What’s Hot in Home Theater For The Holiday Shopping Season – 2014

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Get Ready For The Holiday Shopping Frenzy

Shopping for electronic gadgets isn’t as easy as it used to be. A TV was a TV, a radio was a radio, and a stereo was a stereo. However, now there are LCD TVs, Plasma TVs, 4K Ultra HD TVs, 5, 6, 7, 9, and even 11 channel home theater receivers, speakers, sound bars, subwoofers, and the choices go on and on and on.

The following is a list and discussion of products that are either “Hot” or “Not” for home theater consumers this Holiday Shopping Season.

What’s Hot!

1. Internet-Enabled Components
Probably the most important development in the home theater experience in the past year or so, is the rapid integration of internet content into the home theater experience. This year, the flood of new internet-enabled products, including TVs (referred to as Smart TVs), Blu-ray Disc Players, Home Theater Receivers, and both standalone and HDMI plug-in Network Media Players/Streamers, allow consumers to access audio/video content from the internet via a home network. If you have a high-speed internet service and a router, you have the basic infrastructure to get going.

2. Blu-ray Disc Players
Blu-ray disc players are everywhere now, from standalone units, as part of new home theater-in-box systems, and even being incorporated into TV combos. In addition, with prices of an increasing number of Blu-ray disc players now coming in well below $199, and some basic playing coming in lower than $99, there is no longer a price barrier to overcome, especially if you are replacing an older DVD player. Watch for additional promotions that include free Blu-ray disc movies with a purchase of select Blu-ray Disc players and also “buy an HDTV and get a free Blu-ray Disc Player” offers. Also, check for promotions that include reduced prices for some popular Blu-ray disc movies when you purchase a Blu-ray Disc player. It is expected that Blu-ray disc player and Blu-ray movie promotions will be abundant this holiday season.

3. TVs
Wow! TV sure has changed in the past few years, and the type of TVs that are totally dominating the market now are LED/LCD TVs, especially now that Plasma TVs are almost gone and although OLED TVs are now available, the selection of those sets is very small, and very expensive.

This means that LED/LCD TVs are hot, hot, hot! Prices have come down significantly this year. In addition, with the maturing of LCD technology and more efficient production methods, LCD TVs are now quite common in sizes up to 60-inches, with an increasing number of sets with 70 and 80-inch screens, and Sharp offering a 90-inch LED/LCD TV.

4. 4K Ultra HD TV
2014 will mark the first time you will see some bargain-priced 4K Ultra HD TVs during the Holidays, and what I mean by bargain priced – I am talking mostly in the 50 or 55-inch screen size sets with selling prices of $999 or less.

For those that haven’t kept up with the jargon, the 4K in 4K Ultra HD TV stands for the approximate number of pixels that are displayed across the screen, which is 3840×2160. This translates to a display resolution of 2160p, which is four times the resolution of today’s 1080p HDTVs, hence the addition of the term Ultra HD. To make it easy for consumers, these TVs are referred to as 4K Ultra HD TVs.

5. Sound Bars
Sound bars are HOT! HOT! HOT! The reason for their popularity is that they are great for those that don’t want excessive connecting wires or don’t have space for separate components and speakers. This type produces a surround sound listening environment using a one speaker box, or one speaker box paired with a separate subwoofer.

6. Home Theater-In-A-Box Systems
Are you looking for something a little more flexible than a sound bar-type system, but still don’t what the hassle of an expensive home theater system? Then a home theater system-in-a-box may be just for you. Granted, these are not high-end systems, but in a price range from $200 to $2,000, there is a system out there that will fill basic needs, whether in an apartment, meeting room, or moderately-sized living room, that can fill the bill.

7. Video Projectors
How can one capture the same “magic” as a trip to the movie theater? You can come very close with your own home theater projection setup. Of course, such units have been around for some time, but they were big, bulky, power hogs, and very, very, expensive; definitely out of reach for the average consumer.

