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Thomas J. Norton

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 13, 2012 5 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Plasma-quality blacks • Near flawless color • Bright, vivid 3D

All LCD HDTVs require some form of backlighting. The LCD panel’s pixels modulate the light and provide filtered color, but without backlighting to shine through the panel, you’d have no picture. Recently, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have replaced the fluorescent backlights used in older flat-screen LCD sets. LCDs aren’t perfect in blocking light (which is why so many early models had poor black levels), but if you can shut off or dim the LEDs on demand, the LCDs’ light-blocking chores become far more efficient. And LEDs can do this; they can be shut off and turned back on almost instantaneously in reaction to the signal coming in.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 20, 2012 4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,000 At A Glance: Impressive overall performance • Outstanding value • 2D only

It’s long been true that if you wait long enough, the price of technology will drop down to meet your budget. Flat-screen HDTVs are prime examples. We’ve recently seen manufacturers respond to the current global financial malaise by squeezing their beans hard enough to produce decent sets for around $1,000. While it’s difficult to say if this trend is due to economic conditions or pressure from price-aggressive new manufacturers, Vizio has been in the vanguard of the young guns making life difficult for traditional HDTV companies. And the company’s not standing still. Exhibit A: Vizio’s new $1,000 E601i-A3. Like its big brother, the 70-inch, $2000 E701i-A3, it’s a true budget buster, but for a change, the budget they’re busting isn’t yours.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 09, 2012 0 comments
In our experience, most active 3D glasses are sensitive to head position or, more precisely, head tilt. With most of them, however, the effect is minor and limited to a slight darkening of the picture.

But Sony's active 3D glasses, up to now, have been different. When using the company's HDTV 3D glasses, a 3D image on the Sony displays we've tested doesn't darken as you tilt your head from side to side. Instead, the left and right images break up, producing significant 3D crosstalk or, as this artifact is more colorfully known, ghosting. In addition, the Sony's 3D color varies with head position, shifting reddish with a tilt in one direction from vertical and bluish in the other. The latter effect makes it impossible to do a reliable 3D calibration; one eyepiece of the 3D glasses has to be placed over the lens of the measurement meter for a 3D calibration, and even a slight tilt can affect the result. Fortunately, the Sony 3D sets we've tested recently have produced visually satisfying 3D color even without a 3D calibration, though it's unlikely to be accurate. Nevertheless, the head-tilt ghosting and color shifting are annoying.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 25, 2012 3 comments

802 Diamond Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
W DB1 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $32,000 At A Glance: Clear, sparkling highs • Tight, extended bass • Broad, deep soundstage • Stunning fit and finish

If you’re unfamiliar with the British speaker company Bowers & Wilkins, perhaps that’s because it’s more commonly known simply as B&W. Founded in the mid-1960s by John Bowers and Roy Wilkins, it’s now one of the most respected loudspeaker manufacturers in the world, with products ranging from budget-priced to Olympic.

The 800 Diamond series is the third generation of Bowers & Wilkins’s most sophisticated range, with iconic looks that date back to the late 1990s. The 802 Diamond is one step down in price from the company’s current flagship, the $24,000/pair 800 Diamond. And while B&W’s lower-priced speakers, like most, are manufactured in China, the 800 is built in the company’s facilities in England.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 24, 2012 8 comments
Denver may seem like an odd place for a high-end audio show. As a medium-sized city, you wouldn’t expect it to be a hotbed of passionate audiophiles. But when you add the attendees who drive or fly to the mile-high city to a core of local enthusiasts you have what has become the biggest consumer audio show in the U.S. Last June's Orange County (CA) show reportedly drew bigger crowds (no surprise given the huge Southern California market). But the RMAF appeared to attract more exhibitors.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 18, 2012 2 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Wide, wide image on wide, wide movies • Outstanding detail and good color • Bright, punchy 3D • Minor issues need sorting out

It was just a year or so ago when I first noticed that most of the movies I looked forward to experiencing on my home theater projection system were ’Scope films—productions with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 or 2.40:1. Comedies, documentaries, art-house fare, and virtually all HD broadcasts are mainly limited to 1.85:1, 1.78:1 (16:9), or 1.66:1 (European widescreen). Classic films, of course, are 4:3.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 01, 2012 1 comments
Picture
3D-ness
Sound
Extras
Interactivity
Zeus, king of the gods, enlists the help of his half-human son Perseus in defeating Perseus’ brother Ares, who has allied with Hades in an effort to release Kronos, the leader of the Titans and the father of Zeus and the other gods. But Perseus just wants to be left alone to live as a human with his son.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 28, 2012 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,600 At A Glance: Deep, uniform blacks • Superb out-of-the-box color and crisp detail • Head-tilt 3D crosstalk

The most popular, current approach to designing an LCD HDTV with LED lighting is to position the LEDs around the periphery of the screen and rely on diffusors to spread the light out uniformly. Sometimes (but not always) the brightness of the LEDs is also altered dynamically to help the LCD pixels create deep blacks, where needed.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 17, 2012 1 comments
Picture
3D-Ness
Sound
Extras
Interactivity
As Marvel’s comic characters go, Ghost Rider is hellishly hard to categorize. From what I can gather from the character’s two films, 2007’s Ghost Rider and this sequel (I’m not a fan of the comics), Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle stunt rider who sells his soul to the devil to save his father’s life. In exchange, he periodically turns into an ancient, fiery demon that searches out evil to suck out its soul. A bummer for sure, but everybody needs a hobby. His motorcycle has apparently sold its carburetor and tires to Beelzebub as well, since whenever Johnny goes all flames and stuff, he’s also treated to one hell of a ride. Talk about sitting on the hot seat.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 13, 2012 1 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,995 At A Glance: Excellent detail • Good black level • Full calibration control • Limited physical setup options

I remember my first exposure to a DLP front projector. It was at a trade show in the late 1990s and was not a warm and fuzzy experience. Blessedly, I don’t recall the manufacturer. But compared to CRT front projection, in which even a bargain-basement model commanded $10,000 or more, the simpler, smaller DLP, a technology developed at Texas Instruments, held out the promise of form factors and prices that would appeal to a wider range of buyers.

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