Showing posts from July, 2014

How large is your home screen? With a projector, it’s how you want it to be

The Benq W1400 projector managed to break some of my preconceptions about the practical utility of a projector at home. The fact that we got to test this device for two weeks during the World Cup, with two football matches each evening, might have had something to do with this. Before this, I had been skeptical about owning a projector as I thought it would not be a good value for money, especially having it installed in a small apartment in Bucharest. I can say that I changed my mind as I saw that a projector can fit even in a 15 sqm living room. Full Story:

Epson's new portable projector punches way above its weight

For years consumer electronics devices have been dropping in price, while the quality of the devices has continued to surge. One corner of the market that has continued that trend relatively unnoticed is personal projectors. Once the crowning jewel in the home theatre setups of the rich and famous, the price of a seriously impressive projector is now well under $1,000. The price drop, combined with the quality of today’s units is something that movie buffs, sports fanatics and Netflix fans should be salivating over. Full Story:

Toshiba LED TV Review

At a time when TV manufacturers are falling over themselves to release one 4K TV after another, Toshiba is steadfastly insisting there remains a market for premium 1080p HDTVs – the company hasn’t even officially announced its L94 series of Ultra HD television for the UK market at this time of writing. Instead, what we have in for review today is the Toshiba L74 series, its flagship full HD LED TV which comes in three sizes: the 42-inch Toshiba 42L7453, the 47-inch 47L7453 (we’re testing this), and the 55-inch 55L7453. Full Story:

Hacking automated homes could help burglars

Unsecured automated homes provide an easy access to data about home owners and could be used by burglars seeking access to properties, German researchers have found. In a series of experiments, IT security experts from the University of Saarland proved that eavesdropping on wireless home automation systems doesn’t require extensive knowledge of the system and could be easily carried out by a determined attacker equipped with a simple PC. Full Story:

Home automation means you can control your home with an app

You’re going to continue hearing about home automation, which enables you to control virtually anything in your home with a mobile device — from controlling your lights while on vacation or opening your garage door from work when your daughter forgets her keys. Its applications and benefits are endless. It works well for people who keep odd hours or travel frequently. It’s also effective for security and managing your home’s energy usage. You can even use it to give housekeepers and other service providers access to your home without giving out keys. You can lock and unlock your doors with the push of a button. Full Story:

Video: Home Theater Expert David Welles

Home theater expert David Welles of Tunnel Vision Technology, Inc. joins Frank to chat all the amazing things you can do to beef up your home system. Learn how the size of your television does actually matter – and he and Frank take your calls as well! Full Story:

How to Set Up a Home Theater That Can Disappear in a Flash

Picking the perfect portable projector screen, stand and speakers to create a stowable home theater Full Story:

Theater rooms becoming more integrated into living space

The curtain may be falling on home theater rooms. Homeowners and homebuilders are finding that enclosed home theaters — with their dark walls, big recliners, tiered seating and surround-sound equipment — sit unused far too much of the time to warrant the expense and space. At this year’s Parade of Homes, where such theaters were de rigueur for years, none of the dozen homes features a dedicated home theater room. Full Story:

Is home automation the future? Samsung thinks so

Samsung clearly believes that the future of housing is fully automated homes, and as such, we are seeing more and more Samsung appliances (washing machines, fridges, televisions, even lightbulbs) becoming “smart”; i.e. they are getting connected to the internet, and becoming capable of more than just the simple function that other appliances of their ilk can do. Full Story:

How Apple will make our homes smarter

Smart Homes are one of the hottest areas in technology at the moment, and with its HomeKit developer framework Apple is hoping to set a standard that will make controlling devices and services around the house as simple as turning on a light switch. As yet the automated home shows tremendous potential but remains a disconnected and nebulous experience due to the variety of proprietary apps that manufacturers employ. It was clear from this year's WWDC keynote speech that Apple is intending to make this space its own by having a single, unified iPhone interface that will control all elements of your digital dwelling with the elegance and clarity that we’ve come to expect from Cupertino’s finest. Full Story:

Video: Home movie theatre closes gap with cinema

There was a time not too long ago when audiences expected to wait months for a movie to move from the cinema into the home. Full Story:

Wealthy homeowners want open floor plans, automation

Flexible spaces, tech-savvy features and outdoor-oriented living are popular with well-to-do U.S. homeowners, a pair of recent surveys show. Full Story:

