Wireless audio enhances two new gadgets
- 25 March, 2013 12:07
The scoop: Roku 3 Internet streaming TV box, by Roku, about $100
What it is: The latest connected TV box that provides Internet streaming service from Roku, the Roku 3 gets even smaller than previous models, and now includes a headphone jack (and included earbuds) that lets you wirelessly stream audio from the TV to the headphones/earbuds.
Like previous models of Roku, users can choose from services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Spotify and hundreds of other free and pay services. The remote control includes motion-control features that let you play games on your TV (some cost extra, but Angry Birds Space is included for free).
Why it's cool: The addition of the headphone jack may seem like a small enhancement, but it opens up new possibilities and uses for the device. For example, my kids love watching kid-friendly content via Netflix, but I hate having to listen to some of the shows when I'm doing something else in the room (I admit, I'm not a fan of PBS's "Arthur," one of my daughter's favorites). With the headphone jack, she can put a pair of headphones on and listen to the show without bothering others. This feature even makes listening to music more enjoyable via Pandora or Spotify.
The remote control continues to be the best in the business -- because it works via radio frequency and not infrared, you don't have to point it directly at the Roku box in order to control it.
The Roku 3 is also the first model to feature dual-mode Wi-Fi connections, so if you separate your network between 2.4GHz and 5GHz for faster streaming, the Roku 3 can connect to the faster portion.
Some caveats: I had some difficulty configuring the iOS app to find the new box on the network -- the app lets you switch channels and find new services via a smartphone or tablet. The unit's small size can also be tricky when connecting the power outlet and an Ethernet cable -- the extra weight of the cables tilted the unit back on the TV stand. In addition, this unit is for high-definition TVs only -- the only connection is HDMI, and you have to buy the cable separately.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
The scoop: Jabra Revo wireless headphones, by Jabra, about $250
What it is: These over-the-ear headphones use Bluetooth wireless technology to stream audio content from your Bluetooth-enabled phone, tablet or music player. Going cordless means you can move away from your player or not have to worry that a cable is going to get in the way. If you still want a wire, the system includes a tangle-free cable to connect to the headphones.
Why it's cool: The headphones have a nice fit to them -- the earcups are comfortable and they're portable for travel (a hinge lets the earcups fold in). Twirling your finger around an earcup lets you raise/lower the volume, and pressing the middle of the earcup can pause the music -- you can also answer an incoming phone call with the other earcup button). Double-tapping on the top or bottom of the volume earcup lets you advance tracks or go back -- the touch-controls mean you don't have to fiddle with tiny buttons, as seen on other headphones. In addition, a free Jabra app gives you an equalizer and Dolby Digital Plus features for your music.
Some caveats: I tested these during a workout, and while the headphones never fell off, they did get sweaty by the end -- you probably wouldn't want to share these with others. Other wireless headphones utilize earbuds that are sweatproof and geared more toward athletic use.
Grade: 5 stars
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.
Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.