It's been a busy month at TVSnob in May and it only looks to be busier as we head into June. This month will be featuring a series of hands-on reviews if everything goes according to plan, so stay tuned. While you're waiting though, check out a look back at May 2008 after the jump...
Tru2way technology may mean the death of the set-top box, but a Philips-developed Personal TV system that'll be deployed by German content provider Axel Springer will make television viewing a whole lot more personal. Expected to be deployed by Axel in the second half of this year, the Personal TV system combines user data and an electronic programming guide from Axel and Philips' Aprico software to a smart service that'll allow viewers to create personalized channel in their TV's electronic programming guide which then will match appropriate content to it from existing channels. Not specific to Axel however, the Personal TV system can be used globally and you may even see it on your computer or cell phone in the future.
DVDPlay, one of the big names in the DVD rental kiosk world, is set to start renting Blu-ray discs alongside DVD's in early June making them the first rental kiosk operator to offer Blu-ray rentals. Not only is this great for HD fans looking for convenient rental options, but so is the rental price: Blu-ray rentals will carry the same $1.49 price tag as regular DVD's. Blu-ray has been facing some criticism lately for its failure to really emerge as a valid competitor to standard-def DVD's since the death of HD DVD, and this is an excellent way for the HD optical format to gain some market exposure. A couple of the early titles to keep an eye out for at DVDPlay kiosks are Untraceable, expected to be available as a Blu-ray rental June 10 and Men In Black which could be available as early as its release date of June 17.
If you found those Pantel Outdoor LCD TV's we told you about a couple of months back kinda interesting, but weren't too thrilled with the sole 32- and 42-inch size offerings, maybe this'll pique your interest a little more. Pantel has just launched three more sizes: a 20-inch PAN-200 priced at $2999, a 52-inch PAN-520 priced at $9999, and finally a monster 65-inch PAN-650 that comes with an even-more-monster price tag of $25999 (this one's a special order). The huge price tags are paying for the outdoor, weatherproof convenience of these high-def LCD sets more than anything because the specs aren't anything extraordinary. The PAN-200 features 720p resolution, a 700:1 contrast ratio and a 16:9 aspect ratio, while the larger PAN-520 and PAN-650 can boast 1080p resolution, 2000:1 contrast ratio and 16:9 aspect ratio. Oh, and of course an included waterproof/weatherproof remote. The tech spec that should really be highlighted, but is really a must for outdoor HDTV's is the included 802.11a wireless package which will catch audio and video streams from up to 150 feet away.
It's not too often that a company will announce a Japanese electronics product launch and a companion American launch in one week, but that's what Sanyo has done this week with the announcement of their PLC-XC55 (LP-XC55 in Japan) and PLC-XC50 (LP-XC50 in Japan) projectors. This Sunday we told you about their upcoming Japanese launch in mid-July, and it turns out this pair of portables will be coming to the US in July as well. Not only are they bright, putting out 3100 and 2600 lumens respectively, they also feature nearly maintenance-free filters, dubbed Active Maintenance Filters, and some nifty security features to deter thieves. They'll project up to 720p/1080i resolution using either DVI-I or component video inputs, or if you go the standard-def route will use composite and S-video connections instead. The best part about the upcoming US release by far is the price. In Japan the PLC-XC55 will have a US$3537 sticker while the PLC-XC50 will have a US$3029 price tag. American buyers are only looking at paying about half the price: the PLC-XC55 and PLC-XC50 will be priced at $1995 and $1495 respectively.
First quarter video-on-demand viewing skyrocketed in the first quarter of 2008, up 59% from last year's Q1. The 185 million VOD hours viewed in Q1 2008 were definitely partly a result of a 36% increase to more than 70, 000 titles. The data, compiled by Rentrak Corporation from 51 million American set-top boxes, also revealed that viewing of free on-demand TV shows doubled, subscription VOD viewing grew 41% and transactional viewing rose 11%. Cable and satellite providers have been pushing VOD hard in the last year or so as they compete to offer more on-demand programming. Comcast is one name that comes to mind with their Project Infinity which is pushing out on-demand titles like crazy this year, including those in high definition. In fact, HD VOD looks to be huge in the next few years judging by consulting firm Oliver Wyman's forecast that it'll generate somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion in consumer spending by 2010.
Hitachi's CP-X450J is the company's latest LCD projector, with of course, a Japanese release date of June 10, 2008. The 1024x768 resolution projector uses a 230 Watt UHB lamp to produce 3500 lumens of brightness, comes with a zoom lens that can be adjusted both manually and automatically and features auto-correction for vertical picture distortion. Destined for business use, the CP-X450J has a template function that gives the user the option of surrounding the projected picture with four different borders-black with white borders, white with black borders, a black and white grid, and black with white plotting. Definitely a handy feature for business users displaying graphs and charts as part of a presentation.
Dynamic and cinema projection modes adjust the brightness level depending on the environment and type of content and a quiet mode reduces the projector's noise level to 30 decibels. Other features include a two-tier electrostatic filter that reduces the filter cleaning interval from 400 hours to 2000 hours, 10 Watt mono speaker output, and a Quick Start feature that powers up the projector in only 7 seconds. Connection options are pretty vast with both RGB analog inputs and outputs, component, composite, and S-video jacks, RCA and stereo mini audio outputs, RS-232C control and a USB slot for the mouse. The Hitachi CP-X450J LCD projector has a price set at 399, 000 Yen, about $3785 US.
Sony's CEO Howard Stringer did his best to impress at D6 yesterday, showing off another Sony OLED prototype, this one only 0.3 mm thin! We can't really find anything in the way of specs at the moment, but Engadget HD speculates that this could be the 960x540 pixel display Sony showcased last month which was also 0.3 mm thin. Sony also said that they'll be introducing their 27-inch OLED display to the mass market soon, although only those with the fattest of fat wallets will be able to afford one. We could only imaging given the $2500 price tag of the XEL-1.
Stringer also mentioned a few other interesting nuggets yesterday, saying that while Sony's LCD growth has been great, the technology is bound to fall victim to OLED in the future. While alot of people buy LCD's for their brightness, OLED's are even brighter. Right now OLED is the "perfect television companion", said Stringer.
He also believes that while Blu-ray may eventually fall victim to digital distribution, it'll be around for at least another 10 years before broadband video quality equals up to the HD disc format. And even then the Playstation Network is in place which was he believes was key in destroying the previously competing HD DVD format.
Vudu is rumored to be updating its video rental set-top box to version 1.5 and will supposedly include a new feature that we're surprised no one else has thought of yet. Pretty well all streaming video rental services set their movies to expire after 24 hours, and should you not quite finish the film in that time then you have to rent it for the full price all over again. Inconvenient to say the least. Vudu's 1.5 update will let you extend expired movies past the 24 hour limit for a reduced price. Reduced by how much? $2 off of HD movies and $1 off regular titles. Not bad and you don't even have to act on this deal right away. It's actually available for one week after the rental expires, and should you choose to extend it, you have 30 days to press play. Of course once you press play you're back to 24-48 hours to finish it. And the offer is only good once, so set time aside to watch the movie in its entirety the second time around.
One way to stand out in the highly competitive HDTV market is to integrate a DVD player into a 40-inch display, and that's exactly what Westinghouse does with their latest model. The Westinghouse VK-40F580D is a 40-inch LCD display with a front-loading DVD slot, conveniently eliminating one box from your home theater setup. We've seen TV's integrated with DVD players before, but never in a 40-inch display with the latest LCD technologies. The VK-40F580D also boasts 1080p resolution and a "Spinedesign" which places all the connection ports on one side of the set for easy access. If you're hoping this Westinghouse will upscale standard-def DVD's though, you're out of luck because it won't and for the $1149 price tag, you'll probably pay less for a separate 40-inch LCD set and DVD player of higher quality.
Right now at Best Buy a purchase of the Insignia NS-BRDVD Blu-ray player, priced at $350, will net you $100 of coupons that can be redeemed at your local Best Buy store for instant savings on Blu-ray movie titles from Disney, Touchstone, and Miramax. This pretty well brings the Insignia Blu-ray player price down to only $250, relatively reasonably priced for a middle-of-the-pack Blu-ray player.
Visionox, a Chinese company launched in 2001 out of Tsinghua University, has set up the first OLED panel mass production line in China and will be ready to pump out the next-generation of TV flat panels in October 2008. The plant, set up in Kunshan, Jiangsu, has its equipment installed already and has completed extensive testing. Changhong, another Chinese company, is also working on a OLED mass production line and plans to begin churning out 12 million OLED panels per year starting sometime in the first quarter of 2009. Neither Visionox or Changhong have mentioned what exactly the dimensions are of the OLED panels they'll be producing, but initially expect them to be in smaller sizes.
