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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Apple to back both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray?

When Apple joined the Blu-Ray Disc Association in March 2005, the move was seen as a coup for Blu-ray and a blow to the competing HD-DVD format, but documents recently obtained by Think Secret indicate that Apple may in fact be planning to support both formats equally.

While members of the Blu-ray camp, which include Dell, Panasonic, Pioneer, and Sony, have kept their distance from HD-DVD, which is backed by Microsoft, Toshiba, and Intel, among others, Apple would not be the first vendor to side with both formats: Hewlett Packard actively supports both formats.

From a business perspective, backing both Blu-ray and HD-DVD makes tremendous sense for Apple. The company's hardware and software is used extensively in Hollywood, and HD-DVD is exclusively backed by Universal Studios, while other studios have lent non-exclusive support to the format. Were Apple to forgo HD-DVD support in its products, it could potentially limit the adoption of its products by some film makers.

Apple's move was first suggested by a 2005 press release indicating that the company would lend its support to both formats. Since that time, neither Blu-ray nor HD-DVD has established any meaningful lead in the marketplace since hardware arrived in consumer hands earlier this year, and neither appears poised to do so in the near future. Some manufacturers have also started to divert attention to producing drives, recorders, and media that support both formats, similar to how most DVD recorders and players on the market today support both DVD-R and DVD+R.

As for when the next-generation disc formats might be available in Apple hardware, sources are uncertain but indications point to the first-half of 2007, when Apple plans to roll-out Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard as well as a major upgrade to Final Cut Studio, which is said will support both high-definition formats out of the box.

read more | digg story |

Buyer Gets Soap Instead of iPod

I was on Jason D. O'Grady's PowerPage when I saw this article and started cracking up. We've all heard of the iPod's vaunted "clean design," but this is ridiculous.

Apparently someone named Sean bought what he thought was an iPod from However after removing the shrink-wrap and opening the box, he instead found inside two bars of soap and a package of cheap batteries.

As you can imagine, Sean was pretty pissed off. I found a write up of how his conversation with a Smalldog customer service rep went on
"I picked up the phone and gave Smalldog a call... I was ready to really tear into someone when a supremely polite and nice customer service rep answered the phone. When I told her about my situation (and not too nicely, I might add), she started laughing. For a second I was shocked! I mean, first you screw up, and then you laugh at me!? But the next thing I knew, I started laughing too. She used just the right amount of humor and seriousness in helping me figure out what had happened... She also wanted to know if I took any pictures, saying that she'd love to have a few to show the other people in the office... It was good to see that someone could have a sense of humor and still be incredibly accommodating at the same time."
The big mystery to this story is how was the iPod box shrink-wrapped if it had already been opened? There are two theories.
  1. Someone in the iPod factory swapped out the iPod with the soap and batteries before the box got shrink-wrapped.

  2. Someone at UPS or Smalldog might have done a homemade shrink-wrap job. All you need is a roll of plastic and a heated cutting device.

We will probably know exactly what happened, but this tale does have a happy ending. Sean got a replacement iPod. The moral of the story: just because something is shrink-wrapped, doesn't mean it's actually in the box.

digg story | methodshop

Monday, October 30, 2006

UK Urged to Legalize iPod

Want to be a rebel and break the law in the United Kingdom? It's easy. All you need is an iPod and a CD.

Here's how:
Step 1: Pop a CD into you computer.
Step 2: Import the songs into iTunes.
Step 3: Sync the songs onto your iPod.
Millions of people in the United Kingdom break the law everyday just by using their iPods. Why? The music industry in the UK claims that the illegal practice of coping music onto your iPod costs them hundreds of millions of pounds a year. Anyone else getting a 1998 Napster flashback here?

Apparently the UK music industry is about a decade out of sync with reality. In an effort to help the UK music industry get with the times, ministers in the UK are being urged to relax copyright laws to prevent music fans from facing prosecution for using their iPods. A UK think-tank called the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has recommended an overhaul of the legislation to allow a "private right to copy" music, and thus stop home users being treated the same as large-scale pirates.

