CES 2011

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
Sony must have spent all year prepping for their press event. It was as elaborate as any Disney theme park show, much of it in 3D on a huge and super-wide screen consisting of millions of LEDs. It included a major promotion for The Green Hornet, a Sony Pictures flick that opens next week, and concluded with a performance by one of the 256 Cirque du Soleil troups now appearing on the Vegas strip.

Twenty-seven new Sony BRAVIA HDTVs were introduced. The leading character, and the new Sony flagship, will be the XBR HX929-Series, with full 3D capability and full-array local dimming LED backlighting. It's loaded with Internet features, and comes in three sizes: 65-, 55-, and 46-inches. Prices TBD. Available in March. Some of the new models also use Corning's new Gorilla Glass. It's said to be more resistant to damage than conventional glass, though I suspect you'll still want to hold off on tossing that brick at the screen during the 2012 Presidential debates.

Sony's new top-of-the-line stand-alone 3D Blu-ray player is the BDP-S780 (March, about $250). It's Wi-Fi (of course) with SACD playback as well as CD and the usual video suspects.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
Sharp's big announcement was the addition of a 70-inch Quattron set to its lineup. The LE935 will have full LED backlighting with local dimming and is expected by spring. A 70-inch set was said to offer 62% more viewing area than a 60-incher. There will also be new sets in the LE835 an d LE830 ranges, all connectable with Wi-Fi. The XV-2 17000 3D DLP projector under $5000), first shown at CEDIA EXPO 2010 last September, will also be on display here at CES.

Sharp also announced three new 3D Blu-ray players (February), the BD HP25U, 35U, and 75U. Sharp also launched an E-Media Tablet and reader, the Galapagos. (Tablets appear to be a big item this year, thanks to Apple's iPAD!).

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
One of the few loudspeaker-related audio demos on the floor at South Hall was the DTS demo of 11.1 surround with extra channels for height and width enhancement. It actually started with a mere 7.1 movie demo and worked its way up to footage of two savvy musician slash sound designers using a combination of acoustic instruments and electronic processing to create a height- and width-enhanced soundscape. The instruments included one that combined the functions of bass violin, cello, viola, and fiddle. A tree was also used as a musical instrument. It was noteworthy that the demo relied on 11.1 more for aesthetic effect (hmmm, that sounds nice) than for realism -- that is, an evocation of something that happens in the real world and is reproduced convincingly. From our seat in the back and off center, the effect was pleasing but not something we'd cite as grounds for adding numerous speakers to a basic 5.1 surround system. However, our colleague Josh Zyber saw another DTS 11.1 demo at Nobu two nights prior and said it was very impressive, with strong imaging in places you wouldn't expect. The pic, incidentally, is what folks saw while waiting in line for the 11.1 demo: other showgoers in raptures over DTS headphone technology.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
My Home PC is the latest from Control4, whose interface standard bulks large in custom installation and home theater. It marks the first time Control4 has extended its reach beyondproprietary onscreen and touchscreen interfaces to third-party devices such as computers and tablets. With the likes of Denon, Marantz, Harman, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sony, and many more as Control4 partners, My Home PC is likely to see far-ranging use in the a/v sphere and beyond.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
One real advantage of LG's passive glasses technology is the lighter, cheaper passive glasses, shown here in this lightheaded demo setup. Notice the flip-down glasses on the right, for eyeglass-wearers. The FPR technology employs circular polarization, so you can tilt your head without the image fading out.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
Sony's new HDR-TD10 3D High Definition Flash Memory Handycam Camcorder (about $1500, April) is one of the first the full HD 3D consumer camcorders. It includes two separate 1920 a 1080 CMOS sensors and two lenses to capture distinct 1920 x 1080 data streams for each eye. It's also capable of 2D still image capture at 7-megapixels. At present, playback is from the camera only via an HDMI link to the video display. The future should bring dedicated playback devices (such as a 3D Blu-ray player with a flash card slot). Oh, and you can view the image you're shooting in autostereoscopic 3D on the 3.5" viewfinder—no 3D glasses required.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
Optoma introduced the Neo-I, an all-in-one AV iPod dock with a built-in pico projector, speakers, 16-watt amplifier, and an HDMI input. The promotional materials say it’s capable of projecting up to a 120-inch image, but I think that’s pushing it a bit. Skins will be available for the bezel surrounding the speaker grilles that will allow you to personalize the dock. MSRP is $449.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
What to our wondering eyes should appear on the floor of South Hall but the Grey Lady herself, The New York Times, touting her apps for computers, smartphones, e-readers, and of course this year's particular CES obsession, tablets. The paper's show coverage also refers to (other) media companies chasing partners at this year's CE extravaganza.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
In a session separate press event run by LG Display (the division of LG that makes the LCD imaging panels for LG and others), we had an opportunity to view LG's shutter glasses and FPR passive glasses sets side-by-side, in three separate setups, only one of which is shown in the photo. The FPR technology, by necessity, discards half of a source's native vertical resolution—inevitable in 3D displays with passive glasses. That is, each eye-image is 1920 x 540. The loss was not obvious in the demo, though for me, apart from some unfortunate ghosting (not uncommon in LCD 3D active shutter sets, but not on plasmas), I found the shutter-glass displays to be a little punchier and brighter (the passive FPR showed no ghosting). The FPR technique is claimed to retain greater measured brightness, as shown in the photo. Other viewers present thought that the FPR was brighter, but I did not (a gamma difference, perhaps).

