I've grown tired of hooking up the laptop to the HDTV whenever I want to watch anything from the computer. The remote never cuts it and even though I use my Sony PlayStation 3 for a lot of my viewing, there's some times when having a box designed from the ground up around being a streaming media player would be preferable. This is where the Brite-View CinemaTube has entered into my life and changed my media sharing HDTV watching experience.
Initial ThoughtsBrite-View has a line of plug and play media players to help you share your media from your PC to your TV. I recently received a brite-View CinemaTube 1080P HD and have been using it non-stop to stream anything under the sun such as Revision3.com's HD MP4s and other media that I have stored on my PC and Mac. I connected the CinemaTube to my network via a cat5 cable and other than some minor configuration changes on my Windows machine, everything worked perfectly right out of the box. I was able to stream with the UPnP support as well as by navigating through my shared folders. If you have a Mac, the process is seamless and if you're running XP or Vista you should be up in no time at all. Since I'm running Windows 7, there were some minor configuration changes. However, this is all outlined in good detail by brite-View online. I'm also sure they'll issue a software patch to the device to avoid this work-around entirely. The unit itself is extremely small, light weight and easy to setup. Navigating through the menus with the remote is simple and straightforward.
UI and Remote ControlThe CinemaTube's UI is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. Two areas of improvement for the UI would be in presentation and organization. If you're the type that has all their media stored in one unorganized folder, this system doesn't have a good way for you to quickly scan through and pick out the one item you want. It just gives you a list of the files and you have to scroll through until you find the one you want. It does have a handy preview feature, but I found that to actually slow me down occasionally. That would be useful when looking through old TV episodes or MP3s, but other than that it'll probably be disabled on my device. The good news is that the UI could be updated with a new firmware release that you can download direct to the device via it's update feature. It's not horrible, but it does have room for improvement.
However, the remote for the device is like gold. It makes interacting with the device simple and elegant. It's extremely responsive and even though the UI's presentation is lacking, the remote helps to cover up those imperfections.
FeaturesWhat the CinemaTube lacks in UI, it makes up for in features. Pick a video or audio format and it's almost guaranteed to be supported. Thanks to two USB ports, you can also use media off USB memory sticks or even USB hard drives. The device can work by accessing media over USB, your networks shared drives or via the UPnP MediaServer DCP. I'm looking forward to using an external hard-drive as the main source of content for the CinemaTube soon.
Playing movies direct from ISO files was probably my favorite feature of having this device. If you have your DVD collection backed up to your computer or a USB hard-drive, you can use the CinemaTube BV-5005HD to navigate through the DVD menu just as if you had picked it off of your DVD shelf and put it in your DVD player. Everything was snappy and the remote is full featured so it never felt like I was using a computer. It felt just like using a DVD player.
One thing to note about the feature set is that while you can play videos from YouTube over the device, it's really reliant on streaming from a PC with proper software installed -- so honestly, it's probably not something you'll even bother with doing. I could care less about streaming from YouTube. I can always turn on the PS3, my iPhone or look on the laptop for that. It's not a big deal to have YouTube on the big screen for me.
OverallOverall, I really love this device. It's tough to say it's a necessary addition to all the other tech under your HDTV, but it's also not nearly as expensive as some of the other options available. It would have been nice for the package to include wireless build in and to come with an HDMI cable, but it's not something I really expected at this price either. At the time of writing this, the device was on sale for $104.99 at http://www.brite-view.com/cinematube.php. I'm thrilled it has HDMI, Composite, Component, S/PDIF, LAN, and 2 USB Ports. There's a lot of competition for devices like this, but I felt that this product works amazingly well and I'd definitely recommend picking one up. One hundred bucks will let you be a couch potato even more efficiently.
When you're standing in the store or searching online for a new blender, one company hopes you'll ask yourself "will it blend?". Their web video series has proven that their blenders have the strength to blend just about anything. Whether or not you really want to blend your iPhone, golf balls or glow sticks, it's nice to know that in a pinch you could... Right? Of course!
The Blendtec Total Blender and company serves a group of people that don't think the average blender sold on Wal-Mart's shelves will do. Instead, they created a blender with plenty of power and sharp blades to cut through just about anything they throw at it. I don't own one of these blenders and I don't have any experience with them, but they've got me convinced that they're probably the best blenders around. In fact, I've never seen an ad on TV for one or one on a store shelf, but Blendtec is a brand that stuck for me several years ago entirely becaused of their web-based marketing efforts. The Will it Blend YouTube video series and website of the same name allowed them to share videos based around the simple idea of blending basically anything in their blenders. It's like a late night TV ad gone awry... but it works.
The company was relatively early to the game. They came up with a good idea and have stayed focused on content updates to Will it Blend? since 2006. The concept was good and even though the videos are distributed entirely on YouTube, they have a solid reputation. To be fair, I have no idea what kind of conversion rate they have from people that watch the videos to people that actually buy the product, but what can't be denied is that they've built strong brand recognition with hardly any money spent. As of writing this, they have 213,124 subscribers on their YouTube channel and videos with views from hundreds of thousands to millions on some of their videos. That's quite an audience and lots of eyeballs all because of a simple concept. Too often, people get caught up concerning themselves with doing something that's too tech heavy for an Internet-based marketing campaign or just too much of a traditional advertising model. Companies also try too hard to be one of the cool kids and say "me too", but everyone sees right through those supposed "viral" productions.
The keys for a good web-based marketing effort seem to be the following:
1) Keep it Simple. The KISS principle is almost always the best thing to keep in mind when doing anything. It also helps to keep your costs low. It's easy to over-complicate a good idea or a good product. Apple has proven that having a simple product focused on solving one specific problem can have a much better impact than something trying to do it all. The Will it Blend videos never try to do too much and you shouldn't either. Three steps is all they needed for success. 1. Show blender. 2. Show something go into blender. 3. Show dust come out.
2) Rinse and Repeat as needed. It's just like the instructions on a bottle of shampoo. Once you have a good concept, don't do it once and stop. That's like starting a corporate blog and posting once. Sequels happen for a reason and once you have something people are responding to, you shouldn't stop. It's also important to listen to your audience. When you've jumped the shark, you'll know it and you may want to try something different.
3) Be unexpected. The "Will it Blend?" series would not have gotten as much attention if they had just blended food. Not everyone needs to do something completely ridiculous like this, but taking steps to stand out from the crowd is important. Almost everyone has a competitor in one form or another and having a differentiating factor is important. However, having one that wouldn't be expected is even better.
Will you be able to blend these three principles together into a successful web-based marketing effort?