Tag Archives: Apple TV

The future of TV arrives in time for Christmas and I love it – Apple TV & Chromecast II

Apple TV 4Whenever I visit The Mall Camberley one of my favourite things to do is pop into Currys.Digital and chat to my friend Geoff (the Manager) about all the latest tech of which he and I share a mutual love for. It’s almost like a tech bromance.

On a recent visit to Curry’s Geoff was excited because he had just taken delivery of some shiny new Apple TV’s and true to form we got talking about all the latest cool features.

He said “Want to take one home to play with?” “I thought you would never ask” I said. He gave me a Google Chromecast II to take home to play with too.

I have had chance to play with the Apple TV and the Google Chromecast and I love them both.

I’ll start with the Google Chromecast II. No point in going over old ground explaining what this device does as I wrote a blog about the first generation Chromecast here and to be honest the second generation device does not offer anything new in terms of features. The second generation Chromecast simply offers a more powerful device with an upgrade in the processor and antennas which are optimised for streaming. This is really noticeable as there is no longer connection issues found with the first generation device.

The price is the same at £30 and included are Sky NOW or Google Play Store Credits to choose from. A little advice, last year on Boxing day only Curries.Digital in Camberley were selling the Chromecast for £18 so its worth waiting to see if they will be doing the same offer this year.

So now to the 4th Generation Apple TV. This small bit of kit really is the Ferrari of streaming media devices.

As someone who uses such devices daily and has owned a 3rd Generation Apple TV for a few years I am really excited about the latest iteration.

Apart from the on board hardware upgrades which make the device much more capable to handle the new OS and feature sets, the biggest improvement is the addition of an App Store. When the device was first available, there were not that many apps available but more and more apps are being added by developers. Some of the games are superb making the device a great family entertainment system. My daughter and I have had hours of fun with some of the games.

The other noticeable difference is the remote control which has a motion engine integrated and allows it to be used as a game controller much like a Wii controller.

If you are a Netflix fan then the Apple TV is the best device to experience Netflix movies and TV shows. This is because Apple caches Netflix shows on Apple servers which means they load faster and far less likely to buffer.

I love the way SIRI search brings all services together so that when I search for a movie it returns results across all services rather than just iTunes.

Finally, Apple TV has two memory capacities to choose from. 32gb or 64gb. I think the 32gb will serve most people’s needs adequately but if you are an App monster then go for the 64gb.

Currys.Digital at The Mall Camberley have Apple TV and Google Chromecast II in stock now so you can support a great local store and bag yourself some great Christmas gifts.

 

 

 

 

Roku Streaming Stick – I love it

Roku Streaming Media StickIn March I wrote a review on the Google Chromecast which I have been very impressed with. So much so I think we use it more in our house than our Sky+ HD subscription.

I know lots of people who have bought a Chromecast on the back of that review and I have not heard any negative feeback yet.

While in Camberley recently I visited Currys PC World in the Mall and the Manager offered me a review model of the new Roku Streaming Stick. I have been playing around with it for about a month now and I have to say it is very good.

Roku has infact been the market leader in streaming media devices for quite some time but as it does not have the big name of Apple or Google I guess it may have passed many peoples attention. But to my mind Roku is the device that is setting the standard and is everything Apple TV should be.

For those that might not be comfortable with technology and might be a little put off with the set up process of some of the other streaming media devices available, then I think the Roku is for you.

For starters you don’t need a smart phone or tablet to get the thing to work so for all you technophobes out there that are missing out on the joys of youtube, netflix and spotify now you can finally join the rest of us cool kids and enjoy these services and many more on you TV rather than be chained to your PC.

The only things you need to get your Roku device to work is wireless internet and a TV with a HDMI port which most TV’s have several these days. And whatever you do, the next time you buy a TV don’t get blagged into buying a smart TV. In my view a complete waste of money when this £49 tiny device that plugs discreetly into the back of your existing TV will give you everything the leading smart TV’s offer and more for a fraction of the cost.

Roku has its own operating system which means once its plugged in and you have the source set to the HDMI port it is plugged into then you can control everything from the very cool remote control that comes with it including the whole set up process which is very simple and has clear step by step instructions on screen. If you do have a smartphone or tablet then I recommend the Roku App as during set up its a little easier to use a keyboard to input WiFi passwords and so on.

What is quite unique to Roku streaming media devices is they have their own app stores built into the device and there are more apps than you will ever use. But the ones you will use are all there including Spotify which as far as I am aware the Roku is the only streaming media device to have a Spotify app developed for it. So if you have a home movie sound system you can stream more or less any tune you can think of through your speakers. That is very cool, especially if your having a party. There is even a facebook app so you can have facebook on your TV. I can’t think of anything worse but I know that will be a popular feature with a lot of ‘Camberley Mummies’.

Currys.Digital  Camberley are selling this device for £49 and while it is a little more expensive than the Google Chromecast I think its worth the little bit extra for the cool remote control and that everything you need is in the device so no messing about setting up apps on smart devices to get it to work. Without a doubt this device is way better than the current Apple TV and half the price.

