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Monday, February 13, 2017

VIZIO Crave 360 Wireless Speaker Review

SmartCast speakers and soundbars can be connected wirelessly throughout the house. Photo: VIZIO.

Are You Craving More Wireless Music?

It's hard to find an audio company that isn't producing wireless speakers these days. Even companies traditionally known for video products are branching out into the world of wireless speakers. There are now more choices of wireless speakers than there are flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream (trust me, I counted). So if you're going to make something for that category, your product had better stand out.

VIZIO is doing that with the Crave 360, a new wireless speaker. The product is part of the company's SmartCast speaker lineup, which is designed to wirelessly put music into every room in the house.

Competitively priced at $249.99, the Crave 360 has a lot of the features you'd expect from a wireless speaker, including a few extras. Made for use in, around, and even outside of the house, it comes with a wireless charging base that will provide up to 8 hours of portable playtime on a full charge. It includes both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, as well as the option to use Google Cast. This is a nice perk, since it allows you to fling all sorts of audio from your favorite Google Cast-enabled apps and devices.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Samsung's 2017 QLED Ultra HD TVs Are Brighter and More Colorful, Even from the Sides


Two years ago, Samsung set its highest performance televisions apart with the letter, "S." "S-UHD" was the Samsung moniker for their brightest, sexiest and highest perfoming LED/LCD TVs. This year they've taken two steps backward - in the alphabet that is. 2017 is the year of the "Q."

The Q stands for "Quantum" as in Quantum Dots: the technology behind Samsung's color reproduction system, used in their high-end LED/LCD televisions. The full brand name of the category is QLED - Quantum dot Light Emitting Diode. Fundamentally, these are still LCD TVs, but they used LED backlighting, enhanced with Quantum Dots, to mitigate some of the traditional weaknesses of LCD TVs.

The Space Between Us Review

If it's possible for a planet to achieve celebrity status, Mars seems to have reached that tipping point of late. The Red Planet shared top billing in Matt Damon's 2014 crowd-pleaser "The Martian", the ESA's Mars Express mission is still going strong, and National Geographic Channel's "Mars" miniseries dramatizing the scientific and human impact of future colonizing endeavors debuted at the end of 2016 to positive reviews. Given all of this, "The Space Between Us" would seem poised to make the most of the current interstellar zeitgeist:  with DNA borrowed from Robert Heinlein's 1961 novel, "Stranger In a Strange Land", "Space" tells the story of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield, "Ender's Game") who's born on Mars and and as a teenager makes his first foray to Earth.

"Space" touches on the classic storytelling trope of providing fresh views of our own world through the eyes of a stranger, but such moments, while compelling when they occur here, are overshadowed by a teen-angsty storyline seemingly yanked out of the Screenwriting 101 section on "(literally) starcrossed romance". There's also a McGuffin-y mission plotline that sets the young protagonist on the run and clumsily fritters away story momentum. In short, "The Space Between Us" presents an intriguing notion but undercuts it with inconsistent execution.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Founder Review

Small Fry

When "The Founder" opens, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a travelling salesman with a product he feels passionate about - or at least does his best to sell. He has a tool, which will allow restaurants to make several milkshakes at one time. He's got the pitch, the energy and all the right gesticulations that would allow any restaurant manager to believe they need his product.
Kroc hears a lot of "no" when trying to make a sale but it doesn't stop him from calling his wife (Laura Dern) and letting her know that everything is fine. He can't even keep track of all the sales that are coming in, he tells her. Sure, it's all lies but it's also an opportunity for Kroc to do his best to turn things around.
He receives a call from Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman), who wants eight machines for his restaurant, which he owns with his brother, Mac (John Carroll Lynch). Kroc is in shock and complete disbelief at the size of their order, which prompts him to drive to their restaurant and see what it's all about.

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