Coming to the OTT Lab: Devices We Will (Or Won’t) Be Testing Soon
A lot of new devices hit the radar this summer, many of them from Google following its 2012 I/O conference late last month.
But Goliaths like Google aren’t the only action. On the smaller side, we’ve ordered another device from a startup company – Simple.TV. So while we wait (impatiently) for the toys we’ve pre-ordered, here’s a rundown of the gadgets that will soon be arriving in the lab, and those that we’ll likely leave on the shelf a little while longer.
Simple.TV is an 1080p HD tuner and video server that records over-the-air TV to your own USB hard drive, while supporying standard DVR trick-play functions, like pause/rewind on live TV. But Simple.TV also streams shows to other devices (currently Roku boxes and iOS phones and tablets; more to come soon, the company’s website promises.)
Simple.TV offers a premier service for $4.99 per month, which adds automatic recordings, an EPG and program metadata, and unlimited remote streaming for up to 5 users.
And in case (like me) you’re wondering how your slow Internet connection can handle 5 different video streams, the Simple.TV hardware also supports adaptive streaming – meaning that the video quality can be scaled back if the bandwidth is too low.
Adaptive streaming is both blessing and curse, though. It’s tech-talk for what we used to call “down-rezing.” As in, “don’t down-rez my stuff, man.” For that reason, part of the testing will definitely involve video quality assessments on multiple screen sizes.
Unlike any of the other devices in our lab, Simple.TV comes from a small start-up company (we pre-ordered the device on the crowd funding website Kickstarter). With that in mind, it will be really interesting to give this device a spin and see how it stacks up against the others.
(image source: DigitalTrends.com)
Sony NSZ GS7 ($200 list price, available July 22)
I had a chance to check out this 2nd-generation Google TV device at CES, and we’re looking forward to putting it through the paces in the lab. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that too much changed, content-wise, since the first iteration of Google TV.
Meaning there’s still no Hulu Plus app, and Google TV’s browser is still blocked from playing video on virtually all service provider websites. But there are some pretty significant improvements to the hardware, in the form of a new ARM-powered processor and 3-axis motion-sensitive remote control.
We’ll keep you posted.
(image source: Engadget)
Vizio Co-Star ($100 list price, release date TBA) is another 2nd-generation Google TV device, with the same dual-core Marvell Armada 1500 processor as the Sony NSZ G27. But this device comes preloaded with the OnLive streaming game service (there are conflicting reports about when and if Sony devices will support OnLive)
(image source: VentureBeat)
Google Nexus Q is one of the more unique devices we’ve heard about lately – described as the “world’s first social streaming media player,” the Nexus Q is a mysterious spherical gadget that clocks in at very the high price of $299. Unfortunately, the price tag seems especially steep in this case because the Nexus Q has less functionality than a Google TV device.
(image source: Wired.com)
For starters, the Nexus Q only streams media from Google Play. You heard right, no access to Netflix or other services, and you can’t even play video files or music from a network hard drive or USB stick.
Why so expensive, then? The Nexus Q is supposedly designed with audiophiles in mind, with an internal 25-watt amplifier powering 4 stereo outputs (unfortunately, at this point the Nexus Q can only play compressed streaming content, the idea of which makes most audiophiles I know cringe). The Nexus Q also has a ring of LED lights around the center of the device, so you can impress your buddies with a light show that works in time with the music.
But first you’ll need to upload your music library to Google Music before you can play it on the Nexus Q (not an easy feat, if your music collection looks anything like mine). The Nexus Q is intended to be a social device – so theoretically you could have a bunch of people over, and using your own Android phones and tablets you can all collaborate on playlists (using the home library) and share your favorite YouTube videos on the TV. But theory doesn’t always work out in practice, and according to initial reviews the party was sort of a bust.
For starters, the Nexus Q doesn’t ship with a remote control and it doesn’t have hardware buttons – you need an Android phone or tablet to access most controls. And what’s more, according to Engadget’s review the Nexus Q app currently works only with devices running the just-released Android 4.1 Jellybean. Unfortunately, right now only 1 in 10 Android devices even have Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (Holy Fragmentation!). Google had better get on its promise to support “any Android phone or tablet running Gingerbread or higher” if it wants a successful release of the Nexus Q.
On the bright side, it appears that the Nexus Q might just be worth the exorbitant price when hacked. But as it is now, the Nexus Q won’t be joining us in the lab anytime soon. After all, we’re still running Android 3.2 (Gingerbread) here!