I did find the Roku Streaming Stick to be a little under powered in terms of processor which compared to the Roku3Chromecast and Apple TV makes starting up just a bit slower and input commands are slower to react but by no means tediously slow. I know the Roku 3, a hybrid version of the streaming stick is lightening fast so this resolves that minor point and if I was to purchase a Roku player then this would be the one I would go for.

All in all a solid product and fantastic value for money. Both Roku Streaming Stick and Roku 3 available at Currys.Digital, the Mall, Camberely.

 

 

 

Turn your TV into a Smart TV from only £10

AppleTV ScreenA local resident recently sent an email to the community email list asking for advice on what options are available for streaming TV.

As a user of streaming services through my TV and an avid listener of technology podcasts I was in a position to respond and offer some advice.

I thought it would be a good subject for a blog. So below I have listed some of the more popular and well known options.

There has never been a better time to take advantage of the latest technology which is incredibly cheap and easy to set up. The latest really cool devices come in at only £10. And with streaming content providers like NetFlix I am hearing of more and more people ditching their Sky or Virgin Media accounts altogether as the streaming TV gives them everything they need. Netflix has an awesome catalogue of Children’s content so if you have a satellite or cable account just for the kids, then this is a seriously viable and much cheaper option. A Netflix subscription is only £5.99 per month.

Apple TV

I am the owner of Apple TV. I have had it for about 7 months and love it. In my view, of all the options out there, this is the best one. The only three draw backs as I see them are:

  1. You are tied to the Apple eco system. So if you buy movies or music in iTunes, then you can only view/listen to that content on an Apple device such as Apple TV, iPad, iPhone or iTouch or through iTunes on a PC or Mac.
  2. Then there is the cost. Any Apple product is more expensive than the competition. The cost of Apple TV is £99 which I think is very good value for money considering what it does. But it is still 10x more expensive than the cheapest available option
  3. No real chance of ever getting Spotify as a baked in service as it directly competes with iTunes. However, with iTunes Radio on the horizon this is not at all a deal breaker. In fact I may even be tempted to ditch my Spotify account when this is released in the UK which I predict/hope will be in September/October 2013 with the release of iOS7.

For your Apple TV to work you will need an iTunes account, but if you are a current Apple device owner you should already have one of these and if not you can sign up for an account through Apple TV set up.

Of course if you already have an iTunes account and have purchased movies, TV shows or music then you can watch/listen to all of these through your Apple TV. It also supports multiple users which as far as I am aware no other Apple device offers this. So if you have several members of your household all with their own iTunes accounts, you can easily change the user so they can have their own content streaming to through Apple TV.

Apple are updating Apple TV so I expect it to have more cool features soon. But it has NetFlix baked in so its just a matter of putting in your username and password and away you go. If you dont have a NetFlix account you can sign up for one through the Apple TV and get a free month no strings attached trial while your at it.

There are other really cool features that come as standard with Apple TV. I love that I can watchApple TV Youtube & Vimeo videos on my TV and also have access to literally billions of video and audio only podcasts that I can stream directly into any room in the house with a TV.

The other benefit of Apple TV, if you own an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch is the AirPlay feature which allows you to stream or mirror content on your Apple device onto the TV screen. This is very cool when I am on Skype to my family in Spain as everyone in our living room can see them on the TV screen. Its like having them in the room. There are also some great games available that utilise airplay really well and allow you to use an iPad or iPhone as the game controller. One of my favourites is Storm Raiders which is optimised for AirPlay and is very cool.

You can also use an iPhone,  iPad or iPod Touch as a remote control.

One of the latest apps to hit Apple TV is Sky News. This allows you to watch Sky News even if you are not a Sky subscriber. Sky News is the only channel on Sky I really watch a lot. If it were not for my Wife & Daughters viewing habits, with this latest App, I would do away with Sky altogether.

There are too many benefits and features of Apple TV to mention here. But I can say hand on heart I am not at all disappointed with my Apple TV.

Here is a great video review of Apple TV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKUbmlC7Yeo

Roku

This is the direct competition to Apple TV. It more or less does everything the Apple TV does, but I think the games available for apple devices to stream through Apple TV are better and if you are already hooked into the Apple Eco System it makes sense to pay the extra to own the slightly better device. The UI is not as attractive as Apple TV in my view.

TheRoKu latest Roku device is only £50 and works in more or less the same way as the Apple TV. Again all you need is a TV with a HDMI port and a router. The Remote control is better than the Apple TV in my view. Mainly because the Apple TV remote is so small and slim, I keep loosening it down the side of the Sofa.

If you are not tied into the Apple eco system then I think it makes complete sense to go with a Roku over the Apple TV. I get asked a lot Apple TV or RoKu. If you want this questions answering then watch this cnet Prize Fight episode.

Here is a good review on the Roku – http://www.wired.co.uk/reviews/tvs-and-home-cinema/2012-02/roku-2-xs

Chromecast

This is the latest streaming media device to hit the market. It literally has only just come out. It is exceptional value for money too. Currently only available in the USA for $35 (about £23) but I predict it will be released in the UK in the next couple of weeks.

