Cool Tech Reviews

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September 27, 2006

Sony Reader for eBooks finally arrives

Sony Reader

We first mentioned the Sony Reader for eBooks back in January because the E Ink paper-like display was incredibly slick and might actually make reading books on an electronic device a reality. At the time it was supposed to come out in April, but April came and went and then we heard that the launch had been pushed off until fall.

Well, fall is here and so finally is the Sony Portable Reader System PRS-500 which is available at a rather pricey $349.99 (although there is currently a $50 promotional credit towards eBook purchases). Nothing seems to have changed – it has a 6 inch diagonal screen and is only 0.5 inches thick and weighs 9 ounces. The rechargeable internal battery is good for 7500 page turns (turns are all that count for E Ink displays) and you have to load content from a PC via USB. It has 64MB of internal memory plus it can take Sony Memory Sticks or SD memory cards to hold more.

As far as content goes, the eBook Connect store is also open and the titles all seem to be 1-2MB in size while the prices seem fairly reasonable given the outrageous prices of new hardcovers and paperbacks these days. Clicking on a title (e.g. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown) conveniently shows you the discount off the print retail price which was 20% on all titles I checked. Of course, as I mentioned in my original review, most printed best sellers get discounts of that order at the big chain stores so the discount isn’t overly compelling. Besides the premium content, you can also use the Reader for files in BBeB Book, Adobe PDF, TXT, RTF, and Microsoft Word formats although the latter requires Word installed on your PC to do a conversion. The Reader also has a feature for downloading RSS content so you can read news, blogs, or whatever at your leisure.

I still think there’s a place for something like the Sony Reader, but I’m afraid that the price (Reader plus eBooks) is going to scare off a lot of folks. What may save it is the ability to read free content – think of it like an iPod, only for text.

Posted at 8:28 pm. Filed under Companies, E Ink, eBook, Sony

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September 26, 2006

CinemaNow offers early DVD downloads

When I last mentioned CinemaNow back in April, it got a Thumbs Down as a typical Internet movie download service hobbled by digital rights management:

… as usual when Hollywood gets involved with the Internet there’s some wackiness involved: the movies are expensive and can only be played on Windows PCs. Moreover, that’s only one specific PC for CinemaNow …

It looks like they’ve noticed the problem (probably because very few customers were showing up) and now CinemaNow is offering some DVD downloads on the same day the movie is released to retail stores:

Universal Studios became the first movie studio to provide movie fans with a way to burn their downloaded movies to DVD on the day they are released in stores through an agreement with CinemaNow. Up until now, users could only burn select older movies from the service’s catalog.

The first movie to participate in this offering is “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” On the same day the movie is released in stores, CinemaNow users will be able to download the movie, including the menus and bonus features, for $9.99 USD.

CinemaNow has been offering the “Burn to DVD” option since July, with movies from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, MGM Worldwide Digital Media, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, EagleVision and Sundance Channel.

Currently CinemaNow has only about a hundred movies available in the Burn to DVD format, but it’s a start. Also, before you get too enthusiastic, read this article by John Quain in the NY Times dealing with his downloading experiences at CinemaNow and other sites. I think CinemaNow has progressed beyond the Thumbs Down stage, but it still has a long ways to go.

Posted at 10:39 pm. Filed under CinemaNow, Companies, Internet, Video Downloads

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September 24, 2006

Which US satellite TV service offers the best DVR?

If you’re like me, and I suspect most folks in the USA are in this regard, you are constantly besieged by offers for satellite TV service. DirecTV and Dish Network plus a host of local affiliated installers are always after you to install their latest super duper offering. A large part of any decision is the discount offered plus what channels you are interested in or how many rooms you need to connect, but these days there’s one more consideration: which of the provided digital video recorders would you prefer. DVR Playground has a head to head review:

The first decision you need to make is whether or not you need a High Definition (HD) programming package and in turn an HD dish and receiver/DVR or if you will view your satellite TV via standard definition (SD). At this point, both Dish Network and DirecTV offer one standard definition and one HD DVR each. Of course, you could go out and buy a used receiver from another user, eBay, etc. However, you should be careful doing this as there are several perilous usage and licensing issues that you should explore completely before giving up any of your hard earned dollars.

So, what are your choices? For SD programming, DirecTV offers the R15 (or as they refer to it, the DIRECTV Plus Receiver) and Dish offers the 625. For HD, DirecTV and Dish offer the HR20 (DIRECTV Plus HD DVR) and the ViP-622 respectively.

Hit the link for the full review, but pricing aside (since it depends on what kind of local deal you are offered), it’s pretty much a wash except that the Dish Network DVRs can support two separate TVs displaying different shows even in different rooms. If you need that capability, keep it in mind while evaluating all the deals you are offered.

Posted at 7:23 pm. Filed under Companies, Digital Video Recorders, DirectTV, Dish Network, Satellite TV

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