Improving so-called Smart TV functionality seems to be one of the big stories at CES this year. Sharp's news in this regard is its Aquos SmartCentral interface, which will be provided in most of its 2012 LED-LCD TVs. A newly designed graphical user interface lets you search for content, browse the web, and access over 100 of the most popular online services, including Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, YouTube, and CinemaNow. You can also customize the system for different users with different apps, wallpapers, and viewing formats, and you can access Aquos Advantage Live, which lets Sharp techs to remotely connect to the TV to assist with setup, troubleshooting, and optimization of picture quality.
I arrived in Vegas on Sunday just in time to attend the Toshiba party at Tao, an ultra-hip nightspot at the Venetian. Among several demos on hand was this 55-inch 4K flat panel showing real 4K images, which looked stunning. It's also an intriguing autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D display, which Barb Gonzalez will tell you about in a separate post.
Klipsch says that sales of iOS devices - those handheld and portable digital multimedia/smartphone/tablet/etc things we all can’t live without - are eclipsing (“eKlipsching”?) sales of HDTVs and other “traditional” entertainment devices. Keeping to the company’s audio-reproduction roots, the Klipsch folks want to bring high-performance audio to you and me in whatever form we find the most convenient, be it a home theater system, a bookshelf system, or a pair of earphones. At the Klipsch press conference this morning, the company presented a couple of the new and soon-to-be AirPlay-enabled audio systems.
While not as svelte as the company’s 55-inch OLED prototype discussed below, LG’s new lineup of Smart LED/LCD sets is still just a bit over an inch thick with a 1mm thick bezel framing the screen. The top of the line Nano sets, available several sizes up to 84” in size. The Nano designs are full backlit local dimmers, utilizing LEDs impeded into t thin membrane that allows for superior backlit local dimming in a thinner design. LG’s magic remote has been improved, allowing not only pointing but also both gesture and voice recognition. And like all the HDTV manufacturers at the show, LG’s Smart technology offers further enhancements in convergence and connectivity with Web-based sites and features.
That 84” model is unique in that it is a 4K design. Despite the lack of 4K sources, 4K offers significant advantages for LG’s passive glasses approach to 3D. Specifically, it can present a full 1920 x 1080 resolution to each eye, unlike the half vertical 3D resolution on conventions 1920 x 1080 sets.
At its press conference today, Sharp introduced an entirely new line of TVs under the Freestyle moniker. Available in four screen sizes20, 32, 40, and 60 inchesthese are fully networked LED-edgelit LCD TVs with a slimmer and lighter design than most, which lets you place them just about anywhere near a power outlet. With only one HDMI input, they are clearly intended to access most content via their built-in WiFi, though they also have two USB ports and an Ethernet port. The 20-incher includes a built-in battery, while the others seen here being carried by Vanna White wannabes were custom-powered by separate battery packs.
Most companies place strict embargoes on any announcements they plan to make at CES, but LG is bucking this trend—and its news is huge. Not only is LG Display showing a 55-inch OLED flat panel (which I wrote about earlier this week), but LG Electronics is introducing an 84-inch "ultra-definition" LED-backlit LCD TV with a resolution of 3840x2160, providing four times as many pixels as a 1920x1080 display. And since LG uses passive-polarized glasses for 3D, each eye sees all 1080 lines of vertical resolution available on 3D Blu-rays. (I don't yet know what the TV does with all the extra horizontal resolution, but you can be sure I'll ask.)
Also interesting is something LG calls its Magic Remote navigation system, which lets you control the TV with a wheel, hand gestures, and voice recognition, no doubt inspired by Siri on Apple's iPhone 4S. Of course, it will also offer Smart TV functionality with over 1200 apps and access to a wide variety of content services, including 3D Zone for 3D movies.
Samsung is keeping most of its announcements under wraps until its press conference on Monday, but it did release some info about a couple of new home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems and a soundbar. The HT-E6730W (seen above) is a 7.1 system with wireless surround speakers, Blu-ray player, and built-in WiFi as well as a full Web browser. Even more interesting, it's the first HTIB to feature Samsung's Crystal Amp Plus hybrid technology that combines vacuum tubes and a digital power amp.
I hope you had a very happy holiday season and are quickly recovering from any overindulgence during your New Year celebration. Now that all the consumerism is over…well, actually, it's hardly over. The biggest consumerfest is still to comethe Consumer Electronics Show will be held next week in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. I'll be there with HomeTheater.com's crack team of correspondents, including Rob Sabin, Tom Norton, Mark Fleischmann, Darryl Wilkinson, and Barb Gonzalez, along with 140,000 of our closest friends to see what's in storeor rather, what will be in storesfor the coming year. We'll be posting lots of blogs and videos from the show, so be sure to visit this site every day for the latest news from the bleeding edge of audio/video innovation. See you in Vegas!
One of the most highly anticipated announcements at CES this year comes from LG Display, an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) within the LG conglomerate that supplies LCD flat panels to various TV manufacturers. What could possibly be so exciting from a company that consumers aren't normally aware of? A 55-inch OLED (organic light-emitting diode) flat panel, the largest ever demonstrated at a trade show. We've seen smaller OLED prototypes at CES for years, with their ultra-thin form factor and unbelievable blacks, and the LG Display 55-incher has been rumored for many months, but this is the first time we'll actually get to see it. Look for more on this amazing development next week.
I had no idea when I wrote my CES Audio Preview how right I’d be. I predicted that Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless technologies would be making their way into tons of new audio gear, and sure enough, at CES both were as common as bad food. Bluetooth and AirPlay make extra-good sense in compact audio systems, which you’re likely to use with smartphones and computers.
Where some other Press Day events - namely Samsung's - were big production numbers, Panasonic's was low-key, almost to a fault. Strangely for a consumer show, a big chunk of time was spent by chairman Joseph M. Taylor and CTO Eisuke Tsuyuzaki B2B and industrial products like solar panels, avionics and green initiatives for institutions and industry (Ed Begley, a Vegas-area resident, told the crowd that they could "have a cool beverage and a warm shower, but you can be more efficient").
Sharp kicked off the company’s 100th year with a slew of impressive CES product announcements. What you need to know is that the company is now all about really big screens — 60 inch or larger LED models to be exact.
There was no shortage of cool stuff being pitched by TV makers at this year’s CES. While 55-inch OLED sets around 4 millimeters thick nabbed the spotlight (rightly so, since they weren’t prototypes but actual products scheduled to come out in 2012), we were also surprised by the number of 4K models — some of which were also real products on target for a 2012 release.