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TheBolt

The official blog of Abt Electronics & Appliances

CES 2016 Recap: 4K Discs Are Here

January 11th, 2016

CES 2013 was the point when 4K staked its claim in the future of home entertainment. Concepts became reality, prices were reasonable, and enough brands showed off 4K TVs that it was clear the new format was viable. Adoption was sluggish at first, but as prices dropped further, there was almost no reason not to opt for an Ultra High Definition TV if you were in the market for a new set, except for one. The one source of doubt for those on the fence was a four word complaint: “there’s no 4k content.” That was a valid concern, as choices for actually watching 4K content were far and few between in 2014. But last year, we saw Netflix, Amazon and Vudu add 4K content, and players like the Roku 4 gave the ability to stream 4K for not too much dough. Still, we heard “there’s not enough 4K content.” Because regardless of the streaming options, the truth is that many of us still prefer our content served up in physical format. We can own it, lend it to a friend, put the box on the shelf, and play it whenever and wherever we want with no worry about internet speed or video buffering or compression artifacts. Well, that complaint can be put to rest, because the mythical 4K Blu-ray player is finally here.

At this year’s CES, we scoped out a pair of devices that will play the new 4k disc format, which is officially called “Ultra-HD Blu-Ray.”

 

 

Panasonic, who had shown off a prototype UHD Blu-ray player at last year’s CES, officially debuted their new model this year. The Panasonic DMP-UB900 is built around a new 4K processing engine, dubbed the “4K High-Precision Chroma Processor,” which promises to provide stunning picture quality not just from a 4K source, but also when upscaling 2K content. Audio should be killer too; it’s THX-Certified with a 7.1-channel analog audio output and a twin-HDMI system that isolates audio and video info to preserve quality of each signal. It will be networked connected so users can stream all manner of multimedia, including UHD videos and high-resolution Audio. Pricing and availability are still pending.

ultra-hd-blu-ray-titles

Over 100 Ultra HD Blu-Ray titles will be available by year’s end.

4K fans who are ready to buy might be more interested in the Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player. With a ship date planned for March of this year, Samsung’s 4K player will cost just $399.99, and is already available to preorder. Like the Panasonic, the Samsung UBD-K8500 will play 4K HDR content and also upscale non-4k video. Smart functions will let viewers stream 4K from their favorite service. 7.1 channel Dolby True HD output means truly lossless sounds to accompany every blockbuster movie you watch.

 

There were other UHD Blu-Ray players at the show that we didn’t get to see, like the upcoming Philips BDP7501.  And it’s likely we’ll hear announcements from the other major A/V brands within months. With the presence of multiple Ultra HD Blu-ray players available soon, plus the promise of over 100 major motion pictures released in the format by year’s end, it’s clear that 4K is here to stay.

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Watch Our CES Videos and Win!

January 8th, 2016

The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show has wrapped up for the year, but we’re not done yet! Stick with us all weekend and into next week as we continue to digest and recap all of the innovative things we’ve seen this week. And if you haven’t been watching the Abt CES videos, you should start! Look for the dancing hologram of our intrepid floor reporter, Josh, for a chance to win one of five $100 gift cards to Abt.

You can find all of our videos in the Abt CES YouTube Playlist, and what you’ll want to look for is this :

abt-ces-josh-dancing-2

When you do find him (PS, that example is a major hint as to one of the videos), follow the instructions here and you could win a $100 gift card to Abt!

josh-hologram-contest

 

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CES 2016: FitBit Blaze Fitness Watch

January 8th, 2016

In the world of fitness, FitBit is recognized as one of the most popular fitness tracking devices out there. This week at CES, the company unveiled its brand new FitBit Blaze – their second fitness watch to date. The Blaze is much different from what we are used to seeing from the brand and this year Fitbit has managed to deliver a Smartwatch that can compete in not only tech, but style as well.

Close-up of the sleek FitBit Blaze in a stainless steel band.

Close-up of the sleek FitBit Blaze in a stainless steel band.

Considering that the company occupies about 88% of the total health and fitness wearable market, bringing style to their technology is something many consumers’ have been waiting for. The fitness watch features a colorful touchscreen display and a collection of stylish leather and stainless steel band accessories to choose from. You can wear a casual band for working out and easily swap it out for a fancier choice when going out for the night.

