CES 2012

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Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Crowds were around the block for all of the 4K (and OLED) prototype displays at the show, including a 4K demonstration in the Sharp booth.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Also eye-opening were Sharp's 80" Quattron sets. Humans on broadcasts now can be here almost life-sized.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Don't expect to get a quick lunch at CES. The food services t the Las Vegas Convention Center were overwhelmed by the crowds, with early estimates at 140,000 show attendees.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
An ambitious Chinese manufacturer of LCD sets, that's who. The small booth had demos 3D sets and an innovative 21:9 flat panel set optimized for 2.35: 1 movies—with black windowbox" bars at the sides for 16:9 material. Reportedly, TCL makes sets for VIZIO, which makes sense seeing that VIZIO is nearly set to release 21:9 sets. The only puzzle here remains why my camera rendered the TCL logo on top a red-fringed yellow, when the sign was clearly solid red.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
The Smart Crystal Pro polarization modulator from a new (to us) company called Volfoni (which also makes both active and passive 3D glasses) can take your single chip active glasses DLP 3D projector and turn it into a passive glasses 3D projector. The brochure says it can do this for any 3D single lens projector, but the device has only been verified effective on DLPs.

What it does, in effect, is to substitute rapidly alternating polarization of the filter, which is positioned in front of the lens, for the switching of active glasses. You'll need a connection from the sync transmitter output in the projector to the Crystal Pro to make this work, or alternately DLP Link in the projector (DLP Link is a process that uses rapid interframe bursts of light from the DLP projector that normally triggers active glasses). (If your projector has neither, that is, no DLP Link and an on-board sync transmitter, it will not work, as I understand it. You'll also need a screen that preserves polarization. Estimated cost will be $1500 for the Crystal Pro itself, or $2000 for a package including both the Crystal Pro and a slide that can automatically move the polarizer out of the way for 2D material.

Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Toshiba demonstrated how a 4K panel can improve the resolution. The photo above can't do it justice, of course (the 4K panel is on the left), but you could clearly see the difference on some material. Of course, the images were stationary of moving very slowly; motion would likely degrade any resolution improvement.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Toshiba was showing its latest prototypes of glasses free 3D. In comparison to last year's demos, the results were much improved. The secret appears to be the use of a 4K LCD panel, which ups the convergence available to each eye—much like the new, jumbo 4K set shown by LG appears to improve the (passive glasses) 3D performance of that set. If you’re watching 3D alone, the set tracks your head position and adjusts the picture to provide optimum performance. In a group showing, the 3D works properly only in 9 individual regions across the front viewing area. A small circular bug at the top center of the screen (visible in the photo) tells you if your head is in a hot spot for 3D. Toshiba expects to have sets in stores in late 2012. But the use of a 4K panel suggests that the first such sets will be expensive, so I wouldn't hold off purchasing a 3D set hoping to have a cheap, glasses-free alternative real soon now.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
At its press event Monday before the main show floor opened, Panasonic was almost silent on the performance details of its new sets (none of the big manufacturers were making a big deal about improved picture quality, though if pressed they will admit to evolutionary improvements in their new 1920 x 1080 models). But Panasonic was big on improved convergence. We certainly aim to find out in our reviews when the new sets become available.

90% of the Panasonic’s 2012 models offer Web connectivity, which is clearly the main theme song of this year’s CES. At the press event Panasonic also announced a working agreement between Panasonic and MySpace (!?) for enhanced social network connectivity, such as texting with your friends while you all watch the same movie. I can see this for sports, but for films? And can this joint effort resurrect a moribund social networking service that has clearly lost its trench war with Facebook? Panasonic and MySpace certainly hope so; they even trotted out celebrity Justin Timberlake at the press event to help promote this new launch. Timberlake co-starred in a recent movie about the origin of Facebook; now he’s helping to (possibly) reinvigorate MySpace.

Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
With Internet connectivity, you can now play competitive video games over the Web. How long before such games become championship spectator sports we can watch passively on HDTV, bringing us full circle? With 300 channels, maybe they have already and I’ve just missed it.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Later at the show we obtained more details about Panasonic’s 2012 sets. New models in the VT50, GT50, and ST50 series of plasma sets will make up the meat and potatoes of Panasonic’s updated designs, expect to be available in 2-3 months if past delivery schedules are maintained. There will be an expanded range of new Panasonic LCD IPS designs as well. In fact, there are 15 new LCD models, 13 with LED backlighting. Seven of the LCD sets are 3D, including three in the ET5 series using passive glasses—Panasonic’s first departure from full HD 3D (passive glasses sets cut the vertical resolution seen by each eye in half in a 1080p set). In addition, the LCD line now includes 47- and 55-inch sizes. Previous Panasonic sets at 42-inches and larger have all been plasma designs. With LCD now dominant in the market, could Panasonic be hedging its bets?
Brent Butterworth  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments

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.

Brent Butterworth  |  Jan 10, 2012  |  0 comments

CES 2012 was the coming-out party for Sony’s in-ear headphones. Nearly buried in the talk of cell phones, media managers, and 3DTV was the announcement Monday night of Sony’s first line of balanced-armature in-ear monitors (IEMs). This step up to a higher class of product shocked me for two reasons.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 10, 2012  |  2 comments
The first development project to follow the death of the late, great Jim Thiel is the CS1.7, which will replace the decade-old CS1.6 as the company's entry-level floorstanding speaker. Its aluminum drivers include a one-inch tweeter and a 6.5-inch woofer with the familiar vibration-controlling star diaphragm. A CS7.3 flagship tower will follow eventually. Given Thiel's traditionally long and pensive development philosophy, it's anyone's guess when the larger speaker will arrive, but the smaller one is very tentatively slated for the first quarter of this year at around $5000-5500.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 10, 2012  |  3 comments
This is Mishka the talking dog saying "I love you" on YouTube. No kidding. If it's on the internet, you know it must be true. This was actually a demo of InstaPrevue, a feature being built into Onkyo's network-enabled a/v receivers. The cool part, aside from the talking dog, is that you can view picture insets showing the content of source components as opposed to prosaic text labels like HDMI1, HDMI2, or that classic of the genre, HDMI3. The talking dog (have we mentioned the talking dog?) was being streamed from an iPhone via MHL, or Mobile High-definition Link, another new Onkyo receiver feature. Onkyo was also talking up cloud storage capability for receivers via its partnership with MP3tunes. The first two gigabytes are free.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 10, 2012  |  0 comments
CES attendees are being protected by state-of-the-art bomb-sniffing technology. We're not kidding. There is nothing more sensitive than a dog's nose.