from the watch-it-all dept
It's an age-old symbol of tech dismay: a dozen interconnected devices, a dozen remote controls, all failing to work smoothly with each other. This week, we're looking at a device that aims to sort out some of the mess when it comes to video: Skreens, a robust HDMI input mixer aimed at streamers and heavy media users.
Juggling multiple video devices is no picnic. Even having multiple windows open on a desktop or laptop is less than ideal, and once you bring in external devices other than general purpose computers, things get even tougher, leaving you with little option but to split your attention between multiple displays. Skreems offers another option: it takes two or four HDMI inputs (depending on the model), and lets you arrange them as you see fit and send them all to a single output. Sports on the left, Twitter feed on the right? No problem. Want to watch a movie, play Xbox, and use Skype all at once? Just drag and drop the three separate screens into your desired configuration and fire it up. It all runs through one compact box and is controlled by a separate app, which can also serve as a universal remote control. Skreens has the potential to be a complete solution to most multiple-media-device woes.
Skreens comes in four models: the two-input and the four-input version, each with both a regular and pro model. That makes perfect sense until you take a closer look at the specs, and notice that they've made one very unfriendly choice: the pro models, which come with an extra $100 on the price tag, don't actually include any superior hardware — they just have some extra unlocked capabilities. In other words, it appears the non-pro models are capable of letting you do absolutely everything the pros are, but some of those features are artificially restricted, such as advanced video quality settings and the aforementioned universal remote capabilities. This sort of artificial limitation benefits nobody, and it's just begging to be circumvented — though we'll have to wait and see if the people behind Skreens make an effort to stop people from doing so. It's a shame that half of the models of this otherwise-impressive device have been intentionally hamstrung in order to push people into spending more.
Of course, part of the reasoning behind this is clearly that the creators see their biggest potential market among online streamers, and are hoping those increasingly-professional ranks will be willing to spend the extra bucks. And it's true that Skreens looks like a pretty exciting tool for people who stream their gaming sessions online, since they are usually either stuck with the limited options provided by a gaming console or various PC apps that add an extra software burden to their gaming rig. Skreens opens up lots of new possibilities for streaming gamers, and I suspect we'll see it being used to widen the possibilities for just what you can stream to Twitch or the new YouTube Gaming, beyond the now-standard "webcam feed in the top corner" configuration. Livestreaming is a rapidly growing entertainment sector with an already-massive audience, and Skreens has a shot at becoming a standard piece of every streaming gamer's setup — even with the unfortunate premium price tag on the pro models.