Ian Kearns, deputy director of the IPPR, had this to say on the subject:
"Millions of Britons copy CDs on to their home computers, breaking copyright laws every day. British copyright law is out of date. When it comes to protecting the interests of copyright holders, the emphasis the music industry has put on tackling illegal distribution, and not prosecuting for personal copying, is right. But it is not the industry's job to decide what rights consumers have. That is the job of Government."
The dawn of the digital age of music was initially damaging to the music industry... but only because the industry failed to embrace the change consumers desired. As a result, people turned to illegal file-sharing sites such as Napster to find digital music. However, since the launch of the iTunes Music Store, digital music has proven to be a successful business model and the laws in the UK should be changed to better reflect current times.


digg story |

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Introducing the Olive Symphony

Your next CD player may be a computer

It looks and acts just like a CD player. It plays CDs and hooks into your stereo system. I'm not sure where to get a look at one of these but when I do a thorough review will follow!

In the meantime, you can check out a few reviews Sound & Vision , Engadget , and Audioholics .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Touchscreen iPod Rumors

If the latest round of touchscreen iPod rumors are true, you may want to revise your holiday wishlist.

Touchscreen iPod rumors have been circulating around the Internet for awhile now. Even posted some touchscreen iPod patent pictures back in February. The new twist to this story is that the touchscreen iPod might have a wide aspect ratio screen. This would make a lot of sense since Apple recently started selling movies on iTunes.

The new widescreen rumor originated from an anonymous executive at an iPod accessories company who spoke to someone at TrustedReviews. How reliable is this anonymous executive? Your guess is as good as ours. Anyway, here's what Mr. Anonymous had to say:
"In a very matter of fact tone I was told that the product was not designed for the current generation of device, but the official 6G iPod... which is to be released in December. His company's device only comes onto the market shortly before then and would benefit hugely because the new iPod would sport a screen that filled the full side of the device and consequently offer higher resolution video... This is why Jobs isn't afraid of the Zune,' he said, though he had no knowledge of whether wireless would make an appearance."
This might help explain Steve Jobs dismissive attitude last week:
"Jobs is unimpressed with Microsoft's Zune, which allows users to exchange songs. 'It takes forever,' said Jobs. 'By the time you've gone through all that, the girl's got up and left!'"
Adding more fuel to the fire, here's what Gizmodo had to say about the widescreen iPod rumors:
"One thing's for sure, if this widescreen iPod is released in the next two months, the Microsoft Zune with its old-fashioned 4x3 screen and crippled WiFi will be slam-dunked."

digg story | methodshop

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Macworld Blooper Reel

Ever talk yourself into a corner or been bogged down with technical problems during a presentation? Just remember that these problems can happen to anyone... even Steve Jobs.

Here's a blooper reel of Steve Jobs and his gang over at Apple messing up on their very important Macworld keynotes. My favorite part is when Jobs tosses a camera to someone in the audience after it didn't work for him on stage. Enjoy.

digg story | methodshop

Monday, October 23, 2006

Rise In Robberies Blamed on iPod

According to several police chiefs in the UK, the popularity of the iPod may be behind a 5% increase in robberies. Ian Johnston, chief constable of the British Transport Police had this to say last Friday about the iPod and other valuable gadgets, "The mobile phone explosion is continuing. The iPod explosion is continuing. All of these gadgets that people carry around with them are very attractive to robbers, so that puts the opportunities up. We've obviously got to respond to that..."

Apparently just wearing an iPod in the UK can make you a target for a mugging. If you are extremely worried about being attacked for your iPod, you should consider not using the white earbuds that come with every iPod. White headphones are a dead giveaway to everyone around you that you own an iPod.

Even though overall crime in the UK has dropped, robbery rose by about 5% compared to last year. Violent crime was also slightly up nationwide mostly due to street brawls and pub fights.

