Smart Home

Amazon, Billie Eilish partner for Echo Studio Billie Eilish Limited Edition

For the Billie Eilish fan

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Since the device’s introduction, the Amazon Echo has grown to accommodate more and more markets and uses. The device lineup already includes a standard Echo, an Echo Show with a display, a smaller Echo Dot, and a more audio-centric Echo Studio. Well, amid the Studio’s already premium offering, Amazon is making the Studio more… premium. The company is launching a new Billie Eilish Limited Edition of the Studio.

Before you ask, the limited edition doesn’t offer much more in terms of specs. It’s still the standard array of specs you’ll get from a standard Echo Studio. However, the Billie Eilish Limited Edition does feature the eponymous artist’s Happier Than Ever album art printed on the device’s beige fabric. The artist herself also endorses the edition on her social media.

Other than that, the edition is still the same as the normal one. Amazon has promised that Eilish-inspired alerts will come to the Echo soon. Ironically, the alerts will come to all Echo devices, rather than just exclusive to the Billie Eilish Edition.

This isn’t the first custom skin for the Echo though. Amazon has released custom skins in the past. However, the limited edition is one of the rare celebrity skins for the device.

Despite the lack of differentiation, the Amazon Echo Billie Eilish Limited Edition sells for a bit more than the regular version. It retails for US$ 229.99.

SEE ALSO: Amazon launches its first-ever Fire TV series

Smart Home

The Nanoleaf Lines introduces modularity to smart lighting

Configured any way you want it

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Smart lighting has always been an important part of smart home technologies. Since the introduction of the first wirelessly controllable bulb, the smart home world has always tried to make lighting more efficient for the modern, everyday home. Now, contemporary smart lighting companies want you to play around with more than just efficiency. The new Nanoleaf Lines encourages homeowners to experiment with how playful they want their homes to look.

The Nanoleaf Lines’ premise is simple: modularity. With a configurable line and connector setup, users can create their own shapes or mount their setups anywhere. Each line can display two colors simultaneously, and users can choose from over 16 million color options.

Further, the lighting’s app can create different dynamic configurations for the setup including modes like Kaleidoscope and Neon Dreams. A built-in Rhythm function can also adjust the dynamic lighting like a music visualizer that can adapt to different genres. The Nanoleaf Lines can also mirror a PC or TV screen, creating another level of immersion for users.

For those struggling to create their own layouts, Nanoleaf also offers a Layout Assistant which uses AR technology to help users manually design their own setups from their smartphones. The app also has a Discover feature which showcases how other users configured their Lines.

The starting kit, which comes with nine Lines, will retail for US$ 199.99. An expansion pack with three additional Lines will retail for US$ 69.99. Starting December, Nanoleaf will also release black/pink skins and flex connectors for getting around corners and objects.

SEE ALSO: Nanoleaf launches Learning Series for smarter home lighting

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Features

3 months with the Samsung Neo QLED 4K TV

Extended quality time with a superb TV

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Neo QLED

I was supposed to only have about two weeks to a month with the Samsung Neo QLED 4K TV. But the heightened restrictions due to the record number of Coronavirus cases in the Philippines extended that duration. Nearly three months in, and I’m now dreading my life without the TV.

We’ve already discussed at length the various features of the Neo QLED 4K TV — the QN85A model to be exact. In this article made in collaboration with Samsung, we detailed how it’s great for practically anything you’d use your TV for. Whether that’s for chill movie nights, binge-watching TV shows, and even next-gen gaming. This TV has it all.

But here, I’ll detail what it’s really like living with the TV for three months, what I love about it, and what I think Samsung can improve on.

The processor makes a world of a difference

Neo QLED

During the time I had the Neo QLED 4K TV with me, we also shot the video for the Samsung Crystal UHD TV. It’s another very good 4K TV offering by Samsung but one that’s a little friendlier to your wallet.

