Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

We review the BT 500 Broadband Extender Kit – a hybrid PowerLine adapter kit which combines a traditional Ethernet Bridge and Wi-Fi access point.

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Introduction

Ethernet bridge PowerLine devices are some of the most simple networking devices there are. In a nutshell, they allow you to connect one Ethernet-cabled network device to another over your home ring main [read: mains sockets]. They are typically completely Plug-and-Play meaning there’s no configuration. It’s a convenient and relatively inexpensive means of networking your entire house:

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They are however, nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for the best part of a decade, but the proliferation of Wi-Fi in everything from TVs to games consoles has meant that they’ve seen a decline in usefulness in most homes.

From a technical perspective, the ‘Ethernet Bridge’ type of PowerLine adapter should therefore be an absolute cakewalk to review.

The BT 500 Broadband Extender Kit though is a hybrid device which combines a traditional Ethernet Bridge and a Wi-Fi access point.

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Why might you need one?

Reason 1 – Wi-Fi problems

Like most people, I own a lot of Wi-Fi enabled devices. For the most part, they work well, but I do have issues with signal strength in my house. I live in a 1930s semi with solid internal walls and it means I get next to zero signal in the bedrooms from my router downstairs.

Reason 2 – Ethernet-only devices in remote locations

I already use a pair of 80Mb/s Netgear PowerLine adapters to provide a network connection for my Ethernet-only Foscam IP Camera. The camera can capture video at 720p but it struggles with my setup because the 80Mb/s quoted is a theoretical maximum that can never be achieved in the real world. Having tested it before starting this review, I can see that it tops out at 8Mb/s, just 10% of it’s advertised maximum. This is the reason I can only ever watch stuttering video at 10 frames per second from my camera.

REVIEW

Setup and test conditions / notes

The tests will be run exclusively from a laptop and not from a phone or tablet as this will allow for both Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections.

We will be using Virgin broadband, capable of 100Mb/s. The router is located downstairs in the living room.

The house was renovated a couple of years ago and was completely rewired including new sockets and consumer unit (fuse box). Bear in mind that PowerLine adapters transmit and receive data through the mains so their performance is entirely dependent on the quality of your home electrical wiring. Below are my results but your mileage will vary.

Speed tests

Firstly, I ran a speed test on both my existing LAN and Wi-Fi for benchmarking purposes.

This is the result of my laptop plugged directly into the router via Ethernet cable:

This is the result of my laptop connected to the router over Wi-Fi (in the same room):

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That’s the benchmarking out of the way, now let’s get on with testing these things!

I plugged the Broadband Extender into the mains socket closest to the router and connected them with the supplied Ethernet cable.

I then plugged the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot into the furthest mains socket away from the router (the kids’ bedroom) and connected it to a laptop via Ethernet cable. I chose the furthest socket away because unlike normal Ethernet cabling, the length of mains cable that data must travel through makes a huge difference to the speed of the connection. Closer sockets will give better speeds.

This is the result of my laptop plugged into the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot via Ethernet cable:


That’s pretty staggering and very close to the magical 100Mb/s !

This is the result of my laptop connected to the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot via Wi-Fi (in the same room):


Pretty good too considering the Virgin Wi-Fi topped out at 56Mb/s. It’s certainly a lot better than not being able to use Wi-Fi at all upstairs!

Conclusion

All in all, a very good product from BT. I really didn’t think I’d be seeing nearly 100Mb/s over a PowerLine adapter any time soon, but it seems like we are nearly there.

If you have the need to connect an Ethernet-only device from one room to another or have Wi-Fi dead spots in your home, this is a great purchase, especially at £39.99 from Amazon.

TheTechSpy rating – 8/10

UK customers are now able to pre-order Amazon’s Fire TV Stick – a cut down version of the Fire TV set-top box.

The Fire TV Stick was previously only available in the USA, but the UK will shortly have a rival to the Chromecast and Roku in the battle for the living room.

The Fire TV Stick plugs directly into a spare HDMI port on your TV and is USB powered, so it can all be tucked away discreetly. Netflix and Amazon Instant Video support come as standard and the device also supports 3rd party apps such as Spotify and BBC iPlayer.

Downloadable games are also supported and for those that require a little more control than the supplied remote can provide, a dedicated joypad can be purchased separately for £35.

Pre-orders start today on Amazon.co.uk and the stick will be officially released on April 15th. The normal price of £35 is reduced to just £19 for existing Amazon Prime members if reserved by 08:00 tomorrow (26/03). Those of you without a Prime subscription are in luck too – Amazon will sell you the stick for just £7 after a rebate if you take out an Amazon Prime membership.

Fire TV Stick features:

• Dual-core processor
• 8 GB storage
• 1 GB RAM
• Dolby Digital Plus support
• Remote control
• 1080p Video output
• Voice search and secondary remote control via iOS / Android app

You can find more details on the promotion via the link below:
Amazon FireTV Promotion

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Just as we thought that the next real estate to be conquered by the big firms was your wrist, the living room war stepped up a gear. All we have heard recently is new watches coming out that will connect to your smart phone, but the real money is to be made in your house with you sitting in front of your TV.