Take a look at the future of home theater speakers. Sony's Sountina speaker is nothing more than a glass tube that will saturate your home theater room with a full 360 degrees of sound eliminating the need for more than one speaker. The Sountina transmits sound the usual way through vibrations but is radically different than traditional speakers which use paper and magnesium. Model number NSA-PF1, the Sony Sountina speaker has a frequency response of 50Hz-20000Hz, features a coaxial connection, 13 cm subwoofer and a 7 cm medium speaker. Measuring in at 325x1845x325mm and weighing 12.5 kg, the Sountina is slated for a June 20 release in Japan priced at 1, 050, 000 Yen, the equivalent of US$10027. Wow, a litte on the pricey side but to be expected as Sony is aiming the Sountina at the hospitality industry, i.e. restaurants and hotels.
Take a look at this, uh, TV mashup from The Cable Show. FOX decided it would be kinda neat to put mattresses on display that doubled as bigscreen TV's thanks to a projector mounted overhead. A bed that doubles as a TV? And we thought it was supposed to be a TV tech show.
You can hack your Apple TV using many step and alot of time browsing the web looking for how-to's or you can take just a few seconds and plug in the aTV Flash Drive from AppleCore LLC. Install the flash drive and it'll do everything else, all without voiding the warranty. According to Gizmodo, the aTV Flash Drive will do a hell of a lot highlighted by:
play DivX, Xvid, AVI, WMV, RMVB and other video formats
play DVD files without any format conversion
sync, organize, and watch non-iTunes video files
use a Safari-based web browser to surf the web
rent and watch HD movies from Jaman.com
stream media from UPnP(v1) media servers
read RSS Feeds
enable SSH access
All of the original Apple TV will continue to function as normal and the best part is the aTV Flash Drive will only cost you $59.95. Think of how many hours you'd spend looking for these hacks on the web and then implementing them, compare that to how much you earn per hour at work and then tell me if this isn't a great purchase.
Tru2way technology has been a big topic of conversation in TV tech circles this year, hence the primer we gave you a few days back, and not surprisingly today brought an announcement from Sony Electronics we figured would come sooner or later. Together with the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), Sony announced that they would be working on developing a Tru2way-capable TV, able to receive interactive content and HD signal sans set-top box. Sony's decision involved signing a Memorandum Of Understanding that involves 6 major cable networks that serve 82% of the entire US cable-subscribing population-Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House Networks.
The agreement outlines how Tru2way products will be brought to market with "interactive services like video-on-demand, digital video recording and interactive programming guides" and "makes it clear that consumers will be able to enjoy a choice of differentiated two-way products at retail and through cable operators from a variety of consumer electronics and information technology manufacturers".
Sony's decision to sign the MOU likely means other major manufacturers will follow suit, meaning Tru2way products will be on shelves faster giving consumers a host of options beyond what is currently offered by cable companies.
According to a new research study by ABI Research, Over-The-Top Internet Video Strategies for Carriers, the number of online video viewers will hit the 1 billion mark by 2013. Online video is supplied by a growing number of players including content owners, user-generated video sites, internet portal, broadband video sites, and internet TV providers and distribution methods are constantly changing in order to reduce strain on broadband networks.
ABI says "content distribution networks that cache content closer to the user, peer-to-peer networks which leverage users' PCs, and hybrid networks which combine these two approaches" are becoming the most used online video distribution methods. While this is all and good, the real reason for outlining this data is to help out pay-TV broadcasters to come up with a game plan is they want to continue to compete. ABI says "providers should refrain from knee-jerk responses, or adopting defensive measures aimed at discouraging consumers from using those services...produce resentment from subscribers and likely defections from their services" but instead adopt an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach.
Pay-TV owners already have an existing broadband infrastructure giving them a technical advantage right off the bat, and can use this to supplement their traditional broadcasting methods.
Wow, this is a scary picture. We have a hard enough time talking on the cell phone and driving never mind watching TV while watching the road. But US Telematics is apparently bringing IPTV to your dashboard very soon. We hope your insurance is all paid up.
We haven't heard a whole lot from set-top box maker since that $1000 Vudu XL began shipping in March, but this is probably the best thing that has happened to Vudu since their inception. The Vudu set-top box has secured shelf space in 24 California Best Buy's marking the first time the Vudu has been sold in bricks-and-mortar stores since it originally launched last fall. Vudu sought the shelf space after struggling to compete with the Apple TV even though the entry-level Vudu will hold roughly twice the video content of the Apple TV for a price tag $65 more. Since it hit the market, Vudu has added 500 movie titles, bringing the total to 5500, and added 1000 TV shows and 150 HD film titles.
Marantz is launching a new pre-amp, the AV8003, and power amp, MM8003, employing what Marantz calls its "future design direction". Meant to be teasers for their 2009 lineup, the two new amps look to combine the aesthetics of the Reference Series with the newest home A/V technologies. The AV8003, which can be used as a multizone processor and controller, is networkable, THX Ultra 2-certified, and thanks to its built-in video scaler can scale and upconvert up to 1080p. The pre-amp supports Dolby TrueHD, DTS Master Audio, and Deep Color and is satellite radio-ready with a subscription to either XM or Sirius. Crammed with inputs and outputs include 4 HDMI 1.3a inputs and a couple more outputs, XLR Pre Output terminals, XLR audio inputs for SACD, component video outputs for multi-room, RS-232c, Direct IR inputs, DC triggers and flasher outputs, the Marantz AV8003 pre-amp will be available next month tagged with an MSRP of $3150.
The MM8003 power amp actually has 8 channels, each 150 Watts, combining the "best sonic features" of the PM-11S1 and SR9600 according to Marantz. With XLR input terminals, output channel relay on/off control, custom filter capacitors, and ultra-wide bandwidth current feedback technology, the Marantz MM8003 power amp will hit shelves priced at $1850.
An oversupply of large-sized LCD panels that began in November 2007 widely attributed to global economic worries doesn't look to be a concern any longer as research firm iSuppli is forecasting a 17.7% growth in large-size LCD panel unit shipments in 2008. Shipments in the first quarter only decreased 2.8% (WitsView says 9.9%) compared to the fourth quarter of 2007, not much of a drop considering the first quarter after the holiday season is generally slow. And thanks to this summer's Beijing Olympic Games demand is currently pretty high and demand is expected to continue: panel suppliers are throwing $17 billion this year into building next-gen LCD manufacturing lines.
Sony has paired up with Idemitsu Koran to produce fluorescent deep blue OLED devices with a 28.5% internal quantum efficiency (IQE), surpassing the 25% IQE of previous fluorescent devices. That means this partnership has resulted in the highest level of luminous efficiency for fluorescent OLED technology. Idemitsu supplied new carrier transport materials while Sony improved upon their current OLED technology, and not only has this improved luminous efficiency, but with Sony's "Super Top Emission" technology the blue color deepness in the new OLED devices have exceeded the NTSC standard. Perhaps most importantly, the new technology reduces the driving current of the blue OLED's, the most energy-intensive of three primary OLED colors. That means a more energy-efficient panel, something that'll play an increasingly important role in OLED TV's hitting the mainstream.
Although rumors that the next incarnation of the Xbox 360 will include a built-in Blu-ray player have started and stoppedoverandover again, Microsoft's Shane Kim seemingly put any chance of another rumor to rest. In fact not only has he said repeatedly that "Blu-ray is not coming to the Xbox 360 in any way shape or form", but now he's saying that "Blu-ray won't take off" at all.
I know Blu-ray provides some visual boost for people who want a physical HD format, but we're not seeing that format taking off, in general," Kim said. "The DVD format is still doing well. Eventually, the price of Blu-ray players will come down to $150 and the value proposition of a $300 or $400 PlayStation 3 as a game console and movie player will be impacted.
The above words from Kim can be interpreted to mean that Microsoft believes Blu-ray sucks so bad, the cost you would have to pay for a Blu-ray Xbox 360 isn't worth the box the game console ships in. Kim also points out the with 10 million people downloading movies from the Xbox Live Marketplace so far, Blu-ray's numbers are peanuts in comparison. Anyone want to start a rumor?
Not quite a picoprojector but small nevertheless, Earth Trek's 90-805R Mini projector measures in at 105x58x25mm and weighs only 160 grams. Small enough to fit in your pocket, the 90-805R Mini can project a 22-inch diagonal image and somehow has enough room to stuff in an SD/T-Flash card slot, a lithium ion battery, a speaker, and an MP4 player.
