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Posts tagged ‘Sony’

10
Feb

Sonic to star in a ‘live-action and animation hybrid’ movie


If you’ve played the most recent Sonic the Hedgehog games, you might be wondering how life can get any worse for the blue blur. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was universally panned by the press, and previous efforts such as Lost World and Unleashed didn’t fare much better. How could his reputation be dragged any lower? Well, perhaps with a film. Not just any film though — a worrying “live-action and animation hybrid.” The project, which is currently still in the planning stages, was revealed by Sega president and CEO Hajime Satomi in an interview with The Worldfolio.

“Sega Sammy Group is currently planning with Sony Pictures to create a live-action and animation hybrid ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ movie scheduled for release in 2018. Like with this CG animation production, we would like to expand our business into other entertainment areas beyond what we are currently involved.”

Now, a Sonic the Hedgehog movie could be done tastefully. In 1996, a two episode animated OVA was dubbed and released in the West as Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie. The voice acting was terrible, but the animation itself was fine. More recently, the Sonic Boom TV show has been quite successful (despite its terrible video game counterpart) and picked up for a second season. But it’s the “live-action and animation hybrid” part that has the alarm bells ringing. Remember that kiss scene from the 2006 game simply titled Sonic the Hedgehog? Yeah, we don’t need to see that again.

Via: Den of Geek

Source: The Worldfolio

8
Feb

Sony Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact now available in the USA – here’s where you can buy them


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It sure took a while for the Sony Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact to get here, but the wait is finally over. Sony has finally released its latest flagships in the USA and shipments have begun just in time, keeping its promise for a February 7th release date.

Thinking of buying yourself a new smartphone? Both Sony handsets are available from Amazon, so let’s refresh your memories and see if one of these is worth your hard-earned cash.

Sony Xperia Z5

Even if Sony is not doing great, their high-end smartphones rank pretty high in my personal list of favorite handsets. The Sony Xperia Z5 has everything you can ask for from a flagship device.

Packed inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage, 23MP/5MP cameras and a 2900 mAh battery. It also features a 5.2-inch 1080p display that keeps things simple and the phone manageable.

It’s a great phone, but don’t let me tell you that. Just go ahead and read our full review to learn all the details!


sony-xperia-z5-review-7See also: Sony Xperia Z5 review114

Buy the Xperia Z5 (black)
Buy the Xperia Z5 (gold)

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

Not that the Xperia Z5 is very large, but some people do prefer even smaller phones. Those of you who fall under this category can grab the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact.

The screen measures in at 4.6 inches. But the best part about this phone is that though it’s small, Sony didn’t have to sacrifice too much. It still rocks a Snapdragon 810 processor, 2 GB of RAM, 23MP/5MP cameras and a 2700 mAh battery.


Z5-Compact-05See also: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review66

Buy the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (black)
Buy the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (coral)

Are you buying?

So, how many of you are actually planning to buy one of these? The Sony Xperia Z5 goes for $599.99, while the compact version costs $100 less. They are both now available in black, but a gold Z5 and coral Z5 Compact will be available in 2-5 weeks (I guess we get no pink version!).

This is an important move for Sony. Some may say it’s too little too late; others will think it’s better late than never. What do you think?

 

8
Feb

Sony Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact arrive in the US


As promised, Sony has brought its latest and greatest smartphones to the US. Both the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact are now on sale in unlocked form through Amazon, Best Buy, B&H and other shops at respective prices of $599 and $499. Both pack a fair punch for the price between their Snapdragon 810 processors, 32GB of storage and 23-megapixel rear cameras. The big differences are the displays (5.2 inches on the Z5 versus 4.6 on the Compact) and RAM (3GB versus 2GB). They should work nicely on AT&T, T-Mobile and other American networks that share their frequencies. However, you shouldn’t expect exactly the same phone that you’d get elsewhere — there’s a catch.

