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Archive for the ‘Xbox 360’ Category

A tech-free weekend, a cable free summer?

Posted by lozenp on June 16, 2008

My wife and I spent out first night together away from our son Saturday at a wedding on Michigan’s west coast. We’ve both individually been gone several times, but this was first time we were both gone at the same time. My sister came to the Milan compound to keep things (things being our rambunctious 19-month old) under control so we could enjoy a nice Father’s Day trip.

We were staying at a bed and breakfast in the small town of Saugatuck called the Belvedere Inn, it was beautiful. Built in 1913, wonderfully manicured grounds, minutes from Lake Michigan. The wedding was outside, as was the reception. The Weather was great, and we had a great time.

But a word of warning to the tech-happy of you out there, when you head to a bed and breakfast, don’t assume you’ll have any tech in your room. In our case, no TV, no wireless, nothing. The closest thing to technology was the iron in the closet. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to have a night away, and I was still able to do a few things thanks to my iPhone, but my clicker hand felt a bit lonely that night.

But it was a good test to see how I would handle no TV, since my big experiment for this summer should start sometime shortly after the Fourth of July: I’m cancelling all but the most basic of cable. And the only reason I’ll keep what I do is because I think it’s cheaper to have internet and basic cable than to have just internet.

This means no HD, no DVR, no On Demand. No for those of you who know me, you’ll saying right now there’s a catch. There’s no way Phil voluntarily dumps cable and has no backup plan. Well, you’re right. Here’s the plan.

I’m selling a bunch of stuff back to Best Buy via their trade-in site and will use those gift cards toward a new PC that can handle HD content and serve as a media server. This will be paired with my HD TV Tuner and will allow me to get OTA HD and QAM HD as well. So I’ll be able to see most of the Olympics, for instance. I’m also hoping that by putting this PC in the bedroom (hidden of course, honey) and hooking it up to the network, I’ll be able to not only use the Windows Vista DVR functionality in the bedroom, but also in the living room via the Xbox 360.

The other test will be to see how much content I can find on the internet to keep me busy for the summer. And how much of that will be HD.

I’ll be updating the progress as I go, and I plan to go without for at least July and August. We’ll see what happens come September.

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Posted in Best Buy, computers, HDTV, Home Theater, HTPC, TV, Xbox 360 | 2 Comments »

DVE HD Basics – The (almost) Finale

Posted by lozenp on May 28, 2008

I’ve already posted parts one and two of my attempt to calibrate my setup using the new DVE HD Basics discs, so be sure to check those out.
If you haven’t read those, or you’re looking for the audio tests section, I’m going to point you to a different place. I’ve done an article for ElectronicHouse.com that puts all three parts together into one feature in their Info and Answers area. Take a look at it.

I’ll post a longer audio calibration piece sometime in the next week, going into a little bit more depth than I had room for in the EH article, but the piece over there goes into everything I did.

Posted in Blu Ray, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, TV, Xbox 360 | 1 Comment »

Netflix makes Blu-Ray a premium option, teases Xbox 360 integration again

Posted by lozenp on April 22, 2008

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call yesterday that Netflix would begin charging more for subscribers renting Blu-Ray discs, saying that “consumers are used to paying more for high-definition.”

Netflix helped facilitate the end of the format war when it announced in February that it would stop offering HD DVDs through it’s mail-rental service. This move, while not surprising, is disappointing in that it puts up further barriers for people looking to cross into the HD realm. I’d be willing to bet that the number of people renting Blu-Ray is still pretty small, lowering Netflix’s ROI on buying all the discs.

No details were announced, so Netflix members were left to wonder how (will it be a flat, $2 service charge or tiered, like the subscription plans), how much and when (by the end of the year seems to be likely).

Also on the call, Reed again talked about the partnership Netflix has with LG to create a settop box for watching any of the company’s 9000 available instant watch features. Netflix also wants their client software integrated into internet-connected Blu-Ray players, game consoles, TVs and stand-alone STBs.

He also went on to say that they were working with three other companies, three of which are “major companies which each sell millions of devices per year, likely in Q4.” The smaller company (Slingbox maybe) is expected to hit before fourth quarter. This should start the “Netflix on the Xbox” rumors going again.

Posted in Blu Ray, HD DVD, HDTV, Xbox 360 | 1 Comment »

Xbox 360 HD DVD player and 7-10 DVDs gets you $45

Posted by lozenp on March 21, 2008

Best Buy added the HD DVD player to their trade in site today, and here’s what you get for the Xbox 360 add on and 7-10 HD DVDs included, with all items in excellent condition and all original cables/manuals: $45.

