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Media Players & Services Articles

ASUS O!Play HDP-R1 HD Media Player Review
A media player!? Despite diving into the tech world every day, this type of device was not on my radar. What is this little black box capable of? Let's find out.

Zune HD Preview
NVIDIA and Microsoft launched a series of public previews across the US and we managed to sneak and try the newest media player into the touchscreen war.

ATI Video 101 Whitepaper
ATI has provided us with a comprehensive whitepaper on video technology covering everything from the differences between analog and digital signals to different connection types. A definite must read for those interested in video and its workings.

Samsung YEPP YP-30S Review
The Samsung YEPP YP-30S design is more suggestive of a futuristic pocket watch. The circular, easy-to-read LCD on the face of the unit even shows the date and time.

Media Players & Services News

PS3 most popular platform for Netflix

8 comments Sean Ridgeley - 7:26am (PST) Like Share

The method of choice

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Movie and TV streaming service Netflix is available on damn near every device and platform you can think of these days, but the most popular one for it of all is now PlayStation 3, the company says.

"PS3 is our largest TV-connected platform in terms of Netflix viewing, and this year, at times, even surpassed the PC in hours of Netflix enjoyment to become our number one platform overall," states Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

The reasons for the popularity are suggested to be the lack of a filter (unlike on Xbox 360, which requires you to have Xbox LIVE Gold), and the option for daily updates. Of course, there's also the fact PS3 was the first to do a lot of things with Netflix, including 1080p, 5.1, second screen controls, and more.


Vita YouTube app V2 released, brings subs, better controls, more

5 comments Sean Ridgeley - 7:03am (PST) Like Share

Lots to enjoy

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The Vita YouTube app has been available since June, but with quite a lot of features missing compared to its PC counterpart. Today that's fixed with version 2 of the app, which brings in key features like subscriptions and channels, better controls (allowing you to utilize the Vita buttons, browse while you watch, and more), playlist settings, improved searching, and a load more.

The new version can be utilized now. Check below for the full details on what's new.

  • Subscriptions and channels: Now you can view and manage your subscriptions (including your subscription to the PlayStation YouTube channel), browse all videos on a specific channel and check out detailed information in the “About this channel” menu option.
  • Improved controls: We’ve added new functions on controls including Next/Previous buttons, a loop video option and the ability to browse videos while another is playing, making it easy to select preferred videos without interrupting playback.
  • Playlist settings: You can now create playlists and add videos to your playlists, including your Favorites or Watch Later lists.
  • Closed captions: Captions help deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers enjoy YouTube videos, and they’re also useful if you forgot your headphones and want to watch videos in a loud (or quiet) setting while on-the-go. Now you can display closed captions when playing videos. Look for the captions icon on the video thumbnail. You can even change the language of captions in the options menu.
  • Continuous playback: In the settings menu, you can now enable continuous playback, so your next video selection will start to play automatically.
  • PS Vita buttons: You now have the option to use the PS Vita buttons to control playback and menus, which can be enabled in the Settings > System menu.
  • Share: Show that you’re tuned in—Tweet, Email or group message your friends the name and URL to the latest video. You can also invite people to check out any channel on YouTube — like the the PlayStation YouTube channel — via group message, so they don’t miss a beat.
  • Improved search: You can now use search filters — sorting by upload date or duration, for example — making it easier than ever to find your favorite videos.

Apple CEO apologizes for sorry state of iOS 6 Maps, recommends Bing, Google in the meantime

10 comments Leo Chan - 9:27am (PST) Like Share

Company admits it "fell short" on commitment to "deliver the best experience possible"

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Users who have made the leap to Apple's iOS 6 either through software update or the new iPhone 5 have found out the hard way that Apple's new Maps service has been anything but useful compared to trusty ol' Google Maps it really wanted to replace.  On the bright side, it's literally lead to a whole new world in the palm of your hands.  Apple has finally broken silence with CEO Tim Cook issuing an apology over the buggy state (to say the least) of the iOS Maps service, and a promise that the company will make things right:

To our customers,

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook
Apple’s CEO

So not only an apology, but a less-than-subtle recommendation of competing services in the meantime, including Google Maps!  To be sure, it's really not that hard to get Google Maps back onto iOS 6: just hit the mobile version of the site and download the app.

