There have been ups and downs in the Flash 10.1 betas and release candidates. My personal favorites are at the beginning of each which are Beta 1 and RC 1. Both of these seemed to be the most stable on the Revo and had great flash playback. Just after about a month of the first RC Adobe is hard at work fixing bugs and is already up to the 4th RC. I went with a different approach this time with this release and updated my Nvidia ION drivers to the latest Beta. I am not usually a fan of updating my drivers, as my general belief is if they aren't broke don't try to fix them. I made a full Image backup of my machine just incase the drivers messed up anything.
After uninstalling both my drivers and flash 10.1 RC1 I rebooted and continued on with installing the latest of each. After another restart I was ready to go. I first loaded up the brand new Hulu and playback was fantastic at 480p full screen. I then headed over to YouTbe and loaded the Iron Man 2 trailer at full 1080p in fullscreen mode. I monitored the CPU usage and found that it was only using 30 to 40% of total CPU usage which was pretty impressive. Playback was beautiful and I would say the best it has been.
I next started up Hulu Desktop and just like always it had absolutely great playback. This was never really a problem so I didn't do too much testing. With this great success I decided to test out Boxee for fun even though I knew it wouldn't work. Sure enough it didn't however this time it really looked like it wanted to play back flash content correctly, but every video was cut in half and I couldn't ever get it to work smoothly. The last test which is a bit tricky is InternetTV inside of WMC. I loaded up an episode of Undercover boss and at first it was absolutely choppy. This was a bit disappointing, but after about a minute or 2 everything seemed to smooth out. I am not sure if it was Flash or just InternetTV messing up so I decided to try out an episode of NCIS which is a pretty decent show. The intro Sprint ad played just fine which gave me better hopes for the show, and to my surprise it was actually pretty smooth. not the absolute best, but I thought it was reasonably watchable.
One last thing I decided to test out was to make sure the latest Nvidia drivers didn't break my live tv or any other content inside of WMC. Success all around as everything played just fine! So go ahead and update your drivers and Flash 10.1! You will find the links in the post below this one. Enjoy and leave your feedback.
Last week Adobe updated Flash 10.1 RC to RC2. On the forums people seem to have good success with the latest release, however I have a different story to tell. People have been reporting Boxee working somewhat properly with RC2, however still for me all flash video content from NBC, Hulu, Fox, and others seems to still be completely broken. Some of the applications such as MLB.tv seem to work just fine according to users in the forums. This part doesn't bother me too much since Boxee has never really worked. I decided to test InternetTV inside of Windows Media Center. I started up the latest Undercover Boss and to my surprise it was extremely choppy including the advertisements. I waited about 10 minutes to see if this was a buffer issue and then restarted the video and it was still completely choppy and unwatchable. At this point I uninstalled RC2 and installed the first RC, and attempted to watch the same episode again. Just like my last review the video was completely watchable. While not perfect, it was pretty smooth and not choppy at all. At this point I decided not to go back to RC2 and my recommendation is to stick with Beta 1, Beta 3 or RC 1. Let me know what you guys think.
*One note is that during the review I did have 1 recording going on. During the second half when I was watching InternetTV with the first RC a second recording started and the video became choppy, however with 1 recording it was just fine.
One thing that I do not like about my Revo is when I have to use my mouse and keyboard from the couch. I have a standard 2.4 Ghz Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse combo, which works great, however on the couch the mouse is practically useless. Hillcrest Labs has basically came up with a replacement for the mouse called The Loop Pointer. It basically works with an RF sensor just like most wireless keyboards and mice. You move the Loop Pointer in the direction you want the mouse to move and it moves and works great. It features multiple buttons on top of the remote which are your basic left and right mouse click, and also features a scroll click wheel which is really nice to have when using the Kylo browser. There is also a hide button that when pressed till temporarily turn off the Loop Pointer until it is pressed again locking the mouse at its current position. This is really nice to have when you are watching videos and don't want to worry about the mouse moving.
The Loop Pointer runs on 2 AA batteries which to me is a bit disappointing as I would have liked to see a built in rechargeable battery, but Hillcrest Labs has the battery life rated at 80 hours which is pretty impressive. The device is extremely light and feels great when holding it. Even when using it for a prolonged period of time it didn't hurt my wrist at all which was great.
