CES Showstoppers Page 8
TV's Bright Tomorrow Tucked behind closed doors in an obscure corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a joint Toshiba/Canon demo introduced yet another acronym to the list of flat-panel TV technologies: SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display). Kind of like a plasma TV without the gas, or a tube set without the tube, SED TVs use a phosphor layer triggered by electrons to produce images. The demo offered convincing proof of SED's potential: high-def images looked amazingly crisp, bright, and solid on a 36-inch screen, with CRT-like levels of shadow detail. Toshiba plans to deliver the first SED set - a 50-inch, 1080p-resolution display (shown) - late this year or early in 2006. • With both plasma sets and new TV types creating competition, it comes as no surprise that LCD makers are working hard to improve the image quality of their flat-panel sets. Philips demonstrated its Clear LCD technology, which is said to increase picture contrast and quicken the response time of a display's liquid crystals by dividing its backlight into ten zones. Philips plans to incorporate Clear LCD in 32-inch and larger TVs beginning in the second half of this year. - A.G. Video Trends While Blu-Ray Disc (BD) and HD DVD were the most prominent near-future technologies on display at CES, they weren't the only ones. •Mitsubishi created a buzz with the amazing PocketProjector ($700, July). Smaller than a paperback at 4 3/4 x 1 3/4 x 3 3/4 inches and weighing just 14 ounces, it uses DLP technology and an LED bulb to achieve its Lilliputian dimensions. Mitsubishi claims a staggering 20,000 hours of bulb life for this 800 x 600-pixel projector, plus the shortest "throw distance" in the industry, resulting in a relatively large image when it's just 3 feet from the screen. • Another exciting near-future product is TiVo 's CableCARD-equipped video hard-disk recorder, a box you don't have to rent from your cable company. It uses TiVo's excellent interface for recording high-def shows and has two tuners and two CableCARD slots for dual simultaneous recording. But the company hasn't announced pricing, and it won't be out until 2006. (Cable companies are already leasing boxes with similar capabilities.) • Samsung once again featured a concept-packed booth. And the biggest deal there, literally, was the 102-inch plasma (no price or availability), which grabbed more headlines than anything else at the show. Since the 80-inch plasma Samsung showed last year, the HPR8072 ($60,000), is supposed to finally make it to stores this July, who's to say its 102-incher won't do so as well? - D.K.
The High-Def Duel Begins Even the battle looming between the two high-definition disc formats (see "Beyond DVD," and "Home Theater," April 2005 issue, on page 26), it's not surprising that they were the big story at CES. The first recorders in both formats should be available here by the end of the year for about $1,000. • Sony, Philips, JVC, Pioneer, HP, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, LG, Samsung, Hitachi, and Zenith all showed Blur-ay players, while the Blur-ay Disc Association announced four new members: chip maker Texas Instruments, game publishers Electronic Arts and Vivaldi Universal, and Sun Microsystems, whose Java technology is integral to the Blu-ray Disc (BD) system. Just before CES, JVC announced a BD/DVD that can store both high- and standard-def video on a single disc. • HD DVD co-developer Toshiba used a prototype to show off its format's interactive prowess, including the ability to play interactive games and to let users buy content locked on the disc. The company plans to introduce an HD DVD recorder capable of supporting high-def 720p and 1080i signals and including HDMI, FireWire, and Ethernet connectors. It's scheduled to be available by this winter for slightly less th an $1,000. Sanyo and RCA also announced they would have HD DVD players available by year's end, while NEC will supply HD DVD drives for PCs. • Warner Bros., Paramount, and Universal said they would have HD DVD titles availab le in time for the la unch of the players. Warner committed to releasing 50 titles, while Pa ramount will have 20 and Universal will have 16. Initially, prices are expected to be slightly higher than for standard DVDs. • Bob Chapek, president of Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment, who had touted the merits of Blu-ray at that group's press conference, later told members of the Digital Entertainment Group that it should work harder to get both camps to settle on a single high-def format. At that same meeting, a Best Buy executive said, "Best Buy's vote, and the vote of our customers, is strongly behind one format." But based on each camp's posturing at CES, there's been little progress on resolving what could be a confusing format war. - James K. Willcox