CES 2014's home theater gear is the same, but better, and that's a good thing (wrap-up)

Living room tech always has a big presence at CES, but progress can often seem frustratingly slow, especially while other product categories make big leaps forward year after year.

CES 2014 was a refreshing change of pace, as I was surprised to find quite a few interesting home audio and video products on the show floor. While nothing was truly groundbreaking, there's lots of solid, incremental progress that should be showing up in home theater gear in 2014. And that's a lot more exciting than "concept" products that never make it to store shelves.

Over-the-air DVRs … Read more

Roku TV unveiled: Television sets with Roku streaming built-in

LAS VEGAS -- No one outside Cupertino knows if we'll ever see an Apple Television, but we won't have to wait long to see a Roku TV.

Roku announced the Roku TV platform today at CES 2014, partnering with Chinese manufacturers Hisense and TCL to produce the first sets. Six models are slated to launch this fall -- three from each company -- in sizes from 32 to 55 inches.

A Roku TV is exactly what it sounds like: a standard HDTV that essentially has a Roku box built-in. The idea isn't all that different than the … Read more

HDMI vs. DisplayPort vs. DVI vs. VGA: Which connection to choose?

With televisions, HDMI is the most common connector. But if you want to connect a computer to your TV (or you've got a new computer monitor), the options tend to be HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and sometimes old-school VGA.

Each connection has its pros and cons, and perhaps the best cable to use with your display is more than just "what it came with."

Here are the differences.… Read more

Xbox Live Gold: The yearly fee that's a big hurdle for casual gamers

The futuristic Xbox One lets you change channels with your voice, log in to your account with nothing more than your face, and instantly flip between gaming and live TV, but Microsoft's wunderbox can't stream Netflix without a $60-per-year Xbox Live Gold subscription.

It's a surprising restriction when nearly every other device, from the $35 Chromecast to the $400 PlayStation 4 to a $2,000 TV, doesn't charge for access to Netflix's streaming service -- a service that already carries its own $8 monthly fee.

(Almost) everything's behind the paywall Netflix is the most … Read more

Xbox One in the living room: The dazzling, erratic everything box

Walk into your living room, say "Xbox on," and your Xbox One, TV, and sound bar automatically power on. Sit down and say "Xbox Watch ESPN," and the cable box automatically turns to ESPN and fills the TV screen. It feels futuristic, but in a retro way. It's the kind of thing someone in a Disney "Home of the Future" exhibit might do, right after getting out of a flying car.

With the Xbox One, Microsoft wants to bring all your living room entertainment -- cable TV, gaming, and streaming video -- to … Read more

Confirmed: PS4 won't work with IR remote controls

Apparently one of the more annoying inconveniences of the PS3 will be sticking around for another generation.

A Sony representative confirmed to CNET that the PS4 cannot receive infrared (IR) remote control commands, which means it won't work with a traditional universal remote such as the Logitech Harmony 650. We were also unable to find an IR receptor on our PS4 review unit, and Sony says the PS4 Eye camera can't receive IR commands either.

It's an irksome omission, especially for a living room device that can play Blu-ray movies and stream video from services like Netflix, … Read more

What we learned about Xbox One's living-room future

The Xbox One is ready to be the hub of your living room.

That's been the pitch since Day 1 for Microsoft's next-gen console, but it wasn't until this Wednesday that the CNET crew had a chance to check out many of the Xbox One's home entertainment features in person.

We already knew that the Xbox One would include Blu-ray playback, the TV overlay functionality called OneGuide, and built-in support for voice and motion control through the included Kinect. But many of the specifics have been hard to come by, especially regarding the challenges of integrated TV.… Read more

Samsung $150 smart box packs in streaming apps, cable

Samsung on Thursday made its latest push into the smart TV market with a new "Smart Media Player" that lets users access both apps and live cable content.

The product, model No. GX-SM530CF, includes more than 100 smart TV apps such as Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube. It also allows viewers to access live cable content without having to pay the expensive monthly rental fees associated with a cable box.

The media player will retail for $149.99 and will be available October 23.

Samsung noted that the Smart Media Player supports content from major cable … Read more

Getting to know the Meridian Audio factory

The city of Huntingdon, home of high-end audio company Meridian, is about a quintessential British town as you could picture. It looks like a movie set. Meridian is perhaps best known for its trapezoidal digital speakers and associated preamps. The company has more recently gotten into portable DACs, music servers, car audio, and more.

On a recent trip to England, I got a chance to tour the facility. I took lots of pictures for you.… Read more

Samsung Tizen-based TVs could hit market in 2014, CEO says

Samsung's Tizen operating system may debut in TVs as soon as next year, one of the company's CEOs said in an interview with a German publication.

The Korean electronics company has been working on Tizen, an open-source software, as an alternative to Android. Tizen gives the company more control over its own future, allowing it to rely less on Google and more on its home-grown software. In TVs, Samsung already makes its own software. But as it tries to give devices more functionality and connect them together, that's easier to do with a common operating system.

"… Read more