Unlike the versions for other countries, neither of the US-oriented models has a fingerprint sensor tucked under the power button. That won’t matter too much using Android 5.1, which you get out of the box, but it could matter more when either Z5 variant receives Android 6.0 and its native support for finger-based authentication. They’re still solid phones, and the Z5 Compact is one of the few small-but-powerful Android phones you can find — just know that you’ll still be entering PIN codes or patterns for a while.

Source: Amazon (Xperia Z5), (Z5 Compact), Sony

6
Feb

Flashbacks and Forecasts: Sony in 2016


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As the inventor of the Sony Walkman and maker of the world’s current most popular game console, Sony devices have enjoyed huge popularity over the years. But electronic devices haven’t been the core of Sony’s business for a long time and it is now crunch time for Sony Mobile, the most problematic of all Sony’s holdings. The stakes couldn’t be higher either: if worse comes to worse this year, 2017 will be the year that Sony Mobile goes up for sale.

Sony has been in the midst of a multi-year “restructuring” plan ever since its current president Kazuo Hirai was appointed back in 2012. Cost-cutting and profit optimization is the name of the game and changes to this effect have steadily been making their way through the Sony Group’s businesses: Sony Electronics, Sony Music, Sony Pictures and Sony Mobile.

In 2015, Sony Mobile was given a clear mandate: get back to profitability by the end of 2016 or face the consequences.

At the end of 2014, a new Sony Mobile chief was appointed, Hiroki Totoki, and Hirai gave the new CEO a clear mandate: get the mobile division back to profitability by the end of 2016 or face the consequences. Considering Sony had already sold off its computer division in 2014, the seriousness of the task ahead was clear.

While the larger Sony Group has become more profitable in recent years thanks to Hirai’s streamlining changes – even as overall revenue has remained relatively flat – Sony Mobile is among the last divisions to be overhauled. The lack of attention being paid to mobile is evident in the number of often embarrassing problems the division has faced in recent times.

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The curse of the 810

With the late 2014 Sony Pictures email hack still causing problems, the last thing Sony needed in 2015 was another scandal, but one arrived regardless. Sony’s first major device of the year, the Xperia Z3+, got widespread attention for overheating and camera crashes. The Snapdragon 810 chipset – the bane of many flagship phones in 2015 – was largely responsible, affecting the LG G Flex 2, Xperia Z3+ and HTC One M9 in the first few months of the year.

Sony’s first major device of the year, the Xperia Z3+, got widespread attention for overheating and camera crashes.

When using AR Mode or 4K video on the Xperia Z3+, the app would crash after just a few seconds and the phone would need to be left to cool down before the camera could be restarted. Sony put out patches but failed to solve the problem. Considering the tough times Sony had been facing, the last thing Sony needed was a flagship phone with heavily publicized faults.

Thanks to its foolhardy six-month update cycle, Sony had long been accused of releasing new flagship phones that were only incremental updates from the last. The Xperia Z3 had been widely viewed as a very marginal update on the Z2, with the same camera, same amount of RAM, screen size and resolution but a smaller battery.

SONY REVIEWS IN 2015:

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One, two, miss a few

As if performance and specs scandals weren’t bad enough, Sony also couldn’t seem to name anything logically. The Xperia Z4 Tablet arrived at CES when there was no Xperia Z4 phone. When the phone did arrive it was called the Xperia Z4 in Japan, the Xperia Z3+ internationally and the Xperia Z4v in the U.S.. The negative response to the Z4 in Japan was generally accepted as the reason for renaming the device internationally.

The naming confusion only got worse though. The Z3 Compact hit shelves in early 2015 as the successor to the Z1 Compact and was itself succeeded by the Z5 Compact later in the year. No one seemed to know what Sony was thinking and the company just seemed to make one bad decision after another.

Verizon ended up ditching the Xperia Z4v entirely and Sony advised Xperia owners that their phones weren’t waterproof after all. By the time the Xperia Z3+ was available in the U.S. the Xperia Z5 was already available internationally and for some unknown “business decision” the Xperia Z5 bound for America will arrive without a fingerprint scanner.

