Tuesday Toys

Amazon Fire TV Stick
Amazon Fire TV Stick

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28 October 2014 | 0

 

Amazon Fire TV Stick

If you couldn’t be swayed to buy Amazon’s £79 Fire TV set-top box, you may take a look at the company’s new Fire TV Stick instead.

Amazon Fire TV StickLike other dongles such as Google’s Chromecas,t the Fire TV Stick plugs directly into an HDMI slot for streaming videos and music.

The Stick’s dual-core processor packs 1Gb of RAM and 8Gb storage. That means users can download and play games from Amazon’s app store.

While Amazon’s existing Fire TV box is makes perfect sense for Prime subscribers, it’s a tougher sell for people who aren’t already invested in Amazon content. The Fire TV Stick aims to make that pitch a bit easier, with a much lower price and nearly all of the same features as the more expensive box.

Amazon hasn’t rendered its six-month-old set-top irrelevant. The Fire TV is still significantly more powerful, with a quad-core processor and 2Gb of RAM, so it’s a better choice for playing games. The Fire TV also has a microphone built into the remote. Fire TV Stick users will need to use Amazon’s companion smartphone app for voice commands, or upgrade to the voice remote for $30. The Fire TV includes Ethernet and optical audio out, while the Fire TV Stick does not.

Still, the software is nearly the same on both devices, with apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, Pandora, and Spotify available. Amazon’s ASAP feature can predict which videos you might want and pre-load them to avoid buffering times, while X-Ray lets Kindle Fire tablet and Fire phone users view information about movies or TV shows from the small screen.

The Fire TV Stick also supports screen mirroring on Miracast-enabled phones and tablets, and for some apps like YouTube and Spotify, users can fling content to the big screen without mirroring.  Netflix is also on the way. Price on this side of the Atlantic has yet to be confirmed but already Amazon is undercutting the Chromecast in the US, so you can expect a bargain.

Price: $39

 

Fitbit Charge

At a time when fitness bands keep getting cheaper, Fitbit is moving in the opposite direction with its new Fitbit Charge, Charge HR and Surge fitness trackers.

The new Charge trackers have larger OLED displays than the existing Fitbit Flex, showing the time of day, steps taken and Caller ID when paired to a nearby smartphone. The Charge HR also includes a continuous heart rate monitor that provides feedback during exercise and is more accurate for estimating calories burned.

Fitbit Charge rangeThe Fitbit Surge is more of an answer to smartphones, with a square LCD touch screen that displays time of day, steps taken, heart rate, Caller ID and incoming text messages, and lets users control music playback from a paired smartphone. This is also the first Fitbit tracker with built-in GPS, letting users track their workout route, distance, pace and elevation while leaving their phones at home.

With new competition from more capable smartwatches, many fitness band makers have responded with cheaper models, or have shifted away from hardware to focus more on software and services. Oddly enough, this leaves Fitbit in a unique position as a company focused on premium fitness wearables. If you’ve felt let down by less-capable fitness trackers, but are unimpressed with beefier smartwatches, Fitbit wants to be your hardware maker.

The basic Fitbit Charge is the cheapest of the new models, and it’s basically a replacement for the Fitbit Force that was recalled in February due to skin rash issues. The only feature difference is the addition of Caller ID, though Fitbit has previously promised to bring this feature to Force owners. (To avoid further rash snafus, Fitbit says it has created a Scientific Advisory Board, whose certified dermatologists have helped the company improve testing and issue new wear and care guidelines.)

Compared to the $100 Fitbit Flex, the Charge has a taller and wider display, allowing it to show time and step count, and it has longer battery life of seven days on a charge. It also has automatic sleep tracking, so users don’t have to tell the device when they’re going to bed.

The Charge HR adds a heart rate monitor and has a more traditional clasp instead of the Charge’s snap-in band, and it gets five days of battery life instead of seven.

Sitting at the top of Fitbit’s line up is the Surge, which despite its smartwatch-like appearance is more serious about fitness tracking than any of Fitbit’s cheaper models. It has more sensors, including GPS, a gyroscope and ambient light sensor, and it can tailor its metrics based on the specific workout that the user has done. And although the screen is much larger and more capable than Fitbit’s other models, it still lasts up to five days on a charge.

Fitbit says the Charge HR and Surge will launch early next year. All three devices will come in three sizes and can pair with an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone handset.

Price: From $130

 

Razer LeviathanRazer Leviathan

Sound bars are a common alternative to full surround sound systems and now Razer has jumped into the market with a product aimed at PC desktop gamers. The Leviathan connects to a PC via analogue or optical cable or Bluetooth to deliver 5.1 virtual surround sound with a separate woofer.

The unit can be tilted up to 18 degrees for a varied angle and there are present modes for movies, games and music.

Price: €199.99

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