[This review covers the initial model of Echo as delivered to pre-order customers. There may be slight differences when compared to the final release version. Pre-orders also included the now-optional remote control.]
Amazon Echo is a set-and-forget, hands-free voice assistant for your home. It was first offered (at a substantial discount) by invitation to Amazon Prime customers and so we’ve been using it since February. It’s now generally available to all. With a few minor caveats, our experience has been very good.
In Part 1 of the review, I focused on the hardware and controller of the PS4. Here I’m going to dive into the operating system and online features.
The Playstation 4 is, of course, a Playstation 3 plus a Playstation One. Or two PlayStation 2’s. You get the idea. It’s the new one. I got the system on day one, despite the fact that I had no interest in any of the launch games. So instead of reviewing a system I wasn’t really using I decided to wait for a few months, get a couple software updates under my belt and maybe wait for a game.
I’ve already given some initial impressions, and a small gallery of photos, in my day-one article, “PS4 First Impressions“. In the first part of this review, I’ll focus on the hardware. Part 2 will focus on the system interface and software.
The Steam Controller was recently unveiled as part of the larger set of Steam Machine announcements. The Steam Machine is an open specification for console-like PCs allowing for easy integration of PC games into your living room. While boxes can vary in power and capacity – and so in cost – the Steam Controller is an attempt to normalize the interface.
The controller represents a significant evolution of what’s become a relatively stagnant controller design. While this is a pre-release design that may change it’s unlikely that the core features will change drastically. It shares the two lobed, split-surface design first popularized by the original PlayStation controller but with significant differences.
I preordered the PS4, in an adrenaline rush, moments after Sony’s insanely effective E3 press conference. Like most people, apparently, I immediately unboxed it and posed it with a bunch of other systems.
Model: Ouya (sku: 8042042)
I’ve waited to do this review. Having funded the system during the original KickStarter campaign, I’ve had it for quite some time. Truth be told the system, as originally delivered, was more than a little rough around the edges and the games available less than impressive. I decided to allow some time for the software (and a few minor hardware) issues to be settled before forming my opinion.
Model: Google Chromecast H2G2-42
I, along with reportedly about a million others, heard the low $35 dollar price during the Google presentation on Thursday and ordered myself a Chromecast. I really didn’t know what it was, but it was cheap, it was new and I wanted one. Yes indeed, being gainfully employed has some perks.
If you care about video gaming at all you’re probably already familiar with the recent announcements by Microsoft and Sony. Despite that fact that both of these systems were introduced earlier I wanted to wait to until after the E3 Press Conferences to get a broader picture before I weighed in. With exciting shows from both companies on Monday the stories are likely as clear as they’re going to be until the actual launch. Before diving in however let me give you a little background on my current gen experience.
Almost a year ago I gave some strangers $100 of my money. They promised me that within a year they would give me a small box that would change my life. (Making it completely different from, but reminiscent of, the puzzle box that releases sadistic demons in HellRaiser.)
The box would allow me to play Android games in full 1080p on my giant TV. It would give me a high-end wireless controller just as good as my other consoles. It would use a Tegra 3, turn on almost instantly and feature XMBC thus giving my current go-to media player, the beloved PS3, a run for its money (or at least a chance to rest). It would be completely open and you could try anything you like before you buy it.
I can’t stress enough: this was a big risk. There was no guarantee that I would ever get this box. But me and 60,000 other people gave them our money anyway, crossed our fingers, hid from our suspicious spouses and hoped.
It seems like forever ago but the Ouya is real. The thing, the actual damn thing, will start shipping to people like me – better than that to people that are actually me! – in three short days. It just struck me a few minutes ago how God Damn cool that is.
As I’ve written before: TiVo sucks. In that first article I lamented the lack of innovation and features for this premium product. The worse thing I can say is that now, over a year later, every single one of my issues still exist. In fact there hasn’t been a single truly significant upgrade. Nothing that screams, “you can only get this here!” The service today is, for all intents, the same service I challenged as not advanced enough for premium pricing then. Hell, it’s been two years and they still haven’t completed the HD interface.
Now that my contract has ended I’m considering dropping Tivo and reverting to the stock offering from Comcast. I went to the Tivo site to allow it to convince me not to. I got the following “10 reasons you’ll love Tivo”.