Archive for July, 2009

Flip Mino HD Camcorder Review – World’s Smallest HD Camcorder – Big Performance, Tiny Package

Monday, July 13th, 2009
The Flip Mino HD Camcorder is a lot of camcorder for not a lot of money.

The Flip Mino HD Camcorder is a lot of camcorder for not a lot of money.

The Flip Mino HD Camcorder is pretty amazing. A full 720p HD camcorder in a small form – just 3.94” x 1.97” x 0.63” and 3.3 ounces total weight! The Flip delivers stunning HD video and high quality audio in a tiny camcorder that you can easily slip into a pocket.

Flip’s known for making no-nonsense, easy to use gear, and the Flip Mino HD Camcorder is no exception. Shooting is easy, just press the red button and line up what you want to shoot in the viewfinder. Want to play it back? Just press “Play” and watch the action on the built-in 1.5” LCD screen.

Transferring video to a computer’s a snap as well. You just flip out the Flip’s built-in USB connection and pop it into your computer. The included FlipWare software makes downloading clips, editing videos, and even uploading to Youtube incredibly easy. You can also create snapshots from your video clips.

It’s time someone made a camera for the digital age, one that doesn’t require tapes, DVDs, or annoying hard-drive access. And that camcorder is here – the Flip Mino HD Camcorder. Amazon’s having a great deal on the black version right now – just $194 (although you’ll have to add the camera to your cart to see the price).

The Flip Mino HD Camcorder comes with 4GB of memory, enough for 60 minutes of HD video footage. You also get a wrist strap, a soft carrying case, and a TV connector cable, in case you feel like watching your videos directly on your TV.

We can’t recommend the Flip Mino HD Camcorder highly enough for everyday video making. Its small size, cheap price, and ease of use make it perfect for capturing key life moments or shooting Youtube videos, and its cheap price mean you can give it as a gift to elderly parents who might be confused by a more complicated traditional camcorder (or even grads or teens). Some enterprising young filmmaker will probably release a feature film shot entirely on the Flip Mino HD Camcorder – the quality is good enough.

The only reason the Flip Mino HD Camcorder wouldn’t be right for you is if you were using it as an event videographer or for a professional-level video camera. The lack of picture adjustability and the fact that you have to dump footage off to a computer after 60 minutes are drawbacks in those instances. But you have to remember that you’re talking about an HD video camera that fits in a pocket and costs about as much as a digital still camera.

Recommendation: By all means, buy a Flip Mino HD Camcorder.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote Review

Friday, July 10th, 2009
The Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote is a great buy for a universal remote.

The Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote is a great buy for a universal remote.

If you’ve made the transition to the digital age or are just thinking about it, odds are you’ve got a lot of home theater gear — TV, DVD player, game consoles, digital cable or satellite, home theater stereo. And with that gear comes a lot of remotes. Nobody likes to scramble to find four remote controls to change from TV to a video game or DVD. That’s where a good universal remote control comes in, letting you use one control for all of your digital devices.

Harmony makes the best universal remote controls around. And the Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote is no exception. Coming in a spiffy white that matches the sleek décor of the 360 console, the Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote allows you to program the remote via a USB hookup to your computer. A setup wizard lets you select which devices and brands you have, making configuring your multiple devices a snap. The old days of entering codes and pointing your remotes at the universal remote while pressing buttons are over.

The heart of the Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote is a contextual function LCD screen with six buttons, allowing you to choose functions by what you want to do (you can also label them how you’d like). Instead of remembering that to play a game in your Xbox 360 you need to turn on your TV, switch the input to Component Two, turn on your home theater receiver and switch the input to DVD, and then turn on the 360, the remote does it all for you when you press “Play Xbox 360.” And should something go wrong, like one of the devices doesn’t turn on or switch to the right input, there’s a handy “Help” button, offering contextual help on the LCD screen and checking to see if each of the steps it takes actually resolves the problem.

The Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote works with literally thousands of devices from hundreds of manufacturers. And because you set it up with your computer, Harmony is constantly updating the devices it works with.

One small note – if you have a Nintendo Wii, the remote can’t turn the Wii on or off (because the Wiimotes work on Bluetooth instead of infrared). However, it can still set up your TV and home theater stereo receiver so that all you have to do is pickup a Wiimote and hit a button to start playing your favorite games.

