What are this year’s hottest and most cutting-edge new electronic items and tech toys? FOX Business Network’s Shibani Joshi will be spotlighting them for you all week long in a special series called “2010 Holiday Gadget Guide.”While there are thousands of gadgets on the market, we are going to give you a first-hand look at some of the year’s best products made by the industry heavyweights.
(Check out FOXBusiness.com's full holiday-shopping guide coverage.)
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2010 Holiday Gadget Guide: Thursday’s Featured Tech - Digital Living Room
No. 1. Sony Internet TV -- $600-$1400
Available at http://www.SonyStyle.com/SonyInternetTV
In a nutshell: Sony calls this the first “full Internet TV” powered by Google TV. Its tech specs, such as that it is built in WiFi and has HD 1080p picture quality, make it a winner. It is also now available in 24-inch, 32-inch, 40-inch and 46-inch models, from about $600 to $1400. Though with a 90-button remote and a set-up process considered challenging by even some savvy tech reviewers, this isn’t the product to give to the tech challenged.
Big selling points:• Full HD 1080p picture quality• Various sizes and price points make it accessible to a wider audience• Edge LED backlight technology• Built-in WiFi• User interface powered by Google Android OS• You can watch TV all while surfing the net
What’s missing:• Google TV hasn’t been able to make deals with some of the major content providers• 90-button remote is very complicated• Set up is time-consuming and can be complicated for tech novices• There are plenty of lower-priced alternatives to Internet-connected TVs
No. 2. Logitech Revue for Google TV -- $299.99-$379.99
Available at http://www.logitech.com/en-us/smartTV/revue
In a nutshell: If you’re a cable-TV lover with a DVR full of content, if you love the Google interface and want to use it to search for content on your PC, DVR or the web and if you want live streaming TV, this is the device for you. Called the flagship Google TV launch device, this is a more affordable option than the Sony Internet TV product. It is easy to add this system into your existing living room set-up. It has great but pricey add-ons, like video conferencing, to give a full range of functionality. Logitech’s Harmony remote gives the company a big advantage over its Sony rival product, because all your living room devices are controlled by this one universal remote.
Big selling points:• Much cheaper than Sony Internet TV• 4GB of RAM– better than Apple TV and Roku• Built-in Google Chrome browser• Google TV interface allows you to search for content on your DVR, PC or on the web• Live streaming TV and Flash support• Access to Netflix, YouTube, Android Market for Google TV and other media content• Wireless keyboard with built-in touchpad praised for solid performance• Harmony remote connects all living room devices in one controller
What’s missing:• More expensive and complicated to set up versus rivals• No storage• No Hulu Plus access• Reviews say wireless keyboard is odd for control, easy to drop• Adding additional features, like video chat, requires set-up and an additional purchase
No. 3. APPLE TV -- $99
Available at http://www.store.apple.com/apple-tv
In a nutshell: For heavy iTunes users, the device provides instant access to content on your TV. Apple makes improved strides with its newest Apple TV product. Simple, solid, and easy to use; the newest device is exceptionally effortless to set up and comes with an attractive price. There is also access to Netflix, YouTube and certain TV content from ABC, Disney, FOX and the BBC. If you want a simple movie rental box and you don’t care about buying or getting a full catalog of content, the Apple TV is a good fit.
Big selling points:• Small in size at 3.9” and weighs 0.6 lbs, half the size of previous model• Setup fairly simple and very easy to use• Rentals are affordable at 99 cents for HD TV show rentals, $3.99-$4.99 for movies• Price is affordable• Access to Netflix, YouTube, Internet radio and content from ABC, Disney, FOX and BBC• With AirPlay app, you can push video and audio from your iPad/iPod/iPhone to the device
What’s missing:• To use it, you must have an HDTV with HDMI and 720p capability• TV content selection limited to partners ABC, Disney, FOX and the BBC• Not all movies available on the same day it comes out on DVD• Memory can fill up quick, no cloud, so you are forced to delete• No built in web browser like Google TV• Text based lay-out makes getting around cumbersome and time consuming• Only M4V, MP4, or MOV files can be played• No option to purchase content and leave it in the cloud, solely rental focused• No live streaming TV, access to Hulu, Amazon VOD, access to DVR content or App store
No. 4. ROKU -- $59.99-$99.99
Available at http://www.roku.com/
In a nutshell: This is a serious contender to the Apple TV box with similar price points, and especially for those who don’t have their libraries exclusively housed in the iTunes ecosystem. Small, sleek and easy to set up; Roku dominates over Apple in wider access content. Roku also supports a variety of pay structures: for example, a monthly fee for Netflix and Hulu for unlimited content and pay as you go for VOD from Amazon and others. It has partnerships with MLB, Pandora and more. You can own content, and not just rent it as you do on Apple TV.