Closer look at the FitBit display at CES of the different bands you can use to personalize the Blaze Fitness Watch.

FitBit display at CES.

The main purpose of the FitBit Blaze is still heavily focused on monitoring your fitness. It includes features such as PurePulse™Heart Rate monitoring, Connected GPS tracking, and On-Screen Workouts. Unfortunately, it does not come with built-in GPS to track your fitness on its own. However, you are able to tether it to your Smartphone and bring your mobile device along for a run or bike ride to still track your route. FitBit has also included On-Screen Workouts, a newer feature that allows you to choose from three popular workout plans accessible directly from your wrist. But perhaps the biggest difference that sets the FitBit apart from all the other fitness trackers is its SmartTrack feature. SmartTrack knows exactly what type of exercise you’re doing – without you having to touch a button. Whether you are hiking or bike riding, the built-in sensors detect your current workout and automatically log your movements for tracking. This applies to their sleep monitoring as well; the FitBit Blaze knows when you’re asleep based on your movements, so you don’t have to bother with simple tasks such as remembering to switch it into sleep-mode.

Last but not least, we absolutely cannot forget to mention that the Blaze fitness watch can also send notifications from your Smartphone to the watch. You are able to answer (or reject) phone calls, check out incoming text messages and receive calendar alerts, which is partially what allows it to hold a Smartwatch title!

All in all, the FitBit Blaze is a huge step-up for the brand in the wearable tech category. Not to mention, its thin and sleek design will surely appeal to fashionable health “techies” everywhere. Currently it’s only available to pre-order for the retail price of $199.95, with an expected arrival date in March of this year.

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CES 2016: Nikon Wows With Trio of New Cams

January 8th, 2016

While CES is the show for consumer electronics brands to release new product models, camera companies usually make their big announcements at conventions specific to the photographic industry, like Photokina. That didn’t keep Nikon from surprising photographers around the world with the release of three impressive new cameras that each offer some killer features to different categories of photographers.

First up was the new flagship professional DSLR, the Nikon D5. Rocking an all-new 20.8-megapixel full-frame sensor with an ISO range up to 3,280,000 (yes, ISO 3 Million) and capable of shooting 4K UHD video, the D5 is the Nikon’s most versatile pro DSLR ever. Its redesigned autofocus system features 153 focus points (with 99 being cross-type) and a dedicated processor, combined with high-speed modes of 12 fps in full autofocus or 14fps in manual focus mode, making the D5 a dream camera for sports and wildlife photographers.

nikon d5 cross section

For those looking for the speed and image quality of the D5 in a body that’s a little less bulky (and expensive), Nikon also released the D5oo, which came as a surprise to photographers everywhere who have been waiting for this mythical pro-level flagship DX DSLR. It’s been over six years since the release of the Nikon D300s, and most users had given up on ever seeing a replacement from Nikon. What’s even more surprising than the release of the camera is just how powerful a camera it appears to be. The Nikon D500 features the same autofocus system as the Nikon D5, giving a DX body the same pro-level focus abilities as the flagship FX DSLR for the first time ever. The D500 also features a 20.9-megapixel DX sensor with a native 100-51,200 ISO range, the ability to capture up to 30 minutes of 4K UHD video, and a continuous shooting speed of 10fps. All this juicy tech is wrapped in a rugged, weather-sealed body with a tilt-out, 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD. Oh, and there’s also built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC connectivity, and Nikon’s new proprietary always-connected wireless protocol. In short, this is perhaps the most feature-packed DSLR to come out in quite some time, and we think it’s got a shot at being 2016’s best camera.

 

nikon d500 body

A look at the internal construction of the Nikon D500.

 

Finally, for the adventurous shooters who might not want to lug around a heavy, expensive DSLR on their escapades, Nikon released a very cool video camera that will give the GoPro a run for its money. Dubbed the Nikon KeyMission 360, this rugged action camera features shockproof construction, is waterproof to 100 feet, and sports a pair of opposing fisheye lenses to capture a full 360° view of its surroundings. An integrated mounting system and series of accessories, along with the ability to capture 4K UHD video footage and still photos, give all the options you’ll ever need when recording your extreme adventures.