The one thing that jumped out at me is the speed by which I’m able to jump from one app to another, and launch various settings and features so much faster on the Neo QLED 4K TV. Other than the gaming and extra features that I’ll discuss more later on, it’s this very noticeable difference in speed that really hammers home the price gap (Around PhP 70,000/ US$ 1380) between the two.

Of course, there are other factors like the processor, materials used, and all the other extra smart features, but it’s this tiny quality of life addition that I think might be often overlooked when talking about these TVs. It’s also the processor that enables all these other extra features.

Extra feature

Since I’ve already broached on the topic, I figured I might as well discuss one of them here. I’ll jump right ahead to the one extra feature that I found surprisingly fun, if not helpful.

The Samsung Neo QLED 4K TV lets you display images from two different sources at once. It can be any combination of an app, any of the HDMI input sources, and even your smartphone.

Some combinations I’ve used are as follows:

VLIVE + Twitter on my smartphone — Every now and then, my favorite K-Pop idols go live on the VLIVE app. For real-time translations, I rely on the kind-hearted and hard-working KOR-ENG translators on stan Twitter.

PlayStation 5 + YouTube — I once tuned in to a product launch while playing an NBA 2K game. I don’t really need the audio on NBA 2K, especially if it’s just a quick exhibition game. This way, I still got to chill and play while still listening and glancing over the product launch.

Netflix + Analytics app — Some days I just have whatever show running for white noise, and then have Google Analytics show up on the screen so I can monitor the traffic on our website.

Is this burn-in? 

What I found most surprising is the burn-in like effect I experienced after coming from Game Mode. It’s silly to think this is actually burn-in as Neo QLED is fundamentally different from OLED.

But during the earlier weeks I spent with the TV, some elements of the pause screens from NBA 2K21 and Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut were left on-screen even after I was done playing.

Neo QLED

That NBA 2K logo isn’t supposed to show up there

I reached out to Samsung about this but have yet to receive a response. I’ll update the article when they comment on the matter.

That said, the “after-images” didn’t stick though. My solution was to turn off the TV for about 20-30 minutes. Sure enough, that did the trick. I also didn’t encounter this again towards the tail end of my time with the TV.

Speaking of things no longer happening after using the TV for a while, I experienced a few hiccups with Game Mode. Part of the TV being Smart is knowing when you’re playing or not. It knows when the HDMI for your console is active or not and toggles Game Mode on/off accordingly.

Game Mode glitch

During my first few weeks with the TV, there were instances when I would turn-off the PS5 but the Game Mode remained turned on. You have to dig through the settings menu to turn it off which was a bit of an inconvenience. But after a while, this also stopped happening.

In both experiences, it appears as if the TV learned from my usage pattern and adjusted accordingly. It’s one of the things about it that gives me confidence that the Neo QLED 4K TV gets a little better with time.

Other than the aforementioned, Game Mode delivers as advertised. I hit 4K/60fps consistently and gaming was nothing short of an immersive and cinematic experience.

Cinema at home

Perhaps my favorite thing about the TV, and what people mostly want to get out of their TVs, is the absolute cinematic experience. Especially now that cinemas are still closed in the country. The 55-inch TV was my primary movie companion.

Watching movies old and new from the various available apps — Netflix, Apple TV, HBO Go — was nothing short of a treat. Elevating the experience further is the accompanying Q600A Soundbar. If you’re a huge movie and TV buff, I cannot recommend enough to get a soundbar. The high-quality audio helps in bringing over that audio-visual excellence we miss while movie theaters remain closed.

This photo was taken on an iPhone 11 Pro. See the black bars up top, this is a shot of the TV. It looks this good up close.

I just know the watching experience is gonna be drastically different when I switch back over to my old TV that’s screaming to be replaced. This is peak picture quality the way you want to enjoy it. Whether you like watching exactly as the director intended, or if you’re into that super smooth, hyper-realistic setting you usually see when these TVs are on display, there are more than enough settings here to tweak things to your liking.