Microsoft opens new accelerator for home automation start-ups

Microsoft is opening a new business accelerator in Seattle for start-ups focused on home automation, a field including appliances that learn a user’s preferences, or software that might help a user control objects from their smartphones, for instance. In partnership with auto insurance company American Family Insurance, Microsoft plans to select a handful of start-ups and provide them with mentorship, a temporary workspace, and access to software, among other services. Full Story:

Home automation attracts $468M in venture capital

Start-ups creating technology for home automation — allowing users to control appliances, energy, security and other functions — attracted $468 million in venture capital since 2012, according to a new report. Investors made 56 deals backing home automation technology last year, said a report from CB Insights, a New York-based venture capital research firm. Full Story:

An app for motorized window shades

If you have a cellphone, then you are halfway to adding a new tech feature to your life if you should so choose. So what is it? It's an app for your Apple phone that allows you to control the motorized window treatments in your house. Yes, you still have to get the treatments installed, but, nevertheless, it's a great idea. Motorized shades have been popular for a very long time, so that part isn't new. But being able to control them from your phone is. Full Story:

Review: Crestron Roller Shade Solutions

You probably don’t think of your “A/V guy” (we prefer to call them custom electronics professionals) as the one to be installing window treatments in your home. But you should. Besides, these days chances are his company is already doing plenty more than slapping a flat-panel TV on your wall—if you’re considering a home tech project you’re likely looking at home automation and controls, lighting control, security, climate and housewide A/V distribution. Motorized shades are another logical solution in the mix, one that if integrated into a larger-scale project can afford you ease-of-operation and daily lifestyle benefits of other tech systems. That means stuff like touchscreen control and automated presets on the operation side, plus energy efficiency, privacy and glare control on the benefits side.

Apple and Google Dominate 'Internet of Things' Influence with Home Automation Efforts

In just the past month, Apple announced a new ‘smart home’ platform, and Google made a similar announcement for Android and purchased Nest for $3.2 billion – moves that pushed both companies quickly to the head of the ‘Top 10 Most Influential Companies’ in a new Influence Study focusing on the Internet of Things, released today by Appinions. Full Story:

The scattered, futuristic world of home automation

The world of automated home gadgets is young and exciting, filled with an abundance of promising new products. It's also a bit of a mess. At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were devices and smartphone apps to control everything in your home. But there are so many conflicting approaches, setups, standards and systems that the real dream of a fully connected home is still a ways off. In previous years, the connected, or "smart," home world was mostly aspirational, with prototypes of fridges with Internet-connected displays and elaborate home security systems. But this year the Jetson's home is a finally a reality, with major vendors peddling real, usable products, almost all controllable from a smartphone. Full Story:

Home-automation trend picking up speed

The Binkowskis are among a nascent but growing number of homeowners with "home automation" systems that can remotely control the lights, alarms and thermostats, often via mobile devices and secure websites. Call it the next frontier of personalized technology. The explosion of high-speed Internet and app-centric smartphones have made home technology — from securing your front door to turning off the lights to blasting your music — far more Jetson-like. And while some technologies have been around for years, analysts who follow this market say adaptation rates are picking up speed. If you're like the majority of homeowners who are still holding onto the DVD player you bought several years ago or a wireless, programmable thermostat you have yet to actually figure out, there's hope. Full Story:

Controlling Your Smart Home With One Hub

THE smart home is full of promise: Coffee makers that turn on when you wake up, garage doors that open when you come home, relaxing music that is controlled remotely and air-conditioners and thermostats that perfectly regulate the home and save you money, too. Promise is rarely reality, though. Smart-home automation is a tricky and chaotic corner of tech right now. Companies are rushing to join the fray, buoyed in part by the success of the Nest Learning Thermostat, and Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest. Full Story:

Can home automation systems increase the appeal of my home?

Home automation systems that allow an owner to control lighting and shading, heating and cooling, music and video, security cameras and other functions can definitely increase the appeal of a home, said Zachary Vichinsky, a real estate sales agent with the Corcoran Group in the Hamptons. “The last home I sold, the purchaser came out and told me that his decision to purchase the property was based largely on the technology that was incorporated into the home,” Mr. Vichinsky said, noting that the house had a fully integrated Crestron home automation system. “As a second home, it was very appealing to the purchasers to be able to be coming down the highway and turn the air-conditioning and lights on in their home, or raise the temperature of the pool.” Full Story:

