Driving to Vegas, I always stop in Baker, California, gateway to Death Valley and home of the world's tallest thermometer—134 feet, representing the highest recorded temperature in the US of 134 degrees in 1913. In this night shot, the thermometer is reflected in the 2009 Lincoln MKS that THX loaned me for the trip to check out the THX-certified sound system therein. Unlike past systems, this one can play multichannel DVD-Audio and even DVD video on the in-dash screen (as long as the car parked). Just like past systems, however, this one is quite boomy in the bass, and the only EQ controls are bass and treble. I got it sounding pretty good, especially on Donald Fagen's <I>Nightfly</I> DVD-A, though road noise—even in a car as quiet as this—can wreak havoc on something with a wide dynamic range like Stravinsky's <I>Firebird</I>.
Both Samsung and Sony announced partnerships with Yahoo. Integrated into their top line TVs customers will have access to the Yahoo Widget Engine, to expand and personalize their TV experience. It adds on-screen applications that provide real-time information such as weather reports, stock ticker updates, financial news, Yahoo! Video, Flickr images, and much more content to come.
Toshiba announced that it will add Dolby Volume as a feature in its 2009 Regza line of LCD televisions. Dolby Volume delivers a consistent volume level by automatically bringing down the volume of louder stations or commercials or
raising the volume of lower channels or commercials to maintain the desired listening
level. It's a welcome feature since loud commercials can be very annoying.
Toshiba reps had a lot to say in their press conference today, including several new features and models the company's upscale Regza line of LCD TVs. Perhaps most impressive is Resolution+, the new name for what had been known as SRT (Super Resolution Technology), which can even upconvert 1080p to 4K when displays of that resolution become available. Another LCD theme being pursued by Toshiba is 240Hz scanning, which combines 120Hz refresh rate with backlight flashing. None of the new sets is fully operational yet, and they were not showing any video images at the press conference, but the 52ZV650U pictured here diffracted the spotlights to create a cool rainbow effect.
As in years past, LG had the distinction of holding the first press conference of CES—at 8:00 AM! Many new products were announced, including nine new lines of LCD TVs and three new lines of plasmas with a total of 30 new models in all. Among the LCDs is the 55LH90 pictured here, which uses LED backlighting to achieve a claimed contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 as well as a 240Hz feature that combines 120Hz frame interpolation and backlight flashing. Other notable technologies include wireless HD built into the LH85 and LHX series LCDs that can convey uncompressed 1080p/60 at a maximum date rate of 3Gbps.
After the Cajon Pass, my next favorite stop is Bob's Big Boy Restaurant in Victorville, California for a combination lunch featuring the world's best burger (in my opinion), fries and a salad. Bob's Big Boy was my favorite restaurant until they closed in the 1960s, but recently re-opened to my delight. Bob's Big Boy is known as Shoney's or JB's in other parts of the US but it's the same great food!
In what seems like a blizzard of interesting product announcements, LG Display—the company that manufactures the glass for LG's and other companies' LCD TVs—has announced it will unveil several hot items at CES. First among them is an LCD panel with a refresh rate of 480Hz, four times that of 120Hz panels. What's the point, you ask? Isn't that just meaningless marketing numerology? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I intend to find out for myself, so stay tuned.
One of the coolest parts of the drive from Southern California to Las Vegas is the Cajon Pass, especially if you're a rail fan like me. The Cajon Pass connects the So Cal basin with the High Desert where multiple rail lines weave through spectacular geography rising from sea level to over 4000 feet elevation. These mile-long container trains carry goods shipped from Asian ports to the Ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach and then to destinations in the Midwest or East Coast. Perhaps your next flat-screen television, home theater system or disc player is in one the containers on this train.
The Consumer Electronics Show may not start until Thursday (Wednesday for us press folks), but LG has decided to get a head start on product announcements. In a move clearly designed to complement its Netflix-streaming <A href="http://www.ultimateavmag.com/hddiscplayers/lg_bd300_network_blu-ray_play... Blu-ray player</A>, LG announced today a new line of LCD and plasma TVs with broadband connections and embedded software that will allow them to display streaming Netflix content directly. Currently, there are 12,000 titles to choose from, 300 in high definition—clearly an underwhelming number, but one that is certainly going to increase as quickly as Netflix can encode them.