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The Smart Home Blog

The latest news and updates on home technology

24
Nov

Qube Smart Bulbs Can Display 16 Million Colors for $19

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Qube Smart Bulbs

There are so many smart bulbs out these days, it’s downright blinding. Now, there’s a start-up out there putting a spotlight on affordable lighting with a new product called the Qube.

The Qube is an upcoming smart bulb. Like most smart bulbs, all you need to do is screw the Qube into any light socket and pair it with the iOS, Watch OS, or Android app. Since it has WiFi, you can control the Qube from anywhere. It also has Bluetooth support, so you can connect the bulb to mobile devices and Bluetooth-emitting wearables.

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Unlike most smart bulbs, the Qube only costs $19. The company is hoping to keep the costs down by selling direct to consumers. However, the Qube isn’t just an inexpensive smart bulb, but it’s an inexpensive colored smart bulb that can deliver about 16 million colors. It even has IFTTT (“If This Then That”) support.

Another interesting perk is Qube Sense, which means that the bulb can recognize whenever you enter the room (and turn on), as well as switch to your preferred settings.

“We recognize that existing smart bulb solutions are too expensive for consumers to reap the full benefits of smart lighting—especially because they need more than one or two bulbs to see results,” said Joo Siong, co-founder and VP of products for Qube. “With Qube, we have big plans to disrupt the smart bulb market by offering a truly affordable and smart light bulb to the masses.”

Qube smart bulbs are currently available for pre-order through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. If you pledge early on in the campaign, you can score the Qube for $16 each. After the first 2,000 orders, you can still snag the Qube at its expected $19 MSRP. All of the initial backers can then expect the first units to ship out sometime in April 2016.

Can’t wait that long to brighten up your setup? Check out our article on the best bargains in smart LED light bulbs.

Original author: Rachel Cericola
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24
Nov

3 Dolby Atmos Receivers for Under $500

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3 Dolby Atmos Receivers for Under $500

Just a few months ago, you probably wouldn’t have seen the words “affordable” and “Dolby Atmos” in the same sentence—anywhere. However, we are finally starting to see some of those Dolby Atmos receivers come down in price.

Are they cheap? Well, no. However, Dolby Atmos is not really meant to be a cheap experience. After all, it takes some serious technology to make it seem like planes are flying over your head in your living room. More specifically, it takes technology and some additional equipment.

Getting one of the aforementioned Dolby Atmos receivers is a must. This type of receiver has the capability to decode Atmos-enabled content. Yes, you will need that too. Right now, there are a decent number of Blu-rays with Dolby Atmos tracks. The good news is that you won’t need a special Blu-ray player and even if you don’t plan to upgrade to an Atmos-capable system in the immediate future, those Blu-rays will still work with your existing home theater setup.

And finally, you will need additional speakers. Those speakers need to go on the ceiling or you can opt for Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, which project audio upward and “reflect” that sound off the ceiling. In other words, these speakers make it sound like you have speakers on the ceiling, without the need for a ladder. The minimum speaker configuration for Dolby Atmos is 5.1.2 or 7.1.2. Each one is your basic 5.1 or 7.1 setup, with two ceiling or Atmos-enabled speakers. There are options for more speakers, however.

It will depend on what that receiver can handle. As in any other home theater system, the receiver is the cornerstone of this setup. While you shouldn’t skimp on this piece of equipment, there are a few affordable Dolby Atmos receivers currently on the market. Let’s take a peek at three models priced under $500.

Dolby Atmos Receivers: Onkyo TX-NR636

Onkyo TX-NR636
This 7.2-channel receiver doesn’t just support Dolby Atmos, 4K/60Hz video, HDCP 2.2, and the 21:9 aspect ratio. Promising 95 watts per channel (8ohms, 20-20kHz, 0.08%, 2-ch driven), it’s also perfect for high-res audio fans who want to pair this with a PC, a NAS or even a smartphone. It has Qdeo upscaling that can boost low-res content to full HD or near-4K quality (if you have a 4K TV), as well as WRAT (Wide Range Amplifier Technology) and Onkyo’s own Three-Stage Inverted Darlington Circuitry for the front and center channels. Other features include built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and DLNA, two 32-bit DSP engines, an HDMI/MHL terminal on the front, six HDMI inputs around back, a dedicated phono input, and options for a second zone.