Big selling points:• Small compact design• Built in WiFi and 1080p support• Has USB port for local media• Price compares to that of Apple TV• For additional monthly fee, can get unlimited access to Netflix and Hulu content• You can own content through Amazon VOD for same price as rental on Apple TV• Content partners include Netflix, Hulu, MLB TV, UFC and more• Channel store has over 75 channels from services like Facebook, Pandora, Last.fm, etc• The XDS model can also play 1080p video files off a connected USB drive
What’s missing:• Load time is 5 minutes plus• No built in web browser like Google TV• Installing Channel Store components is a cumbersome, long process• Some reviewers experienced crashes, glitched-out video with playback from USB port• No live streaming TV, access to DVR content,• Access to Internet radio, YouTube, PC content through 3rd party channel
No. 5. Logitech TV Cam -- $149.99
In a nutshell: A high-end webcam that allows you to make HD video calls from the comfort of your couch on your HDTV. New features allow it to be used on PCs and Macs. But this is just one in potentially a series of purchases you will need to make for the system to work. In addition to this product, you’ll need to have a fast Internet connection and the Logitech Revue ($300).
Big selling points:• Widescreen, HD (720p) resolution video• 5X digital zoom• 10 MP camera• On-screen caller ID• One-click upload to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter• Exceptionally easy set up: the back of the camera has a latch that fits onto the frame of your TV, then you connect it to the Logitech Revue via USB and you’re set!
What’s missing:• No optical zoom• No ability to pan or tilt• Image quality depends on the speed of your Internet connection• Not yet compatible with Sony and other non-Logitech devices, but that is changingNo. 6. Panasonic DMP-BDT100 Full HD 3D Blu-ray Disc Player -- $160-$260
In a nutshell: Panasonic was one of the first to enter the 3D market with its player. But 3D technology in TVs is just catching up, so 3D DVD players can only do so much. This Blu-ray player is currently one of the highest quality models on the market. It has a powerful video processor and other unique features like access to Netflix and YouTube. 3D functionality is just an added bonus here.Big selling points:• Exclusive rights to Avatar Blu Ray until Feb. 2012• Includes dual HDMI outputs to send separate signals to your 3D TV and A/V receiver• SD card slot and USB port allow for easy playback of digital media• Includes Panasonic's VieraCast streaming content portal, with content from Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube, Picasa, Netflix, Pandora and Twitter• Performance and resolution unparalleled when viewed on a Panasonic 3D TV
What’s missing:• The player lacks internal memory• VieraCast streaming content can have kinks, according to reviewers• Interface is heavily text driven and not graphically driven like competitors• Slow disc loading times• Priced higher than competitors
No. 7. Expand Universal Glasses -- $130
In a nutshell: The first universal 3D glasses on the market, these combine function and versatility. The glasses work with 3D content across platforms: on 3D TVs, on computers or on movie screens. They generally cost about $25 less than the manufacturer-designed specs too. Nice customization features include three interchangeable nosepieces to create the best fit. Though reviews say the visual experience can occasionally vary creating a halo effect in the viewing experience.
Big selling points:• First universal 3D glasses• Fully portable and usable on 3D TVs, computers and in the movie theatre• Little set up required – put in batteries and you are ready to go• Up to 100 hours of use• Works on most 3D TVs except Vizio• Interchangeable nosepieces create customized fit
What’s missing:• Battery powered• Reviewers say that user foreheads can get irritated• Can be susceptible to interference• Brightness variation from one 3D TV to another
No. 8. Cisco Valet -- approximately $100
In a nutshell: As the number of gadgets in our home needing Internet connection multiplies, an easy-to-set-up and powerful WiFi connection becomes an important centerpiece. The Valet boasts amongst the easiest set up for a modem on the market – taking about 15 minutes total. It pushes speeds up to 300 Mbps and has additional features like parental controls and automatic firewall protection. This all comes with a price, however, that is double most competitive products on the market.
Big selling points:• Sleek, discrete design• Speeds up to 300 Mbps• Automatic integrated firewall protection and WPA encryption• Great parental controls• Easy and quick set-up, taking reviewers 10-15 minutes• Windows and Mac compatible• Easy to get devices on network connected to it• Automatically creates a “guest network,” so guests at your home do not need your password
What’s missing:• No USB port for storage• No print-serving features• Priced at almost double the price of rivals