Sony's DVP-NS708H upscaling DVD player, built of course for Bravia TV's and home projectors, upscales standard-def DVD's to 1080p. A European release, Sony's new upscaling player features PhotoTV HD which can play back JPEG pics from a Sony CyberShot or Alpha digital SLR camera, burned onto a CD or DVD, on your TV's screen for optimized photo viewing. Compatible with Bravia Sync, the DVP-NS708H can be controlled with the push of a remote button and features a bunch of outputs including HDMI, component, and coaxial digital. Other features include a Precision Drive 3 Mechanism for stable playback, Precision Cinema Progressive (PCP), and a 12 bit/108 MHz Noise Shaped Video D/A Converter.
With LCD TV demand only supposed to get stronger, Dai Nippon Printing will be opening a new manufacturing plant in Japan's Hyogo Prefecture in 2010 that will produce color filters for LCD TV's. The filters will be produced for IPS Alpha Technology, an LCD TV-making branch of Matshushita and Hitachi. In fact, the new Dai Nippon plant will be built right next to an under-construction IPS plant in Himeji.
Sony will be investing US$210 million to make sure it becomes the market leader in medium to large size OLED TV's, according to Yoshito Shiraishi, GM of TV e-products and business development. The investment which will be made in the second half of 2008 will be spent expanding the capacity of the Sony Mobile Display plant which is expected to begin charging out OLED TV's larger than the XEL-1 between April 2009 and March 2010.
A recent study by Analysys Mason concludes that unless 3G networks and dedicating mobile broadcasting networks embrace femtocell and sideloading delivery methods, the initial two mobile TV technologies could be in jeopardy. 3G networks deliver mobile broadcasts and video-on-demand over individual 3G connections, but is only really cost efficient when the number of users is relatively small. Broadcasting networks such as MediaFLO and DVB-H don't have the capacity problems of 3G networks but as of yet no standard broadcast format has gone global nor has a common bandwidth spectrum been allocated. Plus broadcast networks completely control what mobile TV viewers are able to watch. While developers continue to work on these two technologies, the study pointed out that trials of the DVB-H broadcast standard have revealed that 36%-50% of mobile TV viewers actually watch at home even though their traditional TV is sitting right there. Indoor networks utilizing femtocells or WLAN networks could be a more effective method of streaming mobile video indoors taking the stress off of 3G networks and potentially streaming higher-quality video. Another effective indoor method is known as sideloading which is simply uploading video content that is possibly pre-recorded and not-time-critical onto your mobile phone for viewing at a later time. An example would be downloading a TV show from iTunes and then uploading it onto your iPhone. iTunes video is encoded at 1Mbit/sec whereas 3G video is encoded at 128Kbit/sec resulted in a huge improvement in video quality from sideloading the iTunes content.
Here are some interesting tidbits from the report:
Key findings of the new report include:
Trials of DVB-H services have shown significant indoor usage of mobile TV services, with 36-50% of participants using these services mainly at home. Indoor systems such as femtocells could successfully carry this traffic, potentially with higher quality than is achievable with outdoor 3G and broadcasting networks.
Sideloading can be a highly effective way of delivering content that is not time critical, such as pre-recorded TV programmes (for example soap operas, dramas, situation comedies and documentaries) and movies. Compared to other mobile TV distribution methods, sideloading can provide guaranteed reliability in any location, with very high quality. For example, video content available on iTunes for Apple iPods and iPhones is encoded at a data rate of over 1Mbit/s, compared with 128kbit/s for some 3G services.
MNOs that are unable to deploy broadcasting networks could potentially deliver a compelling proposition without filling up the capacity of their 3G networks. If 75% of mobile TV content was delivered using sideloading and 60% of streamed content was consumed indoors, then 3G networks would need to carry just 10% of total mobile TV traffic.
If you happen to live in Japan, as we know most of our readers don't, come July 11th you'll be able to get your hands on two new projectors from Sanyo. The 3100 lumen LP-XC55 and the 2600 lumen LP-XC50 portable projectors feature Sanyo's Active Maintenance Filter which automatically senses when airflow is obstructed by dust and prompts you to change the filter. Of course the filter system and projector design minimizes dust build-up, so filter changes aren't necessary as frequently as most models. A Security Bar that allows 11 millimeter thick security wires, which Sanyo claims is a theft-deterrent. Both feature built-in 7 Watt speakers and an auto setup function which automatically detects signal sources. The usual connectivity options are available including a DVI-I digital interface and the lamp can be changed through an easy-access panel, even when roof-mounted. Finally, the new Sanyo projectors utilize a Color Board Mode which will project onto red, green, blue, and yellow surfaces.
The Seagate Showcase external HDD was designed to make sure you never lose any of your DVR'ed content again. Compatible with Motorola's eSATA HD DVR's the Showcase will have an intial storage space of 1 TB, enough to store about 200 hours of HD shows and movies or 1000 hours of standard-def content. If offers a simple plug-and-play setup using either a USB 2.0 or an eSATA connection that uses an included cable to connect directly to Motorola DVR's. The Seagate Showcase is expected to be available from Seagate's website sometime this fall.
According to Broadcom Corporation you could be watching high-definition television on your mobile phone as early as 2009. Broadcom, Nvidia, and Texas Instruments all have HD processor ready to go that can encode and decode 1280x720 pixel content at 30 frames per second. Renesas Technology Corporation in Japan is going all out, currently developing a processor that'll support full HD 1920x1080 content on your cell phone. Several problems remain to be solved though. Processing HDTV for a cell phone takes up a huge amount of power sucking the life right out of the phone's battery, plus HD picture quality is likely not even noticeable on a screen size typical of a mobile phone. Manufacturers say the way around this is to allow connectivity between mobile phones and HDTV's, leaving the processing up to the TV set and providing a screen size more suitable for HD content. That means the mobile phone is relegated to nothing more than a streaming device. The challenge here is that the current HDMI 1.3 standard will have to be about half the size to properly connect a mobile phone to an HDTV. Look for a solution to this problem next year, but as cool as mobile phone HDTV sounds we doubt it'll catch on anytime soon.
If you've been following the TV tech industry lately you've probably heard one of the latest buzz words, tru2way, being tossed around like a live grenade. So what is this mysterious Tru2way? Developed by Cable Labs, tru2way used to be known as OpenCable. Tru2way technology just sounds better and has a more attractive logo. All kidding aside, tru2way technology is an open platform that'll allow consumers to buy two-way "plug and play" TV's that are easy to set up, devoid of cable clutter thanks to the elimination of the set-top box, and ready to receive any interactive service's from cable no matter the consumer's location or cable company.
Tru2way technology will also give consumers the ability to have a heck of a lot more control over the content they watch thanks to the two-way capabilities of the technology. The control we have when surfing the web will migrate straight to our big screens. And because it's an open platform, it's universal providing the same functionality no matter what cable company or manufacturer implements it. From the click of a remote button, you'll be able to access interactive entertainment, shop, do your online banking and even chat with your friends via your TV.
A standardization of the cable industry in the US and access to interactive applications on your TV, or through your DVR or set-top box would be amazing for consumers. Cable companies such as Comcast expect to have 90% of their network ready by the end of 2008, and 60% already operating under the Tru2way platform. In 2009 Comcast expects that about half of the set-top boxes they ship will be Tru2way-capable. The cable industry expects that Tru2way-enabled set-top boxes and HDTV's shouldn't cost any more than those without Tru2way.
The next Dish DVR will supposedly add in Slingbox capabilities, limited web access with some kind of connection to Yahoo, and even a sharing feature, Clip and Sling, that'll alllow you to send video to your friends. The new DVR will combine the Sling features with the Dish 722 box and feature a new remote with a touchpad and trigger and new user interface. Expected to have 1 TB of storage, the Dish DVR will lose half of its disk space to preloaded HD movies. The front of the unit will have no buttons whatsoever, relying on touch keys and will be backlit. We'll keep our eye out for this release, it'll be hot!
Panasonic's TH-50PZ800U plasma TV has received CNET's Editor's Choice Award for May. Officially released May 1, the TH-50PZ800U sports a 50-inch display and with a mighty 1000000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, displays black levels that near those of Pioneer's popular PDP-5080HD. Compared to the previous generation Panasonic plasmas, color and video processing is much improved with the added THX Mode, although this is the main reason behind the added dollars you'll pay. The TH-50PZ800U is a "worthy competitor to the Kuro, and in many ways, it performs even better" according to David Katzmaier, the reviewer. Quite the compliment. Head over to CNET for the full review.