MSRP: $399 (on Amazon)
For More Information: Hands On: Onkyo Receiver TX-NR636 Rocks Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos Receivers: Onkyo-TX-NR737

Onkyo TX-NR737
This 7.2-channel receiver looks a lot like the one mentioned above. It has the Dolby Atmos and the 4K/HDCP 2.2 support. It also has the WiFi, Bluetooth and DLNA. It even delivers the same 95 watts per channel (8ohms, 20-20kHz, 0.08%, 2-ch driven). However, it does add in THX Select2 Plus certification and a second HDMI output. Other features include the Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT), the Qdeo upscaling, Three-Stage Inverted Darlington Circuitry amplification, dual Digital Signal Processing (DSP) engines, 192 kHz/24-bit Burr-Brown D/A conversion, the Advanced Music Optimizer DSP, InstaPrevue technology, and seven HDMI inputs (with one getting MHL support as well).

MSRP: $499 (on Amazon)
For More Information: Onkyo

Dolby Atmos Receivers: Denon AVR-S710W

Denon AVR-S710W
Hey, it’s a receiver that’s not made by Onkyo! This last option is Denon’s 7.2-channel receiver, which promises 80 watts per channel (8ohms, 20Hz-20kHz, 0.08% 2-ch driven). It also features the latest HDMI 2.0a spec for 4K/60Hz content, 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling, HDR (High Dynamic Range), Rec.2020 color space capability, and 21:9 aspect ratio pass-through. It can even support HDCP 2.2 on all six of the receiver’s HDMI inputs. Other features include a quad-core 32-bit DSP processor, WiFi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Audysssey MultiEQ setup room calibration, web radio and access to streaming music services, DLNA 1.5, two subwoofer outputs, and support for Denon HEOS Link.

MSRP: $349 (on Amazon)
For More Information: Denon

Don’t have a budget? Check out additional Dolby Atmos receivers that are out now.

Get expert information and insight on smart home products and technologies with Electronic House Magazine. Learn more.

Original author: Rachel Cericola
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23
Nov

Latest Smart Home Products at CEDIA Exude Style

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Lutron-Sivoia

2015 was a banner year for great smart home product introductions, many of which were showcased recently at the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) conference and trade show in Dallas. The Electronic House editors hit the venue in search of some of the brightest, most innovative devices available today … and in keeping with this issue’s design theme, they had to look great, too. Here are some of our favorite finds:

Automated window treatments are, without question, one of the most convenient and useful products available in today’s integrated home. For years they were also one of the most difficult to install. Battery powered options make installation significantly easier, especially in existing homes, but come with their own set of drawbacks, such as limited size options, and the headaches associated with frequent battery changes.

Taking center stage at Lutron’s booth this year was the company’s answer to these common tradeoffs: the Sivoia QS Triathlon WIDR series. Now available in sizes from 20 ½” wide x 12” tall all the way up to 12’ x 12’, you’d be hard pressed to find a window the WIDR series couldn’t handle. Starting at $1,065, these shades are available in a variety of fabrics. For an additional $70 buyers can opt for the “Battery Boost” option, increasing battery life by up to 80%, and resulting in a battery lifespan of up to six years. See the WIDR shade in action:

If you tend to talk with your hands, the Swipe from Fibaro could be the home control device of your dreams. First and foremost, it’s a slick looking touchpanel that attaches to the wall from which you can command lights, thermostats, security devices, and more. But unlike a traditional touchpanel that responds to a tap of a finger on its display, the Swipe reacts to six different hand gestures. Wave your hand left to right across the screen and the Swipe issues a command to a group of lights, for example. Move your hand in a circle, and a different series of commands can be dispatched. If mounting a touchpanel to the wall doesn’t appeal to your decorative eye, the Swipe can be mounted behind drywall, underneath granite, or behind artwork for a completely invisible installation. It will still “see” your hand motions. Pricing information was unavailable at press time. www.fibaro.com/us