A smart start in home automation

Curious about home automation? If so, you'll want to be sure to consider SmartThings. With a variety of helpful, multifunctional sensors, wide product compatibility, and a slick-looking smartphone app to control it all, last year's Kickstarter-born startup is one of the most appealing smart-home offerings yet. At $99 for a standalone SmartThings Hub and with sensor-rich kits starting at $199, it's a relatively affordable option, too -- especially given the fact that SmartThings doesn't charge its users a monthly fee. Full Story:

Lutron Smart Bridge review: This Wi-Fi hub bridges the smart-lighting gap

The $150 Lutron Smart Bridge turns Lutron's un-smart dimmer products into Wi-Fi-enabled home automation pros. While the Smart Bridge and corresponding app work incredibly well, $150 feels excessive for light-dimming capabilities. Tack on an additional $55 for a single, two-outlet dimmer plug and you've spent over $200 to control a maximum of two lamps. Full Story:

Is Sonos’ Smallest, Cheapest (and Best Sounding?) System Yet

Sonos certainly has its fair share of competition these days, with Samsung entering the wireless multiroom music market and Bose bowing its SoundTouch system last week. Not content to give up a bit of primacy in its arena, Sonos has just introduced the Play:1 — the company’s smallest, most affordable wireless system to date. At just $199, Sonos PLAY:1 measures a little over six inches tall by a little less than five inches wide, and features two Class D amps to drive its 3.5-inch woofer and tweeter. Of course, ease of control and ease of setup are the key messages from Sonos, and although it certainly features the same app control of its bigger brothers, Sonos touts the fact that Play:1 is easy enough to control without an app. Its Play/Pause button also serves as a track skip button. Full Story:

Start smart home monitoring and control with SAM

Whether you’re jealous and/or intrigued by all these ‘smart’ gadgets and appliances hitting the market, it doesn’t mean that what you own now is no good. With the right equipment, you too can smarten up your home. How easy, you ask? Well, if you can plug stuff into a wall socket and operate a smartphone app at the same time, then you too can upgrade with confidence. SAM save automate monitor socket strip detailsThe device is called SAM, which is short for save automate monitor. Although we’ve already seen some tech that performs similar actions, SAM goes above and beyond to provide control and useful information. Users can choose either the single wall plug or the outlet strip, both of which feature the same main bullet points. Full Story:

Hands On with the Drivers Lab’s Control4 Driver for ecobee Thermostats

Anyone who has visited my home in the past year or so has probably gotten tired of me talking about all of the things my Control4 home automation and Lutron lighting control systems can do. Sure, there’s the touch-of-a-button home theater control. Yes, I can turn my lights on with a flick on my iPhone. Yes, I can remotely unlock my doors and monitor my security cameras from anywhere in the world. But… There’s always the “but.” But, I’ve grown used to saying, it can’t operate my ecobee Smart Thermostat. Yet. Now, thanks to The Drivers Lab, I can wipe that sentence entirely from my vernacular. You, like many of my beleaguered guests, may be wondering why, exactly, I would want to integrate my ecobee into my Control4 system at large. After all, ecobee’s app control is amazing, its setup and online monitoring tools are beyond compare, and once the thing is set up, you rarely if ever need to touch it, aside from letting it know that you’ve replaced your filter (or if you’re walking by and

Crestron PROCISE PSPHD Surround Sound Processor Review

In the realm of home automation, Crestron is well established as the leader in the space, with a brand name that well-heeled consumers associate with Sub-zero, Wolf, Miele and the like. In the past few years, Crestron has been making progress in expanding its business beyond the world of touchscreens, control systems, shades and lighting control and into products like media servers and now home theater components. The subject of this review is Crestron’s PSPHD processor, which retails for $11,000 and is part of the PROCISE product line. Along with the processor, Crestron sent the PROAMP 7×250 amplifier ($7,000 – review pending); the two products are designed to work in concert with one another via an Ethernet connection, which is a unique detail in the world of AV preamps and multi-channel amps. I’ve had the opportunity to play around with a fully integrated whole-home Crestron solution at a friend’s house in Orange County, California, and I can safely say that it is pretty awe-inspi