In case you are curious, here's the breakdown in recorded crime in the UK compared to last year:
  • Drug offences up 16%
  • Other offences against the person-with no injury up 6%
  • Robbery up 5%
  • Criminal damage 0%
  • Theft of and from vehicles 0%
  • Domestic burglary down 4%
  • Other burglary down 5%
  • Other thefts and handling down 6%
  • More serious violence down 13%
  • Other offences against the person-with injury down 4%
  • Sexual offences down 6%
  • Total recorded crime down 2%

digg story | methodshop

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Matsushita Steps Up Plasma HDTV Drive

Matsushita Electric said it will launch four new models of high-definition plasma TVs, including the world's largest with a 103-inch panel, challenging LCD TVs' lead in offering higher resolution images.

Why is this news? Simple - plasmas offer the following advantages:

Higher Resolution
Plasma display devices have higher resolution than most conventional TV sets, and are capable of displaying full HDTV and DTV signals as well as XGA, SVGA and VGA signals from a computer. For example, a plasma display with a 1366 x 768 native resolution can display images from 1080i and 720p HDTV resolution, as well as 480i and 480p DVD video signals.

No Scan Lines
Conventional CRTs use an electron beam to scan the picture tube from top to bottom at regular intervals, lighting the phosphors to create the image. With standard (NTSC) TV, visible scan lines can be seen. Plasma screens have no scan lines due to the fact that each and every pixel cell has its own transistor electrode. This creates a smooth, evenly lit image across the entire surface of the display. Most current plasma displays also include built-in line doubling to improve image quality from low resolution analog video signals.

Exceptional Color Accuracy
Due to advances in both plasma panel technology and digital video processing, today's top-of-the-line plasma televisions can display billions of colors, resulting in smooth gradations between even very subtle shades, and an overall picture quality that is extremely lifelike and realistic. Plasma TVs in general boast the best color reproduction of any flat panel TV technology, and advances are made with each new model year in plasma production. For color accuracy, Plasma televisions are simply without compare.

Wide Screen Aspect Ratio
Plasma televisions have a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, which was originally designed to match the natural field of view of the human eye. Of course you're familiar with the wide screen aspect from watching movies in the theater—and a widescreen plasma TV allows you to watch movies in the format the director intended. The 16:9 aspect ratio is also the chosen format for HDTV content, whether it's broadcast over the air or through digital cable or satellite TV.

But what happens when you watch a standard (4:3) TV program or a computer image? Choosing a plasma TV that scales images appropriately will give you the most enjoyment from your plasma, as well as extending its life. There are several algorithms used to scale incoming video signals to match the plasma's native 16:9 aspect ratio. All plasma screens can show the image in its original 4:3 format with bars (either black or gray) on the sides of the image, but there can be some variation among plasma screens in how well they convert a 4:3 image to the widescreen monitor. Manufacturing engineers accomplish a "best of both worlds" approach by limiting the stretching in the center of the screen, or by enlarging the entire image to larger than the screen size, and "cropping" the edges. This scaling technique allows the most stretching to be located on the edges of the image, thus reducing visible distortion.

Perfectly Flat Screen
Plasma display monitors have screens that are perfectly flat, with no curvature whatsoever. This eliminates the edge distortion that can occur in CRT displays and also assists in allowing the wide viewing angles that are a trademark of plasma displays. The glass-encased plasma display element is most often protected by a Plexiglas layer; some of the better plasma TVs incorporate anti-glare coatings and special color filters to further enhance the picture quality and viewability of the flat screen.

Uniform Screen Brightness
Unlike some rear and front projection televisions that suffer from uneven screen brightness—seen as "hot spots" in the middle of the screen or a darkening near the corners of the image—plasma displays illuminate all pixels evenly across the screen. This gives plasma displays their "smooth" appearance, and ultimately a more accurate picture.

Slim, Space-saving Design
Plasma display monitors are only a few inches in depth, providing installation options never before possible. Depth is usually measured at around 3.5 inches on 42" displays and 4" for 50" screens. In addition to table stand mounting, they can be hung on a wall or from a ceiling, allowing you to enjoy big-screen impact from a component that doesn't dominate floor space. Conventional CRT's, DLP TVs, and rear projection TVs take up far more space and are much more limited in placement flexibility.