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Never say “never ever”

With the mobile division’s long-standing troubles only getting worse, rumors circulated in the middle of 2015 that Sony Mobile was going to be sold off. CEO Totoki struck back definitively, saying “we will never ever sell or exit from the current mobile market”. But Sony was hemorrhaging fans and Xperia sales in 2015 were the lowest they have been since 2011.

Against this backdrop it should come as no surprise that a little later in the year, Sony president Hirai was quoted as saying “we will continue with the business as long as we are on track with the scenario of breaking even next year onwards. Otherwise, we haven’t eliminated the consideration of alternative options.”

“We will continue with the business as long as we are on track with the scenario of breaking even next year onwards. Otherwise, we haven’t eliminated the consideration of alternative options.”

While Sony Mobile was being given every opportunity to turn things around, Hirai’s attitude was clearly that of a sober businessman committed to improving the profitability of his stable of companies. And when you look at the facts, Sony Mobile hasn’t been making money for years, just as Samsung Mobile has become a constant drain on Samsung’s other more profitable divisions.

Sony Music, Sony Pictures and Sony Electronics have been picking up the slack for Sony Mobile for a long time. The new Bond film “Spectre”, Adele’s record-breaking album “25,” brisk camera sensor sales, and Playstation 4 sales that broke the 30 million unit ceiling within two years of launch are what made Sony money in 2015, not Xperia devices.

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Time to face the music

Like all other Android OEMs, a plateauing smartphone market, flatlining tablet market and increased competition from abroad are taking their toll. Even in Japan, Sony’s market share is only 17.5% and in the U.S. it’s around 1%. Despite a slight upswing in Xperia sales in the last quarter of 2015, Sony Mobile’s revenue was down 15% over the year prior.

While Sony executives have claimed Sony Mobile is on target for a return to profitability in 2016, the company’s most recent earnings call reported a “significantly deteriorated device segment”, going on to report “every other segment had an increase in operating profit”. In fact, even with Sony Mobile’s poor performance, Sony as a whole reported its highest Q3 profit in eight years (Sony’s financial year ends in March 2016, making the Oct-Dec quarter Q3).

Sony is only expecting to ship 3.5 million units this quarter – less than half that shipped in the previous quarter.

The earnings call also contained yet another re-adjustment of forecasted Xperia shipments for the full financial year. The figure once stood at 30 million, was then revised to 27 million and has now been further reduced to 25 million.

Considering Sony has already shipped 21.5 million devices, this means Sony is only expecting to ship 3.5 million units this quarter based on its own data – less than half that shipped in the previous quarter.

Xperia sales Xperia Blog

You may be wondering how figures like these will ever get the division back to making a profit by the end of 2016. The thing is, they won’t. Sony Mobile’s turnaround, like the rest of Sony’s restructuring, isn’t predicated on an increase in revenue. Rather, Hirai’s cost-cutting, streamlining and downsizing is what’s responsible for making each Sony division more profitable, not an increased market share.

We’ve already seen this in effect throughout the year. Sony cut 1,000 jobs back in early 2015 and then another 1,000 a few months later. With a workforce of only 7,000 people this is a significant amount of job losses. In more recent times we’ve heard that Sony is planning to ditch tablets altogether. A wise move perhaps, considering tablet sales only made up 5% of Sony Mobile’s revenue back at its peak in 2013 and things have only gotten worse since then.

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Sony in 2016

So what does this all mean for 2016? Basically, Sony Mobile is in a race for its life. With 2015 sales of just 29.4 million devices, the lowest since 2011, it’s a sad day when it must be admitted that Sony is better off without Sony Mobile. Unless Sony can turn things around in the next twelve months the Xperia brand will go the way of Vaio before it.

It’s hard to say how far along Hirai’s restructuring plan is within the division though. While Xperia sales may not be going anywhere, if Hirai’s streamlining and profit maximizing works as well at Sony Mobile as it seems to have done throughout the rest of the company, there might still be hope left. But even if Sony Mobile sees a return to profitability through jobs cuts and other strategies, it needs to prove its value, not simply stop hemorrhaging money.

