Rich Warren: Apple/Samsung showdown on the horizon

Rich Warren: Apple/Samsung showdown on the horizon

Samsung and Apple duked it out in the suddenly declining smartphone business. Soon they will square off in the home TV/video ring.

As Apple moves toward an Apple TV set as well as pushing its already available Apple TV set-top box, Samsung fortified itself by purchasing set-top box maker Boxee. Boxee competes with Roku, Apple TV and other boxes delivering Internet supplied programming to your TV.

Sony uses its PlayStation game platform as its Internet TV gateway. Boxee, unlike the competition, incorporated a broadcast TV antenna. Boxee notified users that recordings stored on its experimental cloud site will no longer be available. At the time of this writing, Samsung did not announce its intentions for Boxee.

And don't be surprised if another large TV manufacturer makes a bid for Roku.

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Sharp recently announced a 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) 70-inch TV for $8,000 that will elbow its way onto store shelves next month. This smart TV (which means it's capable of Internet connectivity and other conveniences) surprisingly also comes with a serious sound system. It includes a built-in 35-watt multi-speaker, dual-subwoofer sound system with separate midrange, tweeter and subwoofer drivers. Anyone spending $8K on a TV probably will use a high-end home theater system for audio.

For the rest of us, Seiki, a company I doubted last spring, continues pushing the 4K UHD price boundaries, to the chagrin of the major manufacturers. Seiki introduced a new 39-inch 4K UHD TV for $700. Its previous 50-inch model was twice that price.

Seiki promises a 65-inch model this fall. If you're concerned about buying a new brand with no track record, Seiki trumpets a one-year, no-nonsense replacement warranty. Sears might be the first retailer to display the new 39-inch model sometime this summer.

While you won't see much, if any, picture quality difference between standard HD and UHD on a 39-inch set, quadrupling the resolution for not a lot of extra money can't hurt.

If you're searching for movies to watch on your new 4K UHD TV, Sony obliges with its new $700 FMP-X1 4K media player that becomes available this month. It comes pre-loaded with 10 Sony Pictures movies, with many more titles available later in the year.

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The audio equivalent to UHD may be the trend to 9.2-channel surround sound. Yamaha recently introduced the Aventage RA-X3030 surround sound receiver for $2,200.

Unless your home includes a dedicated home theater, 9.2 channels sounds like overkill. Try to imagine sitting in a room surrounded by nine speakers plus two subwoofers. The sound certainly will thrill, but the decor will be a little cluttered. Surrounded by nine speakers would be like wearing an enormous pair of headphones.

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I have made half-joking references in this column over the years about sending audio directly to the brain, bypassing the ears. While that still may be a bit in the future, the Extreme Tech Website (http://www.extremetech.com) reports Rich Lee implanted magnetic headphones into his ears.

A magnetic coil masquerading as a necklace vibrates the aural implants. As Extreme Tech reports, it's not for the squeamish. Apparently it opens a world of possibilities. You can read the entire story, with photos, on Extreme Tech's site.

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Don't become too fond of your landline wired telephone. In what may be an historic case, Verizon opted not to rewire most of Fire Island, N.Y., after Hurricane Sandy washed away the lines. Instead, it wants former landline customers to accept cellphones designed to imitate land lines.

We wrote about the Verizon Voice Link equipment/service earlier this year. The New York state attorney general threatens to sue Verizon $100,000 a day for each customer it refuses to reconnect to a conventional landline, but Verizon claims it's not cost effective to restring all those wires and ultimately to maintain any conventional telephone wires.

Verizon and AT&T already asked the FCC to eliminate government regulation and allow them to exit the old-fashioned landline business.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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