Walt Mossberg

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High-Definition Streaming

Q:

I am curious if any of those three set-top boxes you reviewed last week offer the movies in high definition.

A:

All of them do. If a service included on the box streams or downloads in high definition and you have an HDTV and the proper cable connection (usually an HDMI cable), then all three will output the video in high definition. The top-of-the-line Roku I tested (called the XS) and the Boxee Box support what’s called 1080p resolution, while the Apple TV and the entry-level Roku HD only support 720p. However, most experts say that average people, sitting at an average distance from a TV, can’t tell the difference between these two types of HD.

Q:

I have elderly parents who can’t seem to be able to use a mobile phone, and become very frustrated. Is there a phone that seniors can see and work? It needs to be simple.

A:

The best-known cellphone for seniors is called Jitterbug. It offers large buttons and a variety of operator-assisted features. We tested and generally liked an earlier model. The phone is sold by GreatCall, at greatcall.com, for $100. Another company, Doro, makes less expensive models with large buttons aimed at seniors. See this page. The Doro phones are also sold by a carrier called Consumer Cellular, which promises low rates and offers discounts to members of AARP. See here.

Q:

What is the preferred way to pair iPad 2 with a TV? By using the AirPlay feature or through the Apple HDMI adapter? Also, the upcoming iOS 5 operating system comes with this functionality built in, right?

A:

Each method is a bit different. AirPlay, which requires a $99 Apple TV, wirelessly beams a particular video you’re playing on the iPad 2 to a TV. The Apple HDMI adapter, formally called the Digital AV adapter, which costs $39 and requires an HDMI cable, beams the entire screen of the device to the TV. It works on both iPads, as well as on the iPhone 4 and the latest generation iPod Touch, and doesn’t require an Apple TV. In both cases, some video providers block the video stream from going to the TV, presumably due to their business policies or legal issues.

In the forthcoming iOS 5 operating system, using Airplay and an Apple TV will enable full-screen mirroring on a TV from an iPad 2, just as the physical adapter does today.

Email mossberg@wsj.com.


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