With 2015 sales of just 29.4 million devices, the lowest since 2011, it’s a sad day when it must be admitted that Sony is better off without Sony Mobile.

Opportunities and challenges ahead

Looking at Sony’s other divisions, Sony Electronics has the world’s most popular gaming console on its hands in the Playstation 4, with PS VR still to come this year. Both Sony Music and Sony Pictures are doing well and Sony’s Financial Services business is by far the most profitable of all of Sony’s holdings, generating more than half of the revenue and operating profit for the entire company.

Sony has also recently acquired a semiconductor company. Although global semiconductor sales hit a record high in 2015, the market seems to have already hit its peak and begun its decline. Sony’s image sensor sales have also taken a big hit in recent months. Like Samsung, Sony won’t be able to rely on chip sales to prop up a weak device market and even its popular sensor business is starting to show signs of weakness.

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The Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact are set to hit the U.S. market on February 8 and with a little luck, the various fiascos of 2015 will be forgotten in light of the generally positive reviews the Z5 series has garnered internationally. An outstanding camera and excellent battery life will hopefully be enough to make up for a debatable waterproof rating, too-familiar design language and interface that’s long overdue for an update.

It’s likely that Xperia tablets will stop being produced in 2016 and Sony will end its six-monthly product cycle.

It’s likely that Xperia tablets will stop being produced in 2016 and Sony’s Smartwatch efforts may begin to taper off too. Sony will likely soon make it official that it is ending its six-monthly product cycle with the Xperia Z6 due for an IFA-release in September rather than its traditional timeframe of MWC later this month.

Apart from the unnecessary expense of developing and testing two flagships a year, Sony can’t afford any more bad publicity about incremental improvements. The U.S. public hasn’t seen a flagship Xperia product on shelves since the Xperia Z3 and the Xperia Z5 has already received some bad press over the loss of the finger scanner.

MORE SONY VIDEOS:

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The forecast

If Sony Mobile gets sold, the result would be a more profitable and stable Sony Group that is known around the world for providing excellent financial services rather than for creating game-changing tech devices. Even if Sony Mobile manages to return to profitability this year, cost-cutting and profit maximization won’t be enough forever.

Sony Mobile needs to re-imagine its wireless portfolio, cutting high investment, low-return areas to remain as profitable as possible. The Xperia range needs to be revitalized in terms of design and interface and the company can’t afford any more high-profile scandals or missteps. The Xperia Z5 series, as good as it is, is faced with the ominous task of keeping the company afloat throughout 2016 if Sony Mobile is going to survive long enough to take the Xperia Z6 to market.

4
Feb

Sony will skip Android 5.1 and roll out a direct Marshmallow update for the Xperia M4 Aqua


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If you cast your mind back to June 2015, you may recall that Sony detailed a list of devices scheduled to receive the Android 5.1 update. Sadly for Xperia M4 Aqua owners, the handset appeared to be missing from the lineup. However, in October, a leaked roadmap surfaced disclosing that the M4 Aqua would, instead, make a leap directly from Android 5.0 to Android 6.0, but poor credibility of the source guaranteed we took the information with a hefty pinch of salt. Today, though, the Japanese company confirmed that it will be doing just that.

While responding to a query on Twitter earlier, Sony revealed that it will skip the Android 5.1 update for the Xperia M4 Aqua and will push out a direct upgrade to Marshmallow. Unfortunately, the firm failed to provide an estimated timeframe for the rollout, but at least we know it’s on the way. If Sony’s track record for mid-range updates is any indication, we presume that it may start making the rounds sometime in May.

So there you have it, folks. Sony has confirmed that it will make the jump from Android 5.0 to Android 6.0 on the Xperia M4 Aqua. What feature are you most excited to see on your device from the latest version of the open-source operating system? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

Source: Twitter

Come comment on this article: Sony will skip Android 5.1 and roll out a direct Marshmallow update for the Xperia M4 Aqua

4
Feb

Sony will distribute its dual-lens camera technology to several “major smartphone players” later this year


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One of Sony’s most profitable areas is its image sensor sector. The company has provided camera units for a large number of high-profile flagship smartphones for various manufacturers, including HTC, LG and even Samsung over the course of the past 5-years. That’s why it comes as no surprise to learn that the firm’s brand new deep-focus dual-lens camera technology will be making its way to several products from “major smartphone players” later this year.

This disclosure came during Sony’s Q3 2015 Results Earnings Call. Here’s a short extract from the conversation where Chief Financial Officer of Sony Corporation, Kenichiro Yoshida, reveals the new direction for Sony’s camera development division:

Analyst: “Do you have thoughts from dual camera adoption over the next one to two years and the impact from some of these operations?”

Kenichiro Yoshida (Chief Financial Officer of Sony Corporation): “Well, for next year, our so-called dual lens – dual camera platform will be launched by, we believe, from major smartphone players. However, as I said previously, recently, our smartphone market is growing and particularly, our high-end smartphone market is now slowing down. So, that may impact the demand or production schedule of dual camera smartphones by the major smartphone manufacturers. So, we believe the real start, the takeoff of smartphone with dual lens camerawill be in the year of 2017.”

Unfortunately, Sony was unable to give up any names of the devices that will embrace its new dual-lens sensor. However, Apple is expected to follow in the footsteps of Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE by adopting the Android innovation for its next-generation iPhone Plus, which leads us to believe that it may be purchasing the camera module from the Japanese conglomerate as Apple’s production lines are already full with its ultra-clear iSight cameras.

Via: Xperia Blog

Come comment on this article: Sony will distribute its dual-lens camera technology to several “major smartphone players” later this year

4
Feb

The best gear for your living room home theater


By Grant Clauser

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

Everyone loves watching a great movie on a big screen with a kickass speaker system, but few would complain about losing the sticky floors, uncomfortable seats, and kids with smartphones (unless they’re your own kids). We spent thousands of hours on research and testing to find the best-looking and -sounding home theater equipment to upgrade your living-room movie-watching experience from simply functional to highly enjoyable. (We have recommendations for a dedicated theater space as well in our full review).

TV

The Samsung UN55JU7100 offers the best overall picture for LCDs.

After more than 120 hours of research and testing, the 55-inch Samsung UN55JU7100 is our recommendation for the best overall TV. There are lots of very good LCD TVs for reasonable prices on the market today, but the JU7100 stood out with its excellent black levels, good colors out of the box, high contrast ratios, and video processing that improves the look of streaming video and doesn’t turn moving images into a soap-opera-style mess. It’s also a 4K Ultra HD display. Anything that looks better is going to cost a lot more money.

Flat-panel TV mount

The Sanus mount allows post-installation leveling, which lets you easily correct for minor errors you might make while drilling holes.

After researching TV mounts for 10 hours online and visiting local retailers to identify the best ones, we keep coming back to the Sanus VMPL50A-B1 flat-panel TV mount. It’s easy to install, fully adjustable, and compatible with 22 different VESA patterns and TVs up to 70 inches and 150 pounds. While not exactly bargain-priced, it’s less expensive than other mounts with similar feature sets and the features you’d miss out on by going cheaper are worth the cost.

Compact speakers for living room theaters

The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT 5.1 is good for smaller spaces and punches above its weight class.

If you want your living room to still look like a living room but sound like a home theater when you press play, the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT 5.1 Home Theater System is the package to buy. After nearly 20 hours of research and nearly 50 hours of calibration and testing, the Paradigm was the clear favorite in terms of performance. Though not as powerful as the NHT Absolute 5.1 Surround System, which we recommend if you have a dedicated theater room, the Paradigm’s more compact footprint makes it a better choice for smaller rooms that aren’t all about watching movies. The system—which includes five satellite speakers just taller than 8 inches high and a compact subwoofer 13 inches high—sounds much bigger than its size would suggest, and it also performed well in dialogue clarity. Don’t forget that you’ll also need a receiver and some speaker cable to drive the system.

Soundbar for living rooms

The Paradigm Soundscape offers the best audio quality you can expect from a soundbar.

For people who want the best TV audio out of a simple package with no receiver or additional speaker cables required, the Paradigm Soundscape is our pick for the best soundbar. It offers the best combination of audio performance and connectivity features—including Bluetooth—of any soundbar we tested. Although the Soundscape costs more than many receiver-and-speaker combinations, you’ll get a very large and clear soundstage with good bass and crisp dialogue and vocals in return.

In testing, the Soundscape demonstrated a flatter frequency response than any soundbar we listened to, which contributes to the rich midrange of the speakers. The speaker’s digital signal processing does a decent job filling the room for a surround-like experience, but it’s not an artificial-sounding faux surround. It connects to your TV’s optical audio output, rather than HDMI, but that isn’t something we think most people will hold against it.

Streaming media player

The Roku 2 has the largest selection of streaming content for the money.

After researching and testing every major streaming media player, we think the Roku 2 is the best streaming media player for most people, with the largest content selection for the money and the most customization options. Few TVs, AV receivers, or Blu-ray players will offer near the number of streaming media services as an outboard box, especially the Roku 2, which currently features more than 2,500 channels plus the ability to access your own media stored on a computer or NAS drive. And it’s easy to use: The menu is smartly organized, the remote includes only a few buttons, it has a universal search feature that’s more universal than similar features on Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire TV, and you can customize the interface to display your most-used channels at the top where you can easily access them.

Blu-ray player for most living rooms

The Sony BDP-S3500 (top) offers the best user interface and pixel-perfect Blu-ray playback.

After spending nearly 25 hours testing the best new Blu-ray players for 2015, we recommend the Sony BDP-S3500 for most living rooms. The Sony offers flawless disc playback, integrated Wi-Fi, and the most popular streaming apps (including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, MLB.TV, YouTube, and Pandora), plus an easier-to-use onscreen interface for operation than the other players we tested. It also leaves off features that most people don’t really need or care about, such as 4K upconversion and 3D playback.

HD antenna

The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse pulled in our target channels with high signal quality.

After testing 10 leading indoor TV antennas, we recommend the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse as the best indoor antenna for most people who live within 20 miles of their broadcast towers. The Eclipse should give most urban and suburban TV viewers solid reception. In our new tests—which included reception locations both in a suburb of Philadelphia and within New York City—the ClearStream Eclipse pulled in all of our target channels easily. And its “Sure Grip” system lets you attach it to a wall without any hardware. The Eclipse is available in both amplified and non-amplified versions, and while we had good results with both, we think you should try the non-amplified version first and then add the amplifier if you can’t get all the channels you’re looking for.

Surge protector

The Tripp Lite stops power delivery once the protection wears out, so you know your electronics are protected as long as they’re working.

One of the least fun (but potentially most important) devices for your home theater is the surge protector. We spent 30 hours testing leading models to determine that the Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL is the best surge protector for most people. It includes 10 well-spaced outlets (four big enough for large wall-warts), which should cover all but the most extreme home theater setups. It performed very well in our tests, plus it has a feature that makes a lot of sense—instead of telling you that the protection circuit is worn out with an indicator light, the Tripp Lite simply shuts off and won’t deliver power.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendations, please go here.

4
Feb

The best gear for your living room home theater


By Grant Clauser

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

Everyone loves watching a great movie on a big screen with a kickass speaker system, but few would complain about losing the sticky floors, uncomfortable seats, and kids with smartphones (unless they’re your own kids). We spent thousands of hours on research and testing to find the best-looking and -sounding home theater equipment to upgrade your living-room movie-watching experience from simply functional to highly enjoyable. (We have recommendations for a dedicated theater space as well in our full review).

TV

The Samsung UN55JU7100 offers the best overall picture for LCDs.

After more than 120 hours of research and testing, the 55-inch Samsung UN55JU7100 is our recommendation for the best overall TV. There are lots of very good LCD TVs for reasonable prices on the market today, but the JU7100 stood out with its excellent black levels, good colors out of the box, high contrast ratios, and video processing that improves the look of streaming video and doesn’t turn moving images into a soap-opera-style mess. It’s also a 4K Ultra HD display. Anything that looks better is going to cost a lot more money.

Flat-panel TV mount

The Sanus mount allows post-installation leveling, which lets you easily correct for minor errors you might make while drilling holes.

After researching TV mounts for 10 hours online and visiting local retailers to identify the best ones, we keep coming back to the Sanus VMPL50A-B1 flat-panel TV mount. It’s easy to install, fully adjustable, and compatible with 22 different VESA patterns and TVs up to 70 inches and 150 pounds. While not exactly bargain-priced, it’s less expensive than other mounts with similar feature sets and the features you’d miss out on by going cheaper are worth the cost.

Compact speakers for living room theaters

The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT 5.1 is good for smaller spaces and punches above its weight class.

If you want your living room to still look like a living room but sound like a home theater when you press play, the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT 5.1 Home Theater System is the package to buy. After nearly 20 hours of research and nearly 50 hours of calibration and testing, the Paradigm was the clear favorite in terms of performance. Though not as powerful as the NHT Absolute 5.1 Surround System, which we recommend if you have a dedicated theater room, the Paradigm’s more compact footprint makes it a better choice for smaller rooms that aren’t all about watching movies. The system—which includes five satellite speakers just taller than 8 inches high and a compact subwoofer 13 inches high—sounds much bigger than its size would suggest, and it also performed well in dialogue clarity. Don’t forget that you’ll also need a receiver and some speaker cable to drive the system.

Soundbar for living rooms

The Paradigm Soundscape offers the best audio quality you can expect from a soundbar.

For people who want the best TV audio out of a simple package with no receiver or additional speaker cables required, the Paradigm Soundscape is our pick for the best soundbar. It offers the best combination of audio performance and connectivity features—including Bluetooth—of any soundbar we tested. Although the Soundscape costs more than many receiver-and-speaker combinations, you’ll get a very large and clear soundstage with good bass and crisp dialogue and vocals in return.

In testing, the Soundscape demonstrated a flatter frequency response than any soundbar we listened to, which contributes to the rich midrange of the speakers. The speaker’s digital signal processing does a decent job filling the room for a surround-like experience, but it’s not an artificial-sounding faux surround. It connects to your TV’s optical audio output, rather than HDMI, but that isn’t something we think most people will hold against it.

Streaming media player

The Roku 2 has the largest selection of streaming content for the money.

After researching and testing every major streaming media player, we think the Roku 2 is the best streaming media player for most people, with the largest content selection for the money and the most customization options. Few TVs, AV receivers, or Blu-ray players will offer near the number of streaming media services as an outboard box, especially the Roku 2, which currently features more than 2,500 channels plus the ability to access your own media stored on a computer or NAS drive. And it’s easy to use: The menu is smartly organized, the remote includes only a few buttons, it has a universal search feature that’s more universal than similar features on Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire TV, and you can customize the interface to display your most-used channels at the top where you can easily access them.

Blu-ray player for most living rooms

The Sony BDP-S3500 (top) offers the best user interface and pixel-perfect Blu-ray playback.

After spending nearly 25 hours testing the best new Blu-ray players for 2015, we recommend the Sony BDP-S3500 for most living rooms. The Sony offers flawless disc playback, integrated Wi-Fi, and the most popular streaming apps (including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, MLB.TV, YouTube, and Pandora), plus an easier-to-use onscreen interface for operation than the other players we tested. It also leaves off features that most people don’t really need or care about, such as 4K upconversion and 3D playback.

HD antenna

The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse pulled in our target channels with high signal quality.