 

In a time when digital camera sales are at risk because of the growing number and quality of smartphone cameras, it’s nice to see some true innovations being put out in the photographic world. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on all of Nikon’s new offerings.

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CES 2016: The Return of the Turntable

January 8th, 2016

They say that everything old is new again, and it’s no secret that vinyl has been mounting a steady comeback over the last decade. But we were still surprised to see the presence that it commanded at CES 2016, with multiple manufacturers showing off new turntable models. What’s even more impressive is that these new releases are not just cheap trinkets from unknown companies hoping to capitalize on a craze. Two of the new turntables are from a pair of the biggest names in the business.

Along with a slew of new audio and video products, Sony touted a sleek, simple turntable with a trick up its sleeve. The Sony PS-HX500 is a well-constructed turntable that harkens back to the heydays of vinyl. A robust build—featuring a thick MDF cabinet with an insulated structure, topped by an aluminum platter covered by a thick rubber mat, and spun by a stable belt drive system—promises the ultimate in sound quality from your record collection. But, in true Sony fashion, the PS-HX500 turntable is designed to please the digital crowd, too. An integrated AD converter rips your tracks and converts them to High-Resolution audio (DSD format at up to 5.6MHz or WAV at up to 192Khz 24-bit) so you can listen on the go, getting all the nuances of an analog recording on your portable Sony Hi-Res music players.

sony ps hx 500

The new Sony PS-HX500 turntable with hi-res digital recording.

 

Panasonic also announced the re-release of one of its most beloved products, the legendary Technics SL-1200 turntable. The Technics 1200 was a long-time favorite among both vinyl purists and DJs until it was discontinued in 2010. This re-issue takes the SL-1200 and improves it, putting a larger focus on audio fidelity (the originals were more suited to DJ scratching than pure sound quality) with a new motor that’s less prone to vibration, as well as a new “high-dampening tonearm.” Unlike the Sony, the new Technics SL-1200 does not have any digital output options. This one’s about loving vinyl in its purest state.

 

 

technics sl-1200

Panasonic’s revamped Technics SL-1200 turntable.

 

We also scoped out some new products from ION Audio, the company who may have helped advance vinyl’s comeback by bringing to market the original USB-connected turntable. The ION Audio Air LP took the analong-digital melding one step further by adding wireless streaming into the turntable. Users can throw their favorite record on the platter and stream music to any Bluetooth-enabled speaker, receiver, or headphones. We found out a little bit about the ION Audio Air LP, as well as their entire line of turntables, which run the gamut of features from integrated LED light shows to built-in speakers.

 

 

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CES 2016: Jaybird’s New X3 and Freedom Wireless Headphones

January 7th, 2016

We’re big fans of Jaybird wireless headphones (they even provided the soundtrack for some of our Ragnar Relay runners), which put out great sound without the hassle of bouncy, tangly wires interfering with your workout. So we were especially stoked to see what advancements Jaybird had in store with their CES announcements.

jaybird x3 freedom wireless headphones

We stopped by their booth to get the low-down on two new products that will be available this spring. The new Jaybird X3 wireless headphones build upon the very popular Jaybird X2, offering a clever equalizer app that lets users embed custom profiles in their earbuds. This option will be a huge boon to anyone who is particular about how their music sounds and uses multiple devices, since the EQ profile goes where the headphones do. We also got a look at the new Jaybird Freedom headphones, whose tiny earbuds are so unobtrusive that a user can wear them under a tight football or skateboard helmet while still enjoying high-quality audio.

jaybird freedom earbuds

The Jaybird Freedom earbuds are seriously small.

Watch the video for a closer look at both of these exciting new offerings from Jaybird, and expect to see them on store shelves by May.

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CES 2016: D3O Impact Protection

January 7th, 2016

In a convention full of gadgets and gizmos, we stopped by D3O‘s booth to check out their product, which—in its natural state—has a decidedly more organic look than the tech it’s designed to protect. Used in everything from smartphone cases to motorcycle jackets, the D3O material is what’s known as a non-Newtonian fluid; sometimes its properties resemble those of a liquid, sometimes it behaves more like a solid. This unique trait lends itself well to products that benefit from need to sometimes be flexible, and sometimes rigid. At their booth, D3O had a vat full of raw material:

And just in case their reps were pulling some sort of illusionist trickery on us, we decided to sacrifice Josh’s hand to find out.

