The Sony press conference was very short on details regarding home-theater productswe'll have to get that info in the booth over the next few days. But the company is still clearly bullish on 3D, showing a 3D trailer for Men In Black 3, after which star Will Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld (right) took the stage with Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer (left) for some lighthearted banter.
Not to be outdone by its cross-town rival LG, Samsung introduced its own 55-inch 3D OLED TV at its press conference today. This gorgeous, ultra-thin masterpiece incorporates a dual-core chipset that allows multiple Samsung apps to run simultaneously. Like the company's other high-end TVs, this one includes Smart Interaction technology that lets you manage your TV experience with motion control, voice control, and face recognition. Welcome to the next generation of television!
Samsung's new lineup of LED-edgelit LCD TVs is topped by the flagship ES8000 series, available in screen sizes up to 75 inches. Cutting-edge image-enhancing technologies are said to provide a brighter picture and greater contrast, and the dual-core chipset allows multiple apps to run at the same time. Users can control the TV with the company's new Smart Interaction technology, which includes voice control and gesture control using a built-in camera. Also, face recognition automatically logs into each family member's Smart TV account.
THX has been applying its grey cells to the power amplifier, as THX grey eminence Laurie Fincham explained. The prototype shown uses what he calls a Class ABC topology with newly tweaked rail-switching power supply and compact ceramic (as opposed to bulky electrolytic) capacitors, all run off a lithium iron phosphate battery (yes, iron, not ion). In the picture you see a super-skinny two-channel output stage; adding capacitors would make it only 25 percent larger. Anyway, the result is a powerful low-profile amp that runs cool and efficient, avoiding both the power piggery of Class A and the problematic performance of Class D. And yes, it sounded great with Sonus Faber speakers and Steely Dan's "Gaslighting Abbie," achieving both well controlled bass and a high degree of overall transparency. Why this, why now? Fincham points out that his team is liberated from the tyranny of the product development cycle, enabling them to take a longer view and to incorporate ideas from the entire history of audio going back to the 1920s but also including the latest tricks. For example, the type of battery used is relatively new to audio but has been deployed in things like power tools and electric bikes. The THX amp design has yet to be built into licensed product but current licensees are getting their first look at this show. Potential uses include everything from inexpensive compact products to BD-receivers to high-end multichannel amps.
THX's long-promised Media Director technology has finally found its way into products including two Sharp Elite LCD TV models and the Acurus ACT4 preamp-processor. Media Director automates the selection of video parameters for Blu-ray and DVD titles, saving the less tech-savvy consumer a giant pounding headache. This can be something as basic as selecting 2D or 3D mode or something more subtle. In the example somewhat fuzzily shown, under "Video Processing Flags," are two entries reading: "Video content is intentionally noisy." And: "Video content contains film grains" [sic]. It works not only with Media Director encoded content but also with regular content when the disc is played in a BD-Live enabled Blu-ray player which will go online to grab the data from the THX database. If you're not ready to ante up for a top-line TV for the kitchen, you might still get limited Media Director functionality in a non-Media Director product. It's great that this newbie-empowering technology is finally seeing implementation.
This bouncy little guy got to curl up at the DISH press conference, and seemed reasonably bored despite the 4,000 camera flashes he had to endure. But those of us in the CES press corp looked and acted more like cattle as we were herded through a marathon of dog-and-pony shows at the Venetian hotel and the Las Vegas Convention Center yesterday. Celebrity sightings included Justin Timberlake at the Panasonic press conference promoting the new MySpace app in this year's HDTVs, and Will Smith with director Barry Sonnenfeld were at Sony's event to promote Men In Black 3. Sony closed it out with an acoustic guitar-accompanied performance by Kelly Clarkson. But the best news out of the day for Home Theater was the announcement of pending OLED and/or 4K sets from LG, Samsung, and Sharp. The real show begins today; check back for our reports from the floor.
One of the more interesting developments out of yesterday's CES press conferences was the imminent arrival of gesture control for upcoming models from Samsung (pictured) and LG Electronics. Gesture control uses an Xbox Kinect-like camera mounted near the screen to allow hand movements to be used to change channels or volume, for example, with no need to pick up a remote. Samsung's version should also allow voice control according to the company. We'll report more on this feature from the floor; stay tuned.