While the internet and television industry ever-so-slowly merge, people continue to flock to traditional cable subscriptions even though prices have risen 77% since 1996, roughly twice the rate of inflation. And despite the fact you're paying more, an average of $60 per month in fact, you're probably only watching 13% of what you pay for. So why has the digital revolution brought down prices of every knick-knack available, but hasn't broken tradtional cable? One reason is that channels are available in bundles thanks to an understanding between cable companies and Hollywood producers, making it tough to subscribe to channels you watch individually. Cable companies justify bundles by saying that revenues shared by Hollywood thanks to bundled channels keep cable prices from rising even more. They also say that better image quality, on-demand services and bundled phone and internet packages mean viewers are getting better value for their dollar relative to inflation.
Another reason is that broadband speeds in many cases are not fast enough yet to stream and download video in a timely manner. This is changing fast though, but one problem still remains. Not a whole lot of us like to sit for hours watching video at our uncomfortable computer chairs. We want to see content on our big screens. Although, tons of companies are coming out with set-top boxes that will stream video from your computer to your TV, many of us just don't want the inconvenience of going online to find content, hooking up a middleman set-top and then streaming it to our TV's. It's easier to just push a remote button, sit back, and relax with a cable subscription.
When it really comes down to it, it looks like cable will be around for a long while. Not because the technology isn't there, but because moving web video to our home theater's is so far, just an inconvenient pain in the ass.
You know Blu-ray hasn't quite reached a mainstream price point when manufacturers try to pawn off a $750 Profile 1.0 player as affordable, but Panasonic's new UniPhier 3 processor, its 3rd generation 45nm chip, could soon change that. Half the size of Panasonic's second-gen chip, the UniPhier 3 should reduce production costs ultimately resulting in lower prices for you and me when it comes time to grabbing a Blu-ray player off store shelves. More impressive is the fact that while $750 may only get you Profile 1.0 features right now, the UniPhier 3 handles all of Blu-ray's Profile 2.0 features. That includes picture-in-picture, new graphics engine, laser control, DivX 1080p, ethernet controller, DTS-HD MA, and Dolby TrueHD. Sample shipments start next month, so hopefully come the second half of 2008 we'll see the UniPhier 3 in action.
6G LCD panel production will move beyond 5G in 2009 according to manufacturers. What's the difference? 6G production methods can economically produce panels of different sizes. When it comes to LCD TV panels the most popular sizes are 26-, 32-, 37, and 65-inch panels whereas LCD monitors tend to be produced in 15.6-, 18.5-, 21.5- and 21.6-inch widescreen sizes. Currently 6G lines produce about 1.7 million square meter of LCD glass substrate per month, while 5 G lines are sitting at 2.1 million square meters produced monthly. But with companies such as LG Display, Chi Mei Optoelectronics, and Innolux Display aldl expanding their 6G lines next year, 6G lines will see an output boost to 2.2 million square meters per month surpassing 5G lines in production volumes.
You know companies are running out of brand names when they start naming things Wooo and Wii, but Hitachi's new Wooo DV-BH250 caught our attention nonetheless. Landing in Japan in June, the DV-BH250 not only functions as a typical Blu-ray recorder, but has 250 GB of internal hard disk space, an HDMI output for playback on your high-def TV, and will even compress HD with AVCREC so that you can burn it onto regular DVD's. Very cool! Coming to the US in the future? Who knows.
Despite being each other's biggest competitor, Samsung and LG Electronics, the world's number one and two manufacturers of LCD panels have agreed to a cross-purchasing deal for LCD TV panels. Samsung will buy 37-inch panels manufactured by LG Display, a subsidiary of LG Electronics, while LG will acquire 52-inch panels from Samsung. The two Korean companies, who will also buy LCD modules and cells from each other, previously had acquired both of the panel sizes from Taiwanese manufacturers. But with digital TV profit margins beginning to thin, the two companies now have to swallow their pride to benefit their respective bottom line. They expect to have all the details hammered out by July.
It seems an initial report that stated Sumitomo Chemical would have 40-inch OLED panels ready for shipment next year was taken out of context. A source now says that Sumitomo president Hiromasa Yonekura was "misquoted" during his speech regarding the OLED panels and the timescale was misreported. "Sumitomo is working with partners so the timing of any product launch is not just [its] call," said Cambridge Display Technologies, a company that's playing a big part in the bigscreen OLED panel development. In the end, we're probably looking at a shipping date that'll fall post-2010.
Any home theater enthusiast should know by now that all their high tech equipment sucks up a whole lot of energy. Enter one possible solution to that problem: the Energy Saver universal remote control produced by One For All. First of all the Energy Saver remote allows you to control all of your home theater devices from one remote, eliminating the need for confusing remote clutter. As you can can probably guess from the name, the real important feature of the Energy Saver remote is its ability to save energy used by everyone of your home theater's devices. The remote comes with a plug-in that can connect to four different devices. By routing electricity through the plug-in a device that typically consumers 9.7 Watts per hours would only consumer 0.9 Watts. And when your home theater isn't actually running most devices will still consumer about 1.5 Watts per hour. A special "Green Button" on the remote, when pressed, will cut off electrical access to the plug-in, eliminating energy usage all together. An initial investment of $80 is required to get your hands on the Energy Saver remote, but we imagine it would pay for itself in time.
Wow, Denon has introduced a "more affordable" Blu-ray player. Of course we have to keep affordable relative to the brand and Denon being a high-end name and all that means $749. That's what the new Denon DVD-1800BD Blu-ray player will cost you and it's not even a Profile 2.0 player. That means no ethernet connection at all although you do get picture-in-picture. If you do want some of the more interactive features found on Blu-ray discs, you can download them off the internet onto an SD card which you can then plug into the DVD-1800BD. Other than that the DVD-1800BD features HDMI 1.3a with Deep Color and Bonus View support, output of Dolby and DTS-HD audio, a 2-channel analog audio output for CD playback and standard DVD upscaling to 1080p. Look for this not-so-hot offering from Denon to hit shelves in October 2008.
Sony's Bravia V4000 LCD TV Series just got its European launch, initially in 40-, 46-, and 52-inch screen sizes with more sizes available later this year. All featuring 1080p resolution, Bravia Engine 2, and 33000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and the company's minimalist Draw The Line design concept, the V4000 series doesn't boast anything incredibly eye-catching but looks to be a great TV. The sets also feature 24p True Cinema which displays Blu-ray discs and other theater format content at the correct speeds allowing better color and audio reproduction as well as Bravia Sync for the almost ubiquitous one remote home theater control. Being a European series, the V4000 has an integrated DVB-C/DVB-T tuner and has a trio of HDMI ports. We're waiting on exact pricing and availability dates.
AVerMedia, a producer of TV tuners and PVR tech, has come out with a new hybrid ExpressCard TV Tuner which allows Windows XP or Vista laptop owners to receive HDTV signals, up to 720p/1080i, on their laptops. Dubbed the AVerMedia AverTV Hybrid NanoExpress, the tuner is compatible with both ATSC and Clear QAM digital cable and will receive analog TV and FM radio signals as well. The tiny 54 mm tuner fits neatly into the ExpressCard slot of compatible laptop models and comes with AVer MediaCenter software that allows you to watch, schedule, and record programs. Even more impressive is that the MediaCenter has real-time H.264 recording compression, minimizing the amount of space recorded programming takes up on your hard disk.
Because it has a Windows Vista Premium Certified Driver and software encoder the NanoExpress is also compatible with Windows Media Center where you can access both digital and analog content. Don't think you have to keep all your content on your laptop however, as the NanoExpress has a S-Video/Component 2-in-1 dongle which connects to your camcorder or game console. And if you want to move your H.264 vids to your iPod or portable media player, just connect them via their own USB cables to your laptop, transfer the files and you're ready to go.
The AVerTV Hybrid NanoExpress, priced at $89.99, is now available.
You should know the answer to the above question by now, because for the 8th year in a row DIRECTV is number one according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. It was a close call though as DIRECTV's overall score of 68 only beat the overall cable and satellite industry score of 64 by a small margin. Reflecting customer survey results of perceived quality, value, and expectations prior to subscribing, the number one ranking according to the executive VP of Operations at DIRECTV Mike Palkovic is a direct result of "the hard work and dedication of all DIRECTV employees and customer service representatives".
Check out this HD camcorder/Blu-ray solution in the form of the Hitachi Wooo DZ-WR90. It's a Blu-ray HDD connectable with an eSATA cable to compatible HD camcorders such as the Hitachi DZ-HD90, that let's you burn your camcorder video onto Blu-ray or DVD (even double-sided media) and watch it on your HDTV. Although you get to skip the computer altogether, it will take a couple hours to burn the footage. Hitachi claims the DZ-WR90 will store about 3 hours of content at 1920x1080 with a 1.5 hours burn time, or 6 hours at a 1440x1080 resolution. If you prefer the DVD route, you can burn about an hour in 720x480.
