The crowds were overflowing at the Samsung press event. We couldn't even get in. But according to Samsung's press kit the company will be releasing a new dedicated Blu-ray player, the BDP-1500, in June. Reportedly, it can output both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in bitstream form. (Ditto for DTS-HD High Resolution as well—though we are unaware of any Blu-ray discs that use this audio format.)
Another big trend at the 2009 CES is ultra thin LCDs and plasmas. But that was a trend last year, too, and few of the sets have yet reached the market. Interestingly, the 9mmn plasma that Pioneer showed last year was a no-show this year. Are consumers willing to pay a premium for extra skinny displays? Are they unhappy with their current 4" thick flat panel. The jury is still out
Sony wasn’t the only manufacturer to show OLED displays at the show, but it was the only one actually selling them. Samsung had several 11-inch prototypes at their stand, plus a 30-incher. The 30” model is full 1080p, the 11” 1366x768 (Sony’s 11” design is standard def).
Will we ever see HD resolution higher than 1920x1080 for the home? Do we need it? While Samsung didn't answer that question, it did show two UHD prototype sets, this plasma and a larger LCD, both doing 4K by 2K. Vaporware? For now, probably, but nice to know that some are thinking about it.
The Samsung BD-P4600 full-featured player has been designed with more than a “touch” of the red color to go along with their TVs. The whole unit is a deep red. Designed to hang on the wall, or sit angled to show off its good looks on a shelf, Samsung simply added good looks to its best Blu-ray Disc player. Featuring Netflix and Pandora for streaming media, this player can use Samsung’s $39 wireless dongle so the user doesn’t have to find other solutions (like powerline adaptors or running long lengths of Ethernet cables) to connect online. Sleek enough to keep your interior designer happy.
Hitachi showed a prototype of a motion sensing TV that could be controlled simply by waving your hand in front of its sensor. On screen circles and arcs help you determine the volume levels and other controls. Simply applaud the end of your show (clap your hands) to turn the TV off. It’s estimated that this won’t be available until 2010 or 2011.
SE2 Labs builds the following items into a single chassis about the size of three desktop PCs sitting close together: Runco video processor, Bryston surround processor, ICEpower amps, Netlinx control system, Transparent Cable powerline conditioner, Xbox 360, iPod dock, Transparent Cable harness, HD DVR (from DirecTV, Dish, or Comcast), powerful but quiet cooling fans, 4.3-inch touchscreen, anti-noise and vibration system, and Super Easy 2 Connect rear panel. Outside the box there's the SE2 RF remote control -- the volume key blushes purple when touched. And then there's the optional stuff: Wadia 170 iPod transport, Apple TV, Blu-ray drive, Nintendo Wii. Doing it all in one box reduces equipment weight from 275 to 110 pounds, custom install hours from 80+ to 2, connections from 330 to 30, and cost from $45,000 to $30,000. Need a remote status report? Just ask the system by email. It has been shipping since last September.
Waterfall Audio, a French speaker designer, have begun distributing their unique see-through speakers that are made of glass in the U.S. There are two towers plus small speakers that are wall-mountable and suitable for use as surrounds. The wall speakers disappear into the decor looking like lighting sconces, rather than hi-tech gear.
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").
Sharp announced the construction of a new 10th generation LCD plant in Sakai City, Japan, a huge facility on 314 acres of land, 30 times the area of Yankee Stadium. The mother glass that this plant can handle will be 1.6 times the size of that produced in the current Kamayama plant. Each 10th gen mother glass can be cut into six 60" displays, eight 50", or fifteen 40", greatly increasing production efficiency.
Sharp’s DLP front projectors have always been overachievers that offered a ridiculous amount of performance for the money. Nevertheless, with the company’s sharp (ahem) focus on LCD flat panels, I wasn’t certain we’d see any new front projector products from Sharp at this show. Well, I was wrong!
New readers won’t recognize the shell-shaped speaker on the right. It’s B&W’s Nautilus, a design that dates back years. It always was more of a tech statement piece than a readily available product, but you can still get it on special order. I think I heard $40,000/pair or so.
The new Sherwood R-972 AV receiver ($1800) has the usual features expected in today’s flagships, including HDMI 1.3 and decoding for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. But it also has a unique audio processor. Many of today’s newest receivers use the Audyssey equalization system. Sherwood is going with Trinnov room compensation. Far too complex to explain in a short blog, this processor is based on a $13,000 pro unit with a design goal to “recreate the 3-dimensional soundfield of the original performance.” The Trinnov processing was outboard at the show, (the second box in the photo), but will be built into the receiver itself in production units.
Pass Labs is showing off its SR1 loudspeaker at this year’s CES for good reason. The $25,000/pair model doesn’t fall under the inexpensive category by any stretch of the imagination, but its driver technology aims to please the fiercest critic. The SR1’s drivers incorporate Nextel-coated cones and a Crescendo tweeter from the Seas of Norway. With this unique craftsmanship, the SR1 promises to deliver unparalleled performance.