Samsung is one of the few companies that makes and markets LCDs and plasmas with equal fervor. Members of the new B850 plasmas, including the 50- and 58-inch versions shown here, are only 1.5 inches deep at their thickest point, and they consume 40% less power than last year's line. It also boasts a 600Hz sub-field refresh rate, which is supposed to lower black level and reduce contouring, though this is likely more about specsmanship than any significant benefit.
The beloved game show <I>Jeopardy!</I> celebrated its 25th anniversary by taping a week's worth of shows at CES. Interestingly, <I>Jeopardy!</I> and <I>Wheel of Fortune</I> were the first game shows to be produced and broadcast in high-def in 2006.
I was surprised to see Haier in a huge booth in the middle of the convention center's Central Hall. This Chinese company has been at CES in years past, but until now, they've had a smaller booth somewhere in the back. Based in Qindao (or Tsing Tao, where the beer of that name is brewed), Haier is one of China's largest appliance manufacturers, and it's been selling LCD TVs in the US market since 2006. Where are they sold, you ask? Mainly independent appliance and TV stores such as BrandSmart; they are also big on the QVC shopping network.
I saw a couple of LED-illuminated DLP front projectors at CEDIA last year, so it wasn't all that surprising to see another one at CES. Vivitek introduced the H6080FD, a 1080p projector with a single DMD chip and RGB LEDs that are supposed to last 20,000 hours. This 1080p model claims 800 lumens of light output and a 50,000:1 native contrast ratio. Availability is said to be the May/June time frame, and the price will be around $20,000.
Following the successful introduction of their high-end Zeppelin iPod speaker system, B & W has entered the sound bar market with a higher end model, the Panorama. Few details were available, although it is a powered sound bar with 5 source inputs including 2 optical and 1 coaxial digital input. Price is $2200. B & W also says it does not require a subwoofer and has enough bass to fill most rooms. We'll see.
Vizio is getting on the widget bandwagon with Vizio Connected HDTV, a feature set that will be added to all XVT models this fall. With 802.11n WiFi and an Ethernet port, it can run various widgets to access online weather, news, and so on, and new widgets can be downloaded from the company's website into the TV's Widget Gallery shown here on the left of the screen. Also included is a new Bluetooth remote that slides open like a smartphone to reveal a QWERTY keyboard.
After its meteoric rise in the flat-panel business, Vizio is expanding into the realm of Blu-ray players with the VBR100. It's BD-Live with 1GB of internal memory, it has 7.1 analog audio outs, and it can bitstream and decode all the advanced audio codecs. It should be available in April for—get this—$200, the magic price point. Mainstream, here we come!
The 55-inch VF551XVT is Vizio's first LCD TV with LED backlight and local dimming. Slated for June, it also operates at 240Hz and offers a USB port and five HDMI inputs. The price? Only $2000! For that little, I could certainly tolerate the garish red soundbar grille below the screen.
When I heard that Samsung has a new Joe Kane-designed single-chip DLP projector, I had to check it out. The SP-A900B boasts 35% better contrast than the SP-A800B, mostly due to lower blacks thanks to the DarkChip 4 DMD and other refinements. To help Samsung sell the projector—which it has been unable to do in any volume with previous models—Kane is helping to set up a real distribution channel that will make the projector available only through dealers who install and calibrate it. The SP-A900B should be available next month for $15,000. The demo is using the new Da-Lite Affinity screen, which Kane also helped design, and the result is spectacular—the best video image at the show in my view.
Dolby has been working on an LED local-dimming system for LCD TVs for a couple of years, but now it's finally finished and ready for manufacturers to use in their products. It comes in two flavors—Dolby Vision is intended for prosumer, commercial, medical, and industrial applications, while Dolby Contrast is intended for consumer TVs. Pictured here is a 47-inch prototype implementation of Dolby Vision from SIM2. I also saw a demo of Dolby Contrast next to a Samsung 950 LCD with local dimming, and the difference was clear—the set with Dolby Contrast had better contrast and lower blacks, and the colors popped more.
I've always liked Optoma's 1080p DLP projectors, except for one thing—no lens shift, which makes placement difficult. I guess the company listened, because the new HD8200 takes lens shift one step beyond normal. Called PureShift, the Optoma shifts the entire light engine up to 20% left/right and 30% up/down, keeping the light path in the center of the lens. It'll be available only through custom installers for $5000 starting in February. The similar HD808 will be available at retail for $3500 in March; the 808 uses the DarkChip 2 DMD, whereas the 8200 uses the DC3 chip for greater contrast.
New to Dish Network's lineup of HD DVRs is the ViP 922 with Slingbox built in, which lets you watch any recorded program from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. To store all the HD programs you can't live without, it houses a 1-terabyte hard disk. Also new is the remote, which sports half the number of buttons as the previous design and a little touchpad that moves an onscreen cursor around a much more graphical menu system. As if that weren't enough, the 922 also offers RSS widgets, and it even recommends shows you might like based on what you select to watch.
Radiient Technologies has partnered with THX to jointly license and market THX Roomcaster, an ultra-wideband wireless speaker adapter system for surround sound and stereo speakers. THX Roomcaster operates in the 3.1 to 10.6 GHz frequency range to deliver uncompressed audio to as many as eight speakers in 24-bit signal resolution. High frequency operation minimizes potential interference from other electronic devices and THX Roomcaster has a range of 30 feet. The system includes one Wireless Audio Source Adapter that connects to any audio source in the system and one Wireless Speaker Adapter connects to each powered speaker in a system.
Eco-friendly TVs that consume less power seem to be in everyone's line up now. Though by and large, I noticed they tend to be smaller sets with fewer features. Hopefully, in the years to come it won't be necessary to denote specific models as eco-friendly because we know they all are.