AMZN.TV24

I’m starting a new market research report/service titled AMZN.TV24. Here’s why.

When I’m looking for a new TV I go to Amazon. I click on 50-inch and larger TVs with a 4-star rating or higher. The front page gives me 24 models. I thought about “Amazon’s 24 4-star TV models 50-inch and larger on the front page” as the title of this report, but decided against it; although it was descriptive it was way too long, so I shrank it, shrank it some more, and got to AMZN.TV24. Sounded pretty good to me.

Why am I starting this new report service? I wanted to see what was going on on the TV search result front page. I wanted answers to questions like:

  • What are the most popular brands? And how popular are they?
  • What are the most popular sizes?
  • What’s more popular 4K or 1080p?
  • How much is the premium for 4K over 1080p?
  • What are the pricing trends for 4K?

Now I’m just looking at 24 models that show up each day on Amazon and I’m not pretending to think this is what’s happening in the broader US TV market or the rest of the world. That would be crazy. But Amazon is a popular destination for TV buyers and most of us seldom go beyond the front page. Take this report service for what it is and I hope it’s helpful to you.

BRAND SHARE

Most likely AMZN.TV24 will be a work-in-progress for a long time coming, but here’s a little taste of what I have in store:

 

AMZN.TV24 2016.08.25 Brand Share

This is a running 12-day (Sundays are empty because I rest and recuperate on Sundays) chart of brands represented on the front page. Remember I’m searching for 50-inch and larger TVs with 4-star or better customer ratings.

Here are some findings:

  • Samsung is dominant. Samsung has had, except for two days, 50% or more.
  • LG and TCL has been going after each other for some time and battling for 2nd place.
  • But recently Sharp has entered the picture and has taken 17% share.
  • Sony is slowly climbing back into the ring.
  • VIZIO is consistently there, but barely.

Samsung being dominant is no surprise, but Sharp has elbowed its way into second place. As you know, back in March of this year, Foxconn bought Sharp for US$3.5 billion. So maybe Foxconn is putting some resources behind Sharp and getting Sharp back into the US TV market. I don’t know.

VIZIO has had at least one if not two models that show up consistently. With LeEco buying VIZIO for $2 billion last month, who knows what will happen, but VIZIO’s brand is synonymous with a great deal. Generally speaking that is. I’ve heard from friends who own VIZIO TVs that point to display manufacturing quality going south a bit. The LCD panels inside most VIZIO TVs are VA type so the supplier(s) could be Sharp, Samsung, AUO or some other LCD manufacturer. The great thing about VIZIO’s M series and more premium models is that the LCD panels sport direct LED backlights allowing for real local dimming, meaning better contrast.

LG’s share has been 13% except for two days. LG uses IPS technology that is known to be better at color and brightness consistency when viewed from an angle. Thought peak brightness is generally a little lower than VA panels. Apple uses panels supplied mostly by LG Display for its iMacs, MacBooks, iPhones, and Apple Watches for good reason.

So there you have it. A glimpse to what I’ll be working on for the time being. Hope that was helpful or at least interesting.

AMD Radeon RX 480: US$200 VR-Ready GPU

[ Engadget ] Devindra Hardawar:

As for VR, the RX 480 delivered a solid experience without much slowdown. It didn’t matter if I was dogfighting in Eve: Valkyrie, exploring alien worlds in Farlands or platforming in Lucky’s Tale. I kept a particular eye out for stuttering or anything that could lead to motion sickness but couldn’t detect any major issues. AMD wasn’t lying: This is a VR-ready card.

The Radeon RX 480 comes in two VRAM configurations: 4GB ($200) and 8GB ($239). Hardawar reviewed the 8GB version and recommends investing the extra $39 for a smoother VR experience. Note: The 8GB version uses faster RAM.

HTC’s VR minimum hardware recommendations are as follows:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Video Output: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2

Oculus Rift:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Video Output: HDMI 1.3

Here’s a YouTube video by DigitalFoundry comparing the GeForce GTX 970 vs. the Radeon RX 480:

As you can see the Radeon RX 480 outperforms the GeForce GTX 970, which is impressive considering the street price of the GTX 970 with 4GB is about $300.

