By Tim Jarvis
Computers and televisions have finally gotten together, and their offspring is just taking their baby steps out into the market.
The big news at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year was Connected TV (aka Smart TV or Internet TV). So what is it, and why should you care?
According to gadget guru Eric Schlissel -- owner and CEO of GeekTek.com, an IT services and tech-support company based in Los Angeles -- the next generation of TVs will offer the same functionality as the Roku player or Apple TV box, built into the television:
“With these TVs, you also get onscreen widgets, just like those on your PC or phone,” says Schissel. “They can update the local weather, give you baseball scores or serve up the Euro/Dollar exchange rates,” says Schlissel. “In some cases, the television will come with a built-in Web browser and a keyboard.”
The good news is that the next TV you buy will probably already have a lot of these bells and whistles. “It’s going to become standard, because the cost to the manufacturers is next to nothing to build these features in.” The bad news is that you’re going to be paying a premium for them.
If you head down to your local electronics store right now, the kid on the sales floor will be able to show you a bunch of Internet-connectable TVs with the usual major players standing out from the crowd. LG and Samsung are offering their own versions of Smart TV, and the Sony product has Google TV integrated directly into the unit.
To Buy or Not to Buy
At last year’s CES, 3-D TV was the buzz phrase of Sin City. More than a year of hype and hundreds of headlines later, consumers are still not buying into it. So should you be one of the first to jump on the Connected TV bandwagon? How quickly will everybody else follow?
“The problem is that watching television is essentially a passive activity,” says Schlissel. “I don’t know how much people will really want to surf the Web on their TV, or deal with a keyboard.” As he sees it, consumers aren’t going to base their choice of TV on its ability to connect to the Internet, or on the platform or widgets it comes with. Their decision will largely be based on what it has always been based on: the quality of the picture.
So if you can wait for the dust to settle and the prices to come down, most Internet-enabled televisions are going to be offering the same smart features and similar content. And your choice will likely be shaped by variables that include picture quality, ease of setup and customer support.
Best of What’s out There Now
Sony Internet TV І $499 to $1,199
Sony’s Internet TV currently comes in four screen sizes that range from 24 to 46 inches. It’s a fully functional HD-TV with Google TV built in, and it comes with a full QWERTY keypad remote. According to Sony, you can surf the Web and enjoy both the Internet and television shows at the same time with inset screens. You can also download thousands of applications from the Android Market.
LG Smart TV І $1,300
LG is offering its Smart TVs with screen sizes from 32 to 55 inches, some of which come with 3-D capability. Other features include full 1080p resolution, Web-browsing capabilities, a motion-sensitive remote control (for select models), a customizable dashboard, and the ability to download apps from the LG app store. Plus, they’re Wi-Fi-ready.
Samsung Smart TV І $1,600
Samsung’s Smart TVs are both 2-D and 3-D capable and come with screens ranging from 32 to 55 inches. The company’s Smart Hub interface connects you to proprietary Samsung apps, a search feature that allows you to find videos on your system, and recommendation functionality that auto-suggests movies you might enjoy through your on-demand services.
When Do You Need To Get Smart?
“I am a big fan of this technology,” says Schlissel. “Everyone will eventually have access to it, but I’m not convinced they will care about it or make full use of all the features right now. At the moment, most of the content offered by the various manufacturers is basically the same. If you wait a bit, they will create new points of difference among themselves. Eventually, consumers will be swayed to a particular brand by good, original content that introduces them to the full range of what these televisions can do.”
Samsung Smart TV
Sony Internet TV
QUIET KEYBOARD This wireless rechargeable keyboard won’t make a sound no matter how hard you whack at the keys. Although the diNovo Edge might frustrate your attempts to show off your tireless work ethic to the boss, you can surf Internet dating sites all night without tipping off your girlfriend.
MULTILINGUAL MARVEL Expensive enough to require valet parking, the Optimus Maximus keyboard displays letters and control icons with a light-emitting OLED. It’s customizable for multitasking in multiple codes and languages -- including Cyrillic, ancient Greek, Arabic and HTML -- or for more ambitious activities like video gaming.
LASER SHOW No bigger than a cigarette lighter, the Celluon Virtual Keyboard connects to your computer using a USB dongle and emits an awesome laser-generated keyboard and mouse that allows you to work virtually -- and connect with your inner Obi Wan Kenobi.
BACK TO THE FUTURE Drawing from last century’s gilded sensibilities, this custom, retro-futuristic keyboard will make your desktop worthy of H.G. Wells’ office space. “The Marquis” keyboard has acanthus-leaf engraving on polished brass and key lettering engraved on a mirrored gold acrylic. It’ll make you the envy of any century.
LIGHT FINGER FOLLIES Every time you touch its keys, the Luxeed U7 lights up like the Las Vegas strip -- bringing a little bit of Studio 54 to your dancing fingers. Make sure they dress sharply and get their names on the list -- this is one exclusive keyboard!
PURE LUXURY: BENTLEY MULSANNE The new Bentley Mulsanne's unrivaled pedigree stands out from the pack with an ultra-smooth and more-than-capable 505 hp, 6.8-liter V8 engine that glides from 0 to 62 mph in 5.3 whisper-quiet seconds. As befits its luxury status, the car can be completely customized to taste with over 1 billion possible variations, according Bentley Motors.
