Posts About: TV Box

How USBs Could Shape VR

Virtual reality has become a major tech phenomenon largely on the backs of high-powered computing and gaming systems that already existed. That is to say, while devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are all still relatively new, you still need a high-end gaming console or in some cases even a powerful PC to run them. They are merely headsets, as highly capable as they may be; they need a little help from more robust systems.
While this may be true, however, it’s also true that the VR market – particularly for games – is expanding to include far more than just those experiences you might download on a PC or game system. Smartphones are certainly getting in on the action, such that mobile developers are now creating their own VR experiences on a regular basis. We’ve also learned that some online game developers are creating VR versions of long-established slot games, with NetEnt leading the way. These two developments actually cover quite a bit of the gaming industry. Mobile apps and online casino games can bring enormous numbers of users into the VR fold.

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Round is the New Square

If you’re familiar with any of the currant assistant devices from Amazon, Google and now Apple you’ve probably noticed one particular thing they have in common. They’re all round. There’s a few reasons for doing this, including making a better footprint for microphone pickup.

There’s also something to be said for the form factor. Round is sexier than square or rectangular. I can’t think of a single square body part, but I’m quick to recall a few well-placed round ones. I’m speaking of course, of eyes. Did you think I was referring to something else?

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Convergence and the RCA Touchscreen Tablet Laptop

Whenever I have to do home repair I’m a stickler for using the right tool for the job.  That can end up being a handyman’s nightmare.  A toolbox overflowing with single function devices.  I’ve got tools in the toolbox that I’ve only used one time because it fit some toilet or light fixture.  I can’t even remember for what purpose I bought some of these things.

When it comes to personal technology I also believe in getting the right tool for the job.  I used to dream of having that be-all, end-all product that would take care of every one of my digital needs but I’ve realized that my wish is probably never going to be fulfilled.
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Finding Usability in the EVANPO T95Z

One of the benefits of the technology cycle is that products eventually become more accessible.  When I first got into computers, and Bill Gates still had acne, it was strictly for hobbyists and enthusiasts.  There were too many cryptic things like boot disks and memory management for the average user to deal with.

Those days are long gone and even though we still struggle with the idea of usability, we’re light years ahead of where this all started.  Even a few years ago it would have been unthinkable to recommend Linux to the inexperienced user.  Today it’s quite common for the Facebook grandma to be hooked up with a beefy Ubuntu box.
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Boddenly TV Box and the Life Cycle

When I was writing about the Arduino not too long ago I revisited a belief about consumer electronics that I’ve held for quite some time. I say consumer electronics, but I feel this applies to any number of consumer-oriented products. The basic idea is that all consumer electronics eventually evolve to the point of advancing style over substance.

The reason that the Arduino brought up this point was because I was surprised to see how strongly the sales continue to be for the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and kit PC’s in general. While they are modestly afflicted with the burden of style, like Desktop Computers, they manage to endure and evolve despite not being considered aesthetic.

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Intel NUC as a Media Center or Desktop

Prior to 2015 my primary computer of choice was always a laptop.  I’ve used a few different brands over the years, including Dell, HP, Compaq and IBM.  My favorite has been Dell, but that’s probably because I’ve had the least problems with them.  I also like the simplicity of their keyboard layout.  I don’t think I’ve missed a generational change in portable computing power since I bought my first laptop many years ago.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had desktops, too.

As practical as it is to have a laptop for work, I find it less than satisfactory for gaming and other non-work related activities such as media playback.  Like many of you I found it necessary (and convenient) to maintain a desktop computer to satisfy my gaming needs.  Gaming can take a toll on a laptop in many ways, from repeated keypresses to overheated CPU and Graphics processors.  I confess that both my wife and I have fried laptops from even infrequent gaming.  Adobe Flash is the devil incarnate for a GPU.

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H96 Pro Plus Amlogic S912 Octa Core

The engine that drives the Mini PC market is the same one that drives all consumer electronics, faster and cheaper. Although only a few years old, the Stick and Box market has already gone through generations of technologies. Starting with humble dual core processors, 2D GPU and limited memory, they’ve blossomed into full blown powerhouses with up to eight core CPU’s, 3D graphics and three to four times the memory of their predecessors.

During that time we’ve seen significant price drops in the cost per cpu cycle. While the overall product prices remain nearly constant, we’ve quadrupled or better the performance. The most recent of these Mini PC’s incorporate Octa-core processors from makers like Rockchip and Amlogic. They are engineering marvels, stuffing the latest audio and video advancements into tighter spaces, while providing ever-growing price/performance benefits.

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MINIX NEO U9-H Octa-Core Media Hub for Android

My passion for having the ultimate in home entertainment electronics goes back to when I was in high school many years ago. In those pre-Internet days you had to spend a lot more time researching your purchases. If you were an audio enthusiast, like I was, chances are you had a subscription to Stereo Review magazine. Each issue was like Christmas morning. I poured through that magazine, hungry for the latest news.

Since there weren’t specific home electronics TV shows or other sort of information media, the only other way to get good information was to experience it first hand. Growing up in a small New England town, this was no easy task. My friends and I would routinely make the hour plus trip into the “big city” of Burlington, VT to check out the newest hardware (and albums) from our favorite audio store. I’m sure the staff at that particular store grew tired of our endless testing and questions. Especially because we seldom made purchases until we were sure it was what we wanted. That could take weeks or months.

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Raspberry Pi 3 Kit

When it comes to computers, I’ve always been a do-it-yourself kind of buyer. I’ve been building my own PC’s for many years, and while I can’t claim that I’ve ever saved a lot of money doing so, I’ve always been able to get exactly the components I want and thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting it together. When it comes to builds, shopping for parts is half the fun.

In the Stick Computing category, there’s not much room for DIY in the systems themselves. You have to rely on external expansion possibilities to get your home-brew fix. Thankfully the USB port gives us a highway to Mini PC upgrades. If you add a USB hub to your Stick, you can add nearly anything that you can to an ordinary PC. I look forward to the day that even memory, processor, and graphics upgrades are possible. After all, with Thunderbolt interfaces, we’re nearly there.

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MINIX NEO Z83-4 Fanless Mini PC

This post is going to seem strange to Stick Computing readers for two reasons: First, it’s not about a Stick Computer, or even an accessory for a Stick. Secondly, it’s a post about a device that runs neither Android or Linux, the two cornerstones of Stick Computing. With my reviews lately, it’s going to seem that I’ve gone completely to the other side. But before you hit “Next”, hear me out. This is a great little product.

After a few years of complacency, the Mini PC market is changing rapidly. While the Stick Computer is still the king when it comes to the three P’s of price/performance/portability, there are new and larger formats coming into the market that are evolving and expanding the place of Mini PC’s in the home and in business.

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