Here’s a bit of info on how D3O works:

how d3o works

We’re looking forward to seeing the D3O material integrated into more products in the future. Have you had any experience with a product that uses D3O? We’d love to hear how you liked it!

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CES 2016: 3D Printing Continues to Evolve

January 7th, 2016

One of the great things about attending CES annually is not just seeing wild conceptual products, but getting to see how many of those products get refined from year to year, growing from concepts to readily-available consumer goods. An industry where that’s been most visible is 3D Printing. This year, we didn’t see anything as mind-blowing as the debut of the first affordable consumer-level 3D-printer. Instead, we got a look at the iterative advancements being made in the industry: more choices for consumers, more materials being used commercially, and advancements in the process that make 3D printing a quicker, more reliable option.

Further countering the criticism that 3D printers are only good for creating fragile trinkets, industry-leader 3D Systems unveiled a flagship commercial printer, the ProX DMP 320. This high-precision metal printer allows for not only rapid prototyping, but the creation of finished metal parts that can be used in critical mechanical systems.

The ProX is capable of some pretty impressive metalwork:

IMG_0234 Read the rest of this entry »

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CES 2016: ASUS Chromebook C202

January 7th, 2016

ASUS just designed a new laptop that can save classrooms money and time. Many schools provide laptops for students and sometimes when they are returned at the end of the year, they’re in pretty bad shape. Luckily at CES 2016, ASUS showed us how classrooms and students can benefit from the durable design of the Chromebook C202. The Chromebook C202 is designed to prevent damage from drops and spills. To prevent major damage from being dropped, the edges of the laptop are rubberized. Also, the laptop has a comfortable keyboard that students can type on that is spill proof. The spill proof keyboard is meant to protect the bottom layer from light spills. The spill proof feature should work properly so your laptop doesn’t get fried.

The modular design of the Chromebook C202 disassembled.

The modular design of the Chromebook C202 disassembled.

Worst case scenario, if the laptop does get damaged, it isn’t the end of the world. The design of the laptop makes repairs easier by having the capability of being disassembled in a maximum of 4 steps. The modular design of the laptop makes it easy to swap out damaged parts with new ones. Repairs will be easier, that means less downtime and more learning. The Chromebook C202 and other Chromebook models are designed to access your Google account and for basic school work. The Chromebook C202 will have models with 2 GB and 4 GB of RAM and will be available in a few months!

 


Keep an eye out for the Chromebook C202 to hit the stores or you can click here to check out our selection of ASUS laptops.

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CES 2016: HYDRAO Smart Shower Head

January 7th, 2016

When it comes to taking a shower, many of us do not realize how much water we actually consume on a daily basis. A simple ten minute shower can eat up to 50 gallons of water, which according to the AWE (Alliance for Water Efficiency) is considered to be “wasteful”.

Prototype of the HYDRAO Smart Shower at CES 2016.

Prototype of the HYDRAO Smart Shower at CES 2016.

At CES 2016, we’ve discovered a nifty tool created to track water usage in order to help conserve it and in turn reduce our aquatic footprint. The HYDRAO Smart Shower Head (developed by French firm Start & Blue) is designed with an array of built-in LED lights, each of which changes color based on the amount of water you are consuming during each session. The HYDRAO system connects to a special app, available for iOS and Android that allows you to set three alert intervals. For example, you can set it to 5 gallons, 10 gallons, and 15 gallons (start at a point where you are comfortable), and the HYDRAO will light up each time you pass a set amount with the color you chose. Once the final color continues to flash, this is your cue to hop out!

The special HYDRAO app let's you choose the amount of water and LED light color you would like to be notified at for your three separate intervals.

The featured app helps track your progress.

The HYDRAO Smart Shower Head fits any standard shower head and uses no batteries, making it eco-friendly. Instead, a small turbine inside the shower head uses the water flowing through which creates enough energy to power the lights and the need for Bluetooth connection. The app allows you to set profiles for different users, so that the whole family can compare and encourage each other to change their water-usage habits. The HYDRAO Smart Shower can help save you money in the long-run, which is always an added bonus.

As of right now, the HYDRAO Smart Shower Head is only available to pre-order for $99 here and should be available in the US around September 2016.

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