CES 2011

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Mark Elson  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments
The Martin Logan C2 ($799/each) and FX2 ($649/each) are eyebrow raisingly affordable entries from this longtime champion of the electrostatic speaker. What raised our other eyebrow is that we liked the model playing better than the most costly ones we've heard in the past. Go figure.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments
Wisdom Audio's LS4 ($100,000 in a 2.2-channel configuration) is 84 inches tall, making it a suitable mate for the fridge-size sub the company introduced at CEDIA 2010. It uses subs for frequencies below 80Hz -- and handles frequencies above that with planar biamped polyamide-film drivers, imprisoned in heavy steel plates, coaxed into motion by 1030 magnets in front of and behind them. String the magnets end to end and you could measure their length in terms of football fields, or so we were told, and at that point, after a long day, our head began to swim, though this certainly wasn't Wisdom's fault. One point the Wisdom people made that we loved: As an on-wall, this model basically prevents the purchaser from putting the speakers in the wrong place, so he actually gets the performance for which he paid so dearly (assuming his installer is up to snuff).
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments
As you can see.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments
Perhaps it was just a matter of time before Paradigm employed the term Paradigm Shift to describe a new product line. In this case it's also a new marketing approach that adds online, direct, and other retail channels to the traditional a/v retailers who have always been Paradigm's mainstay. Say hello to the A² Active Atom, a powered version of our old friend, the world-beating Atom satellite. As you can see, it streams Apple-style. The one shown was a working engineering sample. Paradigm also showed the Millennium LP on-wall and mentioned head transducers including four earbuds, two headphone models, and two gaming headphone models.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Samsung went all Opra on us with it's sit-down, let's talk press conference. They announced that one million 3DTVs were sold in the US in 2010, well under predictions but ahead of the rate that many other new technologies have achieved in their first year. About 35 million TVs are sold in the US each year, however, so that's actually a pretty small percentage. Nevertheless Samsung claimed a 70% market share of 3DTV sales, and this year 3DTVs make up 60% of the company's new HD lineup.

Samsung is going with the flow in using "Smart" as a catch phrase this year for many of its products. The company expects to sell 6 million 3DTVs this year, two thirds of them Smart TVs. The new gee-whiz feature in the D7000 and D8000 sets is an ultra thin frame, barely 0.2" wide (see photo). In addition, Samsung's new active 3D glasses sport an ultra svelt, and it's said far more comfortable design.

Samsung's new BDD 7500 3D Blu-ray player is as ultra thin as the new TVs, and incorporates its own built-in 2D-to-3D conversion.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Sharp's big announcement was the addition of a 70-inch Quattron set to its lineup. The LE935 will have full LED backlighting with local dimming and is expected by spring. A 70-inch set was said to offer 62% more viewing area than a 60-incher. There will also be new sets in the LE835 an d LE830 ranges, all connectable with Wi-Fi. The XV-2 17000 3D DLP projector under $5000), first shown at CEDIA EXPO 2010 last September, will also be on display here at CES.

Sharp also announced three new 3D Blu-ray players (February), the BD HP25U, 35U, and 75U. Sharp also launched an E-Media Tablet and reader, the Galapagos. (Tablets appear to be a big item this year, thanks to Apple's iPAD!).

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Sony's new HDR-TD10 3D High Definition Flash Memory Handycam Camcorder (about $1500, April) is one of the first the full HD 3D consumer camcorders. It includes two separate 1920 a 1080 CMOS sensors and two lenses to capture distinct 1920 x 1080 data streams for each eye. It's also capable of 2D still image capture at 7-megapixels. At present, playback is from the camera only via an HDMI link to the video display. The future should bring dedicated playback devices (such as a 3D Blu-ray player with a flash card slot). Oh, and you can view the image you're shooting in autostereoscopic 3D on the 3.5" viewfinder—no 3D glasses required.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Sony is also showing a number of prototypes of products that are not available now, but may be in the future. Three different flat panel demos using autostereoscopic technology (no 3D glasses needed) were shown: a 24.5" 2K OLED, a 46" 2K LCD, and a 56" 4K LCD. The results were better than I expected, though there were some distracting artifacts. As expected, you must watch in specific viewing spots. In a cosy twosome one partner will get good 3D, the other not so much. In places outside the designated viewing zones the 3D effect diminishes and those artifacts increase, though the image does not completely fall apart. Promising, but still a work in progress.

Sony also showed a set of goggles designed for private 3D viewing (as seen in the not-so-clear photo), and a autostereoscopic portable 3D Blu-ray player.

Available now for pre-sales ordering is a VAIO F Series 3D laptop (about $1700). Oddly, this does require active shutter glasses. It also does 2D-to-3D conversion—for fun with spreadsheets. Seriously, however, there are genuine business and engineering applications for real 3D, including CAD and medical imaging.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Sony must have spent all year prepping for their press event. It was as elaborate as any Disney theme park show, much of it in 3D on a huge and super-wide screen consisting of millions of LEDs. It included a major promotion for The Green Hornet, a Sony Pictures flick that opens next week, and concluded with a performance by one of the 256 Cirque du Soleil troups now appearing on the Vegas strip.

Twenty-seven new Sony BRAVIA HDTVs were introduced. The leading character, and the new Sony flagship, will be the XBR HX929-Series, with full 3D capability and full-array local dimming LED backlighting. It's loaded with Internet features, and comes in three sizes: 65-, 55-, and 46-inches. Prices TBD. Available in March. Some of the new models also use Corning's new Gorilla Glass. It's said to be more resistant to damage than conventional glass, though I suspect you'll still want to hold off on tossing that brick at the screen during the 2012 Presidential debates.

Sony's new top-of-the-line stand-alone 3D Blu-ray player is the BDP-S780 (March, about $250). It's Wi-Fi (of course) with SACD playback as well as CD and the usual video suspects.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
One real advantage of LG's passive glasses technology is the lighter, cheaper passive glasses, shown here in this lightheaded demo setup. Notice the flip-down glasses on the right, for eyeglass-wearers. The FPR technology employs circular polarization, so you can tilt your head without the image fading out.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
In a session separate press event run by LG Display (the division of LG that makes the LCD imaging panels for LG and others), we had an opportunity to view LG's shutter glasses and FPR passive glasses sets side-by-side, in three separate setups, only one of which is shown in the photo. The FPR technology, by necessity, discards half of a source's native vertical resolution—inevitable in 3D displays with passive glasses. That is, each eye-image is 1920 x 540. The loss was not obvious in the demo, though for me, apart from some unfortunate ghosting (not uncommon in LCD 3D active shutter sets, but not on plasmas), I found the shutter-glass displays to be a little punchier and brighter (the passive FPR showed no ghosting). The FPR technique is claimed to retain greater measured brightness, as shown in the photo. Other viewers present thought that the FPR was brighter, but I did not (a gamma difference, perhaps).

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
LG opened the "press day" by announcing its line of "Smart" products. Smart appears to be the company's new go-to word for many of its new products, ranging from Smart washers, dryers, ranges, and refrigerators ("Honey, the fridge says we need milk and ice cream"), to HDTVs, with cell phones and other devices occupying the vast middle ground in between.

To touch briefly on that middle ground, there was prototype of an LG mobile 3DTV that can be viewed glasses-free (autostereoscopic—easier to do for a single viewer). And there's a new LG smart phone, the Optomus 2X, said to do full 1080p. Better sit close.

But it's LG's TVs that interest us most. There are 31 new LG LCD sets, 10 of which are 3D. The Cinema 3D sets employ LED edge lighting. Three "Nano" 3D sets have full LED backlighting with local dimming. Nano technology, which is new this year, employs smaller LEDs imbedded in a membrane that also incorporates the required diffusion, making the entire structure thinner and, presumably, more easily and efficiently produced.

There are also 12 new LG plasmas, 8 of them 3D.

LG's Smart TV technology, used in many of the higher end models, is a new menu layout that simplifies use of the sets' extensive Internet features. In addition, the new LG ST600 module/set top box, available separately, can bring SmartTV to any HDTV with an HDMI input. Another approach to adding this feature to your existing HDMI HDTV is the new BD690 3D Blu-ray player, which includes an on-board 250GB hard drive plus the SmartTV platform.

But the big LG story is the use of passive glasses in many of the company's new LCD 3DTVs, rather than the active shutter glasses now employed in most current 3D sets. LG calls its passive glasses technology FPR, for Film Pattern Retarder. The sets in the LG lineup that will continue to use shutter glasses include all of the Nano models (and all of the plasma sets as well). There are many upsides to passive glasses, but downsides as well (see the following blog entry).

No prices were quoted, but all of the new sets should begin shipping by early spring.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
My Home PC is the latest from Control4, whose interface standard bulks large in custom installation and home theater. It marks the first time Control4 has extended its reach beyondproprietary onscreen and touchscreen interfaces to third-party devices such as computers and tablets. With the likes of Denon, Marantz, Harman, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sony, and many more as Control4 partners, My Home PC is likely to see far-ranging use in the a/v sphere and beyond.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
What to our wondering eyes should appear on the floor of South Hall but the Grey Lady herself, The New York Times, touting her apps for computers, smartphones, e-readers, and of course this year's particular CES obsession, tablets. The paper's show coverage also refers to (other) media companies chasing partners at this year's CE extravaganza.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
As I type these words, I am staring through Flexon by Marchon eyeglass frames, so I was predisposed to find the company's 3DTV eyewear aesthetically pleasing. Marchon has a patent on technology for a side-to-side curve that allows the eye to move up to 30 degrees off center without geometric distortion, so these frames may be especially good for watching 3D on a big screen up close. Pricing starts at $40 and ranges up to $179 for the Lacoste version. There will also be Nike frames for $129-139. The pricier frames double as sunglasses that lighten or darken as needed.