Plasma monitors are constructed with a bezel that's not much wider than the actual display screen, giving the monitors an elegant, understated "picture frame" appearance that blends inconspicuously with any décor.

Because they eliminate the need for a front projection unit and a projection screen, plasma display monitors are also ideal for use in a wide variety of business and commercial applications where the use of a front projector would not be feasible.

Wide Viewing Angle
Today's plasma screen TVs offer viewing angles approaching—sometimes even exceeding—170°, much better than rear-projection TVs and LCD displays. Coupled with the perfectly flat plasma screen, a good plasma TV even rivals a CRT TV in viewing angles. This allows a bright, clear picture for anyone in the room—no matter where they're sitting.

Universal Input Capability
Nearly all plasma monitors will accept standard video signals via composite video and s-video inputs, as well as higher-quality component video terminals. An important consideration in choosing the right screen for you, however, lies in what other inputs you may need. Many of the newer plasma TVs on the market include digital inputs such as HDMI or DVI, which can accept HDTV signals from your cable box or satellite—even some DVD players—in an all-digital format. Some plasmas also include a VGA or DVI PC input, allowing your plasma television to pull double-duty as a PC monitor.

And don't overlook some of the excellent plasma displays aimed at commercial broadcast installations, such as the Panasonics and Pioneers. Many of these models are equipped with interchangeable input boards, allowing you to configure your plasma display to meet your needs exactly.

Thanks to our friends at the Plasma TV Buying Guide for their great tips.

read more | digg story |

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to Transfer Cassette Audio to CDs

This is a pretty easy process but it will take some time. Basically we have to do a two-step process: Getting a digital version of the audio tapes, then burning those digital audio files to standard CDs.

First we need to rip the data off the cassette tapes. You'll need one special piece of hardware in addition to a tape deck: You need a cable that connects from the audio-out jack on the tape deck (this could be standard Red/White RCA Cable or a Red/White RCA to 1/8 Mini Jack , depending on your deck) to your computer (which will accept a 1/8-inch mini speaker plug). Connect the tape deck output to the AUX IN input on your PC. (If you're using a laptop, you'll have to use the MIC IN jack.) Make sure you turn this input on in Windows, as by default it is off in most cases.

Now we're about ready to start ripping, but you need software to make this happen. There is a ton of free software to turn audio into MP3 or WAV files. I've used Media Digitalizer to do this exact thing in the past, but many alternatives exist (and Digitalizer only comes with a 14-day free trial, then it's $40). You'll find good advice on how to use another tool with audio tapes, a free piece of software called Exact Audio Copy, at Kuro5hin. There's a little trial and error involved in getting the volume levels set properly, but it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to get it running smoothly.

Treblemaker recommends CD-RWs just in case you make a mistake. You can record one side of each tape as one big MP3 file, or split it up into chunks, whichever you prefer (and if the tapes are too short or too long, you might fit more on a CD by ripping into 10-minute chunks).

Once you've ripped all the audio, simply burn it to an audio disc with any music software. Your ripping program will probably contain a CD-burning feature, or you can do what I do and simply import all the MP3s into iTunes (or another music player) and burn the CDs from there. This is the easy part and should give you no trouble at all.

You've probably figured out the catch with ripping audio from tape: It has to be done in real-time unlike ripping from CD, which can take only about 60 seconds to rip a five-minute song. What are you going to do while all this ripping is going on? Well, you'll probably sit there and listen to the tape... which may obviate the need for you rip to CD to begin with. If you have a large number of tapes you want to convert to CD, tying up your stereo and computer (and your time) for so many hours may simply not be an option. In the end it may just be simpler to stick a portable tape deck on your passenger seat and listen that way.