However, as an outgrowth, in recent years, of the need for compact, affordable, portable multi-media projection units for use in business presentations, new technological developments in image processing have made this once out-of-reach option more affordable for use in home theater by more and more consumers.

8. Home Theater Receivers
In addition to home theater audio features, a growing number of new home theater receivers, incorporate features such as on-board video upscaling, multi-zone, and home network connectivity.

Video upscaling is a function that adds the number of pixels need to match the specific screen resolution of an HDTV, such as 720p or 1080p. In fact, some home theater receivers provide 4K video upscaling, which you may not need right now – but it is there when you buy that 4K TV down the road. However, keep in mind that the upscaling process does not actually convert standard definition to high definition, but it does improve the image so that it looks better on an HDTV.

9. The iPod, iPhone, and Android Invade Home Theater
The growing popularity of the iPod has given rise to a whole new accessories market, from designer cases to dockable external speakers. However, one of the biggest developments involving the iPod is the growing number of Home Theater Receivers that include either a special connector that will accept an iPod docking station, or a built-in USB port that allows direct connection of an iPod, or other compatible devices, including USB flash drives. This means that you can play your personal music collection right through your big home theater system. If you are an iPod enthusiast, make sure you check out this option when shopping for a home theater receiver.

Source: about.com

Before you buy, Check If an Used iPhone Is Stolen or not

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No more guessing whether the used iPhone you’re buying is stolen—Apple has released a tool that tells you what you need to know before you buy.

Almost since its debut, the iPhone has been an extremely popular target for thieves. After all, a pocket-sized device that millions of people want to spend hundreds of dollars on is a pretty good thing to steal and sell, if you’re that kind of person.

Apple attempted to address this issue with the Find My iPhone service in 2010, but that could be defeated by turning the iPhone off or erasing the contents of the phone. Apple made things much harder on thieves when it introduced Activation Lock in iOS 7. This feature made it impossible to activate an iPhone using a new Apple ID without entering the Apple ID and password used to activate the phone originally. Since it’s unlikely that a thief would have access to a person’s Apple ID and password, this helped cut iPhone theft substantially.

While this feature helped deter some thieves, it didn’t help people buying used iPhones. There was no way to check a device’s Activation Lock status ahead of time. A thief could sell the stolen iPhone over the Internet and the buyer wouldn’t discover that they’d purchased a useless device until they’d already been swindled.

But now Apple has created a tool to check a phone’s Activation Lock status to ensure that you’re not buying a stolen device and that the phone you’re getting can be activated.

Checking Activation Lock Status

In order to check a phone’s status, you’ll need to have its IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity; basically a unique identifier assigned to every phone) or Serial Number. To get those:
1. Tap the Settings app
2. Tap General
3. Tap About
4. Scroll towards the bottom of the screen and you’ll find both numbers

Once you’ve got one or both of those numbers:

1. Go to https://www.icloud.com/activationlock/
2. Type the IMEI or Serial Number into the box
3. Enter the CAPTCHA code displayed
4. Click Continue.

The next screen will tell you whether the iPhone has its Activation Lock feature enabled.

What the Results Mean
If Activation Lock is turned off, you’re in the clear. If Activation Lock is on, though, a couple of things may be going on:

The Phone Is Stolen—An iPhone being sold with Activation Lock still enabled could mean that the device is stolen since a thief probably won’t be able to disable Activation Lock. Ask the seller to disable the feature and check again. If they refuse or can’t do it, don’t buy that phone.

The Seller Forgot to Turn Off Activation Lock—It’s possible that an honest seller has forgotten to turn off Activation Lock. Ask them to disable the feature. If they do, you’re OK to buy.
When buying a used iPhone, make sure to ask for the IMEI or Serial Number before you buy and use this tool to check the device’s status. It will save you money and frustration.

Limitations
This tool isn’t connected to any police systems, so it doesn’t cross-reference police reports of stolen devices. This checks Activation Lock status only.