Dolby Atmos is the hottest thing happening in home audio today. The newly developed “object-based” surround-sound format features speakers that provide a sense of 3D realism where sounds project from overhead (think rain showers and aircraft). Typically, setting up a Dolby Atmos system required mounting several speakers in the ceiling or positioning specially engineered “upfiring” speakers on the floor. Now SpeakerCraft offers another installation option: in-wall Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers. According to SpeakerCraft, the product introduction marks the industry’s first architectural in-wall speaker system that meets all of the Atmos standards set by Dolby, and are ideal for situations where mounting speakers in the ceiling isn’t possible. Pricing information was unavailable at press time. www.speakercraft.com

You can dress up a lighting control keypad with a fancy faceplate, but at the end of the day it’s still a keypad. Eschewing tradition, Belgium company Basalte has completely reinvented the lighting control keypad with its touch-sensitive, decorative, square-shape Sentido. Its unique style will make you wonder exactly what its purpose is, other than that of an eye-catching element on the wall. But graze your fingers over the smooth, high-grade metal finish (several colors and finishes are available, including brushed aluminum, satin white, brushed black, and others), and your entire home environment can change in an instant, as groups of lights brighten and dim to preset intensity levels. The square-shape Sentido switch can be divided into two or four equal surfaces; each surface can be set up to issue a different series of commands. The switch also functions as a temperature sensor that discretely reports the room temperature to a home automation system. Contact info@basalte.us for pricing information. www.basalte.be/en

One hundred and twenty inches of ultra-high-definition video: It doesn’t get much bigger or better than that. A combination of impressive display real estate at the highest resolution available equals an unparalleled viewing experience. What makes the Vizio premium 120-inch Reference Series (a 65-inch model is also available) so special is the incorporation of technology like Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR). HDR TVs are able to render fantastic contrast and color accuracy, so images are more lifelike and engaging. The picture is pristinely pretty, but be ready to part with a huge chunk of change. The 120-incher retails for close to $130,000. Settle for the 60-incher and you’ll set yourself back $60,000. www.vizio.com

Homeowners shopping for a video surveillance solution have generally been faced with two options. DIY products like DropCam (now Nest Cam) offer an easy set-up experience and very intuitive controls, but are limited in terms of a true security solution (outdoor model anyone?). Then there are professionally installed solutions that offer more horsepower and flexibility, but create a far more complicated, and often clunky, end-user experience. Developed from the ground up with customer feedback in mind, the Luma user interface is a complete refresh, and significant improvement, over the company’s previous camera control software. The interface provides a clean and intuitive user experience while retaining plenty of functionality. Noteworthy on the camera side are Luma’s HD-TVI enabled analog cameras capable of full 1080p resolution. SnapAV’s new line of Luma surveillance products offers all the horsepower you’d expect from a pro solution, with a sleek end-user experience that rivals any DIY solution on the market. Cameras start at $199.95. www.snapav.com

Who knew the back of a TV could look so, well, beautiful? Frankly, the people at MantelMount didn’t. When the company designed a mount that allows a TV to be moved from the top of a fireplace mantel down to a more comfortable viewing position, it considered the hardware that secures the TV to the wall and hides the cabling important, but definitely not something that would inspire creativity from homeowners. A decorative eye took over in the homes of several MantelMount customers, who painted the white cabling cover to match the wall surface precisely. This do-it-yourself color-matching solution ensures that the structural hardware and cabling aren’t eyesores when the TV is moved away from its above-mantel position. Even unpainted though, the MantelMount offers some impressive features: It can be lowered two feet from its resting position above the fireplace mantel (or anywhere in between) and positioned eye-level; it can be tilted and swiveled; it sports heat sensors that turn red if the temperature above the fireplace exceeds 110 degrees F; and it has a universal attachment for a soundbar. The price is hard to beat, too. At $399, it can hold TVs from 48 to 80 inches and 25 to 125 pounds. Check out the video at www.mantelmount.com

