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Update: The Great TiVo Reset

Cleaning and deleting everything.It has been more than a week since I performed the "Clearing and deleting everything." function on my Series3 TiVo, and I'm happy to report that the S3 has since performed perfectly:  wireless file transfers complete with consistent throughput, Netflix HD streams are received in full quality, and overall system response has greatly improved.  One odd side-effect of the TiVo mind-wipe was the loss of a few specific digital cable channels.  Thinking that the channel loss was related to a pairing/binding issue with the CableCARDs (the S3's lack of multi-stream CableCARD support requires the use of two CableCARDs for dual-tuning action), I contacted my cable provider and requested that they check things on their end.  After confirming the cards were paired and activated, I was still unable to receive about four digital channels.  CableCARD paring issues sometimes result in the inability to receive copy protected channels/programs but the fact that each card/tuner was able to receive the encrypted channels that I subscribe to suggested that the cards were correctly configured on my end.  Luckily, the cable tech who was dispatched to diagnose the problem (unsuccessfully) encountered the exact same CableCARD channel loss issue with another customer later that same day.  The cable-gods at this point believe the issue is on their end and they are currently investigating.  Stay tuned.

A Fresh Start for My HD TiVo

Cleaning and deleting everything.For more than two years, my TiVo Series3 HD Digital Media Recorder has faithfully captured my every televised whim.  About a year ago, I upgraded the Series3's 250GB hard drive to a relatively spacious 1TB model (thank you MFSLive!) and in no time my Season Pass list expanded to 50-some items - at any given moment there were approximately 200 standard- and high-definition recordings saved on the drive.  There is no way that I had time to watch all of that content, but it practically guaranteed that I would have something I wanted to watch available 24/7.

I've never been satisfied with my TiVo's network performance using the TiVo Wireless G Adapter - file transfers were inconsistent (i.e. slow, halting, or failed altogether) and I've yet to successfully view an HD stream from Netflix's Watch Instantly service (SD streaming was fine).  My PlayStation3 using the same wireless network from approximately the same location in the room has never had an issue streaming Netflix's HD content.  In a effort to diagnose my Series3's sluggish network performance, I've decided to start clean by "Clearing and deleting everything."  From there I plan to reinstall/retest the wireless adapter and compare the results to using a wired connection.  I'll post my findings as soon as possible.

The Sub-$100 Blu-ray Player Has Arrived!

Magnavox NB530MBX Blu-ray Disc Player

My local Wal*mart had a stack of Magnavox NB530MGX Blu-ray Disc Players ready for purchase at a non-sale price of $98 USD.  The NB530MGX's sub-$100 price is a historic first for a brand new Blu-ray disc (BD) player, and I'm looking forward to writing up a full review of this value priced player in the coming days.  In the mean time, here are the player's specs as taken from the Magnavox website:

Blu-ray / DVD

  • Plays BD Video, BD-RE (Single/Dual), BD-R (Single/Dual), DVD Video, DVD-R/RW, CD-R/RW, Audio CD, DTS-CD, HD JPEG
  • BD Profile 1.1 (BONUSVIEW)
  • HDMI Full-HD 1080 24p / 60p Output
  • HDMI 1080p Up-Conversion Output
  • Progressive Scan Video Output
  • HDMI 1.3a - Deep Color Processing
  • HDMI Audio Output: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD,DTS, DTS HD, Linear PCM

Convenience

  • FL (Fluorescent) Display
  • Trilingual On Screen Display (English / Spanish / French)
  • Parental Lock
  • Remote Control

Input/Output

  • Composite Video Output
  • Component Video Out
  • RCA Audio Output (L+R)
  • Digital Audio Output (Coaxial)
  • Digital Audio Output (Optical)
  • HDMI Output
  • SD Memory Slot

Some notable items from the above list includes an SD card slot for simplified picture browsing, coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, and 1080p24 output (via HDMI) - not bad at all for the least expensive BD player around.  However, the NB530MGX lacks network support (Ethernet or otherwise) for simplified firmware updates and it is a Profile 1.1 BD player so it supports picture-in-picture but not the online interactive features of BD-Live - considering the poor quality of most BD-Live content, this missing feature may be a non-issue for most shoppers.

Stay tuned.

Update for Sony W4100/Z4100 LCDs

www.heronfidelity.com

I'm currently reviewing a new 240Hz Sony Z5100 series LCD television that features some terrific Internet-enabled capabilities including the ability to perform online firmware updates with the press of a button on the remote.

I know a number of people who own the 120Hz Sony W4100/Z4100 series televisions (I reviewed a Z4100), and Sony recently released an update for the these TVs that fixes a number of issues including one I uncovered (note the PC Mag reference below ;):

  • When tuned to some digital channels you may experience a brief (about one second) interruption of the picture and sound when the scene changes, between programs and commercials, or between commercials. This may occur during either programs or commercials.
  • White dots or sparkles intermittently appear on the TV screen when displaying the menu or playing a DVD.
  • The television freezes momentarily, then powers off and then on. This can occur when the TV is tuned to a digital channel, or when auto-programming.
    • Note: This issue only occurs with some broadcast channels due to incorrect formatting of service data on the channel.
  • Problems selecting an HDMI input on a CEC device using the XMB™ Menu.
  • Problems resolving the finest detail issue of some 1080i 60hz film-based content (mentioned in a recent PC Magazine article).
  • Intermittent audio on HDMI Input 4.
  • Photo Mode issue that may occur when performing slideshow Butterfly - The same picture sometimes continually displays, and the slideshow no longer transitions through the other pictures.
  • XMB sometimes does not display.

To insure owners download the correct file, I suggest entering the specific TV model (ex. "kdl-46z4100") into the search bar field at the top of the Sony eSupport page and then select "drivers and software" from the navigation links on the left.

Or, here are some direct links to the related Sony support pages:

Cheers to Sony for making this update publicly available.

How to Buy an HDTV

I recently completed my latest HDTV buyers' guide for PCMag.com and it's chock full of information that will help guide shoppers toward finding an affordable TV that provides the best viewing experience for their particular room environment - how, where, and when you watch TV is often as much an influence on picture quality as is the performance and configuration of the TV.

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