Turn that 360 add on into a Toshiba HD-A3, it only adds $15 to get you $60. If you bought the Onkyo HD805, you can get $169 back. Toshiba XA2: $189. The XA2 by itself will net you $165, so it’s seems that Best Buy isn’t putting much stock in the movies you’ll be adding to your trade in. Combo players are on the list as well, with a LG BH-200 by itself bringing in $285 and the Samsung BD-UP5000$255, although judging from the reviews, some people might want to send that one packing anyhow.

Considering Best Buy is giving my $50 just for buying my Xbox add on there, I think I’ll keep my eight movies and the player and call it good.

Posted in Best Buy, Blu Ray, Format War, HD DVD, Xbox 360 | 1 Comment »

$50 from Best Buy for HD DVD players

Posted by lozenp on March 19, 2008

hdac_head2.gifWow, now this is what I call customer service. Best Buy, usually a favorite punching bag for techies, is doing its customers right by announcing a program to give a $50 gift card to anyone who bought an HD DVD player before Feb. 23, 2008, and yes the Xbox 360 add-on is included. But unlike other trade-in programs like those from Circuit City (which tripled it’s 30-day return policy to 90 days on HD DVD players) and Canda’s Future Shop ($100 toward a combo player from LG or Samsung), you get to keep your HD DVD player. Let me say that again because it bears repeating, Best Buy is giving you a $50 gift card, and allowing you to keep your player.

Here’s how the program works, according to Best Buy.com:  “Most qualifying customers will automatically receive their complimentary gift card by mail in the coming weeks. If you qualify and haven’t received yours by May 1, 2008, please call us at 1-888-BEST-BUY to verify your eligibility (have your receipt handy, if possible).” That means if you bought with a credit card or are a member of Reward Zone and used your card when you purchased, likely Best Buy already knows and you’ll be getting your gift card right around the time the stimulus package checks come from the government.

So while you likely paid $200 or more for your player, it’s not a full refund, but you can’t complain about getting $50 and being able to keep your equipment.

Also announced is that starting March 21, Best Buy will be adding HD DVD players and media to it’s BestBuyTradein.com site, allowing you to instantly see what your player and movies would be worth in trade for Best Buy gift cards. So it’s possible you could get your $50 gift card, and then unload the player and DVDs you have on the trade in site for even more gift cards.

Players eligible for the $50 gift card:

  • Toshiba HD DVD player models:
    HD-A1, HD-A2, HD-A20, HD-XA2, HD-A3, HD-A30, HD-A35
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD player accessory model 9Z5-00013

Offer excludes HD DVD-equipped computers and laptops, and so-called “dual-format” or “universal” high-definition disc player models designed to play both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD media.

Posted in Best Buy, Format War, HD DVD, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »

Dead technology, get your dead technology, cheap!

Posted by lozenp on February 25, 2008

Update 4:30 p.m. – Microsoft has announced the new price will be $49.99 starting tomorrow. Best Buy jumped the gun, it seem.

If you’re into retro, or you’re an Xbox 360 owner looking for a bit of up-conversion on the cheap, act fast. Best Buy is selling the now discontinued HD DVD add on for the 360 for a deliciously cheap $49.99. Rumors of this price point were flying last week, but this is the first I’ve seen of it being true. I’ve also been told Kmart has it for the same price, but it’s not listed on their site.

A quick check of Circuit City and Amazon this morning showed they were still holding to a price point over $100. That’s not likely to last too long.

Microsoft announced over the weekend that it was discontinuing the drive. While it had been part of the Toshiba five free movies promotion, I haven’t heard if that’s still going or not, so caveat emptor. However, if it is, add in King Kong in the box and you get the Microsoft remote (handy if you have Media Center and use the Xbox as an extender), King Kong and five other movies for 50 bucks. Not too shabby.

If you’re into that sort of thing.

Don’t forget: I’ve got six Hulu Beta invites left for the next six people to hit this link, add my new RSS and drop a comment. Technically, I can’t trace back if you added my feed, so really you can just drop a comment. I don’t want to tell people what to do. Unless you’re into that sort of thing, too.

Posted in Amazon, HD DVD, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »

Netflix on the 360? Possible announcement tomorrow

Posted by lozenp on February 19, 2008

The rumors have been flying fast and furious lately about Netflix and Microsoft hooking up to offer Netflix’s instant watch features via the Xbox 360 for Netflix members. A report on MSNBC today hints that an announcement might come tomorrow morning during the Microsoft keynote at the Game Developer’s Conference.

The rumors popped back up after Netflix sent out a user poll asking people if they would be interested in instantly watching movies on their Xbox. A similar poll went out asking the same question with a Playstation flavor.

While this would be an awesome add on for Netflix subscribers, I tend to agree with Dave Zatz of Zatznotfunny.com that this marriage is a long way off, if it even happens at all. Zatz brings up two valid points:

1. Microsoft offers movies via the Xbox Live Marketplace already, adding Netflix would either create competition for itself or likely signal an end to Microsoft offering movies itself.