(Image Source: The Amazing iOS 6 Maps)


Microsoft pushes Kinect, SmartGlass connectivity during E3 conference

2 comments Leo Chan - 12:07pm (PST) Like Share

SmartGlass brings tablet, smartphone secondary display support for 360

Don't miss Rory's excellent summary of Microsoft's E3 conference right here!

A not-so insignifigant portion of Microsoft's E3 2012 press conference was dedicated to the large service upgrades planned for Xbox Live.  Kinect's voice recognition, already powering Bing search, will play a greater part in navigating the upcoming services for Xbox Live including Xbox Music, official sports programming content from the NBA, NHL and ESPN, and Internet Explorer.  That's right, support for Microsoft's ubiquitous web browser will finally be coming to the 360.

Additional television programming will also be coming to Xbox over the next year including:

  • Absolute Radio –U.K.
  • Ameba TV – Canada, U.S.
  • BreakMedia – Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, U.K., U.S.
  • Comedy Central Stand Up – U.S.
  • Comoyo – Denmark, Norway, Sweden
  • Corus Entertainment’s Franklin the Turtle – Canada
  • GameSpot TV – Australia, Canada, U.K., U.S.
  • Headweb – Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden
  • Indie Flix – U.S.
  • Machinima – All Xbox LIVE markets
  • Napster – Germany, U.K.
  • Nickelodeon – U.S.
  • Paramount Movies – U.S.
  • Picturebox – U.K.
  • Quickflix – Australia, New Zealand
  • Rakuten ShowTime – Japan
  • Revision3 – Canada, U.K., U.S.
  • Rhapsody – U.S.
  • RTL XL – Netherlands
  • Slacker Radio – Canada, U.S.
  • SnagFilms – U.S.
  • Terra (Sunday TV) – Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico
  • The AOL On Network – Australia, Canada, Netherlands, U.K., U.S.
  • The Weather Channel – U.S.
  • The Whistle – U.S.
  • TOU.TV – Canada
  • TV3 – Spain
  • Twitch TV – U.S.
  • Univision – U.S.
  • Wuaki – Spain
  • Youzee – Spain

In addition voice, you can also navigate XBL services using a Windows 8 smartphone and tablet PC thanks to what Microsoft dubs "Xbox Smartglass."  This feature essentially allows 360 users to use their existing mobile phones or tablet PCs as another "window" to display information relevant to what is also being displayed on the television screen, but not necessarily exactly the same.

The simplest examples of using a tablet PC with Xbox 360 through SmartGlass would be as a remote or a portable movie player that transfers content directly from the console, but Smartglass functionality will even be implemented in upcoming Xbox 360 games, bringing to mind the "asymmetric diversity" touted yesterday by Nintendo through the secondary screen on the Wii U GamePad.

Here is a more complete list of upcoming features for Xbox Live, highlighting Microsoft's aim to make the 360 a more complete home entertainment hub:

· International Expansion of Kinect Voice Control and Search. We are deeply committed to bringing the services and entertainment that people love on Xbox LIVE to our members around the world. This year, we are expanding our voice search capabilities to 12 new countries and we are bringing more entertainment applications than ever to more countries on Xbox LIVE. We’ve also made it easier to connect to our global Xbox LIVE service on Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox 360 in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.

· Xbox SmartGlass. This is a brand new Xbox innovation that makes your entertainment smarter, more interactive and more fun – across the devices you already own. It makes your tablet or your phone more intuitive, so if you are watching a movie or playing a game on Xbox 360, relevant content will automatically appear on your SmartGlass device. Imagine having the ability to pick your plays from your tablet instead of the TV screen during an intense game of “Madden,” keeping your next move a surprise to your opponent. Imagine meeting up with a boss in “Ascend” and seeing all the necessary details appear on your phone to help defeat it. Or, turn your favorite tablet or phone into a great remote control for your Xbox console. We’re excited to make all this possible for you and more.

· Internet Explorer for Xbox. This is something you’ve been asking for, and we waited until we could deliver a web browser experience truly optimized for the TV. You’ll be able to easily find and view the internet content you crave on the best screen in the house. And, with the power of Kinect and Xbox SmartGlass, you’ll able to navigate websites with any device or the sound of your voice.

