Entertainment Tech for the Peak TV Era
If there is anything to be learned from Westworld (other than amazing images can make up for meandering narratives), it's that technology is eventually going to turn against us.
The Terminator tried to warn us — but here we are — being told when to walk by Fitbits and allowing Elon Musk to send self-driving cars down the highway.
Thankfully, there is still some tech that works in our favor. And a few of these gadgets, for TV lovers, come with enough bells, whistles and upsides that we can ignore the fact that they probably all communicate with each other at night to plot our downfall. Here are some of the newest doodads than have made this crazy "covering TV" job a lot easier, including two that have even added to the thrill of living in the Peak TV era.
Samsung's Notebook 9 Pen
There are a ton of light notebook-style laptops out there and honestly, that's what I need for most of life. Something that can stream (we get a ton of screener links now), handle some photo editing and a lot of social-media activity and, of course, provide a comfortable writing experience. And holy crap, did this thing deliver this summer.
With the back-to-back joy that was San Diego's Comic-Con and the annual Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills devouring most of July and part of August (with some Fall Preview fun tagged on at the end), it was imperative to have a laptop that wouldn't feel like I was carrying around a body in my backpack.
The Notebook 9, at 2.2lbs with a 13.3 inch display, was barely noticeable. There were even times I thought I'd forgotten to pack it! For screening, the integrated Intel UHD graphics were pretty flawless (when the hotel Wifi was working) and because it's a 2-in-1, I was able to flip it into tablet mode for reading on the flight to Los Angeles and then it into the tent position for watching movies on the plane's teeny tiny folding tray. And thanks to the 8GB of memory and the 256GB solid-state drive, there was room for a bunch of shows that I needed to rewatch.
But the coolest thing — and what I would suggest every laptop maker include — was the unit's Voice Note option. When you are covering in the seventh panel of the day, listening to the cast of a new TV show talk about how much they all love each other already, it so helps to have a far-field mic like the Notebook 9's to record up the entire session no matter where you're sitting and then to be able to insert bookmarks, edits and notations on the file's editing interface.
Game changer! Ditto the inclusion of Samsung's S-Pen. Do you know how fun it is to be able to pop that stylus out of its discreet port inside the base of the laptop and use it to create GIFS right off the super-responsive touchscreen in front of you?! Love. As for battery life, it lasted most of the day (remember, I was recording, tweeting, downloading images, emailing and streaming, often at the same time) and it re-charged like a boss. All in all, I am all in with this one.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
"Alexa, go into the next room please?"
I only ask this because Amazon may have found the one thing more fun to have in the house than the Echo and I don't want to hurt my AI's feelings.
I met the surprisingly small wonder (ha!) at Comic-Con this summer. Amazon had a huge presence there, mostly to promote Jack Ryan, but the also had this cavernous activation called "Fast Forward to the Future" staged in what I believe was an old warehouse that had been converted into an immersive experience tricked out with all of their smart home goodies. As a frequent user (addict) of the Fire Stick TV, the Kindle Fire and the Echo, I have gotten used to Amazon basically doing my bidding. But this Fire Cube TV thing is next level!
A 4K Ultra HB streaming media player, the Cube allows you to order your TV on or off, call up whatever content you want and adjust the volume... all by voice command. It's like being a wizard!
Setting it up wasn't as terrifying as I thought it might be because the Cube's IR blaster communicated with almost all of my living-room tech (Apple TV, cable box, Blu-ray player and sound bar), allowing a connection among them all as well. The only thing I needed to change was my Echo's placement in the apartment... Alexa has now moved into my bedroom so she doesn't get down on herself for not being able to tune my flatscreen to The Real Housewives.
OK, so I have been beta-testing DC Comics' upcoming digital platform since July and, if you are a DC Comics fan, you are in trouble. Because this has become a bit of an obsession for me. And now that they have finally announced that it's going to launch on Sept. 15th (Batman Day, natch), I can talk more openly about what this whole thing really is.
Think of the iTunes store. Music, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, your own playlists and downloads. Everything you want, all in one place. Welp, that's kind of what DCU is doing for DC geeks. In its pre-launch form, the UI features a dock at the bottom that contains buttons for TV & Movies, Comics, My DC, Community, an Encyclopedia, News and a Shop option. Clicking on any of these takes you to that specific page and you go from there.
Content so far includes a ton of Warner Bros. animated films like Gotham By Gaslamp, Green Lantern: First Light and Assault on Arkham, as well as the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and the pre-Nolan Batman collection. The TV stable has Birds of Prey (dare ya not to dip back into that one), The Adventures of Superboy, Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman series and John Wesley Shipp's original stint as The Flash, along with cartoon fare like Batman Beyond, Super Friends, Young Justice and both Justice League runs (The Animated Series and Unlimited). It was just announced that NBC's short-lived Constantine will be added soon, too.
I have to admit, it's nearly impossible to get anything else done with all of these at my fingertips! To make it worse, there are also comic books you can download and read. As of now, it's a curated batch of classics and essentials (Action Comics #1, some solid Rebirth issues) and titles tied to the platform's impending original slate of Titans, Doom Patrol, Harley Quinn, Swamp Thing and the new season of Young Justice: Outsiders. More will be made available going forward.
Since it's still in the beta stage, there have been some minor blips, but nothing that says this thing isn't ready to go. Brand new comics won't be immediately available and the CW's Arrowverse shows will still remain there, but for its first phase, the DC Universe is looking like a place I want to go to on the reg. And will.
DC Universe, launches Sept. 15th. The annual membership fee has been set at $74.99 (plus tax, if applicable in your state), with monthly memberships available at launch for $7.99 a month.