One downside of being a tech geek, whether it be a home theater obsessive, gamer, or computer nerd is the lack of a tan in the summer time. Sitting inside in front of the HDTV doesn't get you much sunlight obviously, but what if you could move the TV outside. That's exactly what Suntronic's doing with its GS LCD line, featuring four screen sizes between 46 and 102 inches, all with All Weather and sunlight-readable LCD technology. The Suntronic LCD TV's, available through iTech Company in the United States, can operate in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to +50 degrees Celsius, are IP65 waterproof, and have both an integrated heater and air conditioner. Of course, a tan might not be worth the low to mid five figure prices you'll pay for these models. Intended for commercial usage, you'd probably be better off staying inside and trying a spray-on tan!
Panasonic's Viera Cast PZ850 Plasma Series, first announced for the North American market at the end of March will officially be hitting shelves mid-June. Panasonic's proprietary Viera Cast technology provides access to all kinds of popular web content including YouTube, Google's Picasa photo platform and Bloomberg News, all viewable directly on the plasma screen.
The Viera PZ850 line will feature 4 new models-the 46-inch TH-46PZ850, 50-inch TH-50PZ850, 58-inch 58PZ850, and the 65-inch TH-65PZ850. All four models features 1080p resolution in 16:9 widescreen format, 30000:1 native contrast ratio/1000000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, 24p native reproduction and a whack of connections include 4 HDMI slots, a PC-input and an SD card slot on-screen picture viewing.
Aside from the exciting Viera Cast technology, the PZ850 series has a bunch of other cool features including:
H.264 codec compatibility allows HD camcorder video to be viewed on the plasma set using an SD card
a Pro Setting Menu, providing access to all the tools needed to calibrate the set to its optimum picture quality
Digital Cinema Color Remastering for accurate movie color reproduction
Studio Reference Mode which displays the most subtle colors intended by the film makers
a Game Mode which reduces screen time lag during play
Viera Link providing multiple home theater device control using one remote
Like the entire Panasonic Viera line, the PZ850 series panels contain no lead or mercury and boast a half-life of 100000 hours. Don't expect to get this kind of TV technology for cheap though. When the line-up hits shelves in June, you'll pay $3099.95, $3499.95, $4299.95, and $7999.95 for the 46-, 50-, 58-, and 65-inch models respectively.
Cable companies are jumping with joy at the thought of acquiring a big chunk of the 18-22 million homes currently getting their TV over-the-air that'll be forced to go digital come February 17, 2009. While most cable providers already provide digital service, a good percentage of those with OTA TV would be either first-time subscribers or those who've let their subscriptions expire. Research company SNL Kagan estimates that at least 10% of those with OTA TV now will opt for pay TV come DTV2009 and the majority of those will head for cable. Interestingly a weak US economy is helping the situation as people flock for entertainment in its cheapest form possible: cable. Maybe that's way companies such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable, both of whom were flagging badly in the first couple of months of 2008 have since respective stock price increases of 40% and 38.5%. We never thought we'd say this, but maybe it's a good time to invest in the cable industry.
LG's Xcanvas HT953TVP home theater system looks to be the official companion to the Xcanvas Scarlett and Xcanvas Bobos plasma lines. Announced yesterday, the HT953TVP upscales to 1080p, can playback MP3 files as well as supports MP3 recording via USB, and features 5.1-channel surround sound. Probably the most eye-popping feature is the Virtual Sound Matrix which actually simulates 10.1 channel surround sound. Heck, why even bother going to the movie theater with technology like this in your living room!
Netflix have a falling out with LG Electronics over their new set-top box? Looks like it because Netflix fans will no longer have to wait for their discs to arrive in the mail thanks to Roku, the producer of the first Netflix set-top box. Right now only part of the Netflix library is available but this is a big move by the company into the world of on-demand video. The $99.99 box has no hard disk drive, can stream video via a wireless signal and hooks up to most types of ports including HDMI, composite, component, S-Video, ethernet, and includes a Toslink audio jack. One update Netflix may have to think about in the near future for the new set-top is HD support; as of now it's not there. And subscribers who stream video via the internet will still have to pay the $8.95 monthly fee. Other than that though, reviews have started popping up everywhere, including Wired, PCMag, and CNET, and all are mostly positive.
Using a TV usually isn't thought of as the best way to scare off burglars, being one of their first targets and all...unless it's a fake TV. Created by author/inventor Blaine Readler, the FakeTV is just that, a device that simulates the flicker of a TV with the intention of tricking the would-be intruder into thinking someone is home. A built-in computer designed by Opto-Electronic Design controls LEDs that simulate the actual color variations and intensities of a real TV. Why get an expensive alarm system when a little online hunting will net you the FakeTV for only $49!
Remember back to CES 2008 back in January and you're sure to have a particular 150-inch Panasonic plasma monster somewhere in the forefront of your memories. Panasonic has completed a test run of the Neo Plasma at its P5 plant currently being built in Amagasaki, Japan and is rumored to be hitting shelves as early June 2009. Of course by shelves, we mean ones in Japan.
The Panasonic Neo plasma features 4096x2160 resolution, four times that of 1080p, and FX/Double Efficiency which uses half the energy to maintain the same level of brightness available on current plasma models. The Neo line also includes a tiny sibling (by comparison of course), a 50-inch, 24.7 mm thin plasma model.
Via Crave Asia
KMEX-Univision 34, the main TV station of Univision Communications, was the number 1 station in the United States among adults aged 18-49 for the month of April, in any language. Now comes the amazing part. KMEX is actually a Spanish language station! Regularly the number one station in Los Angeles thanks to the cities large Spanish-speaking population, KMEX dominated the entire US in April. And we're talking dominated. The station was number one in all the primetime slots including primetime, total day, early local news, and late local news.
KMEX says that April's numbers from the Nielsen Station Index speak volumes about the Hispanic populations' influence on the media now and in the future.
Comcast now has 500 HD VOD choices available, including both movies and TV shows from the likes of Showtime, Encore, MoviePlex and Starz and plans to hit the 1000 mark by the end of the year. If you remember back to CES in Vegas, Comcast announced Project Infinity which outlined the company's plan to have 1000 HD titles in their library by the end of '08 and ramp up in 2009 to have 3000 fresh HD VOD titles available each month! It looks like they're well on their way.
COO of Comcast, Stephen Burke, says Project Infinity is just scratching the surface of the full potential of on-demand programming and the future could include subscription VOD, electronic sell-through applications, and of course advertising targeted right to you. Eventually the company wants to make every piece of linear content available on-demand and experiment with allowing subscribers to DVR primetime TV.
And Comcast better get VOD right, because on-demand programming is one of the only features keeping cable subscribers from heading to satellite and telco competitors.
Update: After the jump you can check out a press release we received from Comcast PR.
Rumor has it that Best Buy may be buying Netflix for $44/share! This after Netflix's share price closed up 6% Friday on higher-than-normal trading volume. The infamous Henry Blodget thinks this would make sense given Netflix is number one in the digital download and mail-order subscription businesses. Best Buy could leverage this by selling Netflix subscriptions to those who purchase DVD players or HDTV's, Netflix would reduce its marketing costs, and the two combined would have alot of pull when negotiating partnerships/deals with other companies. Just remember, Blodget is rather famous for making such assumptions. I'll guess we'll have to wait and see.
Finally we're starting to see the computer converge with the living room. Sharp's Aquos R Series will feature internet connectivity in partnership with Yahoo Japan and NTT Communications, accessible via the set's remote control. Featuring 3 models each with 2 color options, bringing a total of 6 models to Japanese shelves, the R series comes in 46-, 52-, and 65-inch screen sizes all with full HD 1080p resolution. Color options are simple black and brown, no fancy red's in this series, and all of the sets feature a 20000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, built-in digital tuner and 12-bits of image processing. And one more thing, the R Series is pretty thin, about 5 cm at its thinnest point. No prices have been released, but the sets are slated for a July 1 release.
Sharp's Aquos G Series features 7 new LCD TV's, all with 15000:1 contrast ratio, a 12-bit grayscale, internet connectivity with Yahoo Japan!, an ARSS speaker system and LED backlight. Two models, the 26-inch LC-26GH5 and 32-inch LC-32GH5 both feature 1366x768 pixels and bottom speakers. The other 5 models, in 32-, 37-, 42-, 46-, and 52-inch size variations and with the LC-xxGH5 model number, feature 1080p resolution and side speakers. Scheduled for a June 1 release in Japan, the Aquos G Series hasn't been priced quite yet.
