Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 06:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, echo, amazon
Late last year Amazon announced the pending release of the Echo, a standalone device that would sit in your home or office and listen to voice commands and respond in a Siri-like or Google Now-like fashion. The first Amazon Echo units have shipped and I received one of them, opening it up and putting it to use for a few days this week.
At its core, the Echo is a collection of microphones and speakers, connected to the internet through Wi-Fi. Using the keyword of “Alexa” (or you can change it to “Amazon”) you stir Echo from its slumber to respond to requests for information, streaming music and lists or timers. Voice recognition is fantastic and the speed at which Echo responds to voice commands is impressive, moving along at a quicker pace than either Google’s or Apple’s options.
Users that have uploaded their music collection to Amazon’s cloud library will be able to access that music through the 2.5-in subwoofer and 2.0-in tweeter, both of which add up to surprisingly good audio performance for such a small device. Amazon Prime users will have access to the company’s collection of including streaming music as well, though that collection is notably smaller than something like Spotify. Music from Amazon’s digital music store is the one item you can purchase solely through voice commands.
Adding things to a shopping list, asking for fact-based information and telling lame jokes all happen efficiently. But the drawback to the Echo is its lack of knowledge about the rest of my life. The device has no ability to know about my next calendar appointment, my incoming emails, my estimated drive time to the work. Google does though, and I can’t help but think that a Google iteration of this exact item would be a better solution.
Check out the video below to see Amazon Echo in action and determine if this device deserves a spot in your home.
Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2014 - 12:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: kindle, holiday, amazon, 10 days of christmas
Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!
Since the original introduction of the Kindle e-reader years ago, the Amazon-built device has been considered the best digital reading appliance on the market. That continues to this day, even with the release of the iPad, the widespread sale of Android tablets and even Amazon's own color screen devices like the Kindle Fire. The eye comfort, extended battery life and low cost continue to drive the Kindle's dominance in this market.
Newly revised with a touch screen e-ink display, the lowest cost Kindle device can now be picked up for under $60 if you are cool with some ads showing up on the screen while the device is locked, or $80 if you aren't. E-ink technology provides the key benefits that Kindle has over standard tablets for reading: no backlight is required and thus your eyes have much less strain to focus on the words and the ability to maintain an image on the screen without constant power allows Kindle to last "for weeks" without a recharge.
If you or anyone you love is a reader, then you owe it to them to buy a Kindle.
- Amazon Kindle (with Special Offers) - Amazon.com ($59)
If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)
Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?
Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2014 - 06:49 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amazon, twitch, twitch.tv, google
Well this is a surprise (and I think a pleasant one). We were under the impression that YouTube, the video distribution arm of Google, was planning to purchase Twitch for $1 billion USD (pending regulatory approval). Today, it was made official: Amazon would be purchasing the video streaming platform. Twitch's CEO, Emmett Shear, published an open letter to their community with a message of thanks and a confirmation of Amazon's acquisition.
I guess "eSports" is ready for... Prime time.
Twitch did not mention their value, but don't worry -- Amazon published a press release. The retail and infrastructure giant will pay $970 million in cash. The entire deal is expected to finalize "in the second half of 2014". Since we are already in the second half of 2014, that means any time between now and New Year's (assuming "Calendar 2014").
On the copyright front, I believe this is a major step forward. We originally feared that YouTube, and its parent company, Google, would impose a similar system to their own upon Twitch, to appease copyright owners. This is a problem because YouTube's copyright complaint system is plagued with abuse. I hope that Amazon and Twitch will be more friendly to potential, unproven infringers than YouTube has demonstrated itself to be.
Lastly, Amazon has a big, existing business in web infrastructure and online content delivery. Whether you look from the angle of Prime Video or Amazon Web Services (EC2, CloudFront, etc.), the company can handle sending bits from one place to another. They seem to be a good fit on on that front.
If there was any doubt that Amazon wants to be a big part of the gaming industry, it is gone.
Subject: General Tech, Displays, Storage | June 19, 2014 - 03:56 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, 840 evo, 1TB, amazon, pb287q, asus, 4k
A couple of really nice Amazon picks hit my email box today and I thought they were worth posting for our readers as well.
First, and clearly the most exciting: the 1TB version of the Samsung 840 EVO SSD is now selling for just $399. That comes in at $0.399/GB, which is actually better than the cost per GB of the Crucial MX100 that launched this month. If you haven't picked up an SSD that is big enough to hold all your games, this is the perfect opportunity!