We highly recommend the Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote. You could buy a more expensive Logitech model costing hundreds of dollars, but this one does it all.  And for only $79.99.  So we’re giving it a 10/10.

Samsung LN32B650 32-Inch 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV with Red Touch of Color Review

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
We love the Samsung LN32B650 LCD HDTV

We love the Samsung LN32B650 LCD HDTV

Picture Quality: Picture quality on the Samsung LN32B650 HDTV is pretty darn solid. Both black level and color performance rival that of much more expensive TVs. The 32-inch screen delivers a nice sized picture for most apartments and small- to medium-sized living rooms. The only quibbles we have is with the image uniformity – sometimes the screen is slightly darker or brighter in spots than elsewhere. However, this a flaw common amongst practically all HDTVs (unless you’re spending thousands of dollars).

An additional nice feature is that the screen isn’t super-glossy, so you don’t lose the picture in reflections from bright lights (like sunlight).

Audio Quality: Audio quality is what you’d expect from an HDTV. The LN32B650 32-inch 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV puts out acceptable sound from its included 10-watt, bottom-mounted speakers. Although if you’re upgrading to a TV like this, odds are, you’re going to want to output the sound through your surround sound home theater system for true movie-theater quality try this. And hooked up that way, the sound quality is amazing.

Product Features: The Samsung LN32B650 HDTV features full HD 1080p resolution (the highest level resolution you can get), red “Touch of Color” design (basically a red accent around the frame, which is a nice visual touch and complements any home décor), Auto Motion Plus (for fluid motion), 100,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, a super-fast 4ms response time, and Wide Color Enhancer 3 for more vivid colors. It also includes InfoLink, which lets you add RSS feeds for weather, sports and news using an Ethernet connection and your Internet connection; and a USB port to display JPEG and MPEG files and listen to MP3s. Plus a removable stand. And plenty of inputs – 4 HDMI, 2 component, 2 composite, 1 PC, 2 USB, the aforementioned Ethernet hookup, and an optical digital audio output, allowing you to connect to a home theater, computer, and pretty much anything else you want, including multiple next generation game consoles. And the features roll on, including a built-in digital tuner for receiving over-the-air/broadcast HD stations, Picture-In-Picture (for viewing multiple programs at once),SRS TruSurround HD, which simulates a full surround sound multi-speaker setp with just the two TV speakers, a variable sleep timer, trilingual on-screen displays. And a nicely functional remote.

Recommendation: This is a great TV at a great price (currently a bargain at $899.99 – you’ll have to add the item to your Amazon shopping cart to see the price). It’s decent size, has great performance, and plenty of inputs and outputs. And 32 inches is plenty of screen for most homes. If you don’t need a bigger TV, we highly recommend it.

Roku Digital Video Player Review – Rockin’ Digital Content with Roku

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
The Roku Box, which lets you stream content (some HD) to your TV

The Roku Digital Video Player, which lets you stream content (some HD) to your TV

Picture Quality: Picture quality largely depends on two factors — what kind of television you have and how good your broadband connection is.  If you have an HDTV and a relatively fast connection, the Roku Digital Video Player will display a fantastic picture — around DVD quality for most programs and HD-level for HD programs.  If you have an older TV and/or a slow connection, the picture scales accordingly.  To put it as bluntly as possible, picture quality will range from good to excellent, depending.  One of the nice features of the Roku Digital Video Player is the ability of content like Netflix Instant Watch or Amazon Video On Demand to up- or downscale the picture quality if and when connection problems occur.  Instead of pausing, in most cases the picture will adjust to a lower resolution.

Audio Quality: Audio quality is also quite good, around DVD quality at its worst, with accompanying surround sound features.

Product Features: Aside from the aforementioned auto-picture scaling, the Roku Digital Video Player comes with a remote control and batteries.  And the ability to sync it up with both Netflix Instant Watch and Amazon Video On Demand so that you can watch your programming on your television.  Netflix Instant Watch features over 12,000 films and TV programs, while Amazon On Demand features over 40,000.  That’s a lot of content!  The Roku Digital Video Player also features built-in ethernet and Wi-Fi connections, so you can quickly get onto your broadband hookup, whether it’s wired or wireless.  And the Roku box includes standard RCA cables for hooking up to your television.  If you’ve got an HDTV and are looking for a higher-quality TV hookup, you can purchase the  Roku Digital Video Player PLUS Premium Cable Pack for only $20.00 more.

Recommendation: As we stated before, we love Netflix Instant Watch.  And Amazon Video On Demand’s pretty great too.  If you subscribe to Netflix Instant Watch and supplemented your movies with those on Amazon Video On Demand, along with purchasing the occasional current season TV show episode (usually $1.99 for standard-def and $2.99 for hi-def), you could forgo digital cable or satellite TV altogether.  And at $99.99, the Roku Box is a feature-laden, easy to use way to view that programming on your bigger-screen TV instead of your smaller-screen computer monitor.  We love our Roku box. Overall

Rating: 9/10 (We don’t give it a 10/10 because it’s not life-changing like the first DVRs were.  But it’s pretty great nonetheless).

Magnavox TB100MG9 Digital Converter Box Review

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

The Magnavox TB100MG9 Digital Converter Box suffers from poor audio quality

The Magnavox TB100MG9 Digital Converter Box suffers from poor audio quality

Picture Quality: The Magnavox TB100MG9 Digital Converter Box has a very high picture quality, among the better boxes we’ve tested overall.

Audio Quality: Unfortunately, the Magnavox TB100MG9 Digital Converter Box has some of the worst audio quality we’ve heard in any digital TV converter box. There’s a hissing sound overlaying all audio, which can get highly annoying.

Product Features: The Magnavox TB100MG9 Digital Converter Box comes with a program guide, individual tuning and auto scan, and adjustable closed captioning, and analog pass-through.

Recommendation: The picture quality and features on this box are great, but there is one big strike against it. The audio quality, quite frankly stinks. A digital box should have digital quality audio, at the worst, around what you’d get out of a CD player. The static on the Magnavox TB100MG9 sound quality is as hissy and annoying as a poorly tuned analog broadcast. As we’ve said before, there are other, better boxes out there for your money; we love the Tivax STB-T8.

Overall Rating: 5/10

HD Movies on the Cheap with Netflix Instant Watch

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Netflix Instant Watch and an Xbox 360 - a great, cheap way to get HD movies

Netflix Instant Watch and an Xbox 360 - a great, cheap way to get HD movies

Part of the new direction here at is giving you the product reviews and advice you need to make the most of your digital world. In this economy, it can be hard to go out and splurge on the latest Blu-Ray player or bigscreen HD TV. But you can enjoy movies, some in HD quality, for a very low cost.

Netflix Instant Watch is a great technology. If you have a broadband connection, you can watch over 12,000 movies from Netflix’s collection on a Mac or PC in fullscreen. Often, these films are available in HD quality (and if not, they’re standard DVD quality). Netflix Instant Watch works just like regular Netflix – you have a separate queue that you can add movies to and then you can select which film or TV show to view.

Best of all, Netflix Instant Watch comes as a free add-on with any Netflix plan of $9/month or more. Which means that for only $9 a month, you can subscribe to Netflix’s unlimited DVDs, one-DVD-at-a-time mail plan and get Netflix Instant Watch at no added charge.

And, as a special bonus, you can watch Netflix Instant Watch films on your TV, including your HD TV if you’ve got an Xbox 360 with an Xbox Live Gold membership or if you purchase a low-cost Roku box (the Roku box also lets you view Amazon Video On Demand content on your TV). If you’re already rocking an HDTV and an Xbox 360, it’s an easy way to add a ton of content to your home for just $9/month. If you’re looking to purchase a Roku box, they can be had for $99 from Amazon. You’ll need to link your Roku to your Amazon account or Netflix account) in order to watch content on your TV (or link your Netflix account to your Xbox 360), but it’s a very simple, intuitive process.

We’re Making Some Changes to

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

The digital transition came and went, mostly easily.  We’re now living in a digital world.

We know that this can be a bit confusing — you might want to learn how you can get HD programming on an old analog TV (short answer: a digital converter box, digital cable, or satellite); you might be thinking about purchasing a new HD TV or a Blu-Ray player or a cutting-edge gaming console.  Maybe you’ve got questions about what kind of surround sound is the best or which home theater audio equipment to buy

And that’s what we’re here for. isn’t just for reviews of digital converter boxes — we can help you out with all sorts of equipment and content, with reviews and advice.

So stay tuned in the days to come and we’ll help you navigate your way through our digital world.  It’s a great world to live in!