Massive flat panel displays are usually the center piece of most major manufacturer's and there were some very impressive one's this year. However, Sharp's Aquos display was incredible, with their 108" LCD anchored at the bottom.
Other than integrating the Rhapsody music service into the Escient Vision media center, the company had little news for CES. However, they said they were awaiting Sony's announcement of a Blu-ray changer with the capacity of 400 discs. The Escient system will be capable of integrating four changers, for access to 1,600 Blu-rays. At present, there probably aren't that many BD discs on the market, so the system can grow along with your library.
HP was demonstrating the MediaSmart Server that will come out at the end of the month. Designed to store and stream your media, the unit comes with a 750GB drive for $599 and for $749 you get a 1.4TB drive. It provides automatic backups and allows for automatic collection of data and files from other computers on the network. It won Best in Show at the recent MacWorld (that overlaps CES). I figure if the Mac and PC world are finally learning to co-exist, there is still hope for peace in the Middle East.
ZeeVee started delivering product in the fall of 08, so they are hardly a household name yet. What they offer is a solution for integrating your computer, not just your files, to a remote TV or even your home theater. The ZeeVee interface offers a simple scroll and click interface with icons for key internet sites where you can watch TV programs such as Hulu.com, CBS, Fox, CNN etc. Like many other networking systems, you can access the media files on your computer. However, ZeeVee goes a step further and does something I have not seen yet. Your entire desktop is now on a TV in another part of your house, so not only can you browse the internet you can open you applications and launch into Word, Photoshop, or whatever. The basic unit is not exactly cheap at $499 though it includes an RF remote & transmitter that sits at your computer. A RF keyboard is on the way to complete the integration (Price-TBA). Currently, it is only PC compatible but the Mac firmware upgrade should be available in late Q1.
Sooloos, manufacturer of server-based home entertainment systems, was recently acquired by Meridian, well known for their luxury AV products. The Sooloos has been considered one of the most intuitive and user friendly (as well as costly) media servers available. The merge with Meridian is a great fit for both companies.
While the ZeeVee offers a more sophisticated solution, with their own UI, Altona is sure to sell a ton of their simple USB to HDMI converter, the HDPix. Priced at $179, the convertor allows you to hook up your computer via USB to any TV (or projector) with HDMI. Its also Mac and PC compatible. On the input side there is both a USB port and a mini jack that you plug into the audio output of your computer. The converter automatically embeds the audio into the HDMI out. I don't see this as a high end solution but it surely is an inexpensive solution for getting your computer output to a TV.
Axar Media, a company based out of the UK, was showing a prototype of a Wireless HD system. The system looked simple enough with a transmitter and a receiver. Using two suites at the Venetian Hotel, they effectively demonstrated the transfer of an HD signal (both from a media player and a Blu-ray player) from one room to the next. They use the H.264 AVC video compression scheme to make the most effective use of the bandwidth. There is some degradation in the signal quality, and I detected some motion artifacts especially from the media server transfer. However, we have to start somewhere and the time for Wireless HD has finally come. Its just a matter of time before it will be as ubiquitous as streaming audio.
Distributed by Koetsu USA, Italian manufacturer Blacknote introduced a high-end solution for playing any type of digital file including Wav, Flac, AAC, OGG, DFF, WMA MP3, MP4, and M4O. The DSS30 (shown in foreground) uses a 24-bit DAC and features four USB ports (two in front, two in back) that accept hard drives as well as flash drives. It also accepts direct input from memory sticks and CD-Rom players. With both balanced and unbalanced outputs it can be integrated with a range of high-end audio gear. The Ethernet port allows it be integrated into a home network as well.
For years it was all about Home Theater, however, its clear the home entertainment experience is going way beyond that. D-Box uses transducers and motion sensing algorithms to bring a new dimension to watching movies and playing video games. The chairs are not only comfortable for playing your favorite driving games, they pull you into the action as you feel every curve and bump in the road. The chairs range from $3K to $15K. They also make home theater chairs with motion sensing. Also, get ready for the D-Box experience in your local theater, with the upcoming release of the Fast and Furious.