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Miscellaneous CES Bits

January 9, 2007 with 1/10 Pioneer BD player update

HP has decided to drop their critically-acclaimed DLP RPTVs in favor of flat-panels. They are introducing nine new flat-panels, all having three HDMI inputs (it seems to be the thing now, and a very good one at that).

Seven of the flat-panels are LCDs; of those, two are Media-Smart models designed for computer hookup. The other two are plasmas. To wit:

  • LC3272N 32-inch 720p LCD
  • LC3772N 37-inch 720p LCD
  • LC4272N 42-inch 720p LCD
  • LC4276N 42-inch 1080p LCD
  • SL4278N 42" 1080p MediaSmart LCD
  • LC4776N 47-inch 1080p LCD
  • SL4778N 47" 1080p MediaSmart LCD
  • PL4272N 42-inch plasma
  • PL5072N 50-inch plasma

Sony tends to wait until late-February to make its big product announcements and so did not present much new at CES 2007. They did nevertheless have a few trinkets to offer.

They showed off a prototype 55-inch SXRD Grand WEGA rear projection micro-display television with a new laser light engine technology that enhances color uniformity and brightness, while maintaining a slim profile. Very cool; we'll being waiting for that one.

Adding to the 16 models of LCD flat-panels (23" to 52"), there is a new 70" 1080p model with a new backlighting system and contrast ratio enhancements, as well as three HDMI inputs for full 1080p connectivity. It sports the newly fashionable high refresh rate and new HDMI 1.3-enabled xvYCC color technology.

If 70" is not big enough, Sony showed off an 82" Bravia flat-panel LCD. And looking into the future, they had a 27" OLED display (Organic Light Emitting Diode).

Hitachi touted a 50" "1080" plasma set for under $2500, only it turned out to be just the "1080" part of full-spec HD's 1920 x 1080 resolution. The Hitachi's horizontal pixel count is a scant 1280, for a total pixel count of 1.3 million, compared to over two million for full-spec HD.

They put it this way: "By engineering a new method of energizing pixels on a panel, Hitachi has improved picture quality by increasing the resolution to match the dominant 1080 HDTV broadcast format in the vertical domain." (emphasis added)

They'll get there eventually, but this is hardly the "breakthrough" technology their marketing people are trumpeting.

Hitachi also introduced some LCD flat-panels: H201 and T301 lines with a new "industrial" design. Both series have 32" and 37" models, with 1366 x 768 resolution, and three HDMI inputs.

The more advanced T301 sets use a 120 Hz refresh rate, but insert black frames between normal frames "for clear fast action sequences." I can't see that being as good as the other manufacturers' sets that interpolate the in-between frames, but I haven't yet seen either technology approach in person.

The 37" H201 and T301 models will be available in May 2007, followed by the 32" models in June.

Hitachi has produced very good rear-projectors in the past. Their LCD Rear Projection Full HD1080 Series comes in 50", 55", and 62" screen sizes. They use 3-LCD 1920x1080 technology with a 3-panel light engine for high picture contrast and image clarity. They will sport Hitachi's new compact industrial design with bottom speakers and an overall gloss black finish.

Hitachi's M50P801, M55P801 and M62P801 will be available in May, June and July 2007, respectively.

Onkyo has announced that it will have an HD-DVD player on the market later this year. Onkyo also plans to develop AV receivers to match HD DVD content through a single HDMI cable that transfers video, audio and control signals. This suggests HDMI 1.3, since the release also mentioned Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Details of the Onkyo HD DVD player for North America, including launch timing, specifications and specifics of the launch in other regions along with future AV receivers will be announced separately.

Speaking of A/V receivers, there seemed to be almost none at CES 2007 -- that is only a scant few that supported HDMI 1.3 and the new lossless audio formats--Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. There was a frightfully expensive Denon and a model from Sherwood, but where were the likes of Yamaha, Sony, and Onkyo, etc? A disappointment, for sure.

Meanwhile, Pioneer has been boasting that its new plasma technology will blow both SED and LCD out of the water, but no word on when product will hit the market, or what size, or what price. Better than SED? Contrast ratios so high they can't be measured? I guess they saw Sharp's new 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio monitor. I hope it pans out; the higher the bar, the better for the consumer.

Pioneer's Blu-ray Player has been selling in limited quantities for a couple of days; it should be generally available starting the 12th. Quality is reported to be very good. Lossless audio hardware reported to be in the machine; needs a firmware update for it to decode Dolby True-HD.