CES: New Affordable HDTV Gear, New HDTV Broadcasts
New RCA and ProScan direct-view and projection HDTV sets are sanely priced at approximately half of last year's figures. "It's time to jump-start the sales of HDTV," said Thomson senior VP Michael D. O'Hara. "HDTV will now be available at less than $4000," he added, noting that at last year's CES, RCA's only integrated HDTV carried a $7999 suggested retail price. "With digital television now moving into the mainstream, we are confident that when consumers see these sets and the price tags, they will respond with enthusiasm."
The new Thomson digital sets that will be shipping to dealers later this year include a widescreen 65-inch-diagonal rear-projection ProScan HDTV and an all-new 61-inch RCA rear-projection hi-def receiver, and 38-inch widescreen direct-view HDTVs are coming from both RCA and ProScan. RCA's F38310 HDTV will carry a suggested retail price of $3999, as will ProScan's 38-inch PS38000. Later in the year ProScan will also offer a 34-inch widescreen HDTV receiver, the PS34000, at $3499. All the direct-view sets have 16:9 aspect ratios and are capable of displaying over a million pixels each for full 1080i resolution.
All HDTV decoding takes place with inboard electronics, which also include full DirecTV satellite reception capability. ProScan is also offering a widescreen 42-inch-diagonal plasma display monitor that's only 4 inches deep and "provides color images so real they appear to literally jump off the screen," according to company publicity. Specs on the PSP4200 include a 160° viewing angle, a contrast ratio of 450:1, and up to 16.7 million colors. The PSP4200 supports 1080i, 720p, 480p, and 480i digital TV formats, as well as standard analog NTSC signals and computer images ranging from VGA to SXGA quality. Suggested retail price is $12,999, including the PSHD105 HDTV set-top receiver and an 18x24-inch elliptical satellite antenna.
Thomson also offers "bridging" technology for those who want to ease into HDTV by buying converters. The RCA DTC100 and the ProScan PSHD105 (suggested retail for each: $649) will convert digital signals for analog display, or pass high-definition signals to high-resolution monitors such as RCA's 52-inch MM52100 ($3299 suggested retail), 61-inch MM61100 ($3699), the 52-inch ProScan PS52800 ($3399), and the 61-inch ProScan PS61800 ($3799).
Newcomer—to us, anyway—Monivision, of Cypress, California, is showcasing what it calls "the world's first affordable HDTV monitors and projectors" at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The company's 29-, 34-, and 38-inch DTVs are all "super-flat monitors" with all varieties of HDTV resolution, including 720p or 1080i. All have a built-in TV tuner, remote control, and inboard stereo speakers with subwoofer. Monivision supports inputs from PCs and Macintoshes, as well as DTV-HDTV, NTSC, PAL, composite video, and S-video. The company is promoting its most affordable set as the "world's first sub-$1000 1080i television."
Direct broadcast satellite company EchoStar Communications is offering a new satellite receiver with an integrated HDTV tuner/decoder. The Dish HD delivers HDTV programming onto a 16:9-ratio HDTV screen and supports both 720p and 1080i HD formats. The Dish HD will be available this spring, and is claimed to provide "seamless" switching between HDTV and Standard Definition satellite television (SDTV). Dolby Digital surround sound is included in the $499 suggested list price. EchoStar Technologies president Mike Dugan said his company has the most to offer of all DBSers: "EchoStar has more bandwidth available than any other programming provider. Dish Network is in the best position to offer the most HDTV channels as they become available." EchoStar has a new high-power satellite in position at 110°W longitude.
Among the new high-definition offerings available to home-theater fans will be "CD-quality" audio programming, local channels, and Internet and high-speed interactive television and data services, all on a single dish—and new hi-def programming from Showtime Networks Inc., which will launch its HDTV operation on January 23. Paramount Pictures' Star Trek: Insurrection will be the first HDTV broadcast from Showtime, whose HDTV launch is "part of the network's ongoing commitment to provide consumers and affiliates with the latest in video and audio enhancements," according to a company press release.
Showtime executive VP Mark Greenberg stated, "HDTV represents a very significant milestone in the evolution of TV. Showtime subscribers are heavy entertainment users and tend to be early adopters of new entertainment devices. The availability of Showtime programming in high definition, which offers the highest-quality picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, will allow viewers to enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience." Showtime HDTV will be in 1080i—the highest-resolution widescreen format.