2. Netflix has been talking for a while now about a set-top box and that hasn’t appeared yet.

I’ll certainly be paying close attention to the Microsoft keynote tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., but I’m not holding my breath. I’ll update the site with any news tomorrow.

Posted in computers, Netflix, Xbox 360 | 3 Comments »

Is the format war more of a tiff?

Posted by lozenp on February 7, 2008

While much has been made of the battle between HD DVD and Blu Ray, it seems to the general public it’s more of a small squable.Take for instance the recent poll at Engadget HD. The question asked “Are you still happy with DVD?” Of the more than 46,000 respondants as of this post, 40 percent said they were fine with DVD. Another 36 percent said they were sitting out the format war. This means that 76 percent of people responding essentially will not be enjoying HD DVD or Blu Ray any time soon. Keep in mind these are results from a poll at a technology blog, people you would generally expect to be among the early adopters, looking for cutting-edge tech.While stats have shown that the adoption rate for HD media (HD DVD and Blu Ray) is on pace or better with VHS and DVD when they first came out, the fact is at this point it’s still a small market. For that matter there’s still a shocking number of people bringing home big new HDTVs and not hooking them up to an HD source. Those people surely are not going to purchase a new DVD player.

A recent NPD Group survey of 5,500 households with HDTVs showed that seven out of 10 saw no need to replace their current DVD player. In the last 20 years, 229 million DVD players have been sold and more than 90 million homes, or 84 percent of households, have at least one, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (via USA Today). To date, only 4.5 million HD players have been sold, but only 1 million of those are standalone players (the rest are Sony Playstation 3s or Xbox HD DVD add ons).

I still believe HDM is the way of the future (along with downloadable content), but now that the dust of the big holiday season and the Warner announcement have settled, I’ve had time to look at the big picture, and I see more waiting for HDM to become mainstream. Blu Ray is likely to overtake HD DVD by the end of this year, but it will be a long time before HDM takes over DVD.

Until that time, I’ll enjoy all the amazing features that come with HDM (amazing picture and sound, interactive features like U-Control) and share the virtues of the medium with anyone who will listen.

Posted in Blu Ray, Format War, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, Xbox 360 | 1 Comment »

Price cuts galore

Posted by lozenp on February 6, 2008

The price drops continue on HD DVD players. Circuit City and Best Buy  have the 720p/1080i HD A3 from Toshiba for $149 with copies of 300 and Bourne Ultimatum, and now word comes that Microsoft has lowered the price of the 360 HD DVD add on to $129 ($119 at Best Buy), effective immediately (you still get the remote and King Kong in the box). Both offers also qualify for the five free movies by mail.

This following an early morning sale at Amazon that saw the Xbox add on for just $79 that led to the stock being sold out, and Amazon now fulfilling orders back at full price but from Target.

Certainly seems like a fire sale to me, but at these prices, if you’re in the market for an upconverting DVD player I’d seriously take a look at HD DVD players as options. Even though it’s likely a dying technology, you’d still get to take advantage of the exclusive discs out there (Matrix, Heroes, etc.) as well as the ultra-cool HD DVD interactive features that Blu Ray just can’t match yet.

Posted in Blu Ray, Format War, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »

Experimental HD

Posted by lozenp on January 13, 2008

Everyone knows how expensive cable is. You have to sign up for the HD package, and of course the DVR. All this on top of the normal cable fees. With this in mind, I’m going to begin researching the possibility of using my computer as my main source of tv.

Here’s how I see it working.

Currently, I have a tv-card in my computer. I can get the normal channels (up to 99) on it and watch those through my Xbox 360 via the Windows Media Center software. This provides tv listings and DVR functionality. The problem, HD is spotty at best with the low powered antenna I have in the basement with my computer, and we all know that HD is a deal breaker for me.

So here’s my list of current issues that I need to solve before I can call Comcast and have them come take my box away.

1. Improve my HD reception on my PC, either through a better antenna or finding out how to use my TV-Card to pull in the clear QAM channels from basic cable. Clear QAM, without getting into too much detail, allows digital tv tuners to pull in HD channels that are in the cable system without the box.

2. Upgrade the video card in my PC. HD video us suspect with the card I currently have. I’ll have to fix that.

3. Add RAM to my PC. Only have 1.5 MB right now, want at least 2, maybe 2.5.

4. Ensure I can get the digital sound from my PC to my surround system upstairs.

4. Determine how much money I would save by downgrading my Comcast subscription, and compare that to the investment I’d have to make to fix the issues above.

The biggest drawback to this process is losing the cable channels, such as TNT, HD Theater, etc. I have to look further into clear QAM but I’m not sure those channels come in through it.

So, I’m in the very early stages. I’m excited about the possibilities, but I’m realistic as well. I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in computers, HDTV, Home Theater, TV, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »