When you hear the name Vizio, you usually would think of TVs. Perhaps some of you may even know of its soundbar product line. Whatever your knowledge of the likely-to-be LeEco-owned Vizio may be, we need to discuss this speaker. The Crave 360 is an odd thing that looks like an Amazon Echo, has Google Cast built in, and tries to be a viable Sonos alternative.
But does it succeed in its attempt at the latter? Not quite. However, it is still a nice-sounding, multi-room speaker that has a little bit extra that sets it apart from its run-of-the-mill cousins.
LeEco can't seem to catch a break. Last month, its CEO Jia Yueting sent out a memo days after the company's US launch claiming it was over-extended and suffering from "big company disease," which seemed a clear euphemism for incoming job cuts. A month later, and things aren't any better.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the publicly-traded arm of LeEco, known as Leshi, had seen its stock tank earlier this week. Reports from Chinese media claim that an 8% drop on Tuesday triggered margin calls by Jia's lenders, meaning he will either be forced to sell some of his Leshi company stock or provide his margin accounts fresh funds.
At a press conference in Los Angeles this morning, LeEco announced that it was acquiring the entirety of Vizio's hardware and software businesses for $2 billion. The acquisition, or at least an investment, had been rumored recently, but today it's official. Vizio will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of LeEco, meaning we can expect the Vizio brand to live on in the future, especially here in the US where Vizio is based.
Vizio's current executive management will remain in place at the company, which will continue to operate via its headquarters in Irvine, CA. Vizio's data business, Inscape, will be spun off as part of the acquisition, to become a separately, private-owned firm, run by Vizio's founder and CEO William Wong (LeEco will own a 49% stake in this business, with Wong owning 51%).
If you've been waiting to "smart" up your home theater's audio, Vizio may have just given you incentive to pull the trigger on a purchase with its new SmartCast sound bar collection, launched today. They start at just a paltry $180 for the basic 38" three-driver sound bar and go all the way up to $500 for fully-equipped 5.1 systems. What makes them smart? Well, they're Google Cast enabled right out of the box, meaning you can cast audio to your Vizio SmartCast speakers just like a Chromecast, and that's pretty damn cool.
At launch, Vizio has nine configurations available, so there's probably a setup that fits in a price:performance:practicality bracket for you.
Vizio's P-Series 4K TVs* are about to get infinitely more Google-y. The new second generation models (P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theater Display is the full name, but we'll gloss over that) come with Google Cast built-in, meaning a Chromecast or Cast-enabled set-top box isn't needed in order to cast over content.
There are four of them, all at different sizes and prices; 50-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch, ranging from $1,000 to $3,800. Note that Google Cast is different from Android TV - these TVs have no apps built-in, with all interaction being through Cast, same as when a Chromecast is plugged into a TV.
Google had a hit on its hands from the moment it released the original $35 Chromecast a few years ago, but not everyone who has a TV knows about all the cool things a Chromecast can do or that they can get one so cheaply. Apparently, Google wants to make it easier for people to start casting by simply building cast support into TVs, starting with Vizio.
Vizio's pulled the curtains off two new Portable Smart Audio speakers that are powered by Android 4.4. What makes them special are the touchscreens embedded into the front of each device. Instead of having to pair them with a phone using Bluetooth, users will be free to stream music directly from the likes of Spotify and Pandora or enjoy video from Netflix or YouTube. Think of each version as a bulky tablet that doesn't need to rest in your lap, one with speakers that you won't leave you reaching for earbuds.
The Portable Smart Audio line doesn't have the most memorable name, but consumers will have two options to pick from once these land on store shelves.
If you like Nexus tablets, Vizio is gunning for your wallet. Today, the company announced a duo of tablets running stock Android. The first is most similar to the Nexus 10: a 10" display with the same retina-melting 2560x1600 resolution, only this one is powered by a Tegra 4 processor. Kal-El may not be a slouch, but let's be real. It's hard to not envy the 72 GPU cores that Wayne is packing.
Here are the known specs for the device:
10" 2560x1600 display
Tegra 4 SoC
Front & rear cameras
Mini USB (Yes, mini not micro; see center photo below)
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (model shown running 4.1)
As if that wasn't enough, the company also announced a direct Nexus 7 competitor.
Google I/O has come and gone with nary a mention of Google TV. Disheartening to say the least, but that doesn't mean that the platform is dead. Not while manufacturers keep making products for it. Products like the Vizio Co-Star. For $99, the Co-Star sits in the right sweet spot for Google TV device pricing. Combine the price with a remote that's smaller than a plank of wood, and OnLive gaming built right in, the little box actually looks like a pretty sweet deal. If Google TV is your thing, that is.
Estimated shipping for this device starts on August 14th.
Woot.com has done it again, offering another great deal on an Android-powered piece of mobile tech. Up for grabs this time is a refurbished 8" VTAB from Vizio.
The VTAB is a budget-friendly slate running Android 2.3 Gingerbread (with Vizio's V.I.A. Plus interface). Woot is offering the VTAB, along with a handy folio case, for just $159.99 plus $5 shipping, which is a cool $170 off Vizio's list price.
Here's a more complete look at the VTAB's specs:
Android 2.3 Gingerbread (With V.I.A. Interface)
8" LCD Display at 1024x768
Front-facing VGA Camera
4GB Internal Storage (Expandable to 32GB via MicroSD)
Micro HDMI Port
If you're in the market for a basic, budget-friendly Android tablet, head over to Woot.com and take advantage of the deal before time runs out.