The Wall Street Journal is reporting things are getting bleaker by the day for Blu-ray.

Player prices are falling due to overstocking at stores, and not because the technology is getting deeper market penetration. At this time Blu-ray is only making up 4% of the entire home video market, which is a far cry from even the most conservative predictions of where the format should have been by this time.

The price reductions are probably also a part of a plan to try to increase the market adoption rate for Blu-ray.  A lot of the hindrance is coming from how much more the movies can cost than a standard DVD version of the same film.

What does this all mean for consumers?  If you are looking to get in to Blu-ray, you will probably see some amazing sales around Thanksgiving time in the USA, especially on “Black Friday”. On the other hand, I’m still not fully convinced buying another physical format is such a good idea.  On the up side, these players do play standard DVDs and will upconvert their signal to near-HD quality, so if you find a player for insanely cheap, you might as well pick it up just for that reason alone.

Categories: Home Electronics   

It is finally official: VHS is dead.

JVC has officially pulled the plug on stand-alone VHS players, and as they were the last one manufacturing them, that pretty much kills the format.  You will still be able to buy VHS/DVD combo machines for playing the tapes you still have, but I wouldn’t count on those being around for all that much longer since pre-recorded VHS tapes are no longer being produced by the movie studios.

The format has been around for 32 years, and, oddly enough, was invented by JVC.  All told, it is estimated 900 million VHS machines were sold over the years, with 50 million of those being of the JVC brand.  While it is doubtful the format will full disappear for some time (you can still buy blank audio cassettes), it is going to slowly disappear into a distant memory in the wake of DVDs, high definition formats, DVRs, digital downloads and more.

As we wrote earlier this year, please do not just throw away your old VHS tapes.  I recently donated the bulk of the left over inventory from my families comic book store and personal tapes we no longer needed to the local library.  All told we donated over 1400 tapes and they have been selling very briskly for them to help raise some much needed money.  I get a tax write off, they get needed funds, everyone comes out a winner, and the local landfill doesn’t have to contend with them (yet).

Categories: Home Electronics   

According to the New York Times, it appears that the prices for HD televisions are about to plummet.

With the economy approaching recession, and consumer spending down, it appears that television manufacturers may not wait for the annual day after Thanksgiving (commonly known as Black Friday) to mark down their prices at special sales.  DisplaySearch’s director of North American TV market research, Paul Gagnon, says these are the prices we can expect to see fairly soon.

19-inch high definition LCD: $199
32-inch HD LCD: $399-$499
40-inch 1080p LCD: $799-$999
42-inch HD plasma: $599-$699
50-inch HD plasma: $899-$999

Considering I paid over $800 for my first 32-inch LCD about two years ago, I am blown away by these new prices. There is going to be very little reason to not just go ahead and upgrade soon.

Categories: Home Electronics   

While this is played for comedy on Talkshow with Spike Ferensten,this is exactly the sort of reason StarterTech exists.

You can read more about this changeover in our post, Are You Ready For Digital Television.  If you’re still confused, leave us a comment or send us a question, and we will address it again.

Categories: Home Electronics   

WowWee, the company behind the popular Robosapien, looks to have another hot holiday gift coming out for this year’s winter holidays.

Rovio is a new item from the company, but they make it very clearly that this is not to be considered a toy.  The three-wheeled robot is a Wi-Fi enabled security sentry that can be programmed with up to 10 preplanned courses, can then take pictures and email you the image so you can know what it going on at your office or home when you’re not there.

If you prefer to actually control the device in real time, you can control it via a simple interface on your computer and send signals to it via the Internet.

From everything we have read about it, the device is extremely easy to set up and use, and the possible uses for it are pretty limitless.

  • Have elderly parents at home?  Check on them while you’re at work.
  • Have pets?  Make sure they have food and water when you’re not home.
  • Check on the nanny.
  • Patrol your office after hours.
  • Patrol your house at all hours, see what’s going on when you’re away on vacation.

That is just  a handful of possibilities, but this is an exciting advancement in home security, and “toy” or not, it is sure to be a hot holiday gift.

Categories: Home Electronics, Security   

No, your Xbox is not broken, Microsoft is working on the Xbox Live area.

If you logged into your Xbox Liveaccount today and saw a message about being unavailable, it’s nothing wrong on your end.  The system has been taken down for 24 hours to prepare for the launch of a new version in the near future.

We here at StarterTech actually didn’t plan on mentioning it, but it ended up proving any interesting point about information in this day and age.  While this news has been all over blogs for a week or more, I never saw anything on my actual Live account.  And when I did try logging in, it just simply said the system was unavailable, but no mention of why.

While a large number of people do read tech blogs, companies like Microsoft need to remember that not everyone does.  How many people had panic attacks today thinking their cable modem was down, or their Xbox was broken, or any other number of scenarios?  Would it have been so difficult for them to have put up an explanation message?  Doubtful.

The system should be up again sometime very early on Tuesday, but until then you’ll have to spend some time with your family.  Don’t worry… I feel your pain also.

Categories: Home Electronics   

The news continues to worsen for the Blu-ray media format, and the evidence builds that consumers really should avoid it.

In the past week, the high definition format saw a 13.9% slip in market sales while the standard definition DVDs increased by .15%. While this certainly does not mean the format is dying, it does mean that even with the price of some players finally falling below $200, consumers just aren’t willing to go for the higher cost discs.  The overall market share of the Sony backed format stands at 8%, making the projections of 50% of the market by the end of the year seem like a distant dream.

