At its press conference today, Sharp introduced an entirely new line of TVs under the Freestyle moniker. Available in four screen sizes20, 32, 40, and 60 inchesthese are fully networked LED-edgelit LCD TVs with a slimmer and lighter design than most, which lets you place them just about anywhere near a power outlet. With only one HDMI input, they are clearly intended to access most content via their built-in WiFi, though they also have two USB ports and an Ethernet port. The 20-incher includes a built-in battery, while the others seen here being carried by Vanna White wannabes were custom-powered by separate battery packs.
Improving so-called Smart TV functionality seems to be one of the big stories at CES this year. Sharp's news in this regard is its Aquos SmartCentral interface, which will be provided in most of its 2012 LED-LCD TVs. A newly designed graphical user interface lets you search for content, browse the web, and access over 100 of the most popular online services, including Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, YouTube, and CinemaNow. You can also customize the system for different users with different apps, wallpapers, and viewing formats, and you can access Aquos Advantage Live, which lets Sharp techs to remotely connect to the TV to assist with setup, troubleshooting, and optimization of picture quality.
Having worked with artists such as Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Boyz II Men, Prince, and many others, the legendary producing duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have signed a new group called the RoneyBoys(left to right) Isaac (12), Ian (10), and Israel (16)after Jimmy's son found them on YouTube. The three brothers performed at the DTS party Sunday, singing and playing small ukulele-guitars, and I was very impressed with their musicianship, especially at such a young age. Unfortunately, things got a late start because the venue wouldn't let them into the bar area at first!
Photo by Barb Gonzalez
I was honored and privileged that DTS asked me to moderate a panel discussion during its Sunday evening party at Lavo at the Palazzo. The luminaries included (left to right after me on the far left) sound designer Diego Stocco, producer/engineer/musician Alan Parsons, producers Iz and Bobby Avila, engineer/producer Elliot Scheiner, and producers Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. A lively discussion focused on the importance of audio quality and included fascinating comments on data and dynamic-range compression, digital versus analog recording, the useand misuseof autotune processing, multichannel music, and the importance of experiencing high-quality audio, especially for youngsters who might not know anything other than highly compressed sound through crappy earbuds.
I arrived in Vegas on Sunday just in time to attend the Toshiba party at Tao, an ultra-hip nightspot at the Venetian. Among several demos on hand was this 55-inch 4K flat panel showing real 4K images, which looked stunning. It's also an intriguing autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D display, which Barb Gonzalez will tell you about in a separate post.
Samsung is keeping most of its announcements under wraps until its press conference on Monday, but it did release some info about a couple of new home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems and a soundbar. The HT-E6730W (seen above) is a 7.1 system with wireless surround speakers, Blu-ray player, and built-in WiFi as well as a full Web browser. Even more interesting, it's the first HTIB to feature Samsung's Crystal Amp Plus hybrid technology that combines vacuum tubes and a digital power amp.
Most companies place strict embargoes on any announcements they plan to make at CES, but LG is bucking this trend—and its news is huge. Not only is LG Display showing a 55-inch OLED flat panel (which I wrote about earlier this week), but LG Electronics is introducing an 84-inch "ultra-definition" LED-backlit LCD TV with a resolution of 3840x2160, providing four times as many pixels as a 1920x1080 display. And since LG uses passive-polarized glasses for 3D, each eye sees all 1080 lines of vertical resolution available on 3D Blu-rays. (I don't yet know what the TV does with all the extra horizontal resolution, but you can be sure I'll ask.)
Also interesting is something LG calls its Magic Remote navigation system, which lets you control the TV with a wheel, hand gestures, and voice recognition, no doubt inspired by Siri on Apple's iPhone 4S. Of course, it will also offer Smart TV functionality with over 1200 apps and access to a wide variety of content services, including 3D Zone for 3D movies.
One of the most highly anticipated announcements at CES this year comes from LG Display, an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) within the LG conglomerate that supplies LCD flat panels to various TV manufacturers. What could possibly be so exciting from a company that consumers aren't normally aware of? A 55-inch OLED (organic light-emitting diode) flat panel, the largest ever demonstrated at a trade show. We've seen smaller OLED prototypes at CES for years, with their ultra-thin form factor and unbelievable blacks, and the LG Display 55-incher has been rumored for many months, but this is the first time we'll actually get to see it. Look for more on this amazing development next week.
I hope you had a very happy holiday season and are quickly recovering from any overindulgence during your New Year celebration. Now that all the consumerism is over…well, actually, it's hardly over. The biggest consumerfest is still to comethe Consumer Electronics Show will be held next week in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. I'll be there with HomeTheater.com's crack team of correspondents, including Rob Sabin, Tom Norton, Mark Fleischmann, Darryl Wilkinson, and Barb Gonzalez, along with 140,000 of our closest friends to see what's in storeor rather, what will be in storesfor the coming year. We'll be posting lots of blogs and videos from the show, so be sure to visit this site every day for the latest news from the bleeding edge of audio/video innovation. See you in Vegas!