DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor


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September 16, 2006

We're entering the fall holiday shopping season and that means new product introductions. With digital TV, that means better and cheaper.

If you've been thinking about a 1080p front projector, but have been put off by their steep prices, you may be in luck.

Sony has a new SXRD 1920 x 1080 three-panel/single-chip front projector for a mere $5000 (model VPL-VW50). That's half of what their 3-chip SXRD front projector costs, and the new one-chip version also has some technical advantages (all-digital signal path). It supports 60 and 24 fps, and has the usual HDMI inputs.

Not to be outdone, Panasonic has introduced a new 1080p front projector, expected to be available in November for under $6000 (final price TBA). It has a contrast ratio of 11,000:1.
Panasonic PT-AE1000
Panasonic PT-AE1000U

Toshiba is moving ahead agressively with its HD-DVD players. On Thursday it announced two second generation players. Its base model (HD-A2) will be available next month for $500. The big news, however, is that its new high-end player (the HD-XA2), expected to be out in December for $1000, will have HDMI 1.3 inputs!

To quote from Toshiba's press release:

"The HD-XA2 will be one of the first next generation players to support the video portion of HDMI version 1.3. HDMI 1.3 supports the demands of future high definition display devices, such as Deep Color enabling 36-bit (RGB or YCbCr) color depths, up from the 24-bit depths in previous versions of the HDMI specification."

"The HD-XA2 also incorporates a 297MHz / 12 bit Video DAC with high-quality, 4x oversampling for increased bandwidth for true playback of an HD picture to a video source. The HD-XA2 comes with a picture setting function allowing customers to optimize picture quality with user adjustable settings for color, contrast, brightness, edge enhancement and block noise, among others."

And let's not forget the audio:

"The lossless mandatory formats include Linear PCM and Dolby TrueHD. The Dolby TrueHD format supports audio tracks that are bit-for-bit identical to the high resolution studio masters and in the new models can support up to 5.1 channels of 24-bit/96kHz audio. Both new models feature built-in multi-channel decoders for Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (5.1 channel), DTS and DTS-HD (core only)."

So not quite there yet with audio: can't do the full 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD and same with DTS-HD Master Audio.

Now Blu-ray needs to step up to the table.

Toshiba also announced new LCD flat-panel displays--a Cinema Series Pro line, including 42" and 47" 1920 x 1080 sets with 12-bit digital video processing, and "new sleek high-gloss black cabinetry." List prices are $3400 and $4600 respectively.

Sony has new LCD flat panels as well, coming out in November. These will be Sony's biggest: two 52" sets, both 1920 x 1080 with 1080p input capability. One gloss black, one silver-- $6800 and $6500. There will be new 1366 x 768 models as well--40" and 32" in October.

In Washington news, the telecom reform bill (the one that has something for everybody, including national video franchising and some DTV transition provisions as well) still seems to be firmly stalled in the Senate. If you recall, the "net neutrality" provisions were causing heartburn in some influential quarters.

Anyway, there is talk now by some Senators of the need to break up the mother-of-all-bills into more manageable pieces, so that important bits can actually be enacted into law.

We'll see.