Tired of waiting for 4K video content? There are scads of 4K Ultra High-Definition TVs available, but simply not all that much 4K programming available to enjoy. If you’re ready and willing to pay for the pristine resolution that’s 4K, check out the new line of 4K video players from Kaleidescape. The centerpiece of the Encore line is the Strato Movie Player, which can download and store up to 100 4K Ultra HD movies for playback on a 4K TV or projection system. Currently, the 4K content available to the Strato through the Kaleidescape online Movie Store is from Sony Pictures. Each downloadable title will cost about $30. As for the price of the Strato: $4,000. It’s expected to be available early next year. www.kaleidescape.com

In the past, altering the shape of a projection screen—from a 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio to a 16:9 high-definition aspect ratio, for example—required the installation of motorized fabric masking panels that rolled over the sides of the screen. It’s a solid solution, but Screen Innovations now offers a sleeker, sexier way to modify the aspect ratio of a projection screen. This “non-masking masking system,” the Intellimask, transforms its frame size rather than covering the screen surface. The effect is akin to the squeeze-and-expand gestures used to adjust the size of images displayed on a smartphone. When the video source’s aspect ratio changes, the screen also changes size on the fly (requires additional programming of a home automation system). Another benefit: the Intellimask can be installed by a professional home systems integrator in less than 30 minutes. You’ll have to wait until next year for this product; no word on pricing. www.screeninnovations.com

Original author: Lisa Montgomery
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23
Nov

Char-Broil Can Make Thanksgiving Extra Happy with WiFi-Capable Smokers

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Char-Broil Smart Kitchen WiFi Smokers

Nothing will spoil Thanksgiving dinner quite like a burnt turkey. (Okay, an undercooked turkey may have that beat.) Instead of spending the day neglecting friends and family to monitor your main course, a pair of new smart kitchen gadgets can do that for you.

Char-Broil just introduced the Simple Smoker and the Digital Electric Smoker. These smart kitchen gadgets take the guesswork out of preparing a big meal, by allowing you to monitor and control the smoking process from all of your favorite iOS and Android devices.

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Both of these mighty, smart kitchen machines can sync to your smart device over WiFi via the Char-Broil app. This app allows users to adjust meat and chamber temperatures, get info on the cook time and estimated done time, and even access a preprogrammed library of recipes. Users can even receive notifications at key cooking times, so you never have to peek in or worry about overcooking a meal.

The Digital Electric Smoker has 725 square inches of cooking space, with four racks and a four-cup capacity wood chip box that will smoke up to 6.5 hours at 225 degrees. The Simple Smoker can smoke at low temperatures or roast with high heat. Both models also come with an integrated meat probe. No oil is necessary!

“Although smoked food is universally loved, the complexity and time commitment of the smoking process has always been a barrier,” said Brendan Anderson, VP of marketing and product management for Char-Broil. “The two new connected Char-Broil SmartChef smokers make it easier than ever to make perfectly cooked smoked meals without being time consuming. We want to inspire a new generation of smoker consumers who want to monitor their smoker, anytime and anywhere on their connected devices.”

Char-Broil is selling the Simple Smoker and the Digital Electric Smoker now, priced at $299 and $399, respectively.

Original author: Rachel Cericola
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23
Nov

Black Friday 2015: 12 of the Best Deals on Electronics

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Best Deals on Black Friday 2015

Any day now, you’ll start to see news reports filled with people shunning family gatherings, curling up in sleeping bags, and doing special stretching exercises out in front of some big-box store. Another Black Friday is upon us, and all of those people are making preparations to find the best deals that the biggest shopping day of the year has to offer.

If you’re seeking a bargain, you should be making preparations of your own. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to leave the house to save less than $50. Are there decent discounts to be had this Black Friday? The answer is “yes,” but finding the biggest and the best deals can be super confusing and even a little scary.

Looking to build the best home automation system possible? Get expert guidance in this FREE special report, Smart Home Automation: Planning Guide for Every Budget.

So we here at Electronic House wanted to present you with the best deals—the really good ones. We combed through some of the circulars and other pre-Black Friday announcements to see which stores would be offering the best discounts. Check out our slideshow for 12 of the Best Deals on Electronics for Black Friday 2015. Happy hunting!

Original author: Rachel Cericola
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