TV habits are changing. Sitting down and watching programmes live is a diminishing hobby where people’s lives have become busier and we just have no time to fit in with a broadcasters time constraints. The generation of streaming is here, where at a touch of a button we can watch most series and episodes of our favourite shows at any time WE want.

As internet speeds get faster, streaming is not such an annoying task. We will see no more “buffering” or “Downloading” messages as the speed of our broadband just excels. We were lucky enough to speak to one of the top people at one of the big Tech firms and the future they see for viewing habits is very different. We will be sitting watching shows and if you want you can hook up to see other people’s comments from services like Twitter directly on-screen. Whether this be for football cup finals or the finale of your favourite series, you will be able to see the opinions of the rest of the viewing community live as if you were sitting with them right in your home (of course you have the choice not too.

Amazon have been looking to get into this action for a while, and why not? They have the e-reader market pretty much cracked, so the TV side would have been obvious. The problem is, the competition for the living room is becoming pretty congested, as the likes of Apple, Samsung, Xtreamer, Xbox, Roku and Chromecast already sit comfortably.

The Amazon Fire TV is aiming to be a little different. It comes with a Bluetooth remote control, loads of apps (which includes Netflix) and also puts gaming front and centre with the option of buying a dedicated games controller for the box.

Amazon Fire TV

Inside a quad-core processor is the brain with a dedicated GPU and 2GB of RAM which Amazon says should make operation smooth and pretty fast. Dual band Wi-Fi, 1080p support and Dolby Digital Surround Sound via the HDMI are also included.

Controlling this power is the Android OS which means that lots of the existing Android marketplace apps will run on this unit along with the competitor Netflix. Amazon’s own streaming system Prime is also supported along with music services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn which are coming next month.

The optional controller is an interesting addition, as none of the others (other than Xbox and Playstation) have this and they will be looking to take of advantage of the Android eco-system. Having this library to call upon makes it a better buy than an Apple TV as the latter will only allow you to AirPlay devices from your other OS device and not run games of its own.

Controller

Having a wider apps library to call on makes the Fire TV instantly a much better gaming companion than an Apple TV. With an Apple TV you can AirPlay a game from your iPhone to your TV, but it doesn’t have a games library of its own.
Read more at http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/amazon-fire-tv-vs-apple-tv#CJDDYbKQltwEEQOy.99
Having a wider apps library to call on makes the Fire TV instantly a much better gaming companion than an Apple TV. With an Apple TV you can AirPlay a game from your iPhone to your TV, but it doesn’t have a games library of its own.
Read more at http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/amazon-fire-tv-vs-apple-tv#CJDDYbKQltwEEQOy.99

Other than the controller, this is just another TV streaming device on the market, not offering an awful lot more than the competition. If you are trying to compare this with the Apple TV, then it is just another Android vs OS argument, so we would suggest sticking with what ever eco-system you are already in.

When launched, it will probably be around the £99 for us UK people, but at present it can be bought for $99 in the US.

One of the main reasons the “tablet” has become such a success in the computing industry is that they are so easy for absolutely anyone to pick up and start using. As techies all over the world picked up either a Kindle or iPad way back when, we all started to realise that this could solve the issue of most of us being the older generation’s free IT support.

Think about it, I am sure your parents and grandparents have a laptop or computer and at some point have called on you for some assistance as they have been attacked by a virus or just stumbled upon an error message that “they didn’t do anything” to make happen.  Devices like the Kindle and iPad give older users all the capabilities of internet, book reading, videos, games and music all on in a very safe and easy environment. Once set up, they can pretty much just get on sending emails and surfing the web with a device that doesn’t needed to be booted up or maintained the same as a computer.

The Kindle HDX is the new offering in this arena. Debuting in 7 and 8.9″ configurations with higher resolutions of 323 ppi (1,920 x 1,200) and 339 ppi (2,560 x 1,600) and weighing in at a feather-weight 13 ounces and running the Fire OS, this really is a cool little device. The HDX has a micro USB connection with the 7″ variety having a front-facing camera and the 8.9-inch version having front and back facing which includes an 8mp one on the back that’ll shoot 1080p video with an LED flash and stabilisation.

Under the hood we still see a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor but double the RAM of the last version at 2GB. The battery promises to squeeze 11 hours, but if you go into reading mode apparently you get a mental 17 hours of battery time.

One of the most interesting things about this tablet is the support it now offers called Mayday, working 24/7 365 days a year working wonderfully for the less tech-savvy. A tech advisor appears on your screen to help you sort out your problem. The support advisor can see your display, but not you. He will walk you through the steps, drawing circles and pointing to where you have to click. The advisor can take full control if you wish which represents a huge step forward for this device.

Both versions are available now for pre-order, with the 7″ version starting at $229 when it starts shipping October 18th in the US. The 8.9-inch version won’t ship til November 7th and will cost you $379. Add $100 to either, and you’ll get 4G but UK pricing and availability has not yet been confirmed.

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