Control4 HC-250 Control System Review

I think it’s fair to say that the two biggest players right now in the world of custom home automation are Crestron and Control4. While Crestron still caters primarily to a high-end clientele, Control4 can be more of an everyman’s solution. That’s not to say that the company’s products are cheap or that you can’t assemble a super-high-end, highly complex whole-house control system based on the Control4 platform. It’s just that, for those people with more modest needs and budgets, Control4 can certainly accommodate. If your home theater system has advanced to the point where you’d like to step beyond a standard universal remote control and incorporate some home automation, consider the subject of today’s review: the HC-250, which is Control4′s lowest-priced controller box at $750 plus installation. The HC-250 is designed primarily to be a single-room solution that, when combined with a handheld remote like Control4′s SR-250, is the perfect replacement for a universal remote control but,

Satellite Industry Anticipates Arrival of Ultra HD TV

Satellite fleet operators and teleport owners disagree on how quickly ultra-high-definition television will become a mass-market business but share the view that Ultra HD TV, with super-sharp picture quality and color resolution, will follow the HDTV growth model and not fall into the niche status of 3-D television. They said the current World Cup soccer tournament is one catalyst for test programming, and the 2016 Olympics will be another — assuming that Ultra HD television screen prices follow the HDTV trend downward. As was the case with HDTV, these officials said, an entire ecosystem needs to be put into place — signal compression to bring down the cost of Ultra HD satellite bandwidth, the availability of Ultra HD-compatible television screens at mass-market prices, and the programmers’ adoption of Ultra HD broadcasts beyond the initial sporting events. Full Story:

Fun ways to improve your home theater experience

We are living in the midst of one of the most exciting eras of television and technology — from edge-of-your seat action series to big game sports. U.S. consumers spent $18 billion on home entertainment in 2013, according to recent statistics from the Digital Entertainment Group. So if you're thinking about giving your home any upgrades this season, one change that will increase the enjoyment of your family room or living room is improving your home entertainment system. There are a number of fun ways to update your home entertainment system to ensure family movie and gaming nights are extra exciting: Full Story:,0,5250799.story

Nest, Samsung, ARM and others launch ‘Thread’ home automation network protocol

Google, through its Nest Labs home automation division, today announced another major step toward the formation of an ecosystem for connected home devices and apps. Nest, along with Samsung, ARM, and four other partners, today announced a new home automation network protocol called Thread, along with a new industry group (the “Thread Group”) that will guide the adoption of the new protocol, the companies say. The lock maker Yale Security, chip makers Silicon Labs and Freescale Semiconductor, and ceiling fan maker Big Ass Fans round out the group’s founding members. The Thread protocol provides a common network language by which home devices like smart thermostats and smoke alarms can talk with each other, explains Chris Boross, the Nest Labs executive who leads the Thread initiative. Full Story:

Big Names Aim to Take Home Automation Mainstream

It still may seem like a bit of science fiction, being able to control everything in your home—from your lights to your garage door—all with your mobile phone. Home automation is here though, and a few big names have recently announced efforts trying to make it simple for you to set up and use, like Home Depot and its Wink system. “Currently Home Depot has over 600 home automation products online and in store today, but they all have their individual app and they can’t work together. So what we’re trying to do: have one platform to bring all of those nationally branded products together in one free app called Wink," Home Depot's Anne Sebestyen says. That system is launching with 15 products under one hood. Staples has a similar plan that links around 150 devices. The big difference with Staples Connect: it's working on including wearables into your network. “So with Jawbone, the example is you wake up in the morning, you turn your sleep mode off, and that would trigger

Control your smart home with Android Wear

If the existence of smartwatches is predicated on convenience — they need to be significantly more accessible than our phones. That’s why Android Wear’s out-of-the-box compatibility with AutoApps is a great sign for the future of wearable tech. Spending some time with Android Wear before it launched, developer Doug Gregory managed to adapt his home automation system to work with his brand new Gear Live smartwatch. Full Story:

Home theaters are growing in popularity

Five times as many 60-inch or larger televisions were sold between January and March than during the same time in 2011, according to the NPD Group, a consumer market research firm. Four years ago, soundbars and streaming boxes were niche devices. Now they make up $1.4 billion in sales, and $2.4 billion if you add in audio streaming. And while none of this equipment is cheap, neither is going to the movies, which might explain why some families are investing in home theaters. It would cost the Maskils $30 in tickets for the four of them to go to a Friday or Saturday night movie at the Westglen 18 Theatre. Add in a large popcorn, four large soft drinks and a large box of candy, and you’re looking at another $35 or more. If they went once a month, they would spend about a $900 a year. Instead, they spent the past 10 years saving to transform a basement room into a mini-cinema. They carefully studied pictures, then helped build it. The theater has an Epson overhead projector, seven spe