Smart Home

Amazon launches its first-ever Fire TV series

Plus a new TV stick

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Amid its assortment of products, Amazon has always kept its Fire TV lineup relatively simple. The stick is a plug-and-play device that turns a basic screen into a smart TV. However, amid the stick’s proliferation, Amazon has never launched its own TV set. Now, the company is finally cutting out the middleman by releasing its own Amazon Fire TV series.

Fire Omni TV

The new Fire Omni TV series comes in all sorts of sizes: 43-inch, 50-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch, and 75-inch. For its first foray into actual TVs, Amazon wants to cater to a lot of markets. The series offers support for 4K Ultra HD resolution, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Digital Plus. Further, the two top-tier variants — 65-inch and 75-inch — have smaller bezels and support for Dolby Vision.

As the name implies, the Fire Omni TV sports Amazon’s Alexa assistant. Though most smart TVs have Alexa these days, the Omni series has Alexa natively. It can also seamlessly switch between different Amazon functionalities like Live View Picture-in-Picture which works with your home’s security cameras.

The Fire Omni TV series starts at US$ 409.99.

Fire TV 4-Series

Though not as feature-packed as the Fire Omni series, the Fire TV 4-series offers much of the same Amazon experiences as the aforementioned. The series has three variants: 43-inch, 50-inch, and 55-inch. It offers support for HDR10 and HLG.

The series starts at US$ 369.99.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Naturally, Amazon has a new stick up its sleeve. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max improves on its predecessor. The stick features a quad-core 1.8GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and Wi-Fi 6. In terms of TV features, it supports 4K UHD, HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos.

It will sell for US$ 54.99.

SEE ALSO: Amazon is acquiring MGM Studios for $8.5 billion

Features

The Mi TV P1 is a great first TV

A good self reward

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Mi TV P1

I still vaguely remember the first TV I ever bought. It was, if I recall correctly, a 24-inch Samsung TV. That was already a big deal for me at the time. I just landed a producer job at an online news outlet and got my first major salary bump. As someone who enjoyed watching TV shows and movies, I thought I’d treat myself by graduating from watching on a laptop.

The TV wasn’t anything crazy. It wasn’t smart either. At the time, Smart TVs weren’t as prevalent as they are today and it would have cost maybe two months worth of my salary then. But this TV I bought had what I needed. It can read from flash drives and external hard drives, and it has an HDMI port. That thing cost me somewhere between PhP 15,000 to PhP 18,000.

Fast forward to today, I would have been able to afford a pretty big screen 4K TV now with that money. Specifically, the Xiaomi Mi TV P1. Here are the price ranges for its various sizes:

  • 55″ — PhP 24,990
  • 50″ — PhP 22,990
  • 43″ — PhP 18,990

The same TV line also has a 32-inch variant at PhP 10,990 but it isn’t 4K so I excluded it from the list. By these standards, I would have been able to afford the 43-incher. Or perhaps, I would have opted to save up a little more to grab either of the 50-inch or 55-inch variants.

But even the 43-incher is already worlds better than what I had bought back then. I’m sure it’s a fantastic option for most people today. We already have an extensive review of the Mi TV P1. But indulge me in this little piece to share why I think it’s a great first TV.

Elevate your entertainment

Mi TV P1

One of my primary considerations for buying a TV was to give my laptop (and perhaps it’s a smartphone now for most people today) a break. I think it goes a long way to prolonging your laptop’s lifespan if after a long day of work, you’re not pushing it further to watch a few episodes of your favorite series.

At the time I was religiously following TV series like Suits, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, and many, many more. It was my way to unwind and destress at night. The kind of shows or content we watch has shifted a little to more K-Dramas and plenty of YouTube creators. But whatever you choose to watch to unwind, it’s almost always better on a TV.

Mi TV P1

Other than anime, and whatever’s on Netflix. I use the TV to stream PLENTY of TWICE

The UHD screen on the Mi TV P1 is no joke. It even looks good even in brightly lit rooms. You can also tweak the settings to get the kind of picture that your eyes find pleasing. My personal settings lean towards a vivid picture quality but not too much that it compromises the cinematic integrity of what I’m watching.

It’s just an overall treat to your eyes. And watching shows and movies just feels more natural this way.

Encourages legitimate streaming 

Mi TV P1

Squid Game, the biggest show on Netflix, is best watched on TV

Let’s face it, we didn’t always access our favorite shows from legitimate sources. Owning a Smart TV discourages that old behavior. The ease of access to streaming sites like Netflix, HBO Go, and Viu is near frictionless. And there are a variety of subscription plans that fit your needs.

You can even be creative with your streaming budget. You can rotate among these apps every month or so. You’ll just have to plan which shows you want to watch, and line them up to when you want to watch. What I do is I have Netflix on retainer so I always have it, then month-to-month I switch between HBO Go and Viu. It just depends on where the shows I want to watch are.

It’s so much easier to fire up the TV, hit a streaming app, and watch away vs having to acquire shows in less than ideal means.

What’s more, you can install ExpressVPN directly on the TV. With it you can change regions and gain access to content and apps you otherwise would not have access to. If you’re worried about the subscription fee, there’s a nice offer here.

Home entertainment centerpiece

Mi TV P1

It’s also decent for gaming. And even if you don’t have a console, you can install supported gaming apps from the Google Play Store

Looking back, I really wish the Mi TV P1 was already available when I made my first TV purchase. I’m constantly fascinated by how much of what was then considered high-end tech is now available to more people.

What Xiaomi has here is pretty much more of the same of what they usually offer — a product with a fantastic price-to-performance ratio. The Mi TV P1 is no premium TV, but I’d argue it’s the best value for money you can get.

If you’re looking to splurge a little on a big ticket item, the Mi TV P1 is an easy recommendation. If I were back in my situation as a young professional looking to reward myself, this is certainly it.

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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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