Flexibility has never been the name of the game when it comes to flat panel installation. But Salamander Designs is out to change all that with its latest mounting solution, the floorstanding Synchro Furniture Mate ($599). Instead of having to permanently mount your flat panel to a wall or set it on top of a cabinet, the Synchro Furniture Mate lets you have the stability of mounting on a freestanding and customizable component.
LED backlighting, Internet-content connectivity, and 240Hz seem to be the watchwords in this year's new HD flat panel sets, if what we've seen so far today, from LG and Toshiba, are representative. Toshiba introduced a whole range of new sets, some non-Regza, some Regza. (Regza, for newbees, is Toshiba's moniker for its premier designs). Some of the upper end models also use a new 14-bit "5G" Resolution + processor said to be capable of making SD sources "feel like" HD. We'll let you know when we see it.
When you've come to CES as many times as I have, of course you've got baggage - serious mental baggage. At least, as a wonderful byproduct of my job, I can look like a happy idiot taking pictures of the baggage concourse sign in front of hundreds of other people who simply want to get their luggage and get away from me.
Sony's exhibit at the CEDIA EXPO in September leans heavily on flat panel displays and projectors. But at CES they back off on that emphasis and go for a wider range of audio, video, and other electronic thingys. We're not covering computers here, but I was drawn to the new VAIO P Series Lifestyle PC ($900, February). Especially attractive to long-suffering A/V bloggers suffering under the weight of oversized laptops at trade shows, this tiny compact computer tips the scales at 1.4 lbs. Its 8-inch screen is not for the weak or eye, or the smallish keyboard for the thick of thumb. I found typing on it reasonably easy, though wouldn't want to use it to write the Great American Epic. Wireless everything, of course. Why didn't Steve Jobs and Apple think of this first?
If you want to take your home theater audio to the next generation, Dynaudio has the right speakers for you at CES. Dynaudio just unleashed its latest loudspeaker in the triumphant Focus series, the Focus 360. A result of the company’s own research, the Focus 360 pledges to bring a superior sound environment to all of your favorite movies. It includes two 8-inch die-cast frame woofers that incorporate 3-inch voice coils. The innovative voice coils are created from lightweight aluminum and house a center magnet system which contributes to its efficient sound reproduction overall.
Wisdom Audio’s S90i Sage Series in-wall/on-wall subwoofer stands out from the crowd of traditional subwoofers in its versatility alone. The in-wall/in-ceiling sub can be installed in-wall, in-ceiling, in a closet, or in the floors. However, Wisdom Audio says this sub deserves more than just praise for its ability to be concealed.
We’re hearing it again and again from many TV manufacturers. TVs are becoming the center of our home entertainment beyond broadcast TV, cable or satellite. Networked TVs that can download content from the internet and can show photos, play videos and music from the computers on your home network. All of the TV manufacturers from LG, to Toshiba, Sharp, Panasonic, Sony and Samsung were announcing their partnerships with different content providers. Yahoo widgets were omnipresent. These mini applications—widgets—let you get local weather, news, sports, stock tickers and more. As widgets you can choose the type of stocks you want to follow or put in other customizable information. Yahoo widgets are open source which means that software developers can let their imaginations run wild and we’ll all benefit from what they dream up.
As with all manufacturers, Sharp announced a pile of new sets. But the BD series, available in five sizes (32-, 37-, 42-, 46-, and 52 inches) is the first we've heard of to feather built-in Blu-ray players. The three larges sizes offer 120Hz operation, 10-bit panels, and a Pure mode that selects the optimum settings for a programincluding the correct aspect ratio for BDs and DVDs (if this works well, it will be a first, and a welcome one, but no claim was made that it will do this on broadcast sources). The set's cosmetics also feature a touch of blue (red was taken). The two largest models, will be available in February at $2599 (52") and $2299 (46").
Last, wireless HDMI is also coming from LG in a big way. At the press event the company didn’t elaborate on too many details, but did suggest it can pass signals as high in resolution as 1080p/60 “uncompressed.” I’m guessing in this context that means the wireless system itself doesn’t apply on the fly video compression to restrict bandwidth requirements while moving the HD signals around. No mention was made of the other side of this equation, which in the case of Blu-ray is bandwidth intensive lossless audio. I’ll visit LG on the showroom floor once the show opens and find out more. While single wires are great, no wires is even better- as long as it’s really the free lunch LG is claiming it to be!
The newest LCDs in Samsung’s Touch of Color series are looking greener than ever. But that’s not such a bad thing. The Series 6 and 7 models adhere to strict energy efficiency guidelines, known as Energy Star v3.0. This means that you can expect less power consumption from your flat-panel display overall, which is a bonus when it comes to pricey consumer electronics equipment. Although this might seem to downgrade your flat-panel, Samsung says that the quality soars higher than ever with its latest models.
OK, it’s early. I’ve only hit two press events so far. But I have to say that with all the talk of ludicrous refresh rates, Internet content, ultra contrast and local dimming, no one is talking about improving LCD’s biggest weakness- off-axis viewing. In every key respect- black levels, resolution, color, contrast, and you name it, local dimming LCDs compete with the very best plasma designs. But watch one even a little off center and it all goes to hell. Why is no one taking aim at improving that? Maybe someone will surprise me later today!
Paradigm has taken on the challenge of making an “invisible” subwoofer with the newest addition to its signature architectural series. The PCS-80R (pricing not yet announced) aims to combine powerful sub performance with the convenience and unobtrusive appeal of an in-wall.
I went to six press conferences today, and every one of them made a big deal about "How green is my company." Whether it was the energy efficiency of the product itself, the manufacturing of same, or how you can dispose of it in ways that are friendly to birds, fish, and other living things (though perhaps not to Chinese villagers*), they were stumbling all over each other to impress the conservation- and ecologically-minded members of the press. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, but I couldn't help thinking that the industry has discovered that there may be green in being green.