Sharp's three new Aquos Blu-ray models, the BD-HDW22, BD-HDW25 and BD-HDW30 combine DVR recording with Blu-ray playback recording MPEG4 AVC/H.264 in either 4.8, 8, or 12 Mbps bitrates. The models feature 300 GB, 500 MB, and 1 TB of HDD space respectively, each with a couple of digital terrestrial tuners and one analog terrestrial tuner and an Eco-mode that reduces power consumption by 70% when on standby. No prices have been announced yet, but look for a Japanese release date of July 1.
Sharp's Aquos D Series brings 9 new 1080p LCD TV's to the market: LC-42DS5-B, LC-42DS5-W, LC-42DS5-R, LC-37DS5-B, LC-37DS5-W, LC-37DS5-R, LC-32DS5-B, LC-32DS5-W, and the LC-32DS5-R. Sized between 32 and 42 inches, the D Series is actually 3 models, each with a black, red, and white color option. All of the new models feature a 12-bit gray scale display and 15000:1 contrast ratio, are LED backlit and feature "bass reflex port side chips" producing a clear, booming, bassy sound. Pricing is open at the moment, but expect a July release.
Japan will be treated to 4 new Toshiba Vardia HDD/DVD recorders in June. The flagship RD-X7 offers a terabyte of drive space, 1080p support, MPEG2 conversion to MPEG4, DVD/CD compatibility and an HDMI port. The RD-S502 will store up to 500 GB and features a 12-bit, 148 MHz processor and the lower end RD-S302 and RD-E302 models have 300 GB of HDD space and an identical processor to the RD-S502.
I thought it was a little strange when I was writing an 82-inch OLED panel had an LED backlight, but writing in the middle of the night makes you do funny things. That 82-inch Samsung panel we told you about yesterday is actually a QuadHD LCD panel boasting 4 times the resolution of today's 1080p TV's. That works out to 3840x2160 pixels or 2160p resolution. Oh yes, and don't forget about that 120 Hz refresh rate.
If you happen to be in the Las Vegas area in June, drop by the InfoComm 2008 conference and check out Shinoda Plasma's 125-inch curved plasma display. Flexible and only 1 mm thin, the Shinoda plasma tube array display consists of 3 integrated 1x1 meter squares, features a resolution of 960x360 pixels and only weighs 8 pounds. Built for digital signage and advertising applications, the 125-inch prototype is just a preview of the 150-inch curved displays Shinoda Plasma expects to begin producing on a small-scale this fall.
Browsing the internet this morning, I was surprised to find that CNET has been receiving a heck of a lot of 32-inch HDTV's to review in '08. Not a total surprise given that manufacturers are pumping out 32-inch panels like crazy and the size accounted for 40% of LCD panel shipments in April, but CNET normally doesn't go small. So what exactly did CNET find out? Check out the five reviewed models and brief review summary below.
Rated 7.6/10 by CNET reviewers, a great score given their usual harshness, this LCD TV is the tops of the 5 reviews thanks to its incredible picture. The Samsung LN32A450 LCD TV is available at Amazon for $726.50 with free shipping.
Sony Bravia KDL-32M4000
Ranked a solid 7/10, the KDL-32M4000 not only delivers a solid picture but has a nice look to it. It's real downside is its price which is a little more expensive than the other models. It's currently available at Amazon for $799.
Toshiba Regza 32CV510U
Deemed a solid choice for mainstream shoppers not looking for anything advanced, the Regza 32CV510U was given a solid 6.6/10 and is available at Butterfly Photo for $699.99.
Ranked a good 6/10, this Insignia LCD TV is definitely a value model, sporting the cheapest price of the 5, but its performance would indicate you should be paying more. It's available from Best Buy for $599.99.
Sharp Aquos LC32D44U
Last but not least, the LC32D44U was only dubbed an "average" model by CNET because although the entry-level LCD TV is stylishly attractive, its picture quality could use some improvement. The Aquos LCD is available from Amazon for $759.95.
In the end, if you have some extra cash and you're in the 32-inch market, take the Samsung. Looking for quality and value, take the Insignia. Case closed.
UPDATE: Little bit of a mistake, every time you see OLED below, replace it with LCD. It's an 82-inch LCD TV. Oops!
Samsung and LG are only interested in one thing at the ongoing Society For Information Display (SID) conference and that's showcasing display technology way beyond that of anyone else. Yesterday Samsung showcased a giant 82-inch OLED display with 120 Hz technology, turning an already fantastic OLED picture even better by displaying 120 frames per second instead of 60. The Samsung OLED also uses an LED backlight. The company says they've reached economies of scale in smaller OLED screen sizes and will release 15 different panel sizes ranging from 2 inches to 31 inches, which means we'll likely be seeing a 31-inch OLED TV on the market pretty soon.
LG Display isn't showcasing any crazy prototype panels, but they are showing off a new OLED panel production technology, LCD roll-printing, that uses less chemicals than the current photolithography process translating into lower costs and less environmental impact.
This past Thursday, the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung got their first HD digital TV channel thanks to the government-sponsored Public Television Service. HiHD, the new HD channel, is running on a trial basis to promote HDTV in Taiwan and is part of a government-funded US$88 million program to develop a nationwide HDTV network in three separate phases. 63 programs will be available on HiHD at the moment and once the first phase of the network development is completed at the end of 2008, the Taichung metro area will also have HiHD.
Remember that high-end Marantz Blu-ray player we told you about back during CES in Vegas? You know, the Marantz BD8002 with a second quarter expected launch date. It'll officially be hitting Japanese shelves in June. The 1080/24p Blu-ray with a 10-bit Silicon Optix Realta chipset and a 7.1 channel sound output will cost 336, 000 Yen. Now get this, that's about $3208 in the United States. Talk about paying a premium, eh!
AT&T successfully launched its mobile TV service using Qualcomm's MediaFlo technology at the beginning of May and it looks like with one launch under its belt, MediaFlo is now headed for the UK. Qualcomm just acquired a chunk of the UK's L-Band spectrum, a part that can be for, among other things, mobile TV. Although the company has declined to say exactly what it will do with spectrum, they did test out MediaFlo with service provider BSkyB last year touting it a success. And now the president of Qualcomm Europe, Andrew Gilbert also bears the title of president of Qualcomm Internet Services, MediaFLO Technologies. I'd say that would be a pretty clear indication of the companies intentions. The only barrier in Qualcomm's way is the European Union's recent adoption of the Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVB-H) standard which they hope will eventually be a cross-continent mobile TV broadcasting standard. However, not everyone looks eager to jump on the DVB-H standard, leaving the door open for MediaFlo to make its move.
Released with an obvious focus on Father's Day sales, AOC's Envision Series L42H761 is a 42-inch, 1080p LCD TV with a value priced. An MSRP of $1050 for the full HD set isn't a bad price for a 42-inch model, in line with AOC's goal to "provide the very best in performance, clarity, durability and value, using the latest and most advanced technology available". Some of the L42H761's additional features include a 3D comb filter, both digital and Clear QAM tuners, a couple of HDMI slots with S/PDIF Digital Audio Out, a PC input, multiple picture frame mode, a 176 degree viewing angle, and both color enhancement and noise reduction features. And being aimed at the dad's out there, the new Envision Series set has a V-chip parental control feature to make sure the kids' eyes don't set on any unsavory content.
The lucky guys from Gizmodo had the honor of visiting Microsoft last week and getting a first hand look at some of the new Mediaroom IPTV features. Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV is like brings TV into your home much like cable/satellite does, except the Mediaroom solution does so over the internet. In the US, it's found commercially by way of AT&T U-Verse, and uses a simple set-top box to bring a high-def picture to your HDTV that's actually better than cable because it's not compressed.
Currently it offers some pretty cool features such as quick channel changing, multi-room viewing, simultaneous multiple channel recording without any memory limits, and even multiple picture-in-picture. AT&T isn't offering multi-room viewing until the latter half of 2008, but that's of no interest compared to the new Mediaroom feature: applications. Giz gave a couple of examples of different ways apps can be used that really show off how interactive Microsoft's IPTV service really is.
By pulling info straight off the internet, you could actually pull out fighter stats, or switch to a different camera angle when watching boxing. Nascar fans could actually change their viewing perspective to that of their favorite drivers cockpit cam. Most of the apps will be created by each shows' producer and then sold to the service provider for you to use, but you also can create your own apps and we're sure we'll see from pretty cool creations from Mediaroom users the world over. The problem at the moment is that no service providers actually offer the applications on their set top boxes, but we're sure that'll change in the very near future.
