While nearly every major consumer electronics brand has a new LCD or Plasma to show off at CES, most models look similar to one another. That isn’t the case with VIZIO’s newest batch of LCD HDTVs. The VL and VT Series all feature a distinct JAVA color treatment with a sophisticated, coffee-colored frame. It’s a nice addition to an LCD that introduces several new features from VIZIO.
The newest LCDs in Samsung’s Touch of Color series are looking greener than ever. But that’s not such a bad thing. The Series 6 and 7 models adhere to strict energy efficiency guidelines, known as Energy Star v3.0. This means that you can expect less power consumption from your flat-panel display overall, which is a bonus when it comes to pricey consumer electronics equipment. Although this might seem to downgrade your flat-panel, Samsung says that the quality soars higher than ever with its latest models.
Flexibility has never been the name of the game when it comes to flat panel installation. But Salamander Designs is out to change all that with its latest mounting solution, the floorstanding Synchro Furniture Mate ($599). Instead of having to permanently mount your flat panel to a wall or set it on top of a cabinet, the Synchro Furniture Mate lets you have the stability of mounting on a freestanding and customizable component.
Thiel’s zet distributed system offers something that few others can claim: A truly user-friendly setup and installation process. The company just introduced its latest flavor of the system, which is an HDMI-compatible version that plays host to eight HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. But the buzz around this one is focused on its setup. Thiel boldly claims that even the most inexperienced user can set up this system in less than an hour.
Paradigm has taken on the challenge of making an “invisible” subwoofer with the newest addition to its signature architectural series. The PCS-80R (pricing not yet announced) aims to combine powerful sub performance with the convenience and unobtrusive appeal of an in-wall.
If you want to take your home theater audio to the next generation, Dynaudio has the right speakers for you at CES. Dynaudio just unleashed its latest loudspeaker in the triumphant Focus series, the Focus 360. A result of the company’s own research, the Focus 360 pledges to bring a superior sound environment to all of your favorite movies. It includes two 8-inch die-cast frame woofers that incorporate 3-inch voice coils. The innovative voice coils are created from lightweight aluminum and house a center magnet system which contributes to its efficient sound reproduction overall.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of techy terms that go into the latest speaker systems and A/V receivers. But Onkyo takes the guesswork out of choosing a quality HD-capable system with its HT-S9100THX HTIB ($1,099). The model features a tonally matched 7.1 speaker system and an A/V receiver with 130 watts per channel. Onkyo’s quality A/V receiver boasts THX’s Integrated System Plus certification and claims to be compatible with just about any component you can connect it to. It features four HDMI v1.3a inputs and a number of legacy connectivity options. The HT-S9100THX also has Faroudja DCDi video upscaling along with Audyssey 2EQ and Dynamic EQ, and it provides decoding for the latest audio codecs.
Monster Cable’s Head Monster, Noel Lee, announced today that Monster Music will be releasing “Theater of the Mind,” the new album by hip hop superstar Ludacris. The “HDS” format of Monster Music allows their discs to be played in any DVD player producing high performance surround sound. The new Ludacris offering will be released on Blu-ray Disc in high definition lossless 7.1 surround sound that can be played on a Blu-ray player without the need for special audio decoders.
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").
NAD’s latest offering to CES is another pair of A/V receivers, the T 747 and T 737, which the company says offer stellar performance and unbeatable value. The T 747 in particular decodes both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, a must for any high-quality receiver. It also provides Faroudja DCDi processing, auto calibration, and it can reach sound levels of up to 60 watts per channel.
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.
OK, it’s early. I’ve only hit two press events so far. But I have to say that with all the talk of ludicrous refresh rates, Internet content, ultra contrast and local dimming, no one is talking about improving LCD’s biggest weakness- off-axis viewing. In every key respect- black levels, resolution, color, contrast, and you name it, local dimming LCDs compete with the very best plasma designs. But watch one even a little off center and it all goes to hell. Why is no one taking aim at improving that? Maybe someone will surprise me later today!
LED backlighting, Internet-content connectivity, and 240Hz seem to be the watchwords in this year's new HD flat panel sets, if what we've seen so far today, from LG and Toshiba, are representative. Toshiba introduced a whole range of new sets, some non-Regza, some Regza. (Regza, for newbees, is Toshiba's moniker for its premier designs). Some of the upper end models also use a new 14-bit "5G" Resolution + processor said to be capable of making SD sources "feel like" HD. We'll let you know when we see it.
Toshiba has been keeping itself busy since HD DVD went under. Lots of DVD players and components but I did not hear the “B” word at any time during Toshiba’s 2009 CES press event. But Toshiba is bringing other content to its CE components in a new, and big way in 2009. Toshiba is integrating connectivity into its 2009 lineup by collaborating with Microsoft, Yahoo and other partners. Toshiba’s 2009 lineup will be rife with network-based connectivity, featuring Widget channels for Myspace, Cinemanow, Yahoo and CBS. Many products will be Windows Media Center PC “Extender” devices, and the line will include a standalone “Network Player” box.