What does all of this mean?  Well, with the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching, there are sure to be many tempting deals to get you to purchase a player.  Lower prices, free movies, etc, they will throw the whole arsenal at you.  Last year I feel for these tricks and purchased an HD-DVD player.  I now have a lovely paperweight as the format has been killed off, and we here at StarterTech would like to make sure a similar scenatio happens to anyone else.

At this time, it is looking like this format will just become a footnore in the long history of over failed formats that litter the landscape.  Just make sure you proceed with caution if you choose to try the format out, just don’t be surprised when the discs dry up due to lack of support.

Categories: Home Electronics   

As we told you in Xbox 360 Prepares For Price Drop, it looked like Microsoft was preparing to lower the price of the Xbox 360 gaming console, and it came to be this week.

If you’re feeling a bit confused by the three options out there, and don’t know what to get your family for the holiday season, hopefully we can clear that up some for you.

Xbox 360 Core Arcade Bundle – This one has a suggested retail price of $199.99, and while that can seem enticing, you will soon find yourself purchasing a hard drive to attach to it to download maps for various games and other content.  It also does not include the HDMI cable to get high definition support on your TV.  It also lacks an included ethernet cable for connecting to the Internet.  We do not recommend buying this version.

  • Xbox 360 console (without hard drive)
  • 256 MB Memory Unit
  • Wireless controller
  • Xbox LIVE Silver membership
  • Composite AV cable
  • 5 Arcade LIVE titles (included on disc): Feeding Frenzy, Luxor 2, Boom Boom Rocket, Pac-Man Championship Edition, Uno

Xbox 360 Console Includes 60GB Hard Drive – While this one still lacks the HDMI cable, it includes the all important hard drive and headset if you plan to play online.  This one will get you online and playing and is probably the better “starter” set.  Retail price is $299.99.

  • Xbox 360 console
  • 60GB detachable hard drive
  • Wireless controller
  • Xbox Live headset
  • Standard AV cable
  • Ethernet cable
  • Detachable faceplate
  • Xbox Live Silver membership

Xbox 360 Elite System Console Includes 120GB Hard Drive -This one gives you everything, but you pay for it at a suggested price of $399.99.  It is also the only version that comes in black.  This is great for your die-hard gamer, but for kids or families, we would still recommend the 60 GB version.

  • Xbox 360 Elite console (black)
  • 120GB hard drive
  • Wireless Controller (black)
  • Xbox Live Headset (black)
  • HDMI port
  • HDMI cable
  • Xbox Live Silver membership
  • One-month subscription to Xbox Live Gold

If you look around for these, especially towards the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, you may to find even better prices or bundles, so keep your eyes open for it.

Categories: Home Electronics   

There are a lot of choices when it comes to buying cordless phones, but two of the most common options you’ll see are 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. What does this mean, and why should you care?

All cordless phones operate on a frequency, like radio waves.  As frequencies get more crowded, the Federal Communications Council (FCC) will open another one so that consumer goods can move to one with less intereference.  When cordless phones first came out they operated in the 46 – 49 MHz spectrum, but when those got crowded with remote control cars, walkie talkies and the such, they moved to 900 MHz.

It was after 900 MHz filled up that they moved to 2.4 GHz, and with the increased range, and lack of devices in that area, things seemed fine… and then Wi-Fi popped up.  The wireless computer technology has quickly gobbled up that frequency, and while some have reported interference issues, I never saw it happen when I still had a phone in that range.  5.8 GHz is still fairly new, well out of the Wi-Fi range, and seems to be doing swimingly well for the time being.

So, if you are looking for a new cordless phone, even if you do not have Wi-Fi in your house, your neighbors very well might, so we highly recommend making sure you go ahead and head into the 5.8 GHz range.

Categories: Home Electronics   

We mentioned a while back that we recommend you avoid Blu-ray, but now it isn’t only us, but also the people who manufacture it.

As we said in our previous article, we here at StarterTech feel Blu-ray may end up having too short of a lifespan, and you should just continue on with your standard definition DVDs until downloads inevitably take over as the dominant format.  Today there were two stories in the technology news that seemed to bolster the idea that we may have been correct in our suggestion.

First off comes this amazing quote from Andy Griffiths, director of consumer electronics at Samsung UK, to the website Pocket-lint.  It seems during the course of the interview with one of the original backers of the format, Mr. Griffiths said:

“I think [Blu-ray] has 5 years left, I certainly wouldn’t give it 10.”

While the interview moved on to other subjects, that is surely a very revealing comment to the concept that high definition formats will be replaced with downloads and the consumer electronics companies know it.

Just adding more fuel to this fire is the news that LG Electronics is launching a new Blu-ray player called the BD-300 which will not only playback the HD discs, but stream television shows and movies from yoru Netflix account.  This is the first I have heard of a device doing both of these jobs, but at $399.95 suggested retail price, it seems like a good price point for the two merging technologies.

I think this does just add another log to the file that Blu-ray is expected to have a short lifespan as a home entertainment format, and if you can hold outwith what you currently have, I would be highly reluctant to invest in programming on the Blu-ray format.

In the end it is up to each consumer what they do, but I think that this time it is fairly obvious that patience may not only be a virtue, but may save you some money in the long run from not buyng all of those new discs.

Categories: Home Electronics   
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