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SkreensTV promises to render picture-in-picture mode useful

Michael Brown | Nov. 14, 2014
Does your TV have picture-in-picture mode? I'll bet you a bowl of virtual popcorn you never use it. I don't use mine for a number of reasons. I don't get audio with the second video for one thing, but it also sits atop the primary video, I can't resize it, and switching between the two feeds (and there are only two) is a pain in the remote.

Maximum input resolution is 1080p, but the box can output up to 4K video (being HDMI 1.4, the refresh rate will be limited to 30Hz). The folks at SkreensTV tell me 4K output "will allow full pass-thru without degradation in the quality of resolution of the 1080 inputs in a four-screen configuration." That tells me you might see some compression artifacts when splitting a 1080p display, but that's to be expected. I haven't seen the box in action, so I can't comment as to the quality of its video. There's a good video demo available on YouTube.

Why can't regular TVs do this today? Because building that capability into a TV would be prohibitively expensive. SkreenTV is offering its backers discounts of $100 off its anticipated retail prices, and it's still not cheap: $399 for the 4GB model, $499 for the 32GB version, and $599 for the 64GB device. 

Under the hood

But when you consider that in addition to ethernet and Wi-Fi adapters, storage, and five HDMI inputs, the SkreensTV is powered by a Xilinx Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC (an ARM Cortex A9 MPCore processor), those price tags don't seem unreasonable. I can't imagine the processor power that must be needed to sync all those audio and video inputs and avoid input lag.

If you want to build something on top of what SkreensTV has created, the company is offering an SDK with its 32- and 64GB models that will allow third-party developers to create HTML5 and JavaScript apps for the box that can be sold in its online store.

I'm excited about this product. It easily passes the high threshold we've established for covering crowdfunded projects at TechHive. What do you think of it? Is this a project you could get behind? Will you wait for it to ship before plunking down your cash? Or do you think TV will just rot your brain? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


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