Thin was definitely in at Vizio, which showed several super-slim LCD TVs with LED edge-lighting as a concept demo. The 42-inch Blade seen here in profile is only 6.8mm (1/4-inch) thick, making it the thinnest flat panel I've seen at the show so far, with the electronics in an outboard box. The 26-inch version is 1/2-inch thick with the electronics in the base.
Another Vizio concept demo was a 56-inch "Quad HD" LCD with a pixel resolution of 3840x2160. What a picture! Super-sharp and detailed, a noticeable improvement over 1080p even at a reasonable viewing distance. Initial applications include medical imaging and other high-res rendering, but it could find its way into the consumer marketplace if and when 4K content becomes available.
The model number may be a mouthful, but this mammoth LCD TV from Vizio is certainly an eyeful. Measuring 72 inches diagonally, it offers Sensio 3D with active shutter glasses, Vizio Internet Apps (which provide access to online content from a wide variety of sources), WirelessHD connectivity (the 60GHz variety of wireless HDMI), LED local dimming, and 480Hz refresh rate (actually 240Hz with backlight scanning). It should be available in the third quarter of this year at a cost of—wait for it—less than $4000! The XVTPRO will also be available with screen sizes of 55 and 47 inches for even less.
My impression of Westinghouse LCD TVs has steadily improved with each one I've reviewed, so I was eager to see its new line of LED edge-lit models. The larger screen sizes—42, 46 (pictured), and 55 inches—are 120Hz, and all are quite slender as you would expect from LED edge lighting. The 46- and 55-inchers will be available in the fourth quarter, while the smaller sets will ship in April. Prices were not disclosed, but a company rep said it would be "comparable to CCFL pricing today."
Xbox Kinect users already know how cool it is to use motion control. PrimeSense, the folks who developed the technology behind the Kinect, are now actively licensing it to other companies and hope to have it built in to TVs in the near future. Computer maker, Asus, will be the first computer company to develop a product that will allow you to stream content from your PC to your TV and control it using hand gestures.
Running wires to the rear speakers of a 5.1 or 7.1 system is always problematic. Several companies demonstrated wireless add-on devices, but the Link-Mount is the most unusual and clever solution I’ve seen so far. The wireless receiver/amp is built into a universal speaker wall bracket. A DC power cord is then run through the wall to a termination plate where you connect the wire to a transformer plugged into an electrical outlet. Since it’s DC running through the wall, no electrician is necessary. Pricing is in the $400 range for a pair of brackets and a transmitter.
Fulton Innovation had what I think was the most exciting booth at CES this year. (Yes, more exciting than 3DTV or a iPod karaoke docks.) Fulton Innovation is the developer of eCoupled intelligent wireless power technology. On display was a Tesla Roadster that was being charged through the air as it was parked over a large eCoupled charging pad. Also on display were eCoupled-enabled cereal boxes that had the eCoupled circuitry printed on the boxes using conductive ink. When placed on a shelf near an eCoupled transmitter, the various graphics on the boxes actually lit up. Another aspect of the technology allows a home to have smart cabinets that will monitor the eCoupled-equipped boxes and let you know what cereals, for example, are in the cabinet – and how full the boxes are. In another section of the CES booth, a wireless blender was being demonstrated. If Fulton Innovation has anything to say about it, in the future when we say “wireless” speakers, we’ll really mean it.
Wisdom Audio's LS4 ($100,000 in a 2.2-channel configuration) is 84 inches tall, making it a suitable mate for the fridge-size sub the company introduced at CEDIA 2010. It uses subs for frequencies below 80Hz -- and handles frequencies above that with planar biamped polyamide-film drivers, imprisoned in heavy steel plates, coaxed into motion by 1030 magnets in front of and behind them. String the magnets end to end and you could measure their length in terms of football fields, or so we were told, and at that point, after a long day, our head began to swim, though this certainly wasn't Wisdom's fault. One point the Wisdom people made that we loved: As an on-wall, this model basically prevents the purchaser from putting the speakers in the wrong place, so he actually gets the performance for which he paid so dearly (assuming his installer is up to snuff).
Quality home theater demos were thin on the ground anywhere at CES, but particularly rare in the Venetian hotel. This is the venue for high performance audio, which for far too many audiophiles does not leave room for either multichannel music or any combination of audio and video. But the Wolf Cinema room was an exception, combining the $25,000 Wolf DCL-200FD LED-lit DLP projector with an ISCO anamorphic lens ($10,000) on a 120" wide, 2.35:1 screen. The latter was said to be a 1.4-gain Screen Innovations design, but I need to check up on that, as the only 1.4-gain screen listed in SI's brochure is the dark gray, Black Diamond HD. The speakers were from the Sonus Faber Toy series, together with three T-1 REL subwoofers. The result was exceptional video and audio, even if the former cost several times the latter. The pre-pro was a Primare, no longer distributed in the US by Sumiko (Sumiko distributes Wolf projectors).
I've seen the XStreamHD satellite service demonstrated for the last couple of years at CES, but so far, it hasn't actually been available to consumers. Well, that's finally about to change—the service is due to launch on April 30. It allows users to download movies, music videos, and games from a satellite to a hard-disk-based server, from which they can be streamed to several receivers in the home—in fact, up to four HD streams can be served simultaneously. Users have the option of renting or buying the content, and they can even order physical discs if they wish. Movies are downloaded in 1080p/24 format with up to 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio (Dolby TrueHD is not supported as of now), and the server can download up to two titles at once, each with a maximum bandwidth of 100Mbps per stream.
The SS-AR1 floorstander ($27,000/pair) has appeared at various shows in the past and we've seen it before. But CES 2011 marked its real entry into popular consciousness as part of a Sony division that also includes ES receivers and projectors. Ray Kimber of Kimber cable and IsoMike recording fame and Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds lent their credibility to the proceedings. The speaker's blend of woods includes a cabinet of Hokkaido maple that's harvested only in November when it's at the peak of its powers. Drivers are designed by Sony and custom made by ScanSpeak. The piano black finish is done by a company that makes, um, pianos. Demos included a Nat King Cole tune in which the strings were vivid yet unhyped and the voice reproduced so well, it practically burnt a hole in our brain. We're convinced this is a very fine speaker indeed, and not at all surprised, having liked Sony's long-gone SS-series speakers from the 1990s.