Rio 2016 Summer Olympics: NBC to Present 85 Hours of VR Content on Samsung Devices

[ Variety ] Todd Spangler:

NBC is leaning into virtual reality — the hot tech flavor of the moment — with plans to pump out some 85 hours of VR programming for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The VR content, the first time Olympics coverage will be presented in virtual-reality experiences, will be available exclusively on Samsung devices. And sorry, tech-forward cord-cutters: NBC will make the Olympics in VR available only to pay-TV subscribers of participating cable and satellite operators.

I’m a VR newb. I took my oldest and hopped on over to a local Best Buy to play around with the latest gadgets: noise-cancellation wireless over-ear headphones, smartphones, laptops, AIOs, 4K TVs, refrigerators, washing machines & dryers, etc. We agreed Beats sucks and Bose rocks, and that 4K content looks weird. The Avengers was on and Captain America looked downright silly, because his costume was so obviously a costume. Too much detail can be a bad thing when it comes to watching movies. We also agreed our Sony Trinitron HD CRT TV made watching movies enjoyable because the experience was like watching movies.

Another thing we agreed on was the Samsung Galaxy-based Gear VR system: it was really cool. Gear VR is not expensive: just US$100. If you already have the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphone — like the Note 5, S6 and S7 — Gear VR is a no-brainer if you want to play around with VR without spending a lot of money. At one point in the demo, I was flying through space. I looked down, and for a split second thought I would fall. Yeah, told you I was a VR newb.

I like that NBC and Samsung want to pull in folks who are interested in VR with the 2016 Olympics, but it also limits the availability of VR to only the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphone users with cable and satellite. (Although I think cord-cutters with services like Sling TV might be able to get credentialed at some cable and satellite websites.) I’m going to guess there will be a lot of bootlegged porting of NBC’s Olympic VR content to other VR systems.

Apple Patents Technology To Disable iPhone Cameras At Concerts

[ Stereogum ] Collin Robinson:

So that might be OK… assuming the technology is only used at concerts and doesn’t extend to, like, disabling phone cameras during instances of police brutality and/or sociopolitical/religious unrest.

Apple works with a lot of music companies and I’m certain some of those companies have complained loudly that concert goers have been bootlegging or live streaming concerts. I don’t know how rampant this is, but I’m sure music companies want to stop it and want Apple’s help. I wouldn’t mind a geo-fenced camera disable feature on my iPhone when it comes to concerts. I haven’t gone to a concert in many years, but I’ve seen concert videos with hundreds of phone screens. What a terrible way to experience a concert.

Google Chrome VR Shell

[ Road To VR ] Ben Lang:

Chrome Dev (one extra step back in development from Beta) now contains a ‘VR Shell’ setting which Google’s Chromium Evangelist François Beaufort says “enable[s] a browser shell for VR” which “allows users to browse the web while using Cardboard or Daydream-ready viewers.” Both options are available in the browser’s Flags page, accessed by entering chrome://flags in the URL bar.

Very early stages for browsing the web in VR. For VR internet browsing to catch on the web will need to morph, from the current 2D concept of pages to something like a 3D concept of spaces. AR — augmented reality where relevant information is placed over images and videos — will probably become an important way we browse the internet in VR.

Apple Discontinues The Thunderbolt Display

[ Apple ] The 27-inch Thunderbolt Display sports a pixel format of 2560×1440 for US$999. That’s expensive. If you’re a color professional looking for a 27-inch IPS monitor there are better (color bit depth, color gamut, color accuracy, etc.) more affordable options, like the $800 Dell UP2716D UltraSharp 27-inch monitor.

[ iMore ] Rene Ritchie:

Apple is discontinuing the Thunderbolt Display, the standard resolution, external IPS monitor the company has been selling since 2011. An Apple spokesperson provided us with the following statement:

“We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display,” Apple told iMore. “It will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users.”

The 5K iMac makes it clear Apple is moving away from 2560×1440 and toward 5120×2880 at 27 inches. Will Apple come out with a standalone 27-inch 5K monitor? My bet is on yes. The reason is the Mac Pro, and to a lesser extent the MacBook Pro. The Mac Pro doesn’t come with a monitor, and a good monitor makes a big difference in our computing experience, especially when it comes to processing videos and photographs.

I believe Apple is serious about user experience so I think Apple will come out with an excellent 27-inch 5K 5120×2880 monitor to pair with a Mac Pro or a MacBook Pro. The macOS user experience depends on it.

Tesla’s Model 3 is a Tipping Point

Tesla Model 3

Before Tesla, electric cars had some deficiencies:

  • There were slow.
  • They weren’t pretty.
  • Their range was severely limited.
  • They took a long time to recharge.