Also, after our review went up at the end of May, the 4K ASUS PB287Q 28-in monitor is finally up for sale on Amazon for $649 with a shipping date of July 1st. If you think you might be interested in the universe of gaming at 4K, now is a great time to jump in.
Thanks for supporting PC Perspective!
Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2014 - 07:37 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amazon, gold box, titanfall
If you haven't yet picked up Titanfall, the next multiplayer shooter from many of the creators of the Call of Duty series, today is your chance to do so at a discounted price. Amazon.com is pushing Titanfall with its daily Gold Box deal, which as the name suggests, is good for today only: Tuesday, April 22nd.
And hey, buying your Origin game key through the link above also happens to support PC Perspective!
If you are looking at building a low cost gaming PC to play games like Titanfall, we did write an article on that exact subject back in March.
Back in September we posted a review of the latest Intel NUC device (next unit of computing), a tiny 4-in x 4-in barebones computer developed and sold by Intel directly. As a couple of readers pointed out to me today, these units are being discounted by as much as $70 today over at Amazon.com
These units share a lot of the same feature set but they differ in the processor actually embedded in them. The Core i5-4250U comes with the more expensive model and that includes the faster Intel HD 5000 graphics configuration as well. This is the same processor found in the MacBook Air and many shipping Ultrabooks. For the lower priced model you get the Core i3-4010U that runs at a static 1.7 GHz clock speed. The 4250U scales up to 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost technology.
Both are based on the Haswell architecture and pack a lot of processing punch in a tiny little form factor.
Keeping in mind these are barebones units, you'll still have to add memory, storage in the form of an mSATA SSD, wireless modules (unless you want to use the Gigabit Ethernet) and a power cord. If you are looking for some suggestions from us on those components, check out the lists and pricing below.
|Core i5-4250U System||Core i3-4010U System|
|Barebones System||NUC D54250WYK - $329||NUC D34010WYK - $265|
|Memory||Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40||Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40|
|Storage||Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109||Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109|
|Wireless||Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32||Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32|
|Power Cord||6 ft 3-slot - $4||6 ft 3-slot - $4|
|Total (Amazon)||$514 on Amazon.com||$450 on Amazon.com|
If you are really on a budget and want to save some more cash, you could go with a smaller and less expensive mSATA SSD like the ADATA Premier Pro 32GB option for as low as $39.99 but you are going to be REALLY limited on local storage space.
Still, for $514 you are getting most of the component technology of a high end Ultrabook but in a desktop form factor, ready to be used as your primary PC or connected to your TV for a home theater setup. I built one for my dad for Christmas to play a flight simulator on and its still going strong and he's loving it!
Going to take Intel and Amazon up on these prices? Already have a unit of your own? If so, let me know in the comments what you currently, or plan to, use it for. Happy SFF building!
Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 01:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: streaming box, Netflix, media streaming, html, fire tv, Android, amazon
Amazon is making a play for the living room with its new Fire TV. The tiny box offers up mobile gaming along with movie and music streaming. Users will be able to tap into Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video collection in addition to various streaming video and music services from partners (see below). The box runs an operating system based on Android and HTML and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC which makes it about as powerful as today’s mid-range smartphones. At $99, the Fire TV is, ahem, a shot across the bow of devices from Apple, Roku, and Ouya.
The box measures 4.5" x 4.5" x 0.7" and comes bundled with a remote small remote control. Amazon provides hardware ports for HDMI, optical audio output, Ethernet, and USB. The remote has basic playback controls along with a microphone used for the voice search functionality. The Fire TV is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC with four Krait 300 CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of DDR2 memory at 533 MHz, and 8GB of internal flash memory. Networking includes wired Ethernet and a 802.11n + Bluetooth 4.0 radio. A large heatsink is used to passively cool all of the components.
The Fire TV is launching with a number of applications from partners. Users can stream video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vimeo, Vudu, Flixter, NBA, and YouTube among others. Music apps include Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Vevo. Finally, users can play back music and photos from their Amazon Cloud Drive storage. Amazon further offers up an app store for free and paid games. For example, users will be able to play Minecraft Pocket Edition, The Walking Dead, or Sev Zero using the included remote or optional $39.99 game pad.
