CES Roundup Page 12

HDMI 1.3 Updates

Just when you thought your system was up-to-date because you got a receiver that switched component video, HDMI was unleashed. And, as if a new connector weren't enough, HDMI is an evolving standard that steadily progressed from versions 1.1 and 1.2 to 1.3. (For more on the new standard, see The Missing Link.)

The first component to feature HDMI 1.3 was Sony's Blu-ray-capable PlayStation 3, followed by Toshiba's second-gen HD DVD player, the HD-XA2. But to experience everything HDMI 1.3 has to offer, every link of the audio and video chain has to be up to the new 1.3 specification. And it takes more than a simple firmware or software upgrade to make your 1.1 or 1.2 components compatible with the new standard. You need new hardware and silicon, and so far no manufacturers are offering 1.3 as an upgrade option.

While at CES, I polled TV and receiver companies about when HDMI 1.3-equipped gear will likely be hitting store shelves. Sadly, the news isn't too reassuring for anyone who plans to buy a TV or A/V receiver in the near future. While all new gear will eventually have 1.3, most manufacturers won't be including it anytime soon. More surprisingly, most companies were tight-lipped about their plans for adding it.

On the audio front, Denon had the most exciting news, saying that every receiver in its new line (due in the spring) will have HDMI 1.3 - even the lowest-price models. Sherwood Newcastle also showed two models outfitted with 1.3, the R-972 ($1,499) and the R-872 ($999), both to be available around August. - John Sciacca

A number of video manufacturers at CES announced they'd be incorporating HDMI 1.3 jacks into new gear during '07. But 1.3 on a TV won't mean squat unless it can also display an expanded "xvYCC" color gamut - a feature HDMI's creator Silicon Image calls "Deep Color," and that each company using it seems to have a unique name for. This new standard allows TVs to display pictures with a color range 1.8 times greater than that of current HDTVs.

Sony dipped into Deep Color at CES with its 70-inch Bravia KDL-70XBR3 LCD model and the quartet of HD camcorders it introduced at the show. But unless a few xvYCC-encoded PS3 games come out soon, this means footage shot with one of Sony's new HD cams will be the first real Deep Color video you'll get to see on a Deep Color TV.

Elsewhere, Samsung and Toshiba showed HDTVs with HDMI 1.3 connections and the ability to display an expanded color range. The feature will appear in a flock of LCD, DLP, and plasma models from Samsung, while Toshiba plans to include it in its high-end Cinema Series LCD line. Pioneer also said that its new line of plasmas will support Deep Color. Mitsubishi, too, was rumored to be showing rear-pro DLP TVs with the feature at a hotel somewhere far away from the convention center, but long cab lines kept me from viewing them. - Al Griffin

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