Affordable New Home Automation Systems Put the Smart in Your Home

It’s disappointing to note that, already well into the second decade of the 21st century, the smartest component of most people’s homes is a programmable thermostat—and chances are, it hasn’t been programmed since it was installed (if at all). But you can’t really blame homeowners for not rushing in droves to embrace home automation or, as it’s more often called, the “smart home.” Neither the high cost of reliable systems nor the low reliability of cheap systems has been all that enticing.
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SmartThings Hub Home Automation Controller


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $99

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Z-Wave and ZigBee radios built in
In-app live chat support
Supports multiple third-party devices and services
Minus
Doesn’t support Insteon
No tablet-specific app layout

THE VERDICT
The SmartThings Hub offers an impressive range of support, its app is powerful and smartly designed, and it’s a great value.

As with all up-and-coming DIY home automation systems, the SmartThings Hub is intended to make your life a living nirvana, bringing peace, love, and, yes, even rock ’n’ roll (grunge or otherwise) into your smart home. The $99 price—with a free app and no monthly subscription fees—is certainly a tasty enticement for someone with a sweet tooth for home automation on the cheap. But the big question is whether there’s enough meaty substance to the SmartThings system to satisfy a homeowner’s long-term automation hunger. Or does SmartThings give nothing more than a sugar high that inevitably leads to a disappointing crash later on?

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Revolv Hub Home Automation Controller

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Seven radios built in
Extremely easy initial setup
Minus
Pricey next to other DIY automation hubs
Lacks some advanced programming features

THE VERDICT
The Revolv Hub is a powerhouse that looks to be relatively future-proof from a hardware standpoint. A great choice for a newbie.

Humble isn’t a word anyone would associate with Revolv and their distinctive, teardrop-shaped, little red smart-home controller—which the company calls, with uncharacteristic restraint, the Hub. In fact, this device is easily the flashiest and most recognizable of all the smart home gadgets around today.

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Alexander: The Ultimate Cut

Picture
Sound
Extras
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of its release, Oliver Stone returns once again to his much maligned and misunderstood epic. This is officially the fourth cut of the film, but before you grouse, hear me out. The progression follows thus: The original Theatrical Cut was Stone’s epic vision pared down to a marketable length to appease the studio executives; the Director’s Cut was the result of Stone yielding to pressure to appease the masses and their aversion to the film’s blatant homo-eroticism; and the Revisited Final Cut was a tenacious filmmaker getting the chance to finally realize his passion-project in the version that he originally intended audiences to see. What’s curious, though, about this new Ultimate Cut is that it differs only slightly from the Revisited Final Cut and runs just eight minutes shorter.
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High-Res Audio Defined

High-resolution audio is getting a big industry push, but until now the category has labored without a definition. The Digital Entertainment Group, the Consumer Electronics Association, and The Recording Academy have teamed up to offer one. They define what they call Master Quality Recording in four ways: MQ-P audio comes from a PCM source with minimum 48/20 resolution, but “typically” is 96/24 or 192/24 in today’s download services. MQ-A is from an analog source, and high-quality analog can still be deemed high-res. MQ-C grandfathers in CD-quality 44.1/16 audio. And MQ-D refers to DSD sources. Taken together, these categories define high-res audio somewhat broadly. Even so, they may give the informed consumer a better idea of what he’s buying (for those of us who still buy music).
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AT&T to Hoover Up DirecTV

The proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV would create the nation’s second largest pay-TV company. With the telco bringing 5.7 million U-verse subscribers to the table, and the satellite operator a considerably greater 20.3 million, the merged entity would have 26 million video subscribers, ranking just below the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable with 30 million subscribers.
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What Price Glory

The cartoon above is only one of many from cartoonist Charles Rodrigues (1926-2004), who contributed to this magazine in the 1970s and 1980s (the mag was then known as Stereo Review). A favorite audiophile parody of an equipment report from Stereo Review’s iconic reviewer Julian Hirsch states, “Of all the amplifiers I have reviewed, this was definitely one of them.” Nevertheless, we all enjoyed Rodrigues’ take on our then, as now, crazy business.

But the cartoon here also heralded a problem that has fallen on the high-end audio industry, a problem also shared, though to a lesser degree, by the home theater business: eye-watering prices.

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Dolby Atmos Firmware Update Now Available for Pioneer Receivers

Pioneer has announced that a free firmware update enabling Dolby Atmos surround sound on three Elite SC receivers is now available for download at pioneerelectronics.com. The update applies to the SC-85 ($1,600), SC-87 ($2,000), and SC-89 ($3,000) 9.2-channel AV receivers.
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JBL Authentics L16 Wireless Speaker System Test Bench

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JBL Authentics L16 Wireless Speaker System Specs

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