For media junkies with children Amazon has added the FreeTime functionality from its Kindle tablets to the Fire TV. FreeTime restricts the device to kid-friendly programming and a new optional $2.99 per month FreeTime Unlimited subscription offers up a catalog of kid-friendly media for streaming. Other software features include X-Ray (in-media information, such as identifying an actor) and ASAP which attempts to determine what programs you are likely to stream next and begin caching it in the background. For example, it will begin to cache the next episode of a TV series so that when you go to watch the next episode you will not see any loading screens.
The FireTV is a compelling alternative to the Roku (latest being the $50 Streaming Stick) and Apple TV (so long as you are not already invested in the Apple / iTunes ecosystem) while also offering up mobile gaming on the living room TV in a more-polished way that the Ouya ever did. The $99 Fire TV is available from Amazon immediately.
I think the Fire TV has real potential to catch on with most consumers, though the real test for enthusiasts and readers of PC Per will be to see if the extra features and Amazon polish will be worth the price premium over cheaper options like the Chromecast and Raspberry Pi setups.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information and hands-on experience with Amazon's latest bit of hardware.
Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2014 - 02:59 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: prime instant video, prime, music streaming, amazon
Amazon has been exploring changes to its Prime subscription service, and while drone air delivery may be years out, a music streaming service is a realistic possibility. The company already offers video streaming via its Prime service in the form of a limited selection of its total Instant Video library that can be streamed for free with a yearly Prime subscription. on the music side of things specifically, Amazon already has a massive downloadable paid-for MP3 library with a browser-based (and a new PC application) digital locker and media player.
Amazon Cloud Player, a browser-based media player for purchased MP3 files.
In short, all of the pieces for a music streaming service are in place. Amazon has the e-commerce and programing experience, distribution medium, and gobs of cloud storage and processing power. Amazon simply needs the go-ahead from the labels in the form of licensing agreements which appear to be in progress according to Recode.
An Amazon-run music streaming service would face stiff competition from existing competitors such as Spotify, but if any company can come in and make it work at scale in a competitive market it is Amazon. Especially if Amazon is able to replicate music streaming and offline caching using mobile apps like Spotify offers without charging extra for the privilege. Music streaming seems to be a natural addition to its Prime Instant offering, and may just be the spoonful of sugar that makes a possible Prime subscription price increase easier to swallow.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 7, 2014 - 01:30 AM | Scott Michaud
There is actually a bit more to the title's pun than meets the eye. Amazon has just purchased Double Helix Games, the video game company which resulted from a merger between The Collective and Shiny Entertainment (or whatever was left of them). Their most recent title was Killer Instinct for the Xbox One.
The Amazon Cauldron gag, now extra Shiny.
Snarkiness aside, the obvious question is: "Amazon, why are you purchasing a game developer?"
While Amazon is stating that they are simply building innovative games for customers, the rumor mill believes it is more than that. Beyond having an Android-based marketplace, various sources are reporting that Amazon is expecting to develop a sub-$300 gaming console based on that platform. It certainly sounds reasonable. It would give Amazon's video and audio services a controlled set-top box as well as a portal to their Android Appstore. Beyond that, it would not require much extra research and development. It would be a sensible next step.
That said, Amazon has already been developing games for a little while. Their current portfolio could easily be classified as, "2D". The acquisition of Double Helix could simply be a play for games with a little more... depth. Yes, I should feel bad for that pun. No, I do not.
Finally, all 75 of the employees will keep their jobs, according to TechCrunch. Their paychecks will now have an Amazon logo on them, and that is about it. Don't you love it when you can report on a merger or acquisition and not feel bad about it?
Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2014 - 02:02 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amazon, steam, steam sale
In case you hadn't heard yet, Steam is holding their annual Holiday Sale on PC games. What you probably didn't know though is that Amazon has committed to matching prices with the Steam sale! Now, the Amazon sales will just give you Steam keys that you can use in Steam, so what's the point? Well it makes it easier to combine with other purchases you may be making for the holidays and it also happens to support PC Perspective at the same.
What's not to love!?
Here are some of the best sales we found on the Steam Holiday Sale through Amazon on the FINAL DAY!
- Tomb Raider - $7.99
- Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - $44.99
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown - $9.99
- Company of Heroes 2 - $13.59
- Payday 2 - $13.49
- Borderlands 2 - $10.19
- Saints Row IV - $19.99
- Elder Scrolls V Skyrim - $7.49
- Bioshock Infinite - $19.99
- Metro Last Light - $13.59
- Dishonored - $14.99
- Far Cry 3 - $14.99
- Batman Arkham Origins - $23.49
You can see the previous days' deals as well: