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Google-powered TVs will let you disable smart features altogether
by João Carrasqueira
Image credit: 9to5Google Google introduced a brand-new Google TV experience last year with the new Chromecast with Google TV, and it's been expanding it to other devices since then. Some TV manufacturers, such as TCL, have also vowed to launch TVs powered by Google's new experience, but as it turns out, you might not have to use Google TV if you end up buying one of these TVs.
As spotted by 9to5Google, and confirmed by Google, it looks like TV sets that ship with Google TV as the built-in software experience will allow users to disable smart features completely. During the setup process, users can choose to configure the device as a basic TV, which means it will only enable the input ports such as HDMI, and live TV, should users plug in an antenna directly to it. Of course, you can also set it up as a standard Google TV with access to the Play Store and its apps and streaming services, even after you've set it up as a basic TV.
There are a few situations where it might be useful to set up a basic TV. Users without a stable internet connection might not have any need for a smart TV, users may just be looking for something that lets them use their cable service, or they might just not want to share their personal data with Google. Another scenario pointed out by 9to5Google is that the hardware that powers smart TV experiences can become outdated more quickly than the TV itself. This way, users can set up a set-top box a few years down the line and disable the smart features built into the TV itself. Roku also offers a similar experience, as Roku-powered TVs can be set up to be used without an internet connection.
This isn't a feature that's going to be rolled out via a software update, since it probably wouldn't make much sense for a set-top box or dongle to have its smart features disabled instead of just removing it from the TV. This will simply be a part of the setup experience in TVs powered by Google TV, such as the ones TCL announced last month.
LG is now licensing its webOS smart TV platform to other brands
by João Carrasqueira
LG wants other TV manufacturers to begin using its webOS platform for their smart TVs. The South Korean company today announced that it has begun licensing the software experience to other TV manufacturers in an attempt to expand its presence in the market.
With a webOS license, TV manufacturers will get access to the same user experience and interface as LG's TVs, in addition to features like voice search, voice control, and AI algorithms, as well as all the apps and content that are available on webOS. Some TVs can also have a Magic Motion remote controller.
Park Hyong-sei, president of the LG Home Entertainment Company, commented on the announcement:
As pointed out by LG, the smart TV market is known for companies using proprietary software to power the experience on their own TVs, so the licensing of webOS could help more brands offer a recognizable user interface across the board. Of course, platforms like Android TV already exist, so LG isn't the first to try to bring uniformity to the ecosystem. The real goal is to have as many people as possible using its platform.
LG says it already has over 20 TV manufacturers committed to the webOS partnership, including brands such as RCA, Konka, and Ayonz, so we're likely to start seeing more TVs ship with webOS installed in the future.
Razer's Kiyo Pro webcam has a better sensor and removes the ring light
by João Carrasqueira
It's been over three years since Razer introduced the Kiyo webcam, which promised to be more adequate for streamers thanks to its built-in ring light. One could argue the Kiyo was overdue for a refresh, and today, Razer introduced the Kiyo Pro with a handful of improvements over the original, as well as some apparent cost-cutting measures.
The Kiyo Pro substitutes the ring light with a significantly improved Type 1/2.8 CMOS sensor, backed by a technology called STARVIS. The STARVIS module is actually made by Sony, and it's designed for use in surveillance cameras, using back-illuminated pixel technology to improve image quality in scenarios with very little light available. Razer says the Kiyo Pro should provide a bright and clear image in a wide range of lighting scenarios, which is also helped by a built-in light sensor that adapts the image to different conditions.
The Kiyo Pro also supports uncompressed 60 frames per second at 1080p, or you can opt for enabling HDR support by recording at 30 frames per second if you're in a scenario with uneven lighting. It uses a 5Gbps USB 3.0 interface to support the full bandwidth of the video feed. The camera also has a field of view up to 103°, though you can adjust it to just 90° or 80°.
The Kiyo Pro comes with an L-shaped mount that can be used to attach to a monitor or stand the webcam on a desk. It's also compatible with tripod mounts if you happen to have one already.
The Razer Kiyo Pro is available from Razer's website starting today, and it costs $199.99/€209.99, double the price of the original Kiyo. That's a steep increase considering it also removes the ring light around the webcam, but the improvements to the sensor may be worth it, especially as videoconferencing and virtual meetings have become much more relevant over the past year.
LG announces the rollout of its new TV line-up
by Paul Hill
LG has announced the global launch of its 2021 TVs that includes OLED, QNED Mini LED and NanoCell screens. The new range will appeal to customers with different tastes thanks to the range of screen sizes available, the sets begin at 43-inches and go up to a huge 88-inches.
In the OLED category, LG has the Z1, G1, C1, B1, and A1 series. The A1 and B1 series are the most price-competitive while the C1 range features the most screen size options starting at 48-inches going up to 83-inches. The TVs in the G1 series feature the company’s new OLED evo technology that provides better luminosity for heightened brightness and “punchy images”.
LG’s QNED Mini LED TVs are available in 8K (models QNED99, QNED95) and 4K (models QNED90, QNED85). They all utilise Quantum Dot NanoCell technology developed by the Korean firm to make the picture quality that much better; they provide deeper blacks and more vibrant colours.
Finally, the company is introducing new NanoCell 8K (NANO99, NANO95) and 4K (NANO90, NANO85, NANO80, NANO77, NANO75) TVs. As the name suggests, all of these devices feature LG’s NanoCell display technology that uses nano-particles to remove colour impurities resulting in more life-like images.
These premium TVs are powered by webOS 6.0 which the firm announced in January. This year’s TVs also come with the latest α (Alpha) 9 Gen 4 AI that improves deep learning and improves upscaling performance. If you want to play games on the new TVs, LG includes a feature called Game Optimizer that automatically applies the best picture settings depending on the game you’re playing.
To improve your experience connecting the TVs up to your sound system, every model supports the HDMI 2.1 feature enhanced audio return channel (eARC). The TVs also support automatic low latency mode (ALLM), which provides a seamless gaming experience and lag-free viewing.
If you’re thinking about picking up one of the new TVs be on the lookout for them at local retailers as they will each have separate launch dates but expect sales to begin during the first quarter of the year.
HBO Max expands to Latin America in June, coming to Europe later this year
by João Carrasqueira
WarnerMedia's latest streaming service, HBO Max, is expanding to more territories later this year. The service launched last year in the United States, and the company announced today that it will be making its debut in other countries this June, starting with 39 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Just like what happened in the U.S., customers that are currently using HBO Go with direct billing or billing through eligible partners will automatically be able to use HBO Max when it's available, with HBO Go eventually being phased out. There will be a new app for HBO Max, offering a similar experience to what users in the U.S. have and running on the same technology stack.
HBO Max includes content from a multitude of WarnerMedia brands, including HBO, Warner Bros., New Line, Cartoon Network, and more. Original exclusive content, produced under the Max Originals brand, is also available, including locally-produced titles. More details about the offerings on HBO Max in these new markets will be unveiled in the coming months.
In addition to launching in Latin America, HBO Max is also coming to markets in Europe. The existing HBO services in markets such as the Nordics, Central Europe, Spain, and Portugal will be upgraded later in the year, though there's no specific date planned yet.