Since Activation Lock was introduced in iOS 7, if the device you’re buying is running iOS 6 or lower (unlikely these days, but not impossible) the tool can’t help you.

While pretty unlikely, it’s technically possible that a thief could have access to the Apple ID and password associated with the stolen phone they’re selling. In that case, the thief can remove Activation Lock and sell a stolen phone without the tool being able to help you.

Source: about.com

How To Use Your Cell Phone As A Modem

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One of the most common questions asked about mobile computing is how to connect a cell phone to a laptop for Internet access. Although tethering isn’t very difficult to accomplish, the answer is a bit tricky because wireless carriers have different rules and plans for allowing (or not allowing) tethering, and cell phone models also have different limitations. When in doubt, it’s always best to refer to your service provider and handset manufacturer for instructions … but here’s some information just to get you started.

What You Need

To use your cell phone as a modem, you need the following:

The device you want to be able to go online with, of course (i.e., your laptop or tablet)

A data-capable cell phone that you’ll use as the modem (i.e., the cell phone should be able to go online on its own)

A data plan for the phone from your wireless provider. Most cellular providers these days require you to have a data plan for your smartphone anyway, but regular (or feature) phones may also be web-capable and therefore can also act as modems for your laptop. You’ll need to have a data plan for the phone, whether it’s a cell phone or smartphone.

Tethering Options
There are a few ways to use tethering so you can go online from your laptop (or tablet) using your cell phone’s data plan.

Tethering plans from your wireless carrier
This is the official way to get tethering. The major wireless providers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) require you to have data plans that cover tethering or sign up for a separate hotspot plan. Once you’ve signed up for one of these plans, you can connect over bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or USB (see the links below for instructions for your carrier).

Apps
There are several mobile apps for tethering Android and other smartphones; some are free, with full versions of these apps priced $10 and $30. For that price you get an easy way to connect your laptop to your smartphone over USB or bluetooth and use your smartphone’s data service on your computer, bypassing carrier tethering fees perhaps. PdaNet is a popular tethering app for most platforms, and we have step-by-step instructions for tethering your Android phone to your laptop.

Jailbreaking for iPhone users
Apple pulls tethering apps from the iTunes store, but users who don’t mind bending the rules can jailbreak their iPhones to use PdaNet too.

Source: about.com

Are curved TVs any better than flat TVs ?

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Should your next TV have a curve in it?

Samsung and LG are adamant that curved TV screens are the future. But is there any hard science to back this claim up, or is it just wishful thinking born from a desperate desire to be ‘different’?

At the time of writing, we’ve already tested three curved TVs here at TrustedReviews. The LG 55EA980W OLED model, the Samsung UE65HU8500 new UHD LED model, and the Samsung UE55H8000 full HD LED model. So concave screen designs have not only very much arrived, they’ve also already spread into multiple segments of the TV world.

Our curved screen experience has given us the chance to both hear the arguments in favour of the curve proposed by its main proponents, and form our own first-hand opinions of how well those arguments hold up. Plus, of course, we’ve been able to uncover one or two curve negatives Samsung and LG aren’t keen to shout about. So here, as concisely as possible, are the arguments for and against making your next TV a bent one.

The arguments in favour of Curved TVs…
They improve immersion
This is the biggest argument made in favour of curving TV screens. The idea is that by curving the image slightly forward, the world you’re watching seems to ‘wrap around’ you more, entering slightly more into your peripheral vision and thus drawing you deeper into the world you’re watching.

The sense of ‘depth’ is enhanced
One of the most common reactions from people watching a curved screen for the first time is that it looks like 3D, even when the source is only 2D. This is because curving the edges of the image towards the viewer enhances the visual perception of depth in what you’re watching. Samsung underlines this by applying depth enhancement processing to its curved TVs that adjusts the contrast of different parts of the image to boost the sense of field depth.

