HE 20003—Day One

Home Entertainment Expo 2003 is off and running.

Dozens of visiting journalists were treated to a pre-show tour of Runco's huge new facility in the South Bay town of Union City, where we enjoyed demonstrations of new Runco and Vidikron products and got to observe first hand how they are designed, assembled, and tested. Most surprising was the degree of hand assembly involved in building each projector. There are no automated production lines at Runco. Instead, there are many highly skilled technicians and engineers, each working methodically and meticulously of each project. Each piece and all the accessories that are packed with it are tested together for 24 hours before being packed for shipment.

Runco is now shipping its CL-510cx and Cl-710cx projectors, announced earlier this year. Subsidiary Vidikron has introduced two new projectors incorporating Texas Instruments Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology. The Vision Series Model 40/Model 40ET and the Model 20/Model 20ET signal the rebirth of the Vidikron brand, according to an announcement made June 4. Both projectors use TI's latest 16:9 native HD-2 DLP chip. (The "ET" suffix stands for "extended throw," a capability endowed by an optional long-throw lens available at extra cost.)

Entry level Model 20/20ET delivers 850 ANSI lumens of light output and a 1500:1 contrast ratio; the Model 40/40ET puts out 950 ANSI lumens with a contrast ratio of 1600. This level of performance is made possible by a unique "cat’s eye" optical system that "enhances contrast and optimizes black level performance." Features include advanced digital keystone correction, internal video processing with 3:2 film detection circuitry, full HDTV compatibility (with outboard tuner/decoder or satellite receiver), support for multiple aspect ratio control (including Vidikron’s IntelliWide mode), and the ability to view standard video formats in widescreen without loss of image quality. An RS-232 port for connection to touchscreen controllers augments IR remote control.

Vidikron's new projectors are said to be ideal for use with screens up to eight feet, and are "the first of what will be a comprehensive line of home theater display and video enhancement products from Vidikron,” in the words of Mark Stein, Vidikron's director of corporate communications. Available in July, the Vision Model 40 will sell for $8999; the 40ET will sell for $9995. The Vision Model 20 will have a suggested retail price of $5495; the 20ET will go for $6,495.

MAXX Products has announced an $11,000 LCoS video projector, the MAXX 1400, with a native resolution of 1400 x 1050 pixels, with a pixel pitch claimed to be "four times closer than other projectors in its class." The 1400 offers 3:2 pulldown de-interlacer for optimal viewing of film-originated DVDs, as well as horizontal and vertical keystone correction, a manual zoom lens. Acoustic noise level is rated at a mere 35dB.

MAXX has also unveiled a new DLP projector. The $6000 MAXX Maverick uses an new high-rez "HDTV ready" chip and boasts a native resolution of 1024 x 768. It's also equipped with 3:2 pulldown, +/-16 degree keystone correction, and three user-selectable color temperatures. The Maverick is said to deliver "a crystal clear picture with great contrast and resolution."

Home theater fans with small rooms will be intrigued by a new surround speaker system from Hsu Research, of "true subwoofer" fame. Called the "Ventriloquist" system, it consists of four tiny satellite speakers, each about the size of half a brick. A larger center channel handles the mid-bass from the left/front pair—the range between 250Hz and 80Hz. An 8" powered subwoofer handles frequencies below that. Surprisingly open and dynamic, the Ventriloquist also goes deep—but not deep into your pockets. Retail price is only $395.

Wharfedale is another speaker company with compelling new products here at HE2003. The "MovieStar 70" system—compact, curvy aluminum-and-maple satellites, center channel, and powered sub—looks mighty attractive arrayed around a 32" Zenith flat panel television. Unique features include a "continuous crossover adjustment for excellent system control" and phase adjustment for speaker-distance compensation. Versatility is built-in: the center channel and four satellites can be mounted on stands, desktop, bookshelves, walls or ceilings.