Friday, January 11, 2008
CES News :lets see the Best HDTVs We Saw
LAS VEGAS - There were hundreds of new HDTV models announced at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show and I can't help but say that I was pleased with what I saw.
Among the design trends that consumers can expect to see with the new 2008 HDTVs are thinner bezels and cabinets, wireless video input options, network options for streaming multimedia content, and of course improved picture quality. With so many TVs to see, I thought I'd highlight some of the many models that caught my attention.
Panasonic wowed the CES crowd with a drool-inducing 150 inch plasma television that the company claims will ship later in 2008. The supersized plasma featured "4K by 2K" resolution (about 8 megapixels), and Panasonic was proud to point out that they could carve nine 50 inch screens from the single sheet of glass that was used to create the display.
For the rest of us, Panasonic's new PZ800 and PZ85 series of 1080p resolution plasmas feature a new screen size (46 inches), SD Memory Card slot, support for 24p input, a new screen filter that reduces ambient light by 99 percent, and claimed brightness improvements in the 20 percent to 30 percent range. The flagship PZ800 series adds THX certification, and four HDMI ports. The PZ85 will likely provide a tempting value by dropping the THX certification and offering three HDMI ports. While it is expected to ship in spring 2008, pricing has yet to be determined.
Looking to the near future, Panasonic also demonstrated several 50-inch plasma prototypes that measured just an inch thin. Hinting at a 2009 release, the thin plasmas also featured narrowed bezels for an even more impressive look.
Pioneer Electronics didn't have any new 2008 models on display at CES, but they did present an impressive preview of new plasma display technology that we can expect to see in late 2008 or early 2009.
Dubbed "Project Kuro," an advanced design concept display fronted the Pioneer booth. The current generation 50-inch screen featured 1080p resolution; however, it measured an impressively thin 9mm while weighing only 41 pounds. Behind closed doors at the Pioneer booth was a preview of the company's next-generation plasma panels that the company claims reduces video black to immeasurable levels - effectively zero light output, resulting in an infinite contrast ratio. Pioneer hinted its next generation display technology would arrive sometime in 2009.
Westinghouse Digital also had an impressive assortment of new LCD HDTVs on display at the company's booth. An updated TX series of LCDs included the 47 inch TX-47F450S that will be the company's first television to feature 120-Hz display technology for reduced motion blur with video depicting fast motion. Expected in March 2008, the TX-47F450S has an estimated retail price of $1,599.
Westinghouse also unveiled the 16 inch PT-16H610S widescreen LCD HDTV that featured a clever dual-hinge base that provided flexible mounting options – it appeared ideal for mounting under a cabinet or similar kitchen surface. The PT-16H610S is available with a gloss white finish and Westinghouse also demonstrated an attractive version that was clad in brushed aluminum – the LCDs removable bezel will likely allow for several texture and color options. Other features included 1,366X768 screen resolution, touch sensitive control keys, and HDMI input. Expected to ship in March 2008, the PT-16H610S has an estimated retail price of $329.
The LG Electronics booth at CES featured an impressive 2008 HDTV lineup with new 1080p resolution plasma and LCD televisions that feature Imaging Science Foundation customized calibration configuration (ISFccc) functionality that provides greater control over picture quality as well as lockable presets for day and night viewing modes.
LG's new PG60 and PG70 series of 1080p plasma HDTVs also received THX display certification and will provide four HDMI v1.3 ports. LG also claims an enhanced panel lifespan of 100,000 hours until half-brightness. Each series also incorporates an invisible speaker system, tuned by audio industry guru Mark Levinson, that utilizes actuators around the perimeter of the bezel.
The PG70 series differentiates itself by offering an optional wireless video transmission module that utilizes 802.11n technology that LG claims is functional up to 65 feet. Available in 50- and 60-inch screen sizes, the new plasma TVs are expected to arrive in spring 2008. Pricing has yet to be revealed, unfortunately.
LG's 2008 LCDs lineup starts with the impressive 47-inch LG75 that features a 128-diode LED backlighting system with local dimming functionality for improved picture contrast (darker black levels). The LG75 also features 120-Hz display technology for reduced blurring, and the panel accepts 24p input like that provided by some HD DVD and Blu-ray HD disc players. The LG75 is expected to ship sometime in 2008 for an unknown price.