Thanks to Christopher Null for the tutorial.

read more | digg story |

Some iPods Have PC Virus

Oops. According to a notice on Apple's technical support site, 1% of Video iPods shipped after September 12 had a little present on their hard drives. It wasn't something good, like free music or movies, but a computer virus called "RavMonE.exe" that spreads via removable media.

Apple's response was the following: "As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it... So far we have seen less than 25 reports concerning this problem.... and all Video iPods now shipping are virus free."

Mac users can breathe a sigh of relief, the "RavMonE.exe" virus only affects computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system. If you are a PC user who recently purchased a Video iPod, you can detect and remove the virus using an anti-virus software program like Norton AntiVirus. You should also scan any mass storage devices that you have recently attached to your PC such as external hard drives, digital cameras with removable media, and USB flash drives.

Good luck.

digg story | methodshop

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

World's First YouTube Band

If you get a chance, head over to today. The number one video is something called "Internet Killed the Video Star" by the ClipBandits - the world's first YouTube only band.

There are currently only 3 members in ClipBandits - J-Pe$o, Girl Bass Player and ClipBandit. They don't even know each others real names, just their YouTube IDs, and have never met in person. They also live in 3 different states, California, New York and Texas. So how does an Internet only band practice or play gigs together? Easy. They do it all via YouTube. J-Pe$o and Girl Bass Player record their separate parts and upload their clips to YouTube. Then the ClipBandit syncs up their clips on several large video screens in his recording studio and plays his part live. He then uploads the final product to YouTube.

ClipBandits all got started when J-Pe$o uploaded a video to YouTube of a song he wrote during college. Then The ClipBandit saw the video and submitted a video response of himself playing along with J-Pe$o's clip. Several songs later they've added a bass player, are considered the front runner for the Cingular YouTube Underground Band Contest and are looking for a drummer. We wish them luck.

If you want to download any of the ClipBandits videos and convert them for your iPod then check out this tutorial: How to Copy Videos Off YouTube.

digg story | methodshop

Monday, October 16, 2006

Red iPod Helps Fight AIDS

Looks like all the rumors were true. Say hello to the new special edition red iPod Nano.

Bono, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities have partnered with Apple Computer on a special red-colored iPod Nano to help raise money for a new charity aimed at battling AIDS in Africa called PRODUCT RED.

To help promote the new red iPod, both Oprah and Bono bought 10 red iPods at Apple's retail store in Chicago. The video aired last Friday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (video).

Apple has agreed to donate $10 from the sale of each red iPod to the PRODUCT RED charity to help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Apple StoreThe PRODUCT RED charity was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of DATA. They hope to raise awareness and money for The Global Fund by teaming up with the world's most iconic brands to produce PRODUCT RED branded products. Other companies that plan on offering special PRODUCT RED items include the Gap, Converse, Armani, American Express and Motorola.

According to AppleInsider, rumors of a red-colored iPod first surfaced when Bono was overheard at Dublin's Patrick Guilbaud restaurant "discussing a new charity red AmEx card and red iPod."

digg story | methodshop

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Laser TV Unveiled

By: Adam Bennett of The Australian

It's being hailed by its developers as the next revolution in visual technology - a laser television that will make plasma screens obsolete.

Soon-to-be-listed Australian company Arasor International and its US partner Novalux unveiled what they claimed to be the world's first laser television in Sydney today, with a pitch that it would be half the price, twice as good, and use a quarter of the electricity of conventional plasma and LCD TVs.

Manufacturing company Arasor produces the unique optoelectronic chip central to the laser projection device being developed by Silicon Valley-based Novalux, which is being used by a number of television manufacturers.

And displayed beside a conventional 50 inch plasma TV this afternoon, the Mitsubishi-built prototype does appear brighter and clearer than its “older” rival.

With a worldwide launch date scheduled for Christmas 2007, under recognisable brands like Mitsubishi and Samsung, Novalux chief executive Jean-Michel Pelaprat is so bold as to predict the death of plasma.

“If you look at any screen today, the colour content is roughly about 30-35 per cent of what the eye can see,” he said.

