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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012
Two new viewing options for your collection
By RICK MARTIN
With so many different types of screens to choose from, it's a wonderful time for home entertainment these days. Whether you opt for the latest HDTV, or a shiny new tablet computer as your second screen, there's something for everybody depending on your specific needs and preferences.
Smart TV Box
Last month at CEATEC Japan 2012, KDDI showed off its upcoming Smart TV Box, one of the latest of many set-top box solutions vying for space in living rooms across the country. What's different about this one? Made by Panasonic, the device runs on Android 4.0 and delivers a wide range of functions. The primary use for the Smart TV Box is, of course, video. And in addition to regular terrestrial TV, this one lets you take advantage of online streaming media like NicoNico Douga and YouTube, as well as KDDI's own paid services.
Gaming and music functions are also available. Users can even listen to regular FM radio or take advantage of online services like radiko.jp. The device can be controlled via remote, or by using the physical buttons on the box itself. Perhaps most importantly though, the Smart TV Box has a Wi-Fi access point that allows you to connect with your smartphone or tablet to view content.
Like any Android device, you'll have access to Google Play and the many applications available in that app store. It also lets you take advantage of au Smart Pass, and the wide range of apps that package includes.
As for hardware, the Smart TV Box features a dual-core processor, although as of this article's publication the exact type of chip had not been disclosed. There are multiple options for external storage, including the ability to connect an external harddrive to which you can then record your favorite programs. It also includes an SD card reader, if you'd prefer to bring over your media in that manner.
Greenhouse Blu-Ray player
Solutions like the Smart TV Box are a great way to tap into new online streaming services these days. But for those who have bet on Blu-ray for their media collection, the folks at Greenhouse Japan — a company known for its unusual consumer electronics — recently released an intriguing portable solution. Its GH-PBD100K Portable Blu-ray player (catchy name!) features a folding 10.1-inch LCD screen, weighing just 1.4 kg — so you can take it just about anywhere in the house. You can view Blu-ray movies or regular DVDs as well, and even tune in to terrestrial TV broadcasts.
Personally, I rarely use a DVD outside of my living room, but I can understand that there are many folks who might want to bring a movie to bed on a cold winter night, or if someone is hogging your main living room TV, it might be nice to have an alternate one in the house.
That's exactly the sort of device that Greenhouse's player can be, with HDMI-out in case you do want to view your movies on a larger external display. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this particular design is the rotating display, which can be turned around 180 degrees. If you plan to carry this one to different areas around your home, you'll have to keep in mind that its built in battery lasts for only about three hours, which is not a long time. It's more than enough for a movie, but not good enough for those long "Battlestar Galactica" marathons.
The GH-PBD100K model goes on sale at the end of November with a price tag of ¥24,800. The cost is comparable to some popular tablet computers out there (it's a little cheaper than an iPad, and about the same price as the 32-gigabyte Nexus 7) and I expect most consumers would opt to spend their holiday yen on one of those. But if you have already invested in a Blu-ray collection, then this player from Greenhouse is one way to make sure your family can keep enjoying those movies for years to come.
Interestingly, if this model isn't portable enough for you, the company also makes a similar 7-inch DVD player, although it doesn't support Blu-ray. That one is priced at an affordable ¥6,980. At the time of writing they are sold-out on the Greenhouse site, but keep an eye on greenhouse-store.jp if these sound like an entertainment solution that's fitting for you.