You get a wider field of view
Bending the edges of the image towards you makes you feel as if you’re seeing a wider image than you get with a flat screen. Draw lines from your head position to the edges of, say, a 65-inch flat TV and then draw lines from your head position past the edges of a 65-inch curved TV to the same plane you’d have been watching the flat screen in, and the curved screen’s image appears to stretch further across the wall than the flat TV image, despite the screen sizes involved being ostensibly the same.

Contrast is better than ‘non-curved’ screens
This is an interesting one. The argument goes that curved screens focus the light coming from the screen more directly at your eyes – in much the same way satellite dishes strengthen signals by focussing them onto an LNB – and so can deliver between 1.5x and 1.8x higher contrast than flat screens.

This argument is hard to quantify objectively in the absence (for comparison) of flat screens that use the same exact level of picture specification used by the first curved screens we’ve seen. However, it is certainly true that all the curved screens we’ve seen to date have truly excelled in the contrast department.

Uniform viewing distance
This argument goes that curved TVs track the rounded shape of our eyes better, and thus deliver a more focussed, comfortable image than flat screens. This argument is born out to some extent by the use of curved screens in commercial cinemas, where the curve helps the projected image retain even sharpness right into the corners of their vast screen sizes.

Samsung has taken this argument so seriously that it’s set its curvature level at that of a 4200mm-radius circle, appropriate to the current average TV viewing distance of 3.2m (based on studies conducted in America and Germany). However, we haven’t really seen much impact from this benefit on the relatively small curved TV screens we’ve had so far. Maybe it will deliver more tangible benefits when the 70-inch plus curved TVs start to roll in.

You get a wider effective viewing angle
This doesn’t make much sense on paper. Logic dictates that curving the edges of the image forward should reduce viewing angle support, not increase it. However, LCD TVs have a directionality problem, whereby the way they push light through their LCD arrays means that viewing from down an LCD TV’s sides means you usually have to put up with quite drastic reductions in colour saturations and contrast.

With curved screens, though, the way the curve adjusts the direction of the emitted light means that contrast and colour retain almost perfect accuracy if you watch from the side – right up to the point, at least, where the curve causes other viewing angle issues discussed in the ‘cons’ section…

Curved TVs just look cool
Picture fans will despair at us even considering this reason to buy a curved TV. However, design now ranks high on a typical household’s TV priority list, and most (though definitely not all) people who behold a curved TV think they look lovely. When they’re on their desktop stands, at any rate.

The arguments against curved TVs…
The curve exaggerates reflections
If you’ve ever stood in front of one of those trick mirrors at a fun park, you’ll know that shaped glass can do weird things to reflections. It’s the same deal with a curved TV. Anything bright in your room – especially direct light sources opposite your TV – has its reflection on a curved screen stretched and distorted across a wider area of the screen than would occur with a flat TV. So if you buy a curved TV, you’ll probably find you need to introduce some extra light control elements to your viewing room.

The curve limits viewing angles
Yes, yes, we know we had viewing angles in the Pros section as well. But hear us out.

The thing is, while the curve prevents flat LCD’s usual reduction in contrast and colour performance with off-axis viewing, inevitably the curved shape can negatively affect your image’s geometry when viewing from down the TV’s side.

Surprisingly this problem doesn’t really become uncomfortable to watch until you get to around 35 degrees either side of directly opposite the screen (an angle Samsung itself agrees with us on). But as soon as you get beyond 35 degrees images quickly start to become almost unwatchable thanks to the way the side of the picture nearest your seating position starts to look foreshortened versus the opposite side.

Your brain tries to compensate for the distorted geometry it’s witnessing too, which means off-axis viewing can be fatiguing.

You need to be in the sweetspot to get most benefits
If you want to get the maximum impact from the immersive and depth-enhancement elements of the curve, you need to be sat right opposite the centre of the screen – and ideally at the perfect distance from the screen too.

