrived this week. I wanted to test a few things with this $39 device (includes Voice remote) including its Wi-Fi performance, the voice remote itself, the new Alexa functionality, the new iOS app, it's "Instant Start" capability and the ability for "anyone to install". 

I am still very pleased with the full-on Amazon FireTV in my living room -- the 4K rendering from Amazon and Netflix are gorgeous on my 78" Samsung 4K set. 
I had my 12-year old do the install. Took him less than 5 minutes with the hardest part being the WiFi password. Simple as advertised. 
The Wi-Fi performance (now dual band) is much better than the previous stick 1080P looks great over my Apple AirPort Extreme Wifi. 
The voice remote is every bit as functional as the full FireTV version and much better than not having the voice search. 
The new iOS app is also great, including the access to voice search and Alexa. Works easily with both of my FireTV devices. 

Finally, the instant start works as advertised.

My view -- much better than the previous version and frankly much better than the Apple TV. I have always been a fan of the content-oriented UI vs an App-oriented approach. 

Amazon has been running sales all weekend on both version of the FireTV...a great Christmas gift.