· Favorites. This is another request we’ve heard frequently. Favorites allows you to personalize the dashboard by saving your movies, TV, games, music and the web right to the home screen in the dashboard. Favorites will make it easier and faster than ever to get to your favorite content on Xbox and Xbox LIVE.

· Xbox on Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Xbox is the premium entertainment experience for video, music, and games on your Xbox 360, on Windows 8 and on Windows Phone. And of course our LIVE service makes it even easier to share, discover, play and more with all of your content.

  • Xbox Music will bring you a world-class music library and great new ways to enjoy, share and discover new music across all of your Windows devices.
  • Xbox Games makes your experience with the console even better. You’ll have access to your avatar, recent games and leaderboards, and connections to your friends, giving you anywhere access to things you love about Xbox on the console. You can even purchase Xbox 360 games from anywhere and have them ready for download the moment you turn on your console.
  • Xbox Video provides you access to the video marketplace, making it easy to browse and search for TV episodes and movies. You can see your videos in your personal collection and even cue the TV show or movie up on your Xbox 360.

· New Search Features. Last year, we brought you the ability to search for your favorite movie, TV show, or actor with your voice. This year, we’re taking it one step further and bringing you the ability to search for your favorite genre. Now, you’ll be able to say “Xbox, Bing comedy,” to quickly find movies and TV shows across your entertainment apps. Not only can you search for your favorite type of content, but we’re also extending Bing voice search to include content in the YouTube app. The best viral videos will now be discoverable in your search results, all with the sound of your voice.

· Performance Improvements. We continue to invest in improving the performance of the Xbox dashboard. Whether you’re getting in and out of entertainment applications, browsing the games library or navigating large entertainment catalogs, we are working to make these experiences quick and seamless.


Netflix now available in UK, Ireland

2 comments Sean Ridgeley - 11:44am (PST) Like Share

Stream movies, TV to your heart's content

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For those of our readers residing across the pond (specifically: UK & Ireland), you can now catch up with the rest of the world and stream movies and TV through Netflix and your device of choice. As ever, a one-month free trial is available; after that, you've got to fork over a whopping £5.99 or €6.99 each month.

The benefit of this once seemingly eternal wait is you can take advantage of the progress the company has made over the years: advanced streaming technology means almost no waiting to watch almost ever, you'll be given recommendations based on viewing history and ratings and social networking, and there's a "Just For Kids" section for when you just can't take it anymore (we jest).

Hit the source to get started.


Epic ports Unreal Engine 3 to Flash Player 11

4 comments Leo Chan - 6:08pm (PST) Like Share

Soon all you need is Flash to play an Unreal Engine game

Remember back when anyone who knew how to make a Flash video thought they could become freakin' comedians?  Well now they could become wizards instead.  Adobe's Flash Player 11 update was made available for download last night, but it comes alongside another major announcement: Epic Games will be bringing Unreal Engine 3 to the Flash Player environment.  Epic's founder and CEO Tim Sweeney demonstrated Unreal Tournament 3 on Flash Player 11 earlier today at Adobe MAX 2011.

Flash Player 11's newest "Stage 3D" technology allow for hardware accelerated graphics, and that's what Epic leverages to cram UE3 in Flash media format.  It heralds bold new things for all those Flash games that are taking off these days in a social gaming environment.  Sweeney beams in the press release:

“With UE3 and Flash, games built for high-end consoles can now run on the Web or as Facebook apps, reaching an enormous user base.  This totally changes the playing field for game developers who want to widely deploy and monetize their games."

Epic certainly knows how to bring Unreal Engine to new shores, as the developer was previously delivered it on Apple's iOS.  It certainly will be interesting to see how well developers can realize Unreal Engine's potential on Flash, as it may be landmark enough to see fairly decent ports of console/PC UE titles running (and playable) in web browsers or even supporting smartphones and tablets.  Links to a few demos of Stage 3D Flash titles can be found on Adobe's site.  Yes, they still have really loud audio.  And might take a while to load.


World of Goo submitted to App Store for approval

3 comments Lydia Sung - 1:45pm (PST) Like (1) Share

2D Boy planning iPhone release

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For World of Goo fans out there who also happen to be physically inseparable from their iPhones, 2D Boy's latest announcement should leave you feeling relatively fuzzy inside.

The indie developer has submitted its adorable little puzzle game to the App Store for review, meaning you could soon be seeing it on the iPhone catalog.  "But it's already been released for the iOS," some of you are no doubt thinking, ready to rage. "I have it on iPad!"

