International CES - HDTV's Slim New Look
|A videophile's dream is realized at the Fujitsu booth, where a school of widescreen plasma TVs wows onlookers.|
Slim Is in, Flat Is Phat Gargantuan widescreen plasma TVs measuring 60 inches (diagonal) and bigger were on display at the Fujitsu, Panasonic, Zenith, Samsung, and Runco booths. At $20,000 and up, the large flat-screen sets are mostly destined for the home theaters of the rich and famous.
Fortunately, other options abound, including a number of 42-inch widescreen plasma HDTV monitors in the $10,000 and under range from Philips, Hitachi, Samsung, Zenith, and Fujitsu. Past plasma TVs have been user-unfriendly items better suited to a corporate lobby than a plush living room, but to judge from many of the sets on display -- particularly the offerings from Pioneer, Hitachi, Philips, and Sharp -- the era of ugly, utilitarian plasma is over. Many of the new sets from these companies come with standard TV features like speakers (built-in or detachable), PIP, and a cable-ready NTSC tuner. The tuner, A/V inputs and outputs, and other electronics come in an external box that neatly connects to the panel via a single cable.
Hitachi's 42HDT20, for example, with detachable speaker panels and an outboard electronics box, will debut in May for $8,000. A similar 32-inch model, the $6,000 32HDT20 with side-panel speakers, will be available in April.