To test the usability of the Loop Pointer I let my girlfriend test it out and she gave it a thumbs up. She said she probably wouldn't use it all the time, however she much preferred it over using the wireless mouse. Overall I think that the Loop Pointer is the ultimate mouse replace for a HTPC setup. The only real downfall to the device is its price point which is $100. When compared to a Wiimote which is $40 and a Harmony remote which averages around $100, it is tough to recommend the Loop Pointer at this price point if you already had a wireless mouse and keyboard. If the Loop Pointer was to drop down in price a bit or if you really hate your wireless mouse then absolutely pick up a Loop Pointer as you will not be disappointed.
*EDIT: There is an error in my assumption of the technology. Hillcrest has informed me that it is in fact RF technology, NOT IR. This allows your HTPC to be behind cabinets, windows, etc and the Loop Pointer will still work up to 30 feet.
The Loop Pointer is currently available on Amazon for $100
For a little bit more in depth overview of the device I have a nice Video Review for you guys enjoy:
*Note: The Loop Pointer was sent to me from Hillcrest Labs (they did not ask me to review it), and after using it and writing this review I have decided to keep it.
If you have struggled with browsers on your nice big 1080p television say goodbye to all of your troubles with the brand new Kylo browser made specifically for HTPCs, or so the developers would like you to believe. I will say that overall Kylo is one of the more user friendly and easy to use browsers out on the market today. Developer Hillcrest Labs has put a lot of thought and effort into crafting the Kylo browser around use on a HTPC. They have big buttons, a built in on screen keyboard, and built in zoom feature. In theory all of these thing should make a perfect browser for a HTPC, but after some issues I have a few issues with the browser.
So let's first talk about all the good things about the Kylo browser. It is built off of Mozilla, which if Firefox has been any indication is a solid code base to work off of. The best thing about this browser to me is the ease to zoom in and out with ease. I am a big Opera browser user which made it easy to zoom in and out, but in Kylo it is right in your nav bar and allows you to have an extremely large range of zoom. This is a great feature as usually websites are tiny on a nice big television. Some other features that I really enjoyed was the on screen keyboard which is great if you don't have a keyboard sitting around. This allows you to basically use the browser with just a mouse (or Loop Pointer). Lastly the browser is pretty easy on the eyes as it is a nice darker gray which is easy to look at for a long amount of time.
There are some nice things about Kylo but just aren't perfect. One cool feature is their "Kylo Connect" website. It is presented as a big button on the browser but once selected take you to an easy to navigate with large buttons of just about every single site with videos in it. Selecting one will take you directly the the "full episode" shortcut page, or a page that reduces the button clicks to get to the good stuff. However this page isn't built into the browser itself, which means every time you launch it it has to load all the icons and overall is a bit slow on animations. Talking about speed I can definitely say this isn't the fastest browser I have used. Pages load a bit slow compared to Chrome and at times I got a bit upset that it wasn't loading faster. Lastly you get a nice area for bookmarks, but there is no speed dial feature like your standard browser, which is almost an essential for a HTPC browser.
I already mentioned the speed of the browser, which wasn't horrible but wasn't great so I wont get into it again. One thing I really didn't like and isn't really Kylo's fault is that Hulu has completely blocked the browser. I would most likely use Hulu Desktop, but it would be nice to have an in browser option. I also didn't enjoy how tabs worked. Every time you go to a new site via bookmarks, Kylo Connect, or URL entry bar, all of your other pages are simply hidden from you even though you really wanted to open the page in the same window. Kylo requires you to select the current tabs area and manually close any tab you want. This is just confusing for no good reason. There is also no real way to manage plugins at all inside the browser (Flash 10.1 works just fine though).
I would absolutely recommend giving the Kylo browser a try as I think it is one of the best HTPC browsers out there. There is a lot of room to improve, but the browser just came out and there are enough features here to outweigh the cons. If you can get over some speed issues I think you will enjoy this browser if you are trying to browse the web from the couch.
Kylo is available for free at http://www.kylo.tv