DISH Network is attempting to "hop" all over its competition at CES with a new whole house DVR that records prime time, all the time.
As part of a full company makeover that includes a new kangaroo mascot, the satellite TV provider is introducing Hopper, said to be the world's most advanced DVR. It's a 3-tuner model with a massive 2-terabyte hard drive that can record up to six HD programs simultaneously, and allows simultaneous viewing of different channels in up to three additional rooms through the companion Joey set top box.
Klipsch says that sales of iOS devices - those handheld and portable digital multimedia/smartphone/tablet/etc things we all can’t live without - are eclipsing (“eKlipsching”?) sales of HDTVs and other “traditional” entertainment devices. Keeping to the company’s audio-reproduction roots, the Klipsch folks want to bring high-performance audio to you and me in whatever form we find the most convenient, be it a home theater system, a bookshelf system, or a pair of earphones. At the Klipsch press conference this morning, the company presented a couple of the new and soon-to-be AirPlay-enabled audio systems.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a one-eyed Cyclops or a three-eyed alien being locked away deep in some secret laboratory in Area 51 - no one likes the idea of wearing glasses to watch 3D video. Stream TV hates glasses for 3D, too, and this morning they showed off the company’s Ultra-D technology that can produce a glasses-free 3D image that’s watchable across a wide range of viewing angles. (Just to eliminate any confusion, “glasses-free” doesn’t mean you get “free glasses” with the system. It means you don’t need no stinkin’ glasses at all to watch 3D on the screen.) According to Stream TV, the proprietary technology can be used with all types of displays; and they anticipate we’ll see Ultra-D technology in everything from flat-panel TVs to tablets to smartphones.
The big news from Monster Cable is that Monster Cable is no longer Monster Cable. It's just Monster, period. For the first time the company's well-attended press event made virtually no mention of cable products (aside from a press release on ISF-certified HDMI cables). We're guessing Monster is not withdrawing from the still lucrative cable market. It's just that Head Monster Noel Lee has found something even more lucrative and au courant: designer headphones.
While not as svelte as the company’s 55-inch OLED prototype discussed below, LG’s new lineup of Smart LED/LCD sets is still just a bit over an inch thick with a 1mm thick bezel framing the screen. The top of the line Nano sets, available several sizes up to 84” in size. The Nano designs are full backlit local dimmers, utilizing LEDs impeded into t thin membrane that allows for superior backlit local dimming in a thinner design. LG’s magic remote has been improved, allowing not only pointing but also both gesture and voice recognition. And like all the HDTV manufacturers at the show, LG’s Smart technology offers further enhancements in convergence and connectivity with Web-based sites and features.
That 84” model is unique in that it is a 4K design. Despite the lack of 4K sources, 4K offers significant advantages for LG’s passive glasses approach to 3D. Specifically, it can present a full 1920 x 1080 resolution to each eye, unlike the half vertical 3D resolution on conventions 1920 x 1080 sets.
While no price or availability date was announced for LG’s 55” OLED HDTV, its prototype drew big crowds at the opening press conference of the day. So big, in fact, that you can’t see the set with the madding crowds pushing in for a closer look.
What we do know is that the set uses what LG refers to as 4-Color Pixels (red, green, blue, and white) together with a Color Refiner for color consistency over a wide viewing angle.
An eye-opening infinite contrast ratio is also claimed. This is possible because OLED is a self-illuminating technology in which the individual pixels, in theory, can be completely turned off. Response time is also said to be 1000x faster than in LED/LED sets.
LG’s OLED TV is as pleasing aesthetically pleasing as it is technologically trend-setting. It’s passive 3D-capable and an incredible 4mm thin (about one-sixth of an inch) and a feather-light 17 lbs.
Updating its 80-inch LED-LCD TVs, Sharp announced the LC-80LE844U (seen in the center above sitting atop a car) and LC-80LC645U, both with full-array LED backlighting (but no local dimming), Quattron technology (which adds a yellow subpixel to red, green, and blue), 3D capabilities, built-in WiFi, and Sharp's new Aquos SmartCentral interface described earlier. The 844 boasts a refresh rate of 240Hz, while the 645 is 120Hz. Also unveiled was the 9 Series, including the 70-inch LC-70LE945U (left) and 60-inch LC-60LE945U (right) LED-backlit LCD TVs with local dimming, the first Sharp sets to provide this important feature.