After Tesla’s Roadster, Model S and Model X, electric cars were no longer slow. In fact the Model S P90D, the performance model with dual electric motors, can get to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds with a “Ludicrous Speed Upgrade”. Only supercars like these are faster (0-60 mph times in seconds):

  • 2010 Pagani Zonda R: 2.6
  • 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari: 2.6
  • 2013 Nissang GT-R NISMO: 2.7
  • 2014 McLaren P1: 2.7
  • 2012 Koenigsegg Agera R: 2.7
  • 2006 Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4: 2.7
  • 2016 Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV: 2.7

There are no ‘normal’ cars that can beat the Model S P90D from 0 to 60 mph. I think we can clearly cross off that electric cars are slow.

There were slow.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yes, but I think most would agree the Roadster, the Model S, and the Model X are prettier than the average car. Most other EVs are still on the ugly side of the spectrum.

There weren’t pretty.

Many electric cars still have limited ranges. Here are some examples, in miles (Source: Plugin Cars):

  • BMW i3: 81
  • Chevrolet Spark EV: 82
  • Fiat 500e: 84
  • Ford Focus Electric: 76
  • Kia Soul EV: 93
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV: 62
  • Nissan LEAF: 107
  • Smart ForTwo Electric Drive: 68
  • Volkswagen E-Golf: 83

With ranges like these this list of electric cars can only be used sparingly and most likely for local commuting. On colder days the range will decrease quite a bit. But on the list are three three electric cars that have enough range to go from San Jose to San Francisco to Berkeley and back to San Jose, with some battery left over:

  • Chevrolet Bolt: 200
  • Tesla Model S: 265
  • Tesla Model X: 250

Yes, the range can be better — you’ll want a regular gas-powered car to go on long trips without having to stop every 200 miles to refuel — but I think a lot of us can live our daily lives with a 200-mile range car. I think it’s safe to delete the severely limited range deficiency:

Their range was severely limited.

Electric cars took a long time to recharge their batteries. Let’s go back to the list. I’ll put two recharge time: one at 110/120V and the other at 220/240V, both in hours. Most homes in the U.S. have 110/120V, but you can install special 220/240V outlets to charge your electric car.

  • BMW i3 (22 kWh): 18, 3
  • Chevrolet Bolt (60): ??, 9
  • Chevrolet Spark EV (19): 20, 7
  • Fiat 500e (24): 24, 4
  • Ford Focus Electric (23): 20, 3.5
  • Kia Soul EV (27): 24, 5
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV (16): 22, 6
  • Nissan LEAF (24-30): 21-26, 4-6
  • Smart ForTwo Electric Drive (17.6): 12, 8
  • Volkswagen E-Golf (28): 20, 3.7

Don’t even think about charging your EV with a 110/120V outlet. Install a 220/240V outlet and you’ll save thousands of hours of charge time.

Tesla’s EVs come with a variety of battery capacities. With the 85-kwh battery — a battery much larger than all of the aforementioned EVs — a 220/240V outlet will charge it in about 10 hours. Tesla’s Supercharger can charge it in just one hour. It takes some planning to get to a Supercharger station right when you want to eat lunch or dinner, but 3+ hours of charging time down to just one is a lot of improvement. But if you’re not on a road trip the charging happens while you’re sleeping and by the time you’re ready to head off to work the next morning your EV will be fully charged, assuming you installed a 220/240V outlet. Of course, charging time still takes too long if you compare it to about the 5 minutes it takes to refuel a car with gasoline. Recharge time gets crossed off with a note*: Supercharger or when you’re charging at 220/240V while you sleep.

They took a long time to recharge.*

Fast, pretty, with a long range, and a short charge time. Only Tesla’s Model S and the Model X have all these features. The Chevrolet Bolt has a long range, but fast and pretty it is not. The upcoming Model 3 though is all of that: Tesla announced 0-60 mph times at less than 6 seconds for the base Model 3 model. Not ludicrous fast, but pretty fast for a base model. I’m certain if there was a P90D version of the Model 3 that it would be one of if not the fastest $35,000 car you can buy. The Model 3 is also one more: The Model 3 is affordable at US$35,000. Yes there are affordable EVs on the list, but none that has it all.

They were too expensive.

I believe Tesla’s Model 3 is/will be a tipping point.