“But for the very first time with a laser TV we'll be able to see 90 per cent of what the eye can see.

“All of a sudden what you see is a lifelike image on display.”

Combine that with energy efficiency, price advantage and the fact that the laser TVs will be half the weight and depth of plasma TVS, and Mr Pelaprat says “plasma is now something of the past”.

Mr Pelaprat predicted LCD TVs would come to dominate the market below 40 inches, and laser television the market above that screen size, displacing plasma.

The optoelectronic chip-laser technology won't be confined to TVs.

The technology is also being trialled in mobile phones, where it will be used to project images onto any surface, and in home theatres and cinemas.

The unveiling of the laser TV prototype was held on the eve of Arasor's public float on the Australian Stock Exchange next week.

read more | digg story |

Friday, October 13, 2006

Live News via Treo Phone

When a single-engine plane crashed into an Upper East Side apartment building on Wednesday, Fox News Channel delivered early video to its viewers from the crash site using a hand-held mobile phone with live streaming video.

Scott Wilder, a Fox cameraman, had been about 20 blocks away on another assignment when the crash occurred. Wilder ran uptown and reported live from the scene using a hand-held Palm Treo Smartphone that uses the existing mobile network to transmit video to the Fox News control room. From there, Fox News sent it out live on TV to supplement other video being shot by local traffic helicopters.

The picture quality from the crash site wasn't spectacular, but it was live. Wilder was also able to talk to "Studio B" anchor Shepard Smith on the same phone and give a live "man on the street" report to Fox viewers.

As these advanced video phones become more and more popular, we can probably expect a surge of citizen journalism. If YouTube can make anyone an Internet celebrity, a video phone can make anyone a reporter. Right?

digg story | methodshop

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Muslims Offended by Apple Store

Jason O'Grady from found an interesting research report that says the 5th Ave Apple Store is offensive to some Muslims. Why? Apparently the glass cube shape of the Apple Store entrance resembles the Ka'ba in Mecca (see image). The report, which was translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), also finds problems in people referring to the glass cube as the "Apple Mecca," the store being open 24 hours a day like the Ka'ba, and because "alcoholic beverages" are served inside at a bar.

Obviously the offended Muslims in question have never actually been to the 5th Ave Apple Store. The only bar in the Apple Store is the Genius Bar and although the advice of a Genius Bar employee may be intoxicating, it isn't alcoholic. For those of you unfamiliar with the Apple Genius Bar, it's a booth inside the Apple Store where you can bring your broken iPod or computer and have them take a look at it. There are no alcoholic drinks served at the Genius Bar, just knowledge. The purpose of the Genius Bar must have gotten lost in translation. For the record, Apple Stores do not serve alcohol. People getting drunk and playing with expensive computers and iPods probably isn't a good idea.

As far as building a cube shaped store entrance that's open 24 hours a day.... Apple's 100% guilty of doing that. But can a simple glass cube really be blasphemous? Please write a comment below and share your thoughts.

digg story | methodshop

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Video Message From YouTube Founders

It's official. Say hello to Chad and Steve, the worlds newest millionaires. Web-search giant Google has acquired YouTube for roughly $1.6 billion. The acquisition of YouTube makes Google the 500 gorilla of online video. And that's a perfect place to be at a time when consumers are rapidly increasing the amount of time they spend viewing video clips online, and Internet video advertising is booming.

Thank goodness Rupert Murdoch didn't buy YouTube.

youtube | digg story | methodshop

Monday, October 09, 2006

Philips HTS9800W

There are an awful lot of nice things to say about the Philips HTS9800 DVD Home Theater System . This 6.1 wireless home theatre system has an air of Bang & Olufsen about it, minus the price tag. Wafer thin speakers combine with a vertically mounted DVD player to create a system that looks, and more importantly, sounds excellent. On top of this, wireless connectivity frees the rear three speakers, making tangled wires trailing across the living room a thing of the past. Just make sure you've got room for all the extra cables that are going to be cluttering up the front.