After testing 10 leading indoor TV antennas, we recommend the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse as the best indoor antenna for most people who live within 20 miles of their broadcast towers. The Eclipse should give most urban and suburban TV viewers solid reception. In our new tests—which included reception locations both in a suburb of Philadelphia and within New York City—the ClearStream Eclipse pulled in all of our target channels easily. And its “Sure Grip” system lets you attach it to a wall without any hardware. The Eclipse is available in both amplified and non-amplified versions, and while we had good results with both, we think you should try the non-amplified version first and then add the amplifier if you can’t get all the channels you’re looking for.

Surge protector

The Tripp Lite stops power delivery once the protection wears out, so you know your electronics are protected as long as they’re working.

One of the least fun (but potentially most important) devices for your home theater is the surge protector. We spent 30 hours testing leading models to determine that the Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL is the best surge protector for most people. It includes 10 well-spaced outlets (four big enough for large wall-warts), which should cover all but the most extreme home theater setups. It performed very well in our tests, plus it has a feature that makes a lot of sense—instead of telling you that the protection circuit is worn out with an indicator light, the Tripp Lite simply shuts off and won’t deliver power.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendations, please go here.

4
Feb

Xperia Marshmallow Concept launcher ported for Lollipop handsets


Sony Xperia xMarshmallow Concept Launcher

Sony’s Concept for Marshmallow software has introduced a number of interesting new features to the Xperia line-up. One of the most popular seems to be the customized launcher, which offers a number of new features above and beyond Sony’s stock option. Fortunately more of us can now try it out, as the launcher has been ported.

Any device running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop or newer should now be able to try out the software, known as the “xMarshmallow Concept Launcher”. The beta version has been tested on the Xperia Z1, Z2, Z3 and Z5 but should work on any smartphone, although there are no guarantees. You won’t require root access for the beta version, but there is also a second download that works on Android 5.0 devices and newer. It includes a number of fixes but does require root access.

The launcher includes the familiar animation, dock and icon settings. If you are into your home screen customization, the app also supports the full selection of icon packs that are available from the Google Play Store. Just head on into the launcher’s settings and select your desired icon pack.


sony marshmallow android 6.0 logoA closer look: This is Sony’s Concept for Marshmallow, and it’s very promising82

If you want to try out something new this week, the APK is available for free by following the link below.

Grab the xMarshmallow Concept Launcher

4
Feb

For some reason, VAIO announces a Windows 10 phone


Japan is getting more Windows Phones. In October, Windows Japan announced that six companies were tackling Windows 10 for mobile, and following the gorgeous NuAns phone, VAIO has revealed its second ever smartphone. (The funny part is that VAIO’s once-parent company went so far as to make a Windows Phone slider, but it never saw the inside of a phone store.) Anyhow, here’s the VAIO Phone Biz. It’s for business use. It’s not a slider, and it’s launching next month, but only in Japan for now. Let’s see if it’s worth getting jealous about.

VAIO’s Windows Phone runs Windows 10, and (on paper) has the specifications to make that work — especially when it comes to Continuum: running a PC environment entirely from your phone. There’s an octocore 1.5GHz Snapdragon 617 processor and a full 3GB of RAM, while the screen is an unassuming full-HD resolution. (Then again, if you’re streaming to your full-size monitor like a true businessperson, maybe that’s less of an issue?) The phone itself is a rather pretty, familiar-looking slab of metal, laser-etched and looking a great deal more glamorous than its rebadged, underwhelming Android predecessor.

While VAIO hopes to concentrate sales inside businesses, it will also launch the phone with help from MVNO stores across Japan. It’s a SIM-free model, and it appears that there’s no big phone carrier that’ll be carrying the phone.) My biggest question is why VAIO chose to make something so nice for Windows 10 Phone — when Microsoft itself saw sales drop 49 percent last time it checked. It seems like a risk for the now independent, smaller company.

Classier design, accompanied with an arguably more precarious mobile operating system, the phone will be priced at 50,000 yen, around $432. Which is (at least) far less than an Evangelion phone costs.

Source: VAIO (Japanese)

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