To be fair, the idea that you need to be sat in a very specific ‘sweet spot’ to watch a curved TV hasn’t proved as fraught an issue as we’d once feared, since the 70-degree effective viewing arc provides enough room for multiple people to watch a curved TV without the curve actively upsetting their experience. But at the same time, the area within which you need to sit to fully appreciate the curve’s benefits is in still quite small.

Curved screens need to be big
Our experience to date is that the effectiveness of curved screens is directly proportional to their size. With the two 55-inch models we’ve tested the curve’s benefits felt pretty minimal, while some of the problems – particularly the sweet spot issues – were more noticeable. With the 65-inch model it was easier to appreciate the picture benefits while feeling less aggrieved by the negatives (except for the reflections one). Bigger screens support more viewers more easily too.

Despite enjoying the 65-inch model, though, our feeling is that the curve will only potentially feel of significant benefit at truly colossal sizes of 70 inches or more.

Curved screens make awkward wall flowers
While Samsung does do wall mounts for its two curved TVs, our impression is that curved screens look rather awkward when hung up. Certainly they stick out a long way from the wall at their extremities, flying in the face of the whole ‘hang on the wall telly’ experience flat screens were originally designed for. Unless you live in a light house or windmill…

They’re more expensive
Samsung and LG have admitted that it’s slightly tougher to make a curved TV than a flat one, and that this fact is reflected in curved TV pricing to some extent.

As with all things, though, the more curved TVs are made, the less of a premium the process is likely to incur, so this problem will diminish over time. That said, the need to ‘go big’ in order to get the benefits means curved TVs seem more likely to be luxury in the foreseeable future.

Source: trustedreviews.com

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 5S: Should you upgrade?

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Is the iPhone 6 worth the upgrade?
The iPhone 6 is here. The world is excited. But should you be if you already own the iPhone 5S? For now we’re just going to look at the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 compared to the old model. For the non Apple obsessives out there, there’s also the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

We’ve already given our first impressions on the new 4.7-inch iPhone and no we compare the specs with the last generation Apple smartphone to see if you a new iPhone is really a necessity.

Phone 6 vs iPhone 5S: Design
iPhone 6: Curved aluminium, gold or light/dark silver, 6.8mm thick
iPhone 5S: Aluminium, gold or light/dark silver, 7.6mm thick
The 2014 iPhone is here, and as we hoped it’s called the iPhone 6. Apple has made some pretty big departures this year, including changing the shape of the phone. Angular is out, the sharp-ish edges of the iPhone 5S replaced by much curvier lines. The iPhone 6 is also a fair bit slimmer than the old model at 6.8mm to the iPhone 5S’s 7.6mm.

Of course, the iPhone 6 is also a fair bit bigger than the 5S thanks to its larger screen. To help out, the power button has moved to the side from the top, making it easier to reach. Although there are optimisations, the basic construction of the phones hasn’t changed a huge deal. Both the iPhone 5S and 6 have aluminium backs and toughened glass fronts.

They also share the same TouchID sensor. The one big hardware extra this year is NFC, which lets you make wireless payments with an iPhone 6 using Apple Pay. iPhone 5Ss do not have NFC.

Phone 6 vs iPhone 5S: Screen
iPhone 6: 4.7-inch 1334 x 750, “Retina HD” LCD with Ion strengthened glass, improved polariser
iPhone 5S: 4-inch 1136 x 640 IPS LCD
The big display news for this year is that the iPhone 6 has a much larger screen than the iPhone 5S. You get bumped up from four inches to 4.7. In Android terms that’s still a pretty small display, but if you want more you can now upgrade to the iPhone 6 Plus, which has a 5.5-inch display.

The display architecture has slimmed down a bit in this 2014 generation, but the core technology remains the same. Both phone have IPS LCD screens, as used in iPhones for years. We’re pretty glad this is the case – iPhone displays generally look fantastic. To compensate for the added screen inches (well 0.7 inch), Apple has increased resolution in the iPhone 6 display. Where you get 1136 x 640 pixels in the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 6 gets you 1,334 x 750.