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 06, 2011 0 comments
Sony is also showing a number of prototypes of products that are not available now, but may be in the future. Three different flat panel demos using autostereoscopic technology (no 3D glasses needed) were shown: a 24.5" 2K OLED, a 46" 2K LCD, and a 56" 4K LCD. The results were better than I expected, though there were some distracting artifacts. As expected, you must watch in specific viewing spots. In a cosy twosome one partner will get good 3D, the other not so much. In places outside the designated viewing zones the 3D effect diminishes and those artifacts increase, though the image does not completely fall apart. Promising, but still a work in progress.

Sony also showed a set of goggles designed for private 3D viewing (as seen in the not-so-clear photo), and a autostereoscopic portable 3D Blu-ray player.

Available now for pre-sales ordering is a VAIO F Series 3D laptop (about $1700). Oddly, this does require active shutter glasses. It also does 2D-to-3D conversion—for fun with spreadsheets. Seriously, however, there are genuine business and engineering applications for real 3D, including CAD and medical imaging.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 05, 2011 0 comments
A life-size mannequin of Chinese basketball wonder Yao Ming was the most visually striking element of Monster Cable's typically eventful pre-show press conference. This "aspirational figure" says he integrates technology into his busy life because "music helps me achieve." He promo-toured China with Monster last summer, but what really raises an eyebrow is that Monster has opened 10 Yao stores in China. Entire stores devoted to a single marketing idea. Wow.

Monster now has 34.9 percent market share in headphones, thanks to its Beats line, with only Bose even coming close. Last year's Miles Davis Trumpet earbuds have gone into a second generation at a lower $299 price point. The "world's smallest" in-earphones achieve their small size by building the driver into the tip, not the body. Trumpet-valve-like controls are built into the cord. A release of Davis' classic Sketches in Spain in surround complements the product.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 05, 2011 0 comments
Recession? What recession? Panasonic's TV sales were up 30 percent in December 2010 over the previous year, the company reported at today's press event -- and sales of Viera sets were up 45 percent. So the little logo projected above the doorway in the picture above is one potent little symbol. The biggest sellers were 54-, 58-, and 65-inch sets. Areas of future growth include 3DTV, projected to rise to 32 percent of the worldwide market by 2014, and IPTV, expected to hit 42 percent the same year.

Perhaps the biggest news for 3DTV fans is that Panasonic will push for a standard for active-shutter glasses. For consumers, this would be a big improvement over the current balkanized situation, with each manufacturer having its own type. Panasonic says eyewear interoperability would drive growth. We're guessing it would also help the company defend its investment in active-shutter 3DTV technology at a time when passive 3DTV is starting to arrive from Vizio and LG. Panasonic is also opening a 3D Innovation Center to foster production technology in Hollywood. A new committee of the International 3D Society will do the same in Japan. Panasonic also seeded the student filmmaking community with 3D camcorders, with results to be chronicled on the website of the Campus Movie Fest.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2010 7 comments

Driving from Las Vegas to LA, I had to stop and get a picture of my favorite highway sign, which marks the exit to Zzyzx, California, an unincorporated settlement in San Bernardino County and the former site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa that is now occupied by the California State University Desert Studies Center. My ride was a 2010 Lincoln MKZ on loan from THX so I could evaluate the car's THX-certified multichannel sound system. I played a wide variety of music on CD and DVD-Audio, including jazz, classical, and rock as well as two CDs I recorded—one with my wife, Joanna Cazden, and the other with my avant-garde trio Many Axes.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2010 5 comments

Another CES has come and gone. This was my 15th, near as I can figure—an odd coincidence, since, according to my pedometer, I walked nearly 15 miles during the 2010 geekfest.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2010 0 comments

In addition to all the 3D flat panels on the show floor, there were also a few 3D front-projection demos, including one from Optoma at the low end of the price spectrum. I've always been impressed with the quality and value of Optoma DLP projectors, but its 3D demo was very disappointing—it wasn't even 1080p! The projector was the 720p HD66, and the source was an HQFS (High Quality Field Sequential) DVD playing at 480i through a composite connection. There were jaggies galore, and the sense of depth was very unconvincing. A separate demo of 3D stills, from which this photo was taken, looked better, as I would expect with no motion.

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