Thomas J. Norton

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 18, 2014 0 comments
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In the final months of World War II, as Allied armies smashed across Europe and into Germany, an organization called the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (the MFAA) was assigned the task of recovering and preserving countless art treasures plundered by the Nazis. It included hundreds of art experts from 13 countries, working in small cadres.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 16, 2014 0 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp detail
Excellent color
Bright, vivid 3D
Minus
Middling contrast and black level
3D ghosting

THE VERDICT
It can’t deliver the deep blacks found on today’s best flat panels, but the Sharp LC-60UQ17U offers top-notch detail and color, along with the ability to display 4K source material with excellent, though not full 4K, resolution.

TV manufacturers continue to search for ways to keep prices down and sales up. But with 4K Ultra HD the hot ticket these days, it’s not an easy task. While Sharp already has a 4K model in the market and others planned for the fall, the company also offers a less expensive alternative: Quattron+, or Q+. These aren’t full Ultra HD sets, as their basic pixel structure is still 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), not the 3840 x 2160 required for Ultra HD. But Sharp’s Q+ sets will accept a 4K input, and with a bit of technical hocus-pocus, the company says they’ll deliver something between Full HD and true 4K.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 08, 2014 2 comments
Planet of the Apes is perhaps the longest running science fiction film franchise in history (unless you consider James Bond sci-fi—and Star Trek originated as TV series that didn’t arrive as a theatrical film until 1979). The original Planet of the Apes movie, based on a novel by French author Pierre Boulle, produced by 20th Century Fox, and co-written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, was followed by four sequels. The budgets for these sequels were tight (miniscule by today’s standards) and the results progressively cheesier. But despite its special effects and makeup, state of the art for the time though primitive now, the original still holds up today. There were also two relatively unsuccessful TV series in the ‘70s, plus books, comic books, and other spin-offs.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 26, 2014 0 comments
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Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fable The Snow Queen, Frozen opens by introducing us to two princesses, Anna and Elsa. Elsa has been born with power over cold—a curse she can’t control. To protect Anna and others, Elsa locks herself in her room as the two siblings grow into young adulthood.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 24, 2014 9 comments
The center channel speaker doesn’t often get the respect it deserves. To keep it slim enough to fit on a shelf, many manufacturers simply offer two-way center designs, laid out in a horizontal woofer-tweeter-woofer arrangement. Every experienced speaker engineer knows that this is the worst way to design any speaker, but cost cutters, marketing departments, and consumers who don’t know better (or don’t care) demand them.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 10, 2014 3 comments
Rummaging through my piles of lost papers the other day, I came across the following pearls of wisdom. Nothing on the paper indicated where it came from, or to whom it should be attributed. It has the ironic angle of the late Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt, but may well have come from elsewhere. In any case, here it is for your delectation. I’ll add my own comments in a future blog entry, but leave this to speak for itself for now:
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 27, 2014 3 comments
Some months back I ran across a region-free Blu-ray of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra’s 2014 New Year’s Concert (Sony Classical). I already owned the 2012 edition (it’s an annual event, as you might have guessed!), which I hadn’t yet watched. The price was right for this 2014 version, so I added it to my collection. That is, I added it to my shelf of as yet unseen Blu-ray discs (I suspect all serious collectors have such a shelf). It waited there patiently until I felt the need to pull out a few potentially good sounding concert Blu-rays. This one seemed like a good candidate, so I popped it into my Oppo player.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 23, 2014 1 comments
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3D-ness
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In 2009’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, ace boy inventor Flint Lockwood had clearly bitten off more than he could chew with his latest invention, a device that produced food from water vapor. Dubbed the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (or FLDSMDFR—pronounced “fldsmdefer”), it inundated his island home of Swallow Falls with a tsunami of edibles. Now the town has been evacuated, and Flint, his dad, his pals, and the rest of his fellow townsfolk have been moved to San Franjose, California, where Flint takes a job as a fledgling inventor at Live Corp.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 15, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $730

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Backlit local dimming for superior blacks
Good color
Remarkable value
Minus
Wobbly stand
Occasionally buzzy sound

THE VERDICT
It’s not without flaws, but the Vizio E550i-B2 offers more of what we like in a quality HDTV than we ever expected to see at such a low price.

You still can’t get a decent, major-brand 55-inch HDTV for under $500. You can, however, get one for under $800. The new 2014 E-Series may be Vizio’s budget line, but it’s not bare bones. It omits 3D (as do all of the company’s 2014 HDTVs, including the highest-end models), and there’s no picture-in-picture mode. But it offers the same bang for the buck that has, in the relatively few years since Vizio’s founding, rocketed the company to a U.S. market-share position that has left long-established HDTV makers gasping for breath trying to keep up.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 13, 2014 3 comments
Ultra HD has been around for a couple of years now, but prices have now dropped to the point that acquiring an Ultra HD set can be a serious consideration for folks in the market for a new TV, particularly early-adopters. TV makers hope that the next Big Thing in video will be Ultra HD, or as it is widely (and imprecisely) called, 4K. They also hope that Ultra HD has the legs that home 3D (now in its, “Hello, I must be going” phase) lacked.

Ultra HD can be much more than simply 4K resolution (more precisely, 3840 x 2160 in the consumer arena—4K in the pro world , including digital cinema projection, is 4096 x 2160). It also has the potential to offer a wider color gamut, an increased color bit depth, and less aggressive color subsampling. If that string of technobabble sounds intimidating, it simply means that in addition to more pixels, Ultra HD could provide a wider and richer color palette than does our current HD standard.

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