A number of things have dovetailed into this Blog in the last week and a half. A NY Times article landed downplaying the success Blu-ray is having thus far and its future prospects, and, IMO, vastly overrating the current and future prospects of movie streaming and downloads. A massive wave of CE products launched at CES that connect to Internet-driven content, adding some fuel to this fire, and well, NPR called me in the middle of the show to get my take on this, which you can read and listen to here.
Both of Samsung’s new BD players, the uber cool hang-on-the-wall BD-P4600 (shown here) and BD-P3600 look good and are fully loaded BD players with BD-Live and full audio decoding. But finally, a manufacturer has acknowledged that not everyone has hardwired Ethernet near their AV gear. Samsung includes a W-Fi dongle for both of these players. The PlayStation 3 has been alone in offering this feature far too long. Bravo Samsung!
No pricing or availability was set yet, but Panasonic showed this portable Blu-ray player, which includes the same capabilities as its standard players. It uses the same outstanding UniPhier decoding/processing chip the standalone players do, and here’s a trick- it also has an HDMI out so you can plug it into your TV when you get back home from your road trip. Because you can doesn’t mean you will, but that’s still kinda cool.
Panasonic’s DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55 players have been ensconced in our Top Picks since last fall. That they’ve been replaced by the DMP-BD60 and DMP-BD80 is significant in and of itself, but that’s not the half of it. The core DVD/BD functionality remains the same on the new players, which means top notch BD and DVD playback. Both are BD-Live capable (and they still require the user to buy SD media for storage which remains my only gripe with the players). But what’s new is Viera Cast. Through this networked player users can now access Internet sourced content from YouTube, Picasa photo sharing, Bloomberg Weather Channel and now Amazon Video On Demand. I think players like this one, and those from LG and Samsung will expand Blu-ray’s growth exponentially this year. I think there’s a better opportunity for players with more value-add features at higher prices than players that only play movies at even cheaper prices. Not forcing users to choose between Blu-ray and streaming/downloading is a big plus in my book. Plus, nothing will make Blu-ray’s strengths more apparent than easy direct comparison to streaming video. The new players will be available this spring. Pricing was not determined yet but I'd expect them to be in line with current pricing on the BD35 and BD55.
Now this is an IPTV. Or a PC TV. Or a home theater pc built into a TV? Or a TV with an HTPC built in? Who cares! Anyone who’s used an iPhone or an iPod Touch or a Sooloos knows the future of interface is in touch screens. Allio’s IPTV’s are built around a Vista Media Center platform and have touch screen options on their smaller models. The screen you see here has two Internet-driven streams playing on screen with a third window showing Hulk on Blu-ray (that’s the ever so lovely Jennifer Connelly there). I was able to move, manipulate and resize these windows, images and media using my fingers like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. It’s striking how much the PC gets out of the way when controlled by touch. Cool stuff.
Vivitek was the only manufacturer I found showing DLP projection with an LED light source. And there’s good reason for that- the company claims an exclusive deal with Texas Instruments on its LED-based DLP light engines. This technology is significant in two areas- no bulb replacements, ever, and no more color separation “rainbow” artifacts. The H6080FD is full 1080p, and incorporates TI’s DynamicBlack dynamic iris system. The image was being shown on a very small screen by front projection standards, but had a lot of pop and detail with rainbows nowhere to be seen. The 6080 is due later this year at an MSRP of $19,999. This is a new wrinkle we’re very anxious to get a closer look at!
Consumers can now pump up their DVR experience with Digeo’s Moxi high-def DVR. This HD DVR is aimed solely at digital cable subscribers. It requires a multistream CableCARD, and allows users to record two shows while watching already recorded programs. In addition to a slick proprietary interface, the Moxi ships with 500GB of internal storage. That’s 75 hours of HD recording, which more than doubles what I’ve got in my Comcast DVR. But cooler still is that the eSATA port is active and you can increase that storage to 2 terabytes! Remote web scheduling is allowed and happens in real-time. Although On-demand dover cable doesn’t work with Multistream CableCARD there is a host of content that can be streamed from the Internet, including Flickr photo sharing, Finetune, and weather and sports info. Digeo says more will follow. HT has already acquired one of these units for review, so there’s more to follow. Digeo also threw out another tidbit- the Moxi Mate pictured here on top of the DVR will allow users to network the Moxi experience throughout the house cost effectively. As a sign of the times, Digeo is launching this component with Amazon as its exclusive retailer. Or, e-tailer if you will. Available now at $799.
JVC’s TH-SB100 raises the soundbar to a new level. Not only does it ship with a BD-Live capable Blu-ray player, this “3.1-channel” system includes left, right and center channels plus a wireless subwoofer for the boom king. Ok, like all “wireless” speakers we’ve seen AC is required, but you get the drift. Available in April for $699.
OK, I added the "sinister" part. But doesn’t it still sound like a super secret weapon employed by an evil genius in a Bond flick? Sharp showed two new BD players at CES. The most compelling of the two is the BD-HP22U, which is BD-Live out of the gate, including 2GB of onboard storage and a USB port that can be used to expand storage capacity and upload new firmware. The audio decoding is murkier- Sharp’s reps and the logos on the player indicate decoding capability for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The press release is only specific on its ability to output the advanced codecs as native bitstreams. The BDP-HP22U will be available in May for $299.