While a decrease in LCD panel demand contributed to 1.6% decrease in shipments from March, such market behavior is normal for this time of the year and still represents a 29.7% year-over-year growth. Some of these numbers can be attributed to LCD computer monitors, but when it comes to LCD TV's, 32-inch models seems to be seeing the most popularity. Month to month shipments decreased 2.9% overall and 40-inch and larger panel shipments remain flat, but 32-inch panels accounted for full 40% of all LCD TV panel shipments. Why the growing trend in smaller HDTV sales? Most likely global economic concerns are causing consumers to cut back on spending, but it would seem a 32-inch flat panel TV would still represent a big dollar buy. But then again, isn't an HDTV becoming a necessity these days?
Pioneer is planning on opening at least three new Pioneer Store outlets running along North America's west coast. President Tamihiko Sudo says its part of Pioneer's restructuring plan that they hope will boost sales of the company's key products such as plasma sets and upcoming LCD TV releases. There is already one Pioneer Store open in Los Angeles that's been in operation for almost 2 years now and its been performing well. But don't plan on heading to any of the new Pioneer Store's looking for LCD TV's just yet. Although there'll probably be a European release in August, and Asia a little later, Pioneer's LCD TV's won't be hitting North American shores until spring 2009 at the very earliest.
Comcast cable subscribers will have access to hundreds of MGM high-def movies via VOD and a linear TV channel. MGM HD has signed an affiliate agreement with Comcast, owner of a 20% stake in MGM, adding to other cable agreements with DirecTV, Verizon Communications, RCN and Massilon Cable TV in Ohio.
While we think web TV will hit its eventual "tipping point" once the home computer and home theater system have completely converged, for those that would just rather watch television on their computer screen may now have a high-end display solution. Samsung's 12.1-inch OLED laptop prototype features a WXGA AMOLED display which is the largest so far in size and resolution (1280x768). Ultra-thin and with a "kickstand" in the back, the keyboard features touch keys which we personally think would be a little awkward to work with on a computer. Interestingly, Samsung says by using thin film transistor (TFT) technology in the display, manufacturing costs are lower than with typical LCD displays and use less energy. What we're really wondering is if the recent revelation that Sony may have fudged the expected life of its XEL-1 OLED TV display says anything about risks associated with buying an OLED laptop. We have time to figure it out, it's only a prototype.
With all of the restructuring happening in the plasma TV industry lately, from Pioneer right down to Philips now, we're wondering again if 2008 really is the beginning of the end of plasma. Last year Philips started to cut down on its plasma TV shipments and moved out of China altogether, and with plasmas shipping roughly 10% the volume of LCD TV shipments this year, Funai, the company behind the Philips brand has stated no new models will be released post-2008. Although they'll still ship about 500, 000 sets this year, no new models next year is a pretty good indication that Philips will pack it in and quit entirely.
If you've been looking for an "infinite contrast" HDTV lately, your choices have been limited to Pioneer and Dolby, both still working with prototype models. But LG is the latest TV maker to jump on the infinite black bandwagon with their upcoming July release--the LG7000 plasma HDTV. Infinite blacks have been tough to achieve as plasma cells tend to emit light even when they're not in use. Any leaked light and so much for your perfect black. But at CES earlier this year, Pioneer showed off a prototype plasma that leaked no light at all. Now it seems "infinite contrast ratio" will be the next big TV buzzword, and we're guessing by next year all the big manufacturers will have infinite contrast HDTV's on the market. Whether or not LG uses the same technology as Pioneer isn't known, but irregardless we're looking forward to this model's release.
Sanyo's launched a new range of LCD TV's for 2008 ranging in size from 19 to 52 inches, the smallest model featuring built-in DVD player and four of the models featuring full 1080p resolution. The 52-inch CE52FD86-B is the largest TV ever made by Sanyo featuring 1080p resolution, 8000:1 contrast ratio, 500 cd/m2 brightness, response time of 8 ms and a 178 degree viewing angle. The 37-, 42-, and 47-inch models also feature full 1080p resolution and like the 52-inch model offer 3 HDMI inputs, 2 SCART ports, a PC input and a built-in digital tuner. All of the models, including 19-, 26-, and 32-inch models, have a 16:9 aspect ratio, at least 2 SCART sockets and a minimum of one PC and HDMI port. The new Sanyo line will launch later this month or June.
For the fourth year in a row, 3LCD front projection technology is the Q1 market leader in the United States. With a 54% market share thanks to gains by Sony, Epson, Hitachi and Sanyo, 3LCD leads in the XGA and SVGA segments in the pro market and 1080p segment in the home theater market. 3LCD projection technology is quickly becoming the market leader, utilizing a 3-chip optical engine to process and output a full spectrum of colors with no rainbow effect and a solid-state design that eliminates mechanical issues by minimizing the use of moving parts.
LG and Samsung are teaming up to develop a mobile TV technology they hope will become the North American standard. The two have signed a contract and developed a proposal they will submit to the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), the digital television standards board for the United States and Canada. The proposed mobile TV standard will combine LG's Mobile Pedestrian Handheld (MPH) technology with Samsung's A-VSB, or advanced-vestigial sideband, creating a broadcasting standard that will benefit both broadcaster's and consumer's alike. The standard should be fully developed and ready for testing this summer.
A couple of days back when Pioneer announced their plasma biz restructuring plans, the company stated that they would be manufacturing LCD TV's in partnership with Sharp. We have a few more details now. The company plans to release 40-inch class LCD TV's within 2008, most likely in 46-inch variety, with fiscal 2008 with the help of parts from Sharp. Sharp's most efficient production happens to occur with 46-inch LCD TV manufacturing, likely contributing to the choice of size by Pioneer.
Pioneer still hasn't decided what the future of its 40-inch class of plasma sets is, but judging by the financial hit the company took on account of plasma production in the past year, the future doesn't look particularly bright. The first Pioneer/Sharp LCD TV's will be released August 2008 with forecasting to have 60000 sets shipped by March 2009, then next year Pioneer plans to acquire LCD panels from Sharp and develop a new LCD TV line with their own proprietary technologies. Hopefully that means some kind of KURO LCD hybrid, definitely something to look forward to.
AU Optronics (AUO) will unveil a 42-inch "green" LCD TV powered by an LED backlight at the Society for Information Display conference in Los Angeles May 20-22. The ultraslim LCD TV is less than 10mm thick, 44% lighter than conventional LCD's with LED technology, and still reach a brightness of 450 nits. The 42-inch display uses white LED's which significantly reduce power consumption and simplify the driving circuit.
AUO will also demonstrate its High Dynamic Contrast technology which improves contrast ratios to above 200000:1 by using 16x8 LED blocks that can be dimmed when the backlight is not required, as well as energy saving features integrated into the company's CCFL backlight design. The company also says its new 46-inch LCD TV's reduce power consumption by up to 50% while still boast 500 nits of brightness and a 5000:1 ultra static high contrast ratio.
Available in 37- and 46-inch screen sizes, the Mirror Image LCD TV from ad notum actually rotates 270 degrees to enable a completely comfortable viewing experience no matter where you are in the room. Touted the Ultimate Rotation Line, the two Mirror Image sets have both mirror and glass screen options, are available in black and white, and feature ad notam's Active Matrix LCD technology. The Ultimate Rotation Line can receive TV, DVD, SAT, and Video signals and has PAL, NTSC, and composite connection options. The sets also have a bunch of base unit options that hide all of the wire clutter so it'll fit neatly into any home decor. Prices aren't listed on ad notam's site, partly due to the custom options available with the Mirror Image sets and partially because they're probably a tad on the expensive side.
The new SlingModem from SlingMedia under EchoStar Communications will be launching a new Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS 2.0) cable modem next week. Featuring the place-shifting capabilities of the SlingBox which allows TV content to be streamed from your TV to any location via an internet connection, the SlingModem is aimed at cable operators. So far pricing has not been announced, nor have any potential partners but we won't be surprised if more details are put forth next week at The Cable Show where it'll be officially launched. The SlingModem will require a broadband connection with a network router to enable web streaming, but unlike the SlingBox, won't have to sit between the router and the TV or set-top box eliminating home network clutter. And if you're a fan of analog channels you won't even need a TV as part of your home network, because the SlingModem has its own analog tuner which can receive analog signals and then stream them onto your computer. Of course this won't work too much longer because when February 17, 2009 rolls around, analog signals will for the most part exist no more.