The LG71 series of LCDs integrates an 802.11n wireless system for cable-free video delivery up to 65 feet, while also providing four HDMI v1.3 inputs that support Deep Color video signals. This series also features 120-Hz display technology as well as the company's invisible speaker system. The LG71 series will ship in spring 2008 with 47- inch and 52-inch screen size options. Pricing has yet to be determined, an unfortunate trend for such early product announcements.
The Sony booth at CES is always crowded and this year was no exception. People were once again drooling over Sony's OLED (organic light emitting diode) television demonstrations, and the company's 11 inch XEL-1 is now shipping in North America for about $2,500. The XEL's 3-mm thin screen was impressive with well-saturated colors and an inky dark black level. Once again, Sony teased the crowds with a 27 inch 1080p OLED prototype - I predict a CES 2009 launch product for this one.
Sony's M4000 series of LCD HDTVs included a 19-inch version, dubbed the KDL-19M4000, that features 1,440x900 screen resolution and two HDMI inputs. Initially available with a black or white gloss bezel, the series may expand into other colors if demand warrants. Expect Sony M4000 series LCD HDTVs to arrive spring 2008 in screen sizes ranging from 19 inches on up to 37 inches. Pricing has yet to be announced.
Sony's new W4100 series of LCD HDTVs feature 120-Hz display technology for minimizing motion blur. The series also features a 3D graphic user interface that is an update of Sony's XMB (cross media bar) interface that was introduced with the PlayStation 3 game console. The W4100's four HDMI v1.3 ports support 24p input as well as CEC (consumer electronic control) functionality that Sony dubs "BRAVIA Sync". Available in 40-inch, 46-inch, and 52-inch screen sizes, the W4100 series is expected to arrive in spring 2008 - pricing has yet to be announced.
A Z4100 series of LCD HDTVs takes things a step further with a narrow bezel design and thin cabinet depth. These 1080p resolution/120-Hz flat panels are also x.v.Color, Deep Color, and 24p input compatible via the series' four HDMI v1.3 ports. The Z4100 series is also DLNA compliant, which supports streaming of multimedia content across a local network.
The folks at 3M had a small booth on the CES show floor to demonstrate a new miniature projection technology that utilizes a single LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) microdisplay panel and is illuminated using a sequentially-fired RGB LED array. The entire projection package was less than half an inch thick and a little over an inch square in size. Expect the device to be integrated into mobile products such as cell phones and PDAs; the tiny 3M projector was impressing onlookers with its VGA resolution (640 by 480) image.
Among the new offerings at the Sharp booth at the 2008 CES was a "special edition" SE94U line of 1080p liquid crystal televisions. Available in 46-inch, 52-inch , and 65- inch screen sizes, the line features 120-Hz display technology and a 5-wavelength backlight system for an expanded color gamut. Equipped with an Ethernet port, the SE94U models can access RSS-style information for weather, news, and sports updates. A networked attached SE94U can also allow Sharp's AQUOS Net service access the TV to assist customers with issues should they arise.
These 10-bit panels also feature RS-232C ports for custom control applications, as well as a matte finished bezel with metal accents on the frame's corners. I was also pleased to learn these are the first Sharp LCDs that will offer a full selection of white balance and color controls - useful for professional calibrators. The 65-inch and 52-inch versions are expected to ship in January 2008 for $10,999.99 and $4,199.99 respectively.
Sharp also introduced the more reasonably priced D44 series of LCDs. Available in screen sizes measuring 32 inches and 37 inches, the D44 offer a screen resolution of 1,366x768. Input options on the D44's include two HDMI and two component video inputs as well as a VGA input for PC use. The 32-inch LC-32D44u is available in January 2008 with an MSRP of $999.99, and the 37 inch LC-37D44U is expected in February 2008 with a MSRP of $1,299.99.
Unfortunately, these companies often leave critical pricing information out until the last minute, either for economic reasons or to sandbag a competitor. We'll try to provide followup articles with pricing information as warranted.