It’s 38 per cent more pixels, but how much sharper is it? No sharper at all, in fact. Both phones have, rounding-up, 326ppi displays. Of course, a larger display with the same sharpness is always going to be a bit more satisfying for browsing, gaming – most things in fact.

Phone 6 vs iPhone 5S: Camera
iPhone 6: 8MP camera, 1/3.06-inch (or similar) sensor, true-tone flash,f/2.2 aperture dual-LED flash, phase detection
iPhone 5S: 8-megapixel 1/3.06-inch sensor, f/2/2, dual-tone LED flash
Apple has not changed a great deal in the camera of the iPhone 6. It still has an 8-megapixel sensor, still has an f/2.2 lens and sensor pixels 1.5 microns a piece in size. This is what the iPhone 5S has. While Apple claims the sensor is new, we don’t expect to see any radical changes in image quality beyond what is provided by processing.

However, there is a new feature – phase detection autofocus. This is used in the Galaxy S5 and many top-end dedicated cameras to provide faster focusing, and it should perform the same trick here.

Both phones have Apple’s TrueTone flash, which uses two different LED to colours to avoid washing-out people’s faces.

The front FaceTime camera seems to have been given more of an overhaul in the iPhone 6, though. It apparently lets in 81 per cent more light for better shots, and has more selfie-centric features. These include one-shot HDR and a burst mode. Selfie. Tastic.

Phone 6 vs iPhone 5S: CPU and RAM
iPhone 6: Apple A8 20nm, 20 per cent faster CPU, 50 per cent faster GPU
iPhone 5S: Apple A7 dual-core 1.3GHz, 64-bit, 1GB RAM
The iPhone 6 introduces a new generation of processor called the Apple A8, taking over from the Apple A7 of the iPhone 5S.

It’s not a world-changing upgrade, but it does seem to supply the goods. Apple has changed the system architecture from 28nm to 20nm – meaning it uses absolutely tiny transistors – to make the new CPU more efficient. That should also mean it’s able to run cooler.

Apple claims the Apple A8 provides 20 per cent more CPU power and 50 per cent more GPU power. Some of that improvement is gobbled-up by the increase in resolution in real-life terms, but we should see a few nicer visual effects in a handful of games in the iPhone 6.

We’re still waiting on some more in-depth figures on the Apple A8 CPU, but it’s a solid generational upgrade.

Phone 6 vs iPhone 5S: Battery Life
iPhone 6: 11 hours browsing, 11 hours video
iPhone 5S: 10 hours browsing, 10 hours video
As we expected, Apple has chosen to make the iPhone 6 slimmer rather than significantly adding to the battery life. Even the official figures show that stamina should be roughly the same as it is in the iPhone 5S. You’ll get 11 hours of video playback in the iPhone 6, to 10 in the iPhone 5S.

By Android standards, that’s good, but not great. The best phones from Sony and LG manage numbers will into the teens in our own testing.

Phone 6 vs iPhone 5S: Storage
iPhone 6: 16/64/128GB
iPhone 5S:16/32/64GB
For the past few years iPhones have been stuck offering 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions. Only the iPad has offered a 128GB option. That all changes this year. You can get a 128GB iPhone 6, but it costs £619. To put it into perspective, you can get a MacBook Air for the same price. It is perfect for those who want to dump a lot of music or video on their phones.

Sadly there’s no 32GB version this year and there hasn’t really been an explanation why Apple is not doing one. So, you will have to pick between 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models.

Early Verdict
The iPhone 6 is quite a departure in some core ways, but it’s also pretty conservative in others. Apple has not significantly improved the camera hardware, and while the screen has gotten bigger, display quality is unlikely to improve all that much. There isn’t an objective reason, at this stage, to upgrade from an iPhone 5S. Perhaps the trickier question is whether you should upgrade to the iPhone 6 Plus instead?

Source: trustedreviews.com