With the HTS9800 Philips really has raised the bar when it comes to affordable yet stylish home theatre. The design of the system wouldn't look out of place in a package costing many times the relatively modest asking price. The six sleek speakers are identical, each housing two small woofers and a neodymium ribbon tweeter. The four corner speakers can be wall mounted or attached to the included chrome stands, whereas the centre and rear-centre speakers come with built in stands and are placed horizontally. A plainly finished matching subwoofer completes the package.

What really sets the system off is the main DVD player, which spurns the usual boxy look and opts for a standalone vertical design. This isn't so good if you wish to place it under the television, but it looks great so there's no need to hide it away. The system is touch sensitive, with a panel of glowing blue controls along the front, and a slot-in DVD mechanism on the side. A one line LCD displays track names across the middle of the unit.

Because the system is so unusually shaped, there are limited connections on the box itself, with only an FM radio antenna and HDMI out. Everything else is connected using a junction box, which is itself connected with some fairly clunky cables. This auxiliary connection box houses component, composite and coaxial connections. There's no optical or S-video anywhere on the system. The remote is one of the few let-downs with regards to the design. Finished in plain silver, it is unintuitive to use and rather unattractive in comparison to the main system.

When it comes to connecting the speakers Philips has used some simple color coded plugs and a proprietary connection to ensure simplicity. The front three speakers attach directly to the subwoofer, while the rear three connect to a wireless receiver that needs A/C power to operate. Once this is done everything is ready to go. Philips doesn't include an automatic calibration microphone, so it's necessary to set the levels and delay of each speaker manually. At first we found the centre speaker to be far too loud and the rear corner speakers too soft, but we were easily able to correct this.

We grew even fonder of this system after performing our audio tests, where it performed brilliantly, especially for music. Across all genres the sound was rich and involving, with deep bass and crisp audio through the higher frequencies. The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil and Outkast's GhettoMusick sounded spot on. The unit is also capable of high volumes without distortion, though is perhaps a little quiet when watching DVDs. Philips include several sound modes such as action, drama and sci-fi which equalise the sound for the appropriate kind of film and we found them quite useful in the right situations.

Using HDMI out the picture quality from the HTS9800W was very good, with the inclusion of basic brightness and contrast controls handy for fine tuning the picture. Another nifty feature from Philips is the lip synch control, for when the picture and sound are not in time. Like most home theatre systems these days the HTS9800W isn't limited to playing just DVDs or CDs. Philips has included support for Super Audio CDs (SACD) which are touted as a high-end alternative to regular CDs. Also included is support for DivX movies, JPEG photos and MP3/WMA music files. Philips has produced one of the few interfaces where access to these data files is actually intuitive, and where the system recognises multiple kinds of files on the same disc. Playback quality is good, and we were especially impressed by the unit's MP3 and WMA output, with a dedicated digital music setting giving great, lifelike sound.

Overall the HTS9800W is an impressive system. It's unusual, yet attractive, design makes it an ideal purchase for the style conscious buyer who also wants great performance and practicality to boot.

Thank you to our friends at Good Gear Guide for the great review!

read more | digg story |

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

DVD Rewinder

Don't you just hate rewinding DVDs? Who doesn't. It's about time someone invented a way to rewind DVDs. And a stylish one at that. At first glance you make think that the aptly named DVD Rewinder looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hot pot... but it's not.

Here's how it works. Just snap a disc on the DVD Rewinder, press the button and watch in wonder as your disc spins in reverse thanks to the "Centripetal Velocity Spindle." To complete the illusion, the DVD Rewinder plays a "rewind" sound while it spin discs backwards. You can also record your own "rewind" sound which provides unending possibilities for trickery.

In all seriousness, my friend's wife just found out that you don't actually have to rewind DVDs. So chances are you'll be able to fool a few people with this gag gadget. So show this to your less-technical friends, sit back and enjoy the show.

Batteries not included. Yes the DVD Rewinder is a real product and can be purchased from

digg story | flickr | methodshop


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