UI needs a refresh

Neo QLED

The UI isn’t terrible, but it’s due for a redesign.

Functionally, we’re pretty okay with the TizenOS running on Samsung TVs. But it’s due for a visual refresh. For a TV that’s pushing the edge in features, image processing, and panel quality, the UI is starting to feel dated.

Other than the look, Samsung can also work on getting better, faster access to certain settings. I don’t think this will happen any time soon, but I hope they’re able to apply some design principles from ONE UI to the TV to make it look more modern and feel more smooth.

Worth every penny

Samsung Neo QLED

Despite detailing some issues with Game Mode, I am still of the firm belief that the Samsung Neo QLED TV is worth your hard earned cash. Whether you go for 4K or push things further with the 8K model, what you’re getting here is a top-of the-line entertainment hub. One that will last you for years.

I’m already having separation anxiety as I type the last few words on this article. I consume a lot of media, and I’ve never had it delivered to me as good, as crisp, and as heart-thumping, as the Neo QLED TV.

It’s a TV I would absolutely recommend to anyone looking to splurge on a really good home entertainment centerpiece.

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Gaming

Sony BRAVIA XR TVs are ‘Perfect for PlayStation 5’

New campaign is keeping the Sony connection alive

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Sony Electronics is elevating the way PlayStation 5 users can experience console gaming as it is introducing new exclusive features to its BRAVIA XR TV line.

Sony calls the new BRAVIA XR features ‘Perfect for PlayStation 5’. The company seeks to offer PS5 gamers the absolute “fantastic gaming experience with immersive picture and sound.”

Sony’s ‘Perfect for PlayStation 5’ TVs will bring in two brand-new PS5 exclusive functions — Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode.

The BRAVIA XR TVs will also deliver unique sound-from-screen technology that puts you right in the heart of the action whether you’re playing a game or watching a movie.

Auto HDR Tone Mapping

Auto HDR Tone Mapping instantly optimizes HDR settings on your PS5. Your PS5 will automatically recognize individual BRAVIA TV models and select the best HDR setting for the TV accordingly.

The optimized HDR tone mapping level to your BRAVIA display specification will allow users to witness crucial details and colors even in high contrast scenes. This ames everything more tailor-fit towards their viewing experience.

For instance, you will get the addition of detailed objects on the track in Gran Turismo 7. This will let you know what next move to make.

The BRAVIA XR TVs support frame rates up to 120fps in a super-crisp 4K resolution. This is as specified in HDMI 2.1 in compatible games, for more stunningly realistic pictures with vibrant colors and complementary contrast.

Additionally, with input lag as low as 6.0ms on the Z9J models, gamers are now expected to achieve extraordinary smoothness and responsiveness in first-person shooter, sports and high-performance games with instant on-screen action.

Auto Genre Picture Mode

When it comes to Auto Genre Picture Mode, BRAVIA XR TVs can detect whether you are playing a game or watching movies and shows. It’s a hassle-free experience without needing to keep toggling settings controls.

The TV automatically switches into Game Mode when gaming. This minimizes input lag to make the action more responsive. It then switches into Standard Mode when watching you’re movies.

In Standard Mode, picture processing becomes the priority. This prioritizes a more expressive picture when watching movies, using a streaming service or from an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc on the PS5.

The smarter and more advanced Auto Genre Picture Mode feature will be made available via future software updates on PS5 and BRAVIA TVs by the end of January 2022.

Soundbars for better audio

Sony recommends to partner the BRAVIA XR TVs with its array of sound products to elevate the experience. These include the HT-A9 Home Theatre System or the HT-A7000 and HT-A5000 soundbars.

These can directly be connected to your PS5 as you experience the innovative Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode BRAVIA XR functions.

With these features coming in early 2022 exclusively to the BRAVIA XR TVs, Sony hopes PS5 users will get the perfect gaming experience at the comfort of their own homes, gaming corners or entertainment areas at home.

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