In my view this device is the only real competition to Apple TV at the moment. I still think the Apple TV is better having read and watched several reviews on the Chromecast but it’s the perfect impulse buy at the price point. There is an App for Apple devices that will work with the Chromecast so there is no real reason not to go for this option.

ChromecastAt the moment, there are only a couple of apps that support Chromecast, but Google have indicated it is working hard with its 3rd party developers to bring out some killer apps which will make it irresistible. Spotify is high on my wish list and I am willing to bet will become baked into the Chromecast as it matures.

With the Chrome browser support it is possible to utilise any cloud based service that can be viewed on a Chrome browser so it is possible to get Spotify on your TV with Chromecast but achieving that might involve a little more faff and I am not convinced the quality wont be compromised.

One other thing I really love about the Chromecast is that it can be powered by USB, which means if you have a TV with a USB port, you can use that to power the device so less power wires to be bothered about.

Google can’t be making any money on this device and if it is then it can only be pence. Advertising is Google’s business model where hardware is Apples. Therefore, the cynic in me makes me think that Google will serve up AdWords based on your streaming habits. I just hope that it does not find its way in or beside any of the streamed content.

Ill be buying one of these as a streaming device for our bedroom.

This is a good report from BBC on Chromecast – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23514400

Sky

Sky has launched a set-top box for its Now TV service. The set top device is actually a re-branded Roku box and works in exactly the same way although the services that come baked in are different and more aligned to Skys own services.

At the moment there is only iPlayer, Demand 5, Sky News and BBC News. 4OD, ITV Player, Netflix & LoveFilm are likely to be added with future firmware updates.

Included is a free thirty-day pass for Sky Movies. When that expires users will have to pay £8.99 pm and commit to a three-month Sky Now TVcontract for a film pass, and sports fans I think £9.99 for a day’s access to Sky Sports is not a bad way to consume sports content without the commitment you currently have to give with Sky satellite services when you might only want to watch the big games every now and again.

I also like that you can log into Spotify and Facebook accounts to stream music and photos.

At only £10 for the device, I think this is actually something seriously worth considering and by far the best value for money of all the technology out there right now.

Had blockbuster video done this 18 months ago, it might not have gone boobs up so spectacularly.

Sky are manoeuvring into the streaming market space with the release of a Sky HD satellite set top box that has WiFi and streaming capability so if your due to upgrade this might be a viable option too although you will need a Sky subscription with this which is quite expensive. I have no idea when it will be available at this point but I doubt you will have to wait long.

The only other equipment you will need in order for any of the devices mentioned to work:

  • WiFi router, which most people with internet already have
  • HD ready TV with a HDMI port

In my view, Apple TV is the best product on the market at the moment. However, the relatively low cost of these streaming devices means you can own every device I have mentioned in this blog and have the best of all worlds.

The only other thing anyone thinking of adopting this technology should consider is their current broadband package. If you want to consume a lot of streaming media then it will seriously bite into your data usage allowance and you could very easily find yourself having to pay extra for broadband if you go over your package limit.

I have an unlimited data package with BT so its not an issue for me, but it is something you should give some careful thought too.

You can buy Apple TV & RoKu right now in Camberley Town Centre which is why I have assigned this blog to the #LoveCamberley category.

Blockbuster Video in Frimley Green Closing Down

Blockbuster Video - Frimley GreenIt seems a common theme for this blog of late which is very sad.

First was Camberley Cycles in Frimley Green, a family business that has served the community for generations. Then Comet, a significant employer in the area. More recently HMV in The Mall Camberley was another high profile business to close its doors for good.

Only a couple of weeks ago I reported on the Residents Network that Acre Office Supplies will soon close it’s doors after 19 years of trading in Frimley High Sreet.

And now, I am utterly depressed to report that Blockbuster Video in Frimley Green is to close. Although not a significant employer in Surrey Heath they still provide employment opportunities to young people and offer a product that most family’s enjoy.

Only a few weeks ago I spoke to a member of staff at the store and he told me that the Frimley Green branch of Blockbuster Video is one of the top performing stores in the region and so he was confident about its future. Sadly its clear there is no future.

There is a sign in the window stating that the company will honour gift vouchers but only to the value of 50% of the value. A better proposition than what HMV were offering but I think people will be very reluctant to buy gift vouchers with retailers as a result which is damaging to other business’s.

I am sure the economic climate will have played a part in this, but I think the leap forward in technology has played a much bigger part.

Online shopping and mega e-retailers such as Amazon make it so easy and much cheaper to shop on-line so its no wonder Comet could not compete.

And in the case of HMV & Blockbuster, I am certain technology is what sealed their fate. If I want to buy a music track, I tap the iTunes icon on my iPhone or iPad and it is instantly available to me for 79p. If I want to buy the same music in a shop like HMV, I have to drive, park and the cost of the CD is several times that of the track I downloaded. And now with the likes of Netflix, for £5.99 per month I can watch all the latest movies and TV Shows I like, either on my iPad or stream it in HD glory to my my TV with the help of Apple TV.

Technology is changing the shape of our high streets and not in a good way.