Cool Tech Reviews

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December 29, 2005

32-inch LCD TV prices drop below $800

That’s in North America according to a DigiTimes report from Taiwan:

The LCD TV market has seen aggressive price cutting during the holiday season in the North America market, according to Taiwan-based home appliance makers.

Some second tier LCD TV vendors have been offering their 32-inch and 26-inch models for US$899 and US$599, respectively, this month. White box vendors are even offering 32-inch models priced at US$799, the home appliance makers pointed out.

However, the biggest price drop (25%) was on 37-inch sets. Not surprisingly, sales are expected to be up by 30% in December.

Posted at 1:35 pm. Filed under LCD TV, Television

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Voice control coming for XM radios

Steven Shankland at ZDNet:

XM Satellite Radio and VoiceBox Technologies announced a multiyear alliance Thursday to bring voice control to the satellite broadcast service.

The partnership will let drivers issue voice commands to search through XM Satellite Radio’s 160 channels of music, talk radio and other stations and to find personalized information such as stock prices, traffic and weather. The technology is planned to be available to automakers and to those producing aftermarket products in mid-2006, the companies said.

XM announced that it had chosen VoiceBox’s technology because it worked accurately in noisy environments. The technology is designed to let users control electronics with free-form conversational language, the companies said.

It’ll be interesting to see how well this actually works. Even if it is spectacularly accurate, I’m not sure that talking to it will be all that much better than fooling with the remote control for satellite car radios. If it’s fairly inaccurate, things could get rather exciting on the road.

Also in the article, XM plans to broadcast some signals using surround sound.

Posted at 1:07 pm. Filed under Companies, Satellite Radio, XM

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December 21, 2005

What about Portable Media Centers?

Microsoft News Tracker mentions a rumor that Microsoft is planning to build their own iPod or more precisely, an “iPod killer.” Aside from the advisability of Microsoft going head to head with Apple in the portable media player arena, it would also seem to create difficulties for Microsoft partners Creative, Samsung, and iriver who have built players based on Windows Mobile using Microsoft’s Portable Media Center specification.

Since you don’t seem to hear much about Portable Media Centers, I thought I would see what I could dig up. Below are the three contenders with some typical reviews and they are apparently nice players with big screens and easy to use, if somewhat bulky and expensive. However, they have a major negative. All of the Portable Media Centers are effectively accessories for Windows PC’s running Windows Media Player (WMP) 10, because that’s the only way to get media files onto them. And if you don’t have a PC running Windows XP Media Center Edition (or at least a PC with a TV tuner/recorder), you are limited to whatever video content you can obtain or purchase through the services offered within WMP 10. Because of this, they haven’t been a rousing success.

Creative Zen Portable Media Center

- Generally most highly rated
- Retail about $485
- Reviews at CNET, Engadget, and PCWorld

Samsung Yepp YH-999 Portable Media Center

- Seems to have been discontinued
- Available refurbished for about $275
- Reviews at CNET and WhiningDog

iriver PMC-120

- Retail price: about $440
- Reviews at CNET, PC Magazine, and Trusted Reviews

As always, you may find lower prices at your favorite online or offline emporium.

Posted at 9:57 pm. Filed under Apple, Brands, Companies, Creative, iPod, iriver, Media Center PC, Microsoft, Portable Audio, Portable Media Center, Portable Video, Samsung, Windows Mobile

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