Sharp is High on Blu
As with all manufacturers, Sharp announced a pile of new sets. But the BD series, available in five sizes (32-, 37-, 42-, 46-, and 52 inches) is the first we've heard of to feather built-in Blu-ray players. The three larges sizes offer 120Hz operation, 10-bit panels, and a Pure mode that selects the optimum settings for a programincluding the correct aspect ratio for BDs and DVDs (if this works well, it will be a first, and a welcome one, but no claim was made that it will do this on broadcast sources). The set's cosmetics also feature a touch of blue (red was taken). The two largest models, will be available in February at $2599 (52") and $2299 (46").
There are also two new Sharp Blu-ray players in the pipeline. The BD-HP22U features D-Live and will retail for $299 (May). The BD-HP-18U (BD-Live-ready) will go for $279 (March).
Everyone seems to be coming out with new complete audio systems (OK, a home heater in a box or HTiB) with Blu-ray playback included. Sharp Aquos BD-MPC40 and BD-MPC-30 (both priced at $799, differing in finish) include a Blu-ray player and support DTS HD-Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, and 1080p/24. Sharp also announced two new powered) 2.1-channel bars, The HT-SB300, at $299 (April), and the HT-SB200, at $249 (January).
But perhaps the most interesting news coming out of the Sharp press conference was the announcement of a new Sharp LCD fabrication plant in Sakai City, Japan, to open in March 2010. This plant will fabricate new generation 9 LCD panels on 112" x 120" mother glass, 1.6x the size of current gen 8 mother glass. These boards will accommodate eight 57" panels with little waste (and a larger number of smaller ones). One reason that sets increase dramatically in price as they get larger is that there is more waste in the mother glass. It's possible that in a couple of years, 57" sets might cost the same (or little more) than today's 52" sets. No promises, of course, but it seems plausible.