Didn't I cover the world's thinnest LCD yesterday? That was Hitachi. This is JVC, which is also showing off a new LCD that measures just 1.5 inches deep…mostly. As the company puts it, "across most of its width [the cabinet] measures a mere 1.5 inches deep, with a maximum depth of just 2.9 inches at the panel's center." Why is it deeper at the center? One reason is because, unlike the Hitachi LCDs, these new models have integrated tuners. The new line will include two models, the 42-inch LT-42SL89 and 46-inch LT-46SL89, both of which are 1080p. The estimated release date is early this summer, with no pricing announced.
We keep hearing that direct movie downloads are the way of the future. The question is, how much are people willing to spend right now for a set-top box that lets them download movies without a computer? The $399 VUDU, on display at last night's Digital Experience event, can store about 100 hours of movie content, which you can rent or buy from the company's online catalog of about 5,000 movies. Most of the current downloads are available at DVD quality, but the company is adding HD downloads to its repertoire and plans to offer 70 HD-quality films by the end of January. The player can output up to 1080p/24 through its HDMI connection, and it’s not too hard on the eyes either, with a glossy black case and matching remote. There are no activation or subscription fees; you can rent new HD releases for $5.99 and classic HD films for $3.99.
Tips for selecting and installing a front-projection screen.
What’s keeping you from taking the front-projection plunge? Is it a belief that projection systems are still only for the rich and famous, consisting of $15,000 projectors, movie-theater-sized screens, and elaborate masking systems, controlled by advanced touchpanels? The entry-level projector roundup on page 38 of this issue is proof that there’s a 1080p projector to suit almost any budget, and the same is true for theater screens.
How weird is this? Just the other day, I was staring at this huge empty wall in my house, thinking, "What this wall really needs is a 150-inch plasma. It would really tie the whole room together." And then I see this at the Panasonic booth. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but our PR rep assures us that this is a real product that will actually come to market. So start collecting your loose change.
Another fun Boston Acoustics product is the Horizon Duo-i table radio, a stereo audio system with a built-in iPod dock, AM/FM tuner, alarm clock, and remote control. The Boston P.O.P. is available here too, so you can get this $200 unit in lots of fun colors. Here's a little piece of design genius: The entire front aluminum trim is a touch-sensitive snooze bar, so you don't need good aim to extend your all-important beauty rest.
Can the all-in-one soundbar really replace a dedicated home theater system?
The emergence of the soundbar audio genre can be traced to two trends: 1) consumers’ desire to buy slender, space-saving speaker systems to match their slender, space-saving flat-panel HDTVs; and 2) consumers’ hatred of running speaker wire around the room. Studies show that people either leave their surrounds at the front of the room, which wreaks havoc with the soundstage, or they simply don’t hook them up at all, which is just a shame. To address the former, speaker companies began to incorporate the front three channels of a 5.1-channel system into one slender bar you could place above or below your TV. To address the latter, they took it one step further, putting all five channels into a single bar and using acoustic manipulation to create a sense of surround envelopment. It seems like every major speaker manufacturer is now jumping on the soundbar bandwagon, but does the technology really work? Can one speaker honestly re-create a 5.1-channel soundfield, and what kind of sacrifices must be made to do so? To find out, we brought in the latest soundbar models from Philips, Marantz, Yamaha, Denon, and Polk.
At home, in the car, or on the go, there's a satellite radio product for you.
I learned two important things at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. One, you can slap an LED into just about anything and market it as a consumer electronics product. Two, satellite radio has hit full stride. Both XM and Sirius reported huge increases in the number of subscribers during 2004: XM added 1.8 million subscribers last year, for a total of 3.2 million—with more than 50,000 people signing up on Christmas Day alone. Sirius, meanwhile, grew from around 300,000 to 1.14 million subscribers. If you're starting to feel like you might be missing something, guess what. You are. If you're ready to do something about it, read on.