Because 2D Boy loves you just as much as/more than your parents do, World of Goo iPhone will be free for anyone who already purchased the iPad version.  For the studio, this felt like the most "fan-friendly thing to do."

You will need to own an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 to run the game.  As for the iPod Touch, a third generation or newer is required.


Android is ready to play with Xperia Play announcement next week

6 comments Leo Chan - 2:51pm (PST) Like (1) Share

Sony readies Facebook announce for PlayStation Phone on February 13th

Sony's PlayStation Phone is the Xperia Play, which we've known for ages to be running the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) smartphone OS.  The electronics/console giant should be making its big official announcement for their "gamechanger" smartphone on Facebook this Sunday, February 13th.  That's a pretty big sign that Sony Ericsson is indeed planning on rolling a red carpet out for the Xperia Play.

More Android phone than PSP, Sony nevertheless has no qualms about tying it to the PlayStation world through the PlayStation Suite, their new cross-platform gaming framework to deliver original, PlayStation-branded games on the PlayStation Network for both Android devices and the upcoming NGP (Next Generation Portable) handheld.

Not just any Android device will be ready for the Playstation Suite; to make sure consumers are on the same page as Sony as to what will work best with PlayStation Suite, Sony introduces their own Seal of Approval for Android devices dubbed "PlayStation Certified".  The first (and only) device to bear this branding will be the Xperia Play, naturally.

While both the Xperia Play and NGP benefit from having a D-pad, analog control and face buttons, PlayStation Suite games do support touchscreen control, so we may see more PlayStation Certified Android devices which are not necessarily made by Sony in the future.


Anomaly: Warzone Earth gets killer new cinematic trailer

3 comments Lydia Sung - 7:18pm (PST) Like (1) Share

Those don't look like friendlies...

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11 bit studios today released a new cinematic trailer for their upcoming sci-fi RTS, Anomaly: Warzone Earth.  The video touches a bit on the game's backstory, set on Earth in the year 2018. 

A comet has just landed (the "anomaly") in the Middle East, and troops are moving in to investigate the sinister looking celestial object, only to find hostile alien forces waiting in the dust.  To go with the new trailer, 11 bit also released some new screenshots for the Mac version.  They're a tad grainier than previously released images from the PC version, though the differences are relatively negligable. 

Anomaly: Warzone Earth will be hitting PC, Mac, and Apple portable devices Q1 of this year.  No prices have been announced yet.

Click here to see more images

New PlayStation phone leaks shed more light on specs, features

6 comments Leo Chan - 12:19pm (PST) Like (1) Share

Coming with PlayStation Pocket app for PlayStation branded gaming

PSP phone meets PSP Go

You may know now that Sony's mysterious PlayStation smartphone is really more a part of their Xperia product lineup, thanks to image leaks of the new device posted on a Hong Kong discussion board earlier this week.  Just as rumored ages ago, the Xperia Play phone (or whatever it will be finally called) is reminscent of the PSP Go in hardware design, sliding open to reveal a trusty ol' d-pad and the quartet of PlayStation face buttons, plus two smaller circular touchpad surfaces.  Now Chinese wire IT168 has posted even more images of the Xperia/PS phone, along with plenty of juicy new tech specs.

The Xperia/PS phone will be reportedly powered by the same 1GHz Snapdragon processor found in HTC's Desire HD smartphone, and will feature a Qualcomm Adreno 205 GPU that's said to be especially powerful for an Android-based device.  It sports a 4-inch, 854 x 480 pixel LCD, 1500 mAh battery, 512MB RAM and 512MB ROM, a built-in 5 megapixel camera with autofocus (which IT168 took some test snapshots with) and two microphones, and microSD and micro-USB expansion slots.

It's game launching app in the software menu will be dubbed the "PlayStation Pocket", which should bring back memories of the cute little peripheral with its own screen and control buttons for the PSX that plugged into the console's memory card slots.  There's no mistake this Xperia/PS phone will want you to live in your world and play in PlayStation's, but it's still not quite clear what sort of PlayStation software is compatible with the upcoming device.  What is clear is that this doesn't seem intended to be the PSP successor, but more of a PlayStation-centric smartphone (not necessarily a bad thing in itself!).

(Image Source: IT168)

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