STANDOUT CONVERTIBLE: MORGAN AERO 8 Although its production recently ceased, this classically styled roadster is still one of the most fun, head-turning vehicles to roam the highways. While completely hand-built with more than 100 years of heritage packed into the coachwork, its BMW 4.4-liter V8 pumps out 312 hp -- moving this homage to yesteryear from 0 to 62 mph in just 4.2 seconds.
Tiny Tower seems like a simple, if not silly, game. But that's how it gets you addicted. The premise, like SimCity, is to build your own world -- in this case a tower. The more floors you build, the more money you can make to spend on building more floors ... and the hook is set.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
How many passwords do you have to remember? Thanks to 1Password, you can keep all of your security codes safe and secure on your smartphone. All you have to do is remember one four-digit code and a master passcode, and the info is encrypted and backed up on your computer.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
Yes, the camera on the iPhone 4S is better than previous incarnations. But besides flash and zoom, it leaves us a little cold. Turn your 4S into a virtual DSLR with all the bells and whistles you get with said device, plus all the features you’d expect from a smartphone, such as visual filters.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Even if you were born in the CD era, chances are you remember mixed tapes. Bring them into the digital age with the app that turns your digital music player into a virtual portable cassette deck that blasts loaded playlists and helps you create the perfect mix to play and then share on Facebook.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Didn't you hear? The end of the world is happening on Dec. 21, 2012. Skeptical? Then check out this app, which explores all the coincidences between the Mayan prediction and what science says. At the very least you'll be prepared to handle the impending end of time.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
The premise of KaleidaCam is simple: Turn your iPhone's camera into a kaleidoscope. You can adjust the trippy-ness of the created image by choosing one of four to 10 slides. It leads to hours of mindless fun for the whole family. You can even take pictures of your creations and send them to Facebook and Twitter.Platforms: iPhone
This mobile app puts Thrillist reviews in the palm of your hand so you can be the guy who knows the coolest places to eat, drink and shop. Using your device's GPS function, it'll tell you the top places to spend your time and money in more than 19 cities. You'll never have a boring night again.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android
'Tis the season for holiday parties, full of finger foods, drinks and treats. This app will track your weight well into the new year so you can stop the festivities from settling around your waist. Just log your bites, licks and tastes, and the food database will calculate the calories you've consumed. Then log your workouts to determine how many calories you burned.Platforms: iPhone, iPad
If you thrive on new music, this is a must-have app. Band of the Day introduces you to an artist that you need to know about every day. You get a bio, a song to listen to, a stream of Facebook/Twitter comments about the artist, videos to view and a list of albums that you can buy, right from the app.Platforms: iPhone
Think of this app as your secret weapon to achieving culinary nirvana. It puts all of the advice from the well-respected epicurean website of the same name in the palm of your hand. We love the seasonal options on the home screen that help make sure your feasts are weather-appropriate.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Nook, Windows Phone
Finding a new place to hang your hat just got a whole lot easier, thanks to the new Trulia mobile app. The clean design of the interface makes it a snap to search homes to rent or to buy Features include sort by price, search by location, and email real estate agents directly.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
The latest incarnation of the Bloons game franchise gets the smart-phone makeover, and it is still as addictive as ever. The objective remains the same: prevent balloons from getting from one part of the maze to the other using your arsenal of dart monkeys, rockets, battleships and other WMDs.Platforms: iPhone, iPad
The latest army of food carts has turned most city streets into a mobile gourmet road show. But how do you know when your favorite Korean BBQ truck will be by your office? Using Google maps and your iPhone's GPS, StreetEats lets you track your favorite carts and see which ones are in your immediate area and how long they'll be there.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
With all of the news available to us, it's hard to cut through the noise and get what you're looking for. Editions by AOL is an app that curates a custom, easy-to-navigate daily newsmagazine based on your interests, location, Facebook friends and Twitter followers. The more you use the app, the more highly customized it becomes.Platforms: iPad
Sick of the same old vodka martinis? Not sure what to do with that bottle of amaretto? InMyBar's simple interface lets you plug in all the booze you have in your liquor cabinet. Then, the app creates a list of all the cocktails you can make, or it lets you know what remaining ingredients you need in order to make a specific drink.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Music nerds, welcome to heaven. This app tracks music blogs and culls their favorite tunes from the Web, then lets you create your dream radio station. The genre section alone offers more than 100 options -- perfect for deep dives into your particular mood. You can even track what your friends are listening to.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Watch your favorite music videos in HD with VEVO HD, which features 45,000 videos, including intimate performances by your favorite artists; a music map showing which videos people are listening to in your area; artist tour information; and ticket-buying capabilities.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Meeting a lovely lady is now as easy as whipping out your ... cell phone. Blendr collects your favorite interests and then helps match you up with female companions who live in your area and have similar interests. Browse photos, check in to venues and even chat with folks from your own neighborhood.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
How often do you upgrade your cell phone?
|Gear + Gadgets||Entertainment + Leisure||Style||Looking Sharp Blog||The Top 11||Instant Answers|