Samsung is rumored to be unveiling a 15-inch Blue Phase LCD panel next week, the world's first with a 240 Hz image-driving speed. Motion blur has been largely eliminated by 120 Hz panels, but double that and motion will be as real looking as you could imagine. Apparently very cost-efficient to manufacture, the Blue Phase panels don't require liquid crystal alignment layers like popular vertical alignment and in-plane switching panels. The Blue Phase panel actually makes its own alignment layers, cutting a big chunk of the production process out of the picture and reducing the potential for "bruising" on the screen which can affect uniform brightness. Current 120 Hz panels also use an overdrive circuit to improve video quality, while the Blue Phase eliminates the need for that. Getting its name from bluish hues displayed when working, the 240 Hz Blue Phase LCD panel will be mass produced beginning in 2011, headed mainly for LCD TV's requiring high-speed video reproduction.
Sharp's new TL Professional LCD Monitor lineup features two new models: the 46-inch TL-M4600 and the 52-inch TL-M5200. Developed for commercial use, the TL line would be an impressive addition to any home theater as well. Both sets feature 1080p, 2 megapixel resolution courtesy of Sharp's Advanced Super View LCD panel, which displays fast-moving scenes smoothly thanks to a 6 ms response time, a bright backlight and a 176 degree viewing angle. The smaller display features a contrast ratio of 1500:1, while the larger display a 2000:1 and both have RJ-45 LAN Control for network connection.
One of the highlights of the TL Professional series is its variety of connectivity options. Both displays have an HDCP-compatible HDMI input for accessing HD content, and both have built-in web browsers. Most other popular inputs and outputs are available in both analog and digital formats. Joining Sharp's high-end commercial PN series, the TL line is designed for landscape mode use, offers an optional built-in stereo system, and a fanless cooling system to maximize the life of the backlight.
The 52-inch TL-5200 is available now for an MSRP of $4995, while the 46-inch TL-4600 is set for launch in June with an expected price of $3995.
Pioneer has announced that two plasma TV plants will close in Japan in a bid to restructure the company's struggling plasma business. Whether or not this means 2000 jobs will be lost remains to be seen, but the plants located in Yamanashi and Kagoshima will close, while Pioneer's third domestic plant Shizuoka plant will remain open as the company's plasma TV production hub. Pioneer also announced that they'll be partnering with Sharp in the European market to produce LCD TV's; it looks like Sharp will be supplying the LCD panels and Pioneer looks to re-enter the LCD biz in August of this year. Details are a little vague at the moment, but this confirms that Pioneer will be cutting jobs in order to restructure their plasma biz, a rumor we first heard about last night.
The company also announced their 2007 fiscal year earnings this morning, posting a 17.9 billion Yen loss, mainly thanks to the steep cost of the plasma restructuring. The total cost to restructure Pioneer's plasma biz will be about 230 billion Yen by its completion March 2010, with 150 billion Yen to be spent in the next fiscal year ending March 2009.
Sony's XEL-1 OLED TV might be not so hot after all. Research firm DisplaySearch tested two XEL-1's, running them for 1000 hours each to measure the drop in brightness. Extrapolating the results, the testers found that the XEL-1 would lose half of its brightness in 17, 000 hours. Now this may not surprise you given that one of the major issues facing OLED panels is their lifespan, but here's the thing. Sony's specs for the XEL-1 state that the half-life of the OLED set is 30, 000 hours, roughly 10 years of use. Now DisplaySearch says its half-life is only about 5 years? Sony stands by its numbers and to be fair the company says the specs are based on years of testing while DisplaySearch's are nothing more than estimates. But when a company is charging $2500 for an 11-inch TV, you got to think that news like this would affect sales.
Given Toshiba's failure putting up HD DVD against Sony's Blu-ray, it's an interesting turn of events to hear that Toshiba will be using Cell processing in an upcoming TV release. The Cell processor is the powerful CPU used in the PS3, in my opinion the best Blu-ray player on the market right now, co-developed by Toshiba, Sony, and IBM back in 2005. Not to many details have been released yet, but Toshiba says the Cell CPU will enable high-quality upscaling of standard-def content, playing and recording multiple TV programs at once, and HD decoding. We'll be waiting for awhile to see what Toshiba's Cell TV can do however, as it's not expected to ship until late 2009.
Looks like Sony was right when they said we could expect sub-$300 Blu-ray players this year, but we thought we meant Blu-ray players made by Sony. Funai's NB500 Profile 1.1 Blu-ray player has been spotted in Wal-mart, boxed up under the Magnavox and Sylvania names, for $298. While that does sound like a ripoff given it's not a Sony and all, we have to cut it some slack given Blu-ray's refusal to cut prices even though they're the only HD disc format on the market. We're just wondering what the playback quality is like.
Pioneer may make the best plasma TV's around, but with inefficiencies in the companies manufacturing process, they've had to outsource the KURO panels to Matsushita for production. Now a Nikkei newspaper is reporting that when Pioneer announcing its 2007 fiscal earnings (actually a predicted loss) in just a few hours time, they'll also announce that 2000 Pioneer employees will be out of a job. That's 5% of the company's total workforce, apparently deemed dispensable just so the company can get its plasma biz back on track.
The layoffs are rumored to occur over the next fiscal year ending March of 2009 and mainly include the companies 3 domestic plants. Some layoffs will be done through early retirement packages, but 200-odd plasma-related engineers and researchers will likely be headed for Matsushita. The company is also rumored to be considering job cuts in it home A/V department, and hopes to have its plasma biz back on track by 2010.
Introducing Epson's EX90 ultrabright projector, built specifically for high-impact presentations, and featuring 2600 lumens of brightness, XGA resolution and 3-Chip LCD technology. Requiring virtually no start-up time, the EX90 can project a welcome screen only 5 seconds after the power button is pressed. And once a presentation is done, Epson's Instant Off allows the six-pound portable projector to be packed up and hauled off without any cool-off time. The EX90 is flexible enough to bring home too after the business day is done, allowing you to watch high-definition video (up to 720p/1080i) via a bunch of connectivity options. A 1.2x zoom lens makes sure the EX90 can project a clear image from both far and short distances, further clarified by auto keystone correction. Including a 2-year limited warranty and plenty of technical support assistance, the Epson EX90 multimedia business projector will set you back $899.
You may have hoped that one day you'd have the world's brightest LCD panel in your living room. Unfortunately for you, you'll have a better chance of finding it in the nearest bus shack as Samsung has announced today that they've begun mass production of a 46-inch "high bright" digital signage panel. That's right, not intended for your living room, the 1500 nit, 46-inch panel is instead headed for "transit centers, bus shelters, museums, shopping malls and for use at point of sale in retail outlets, to replace outdated poster advertisings". Quite the wide range of lighting conditions in these places, but with panel brightness 3 times that of the typical living room LCD TV, this digital sign is equipped to accommodate any and all lighting conditions.
The 720p panel produces HD images with 16.7 million colors and a contrast ratio of 3000:1, and can be tiled with other panels to produce a "video wall". The "high bright" panels are expected to ship later this month.
Sony's Bravia S4 lineup will hit Asian shelves next month with a variety of color options to choose from. Available in fruity pink, green and orange, blue, black and white, the S4 Series includes 5 new models ranging from 20 to 37 inches, all featuring the Bravia 2 Engine, Bravia Sync, Advanced Contrast Enhancer, 24p True Cinema, and a trio of HDMI inputs. S-force audio can be pumped through a separate home theater system, but the S4 line all have a couple of 10W speakers built in. And what about contrast ratio? It ranges from 2000:1 for the smallest 20-inch model up to 33000:1 for the largest 37-inch model. Prices will be released closer to the June launch.
Pioneer's announced a couple of new Blu-ray players to go along with the new KURO plasmas, projector and monitors--and for once you'll have to pay less than a grand to get your hands on one. The BDP-51FD is a Profile 1.1 model with 24 frames/second Blu-ray playback, Dolby True HD decoding and DTS-HD Master Audio with a future firmware update, 7.1 analog outputs and Wolfson digital audio converters. It'll also output both Dolby True HD and DTS-HD in bit stream format. It'll be available sometime this summer for $600, less than a grand but still a little pricey given the specs.
The Elite BDP-05FD is supposedly the "higher-end" of the two models but really doesn't offer much more in terms of its features. Extra features include gold-plated connectors, an aluminum front panel, touch-sensitive buttons, and a 2 year warranty. And that'll cost you an extra $200, because the BDP-05FD will have an $800 sticker when it hits stores this summer. $200 for a better looking Blu-ray player? I don't see any specs that would have any influence on Blu-ray playback quality. Take a look at the pics and tell me if you'd pay the extra $200!
True to the predictions of HD Guru Gary Merson, Samsung has thrown down the gauntlet in the flat panel price war. An astute AVS Forum member happened to be browsing the Best Buy website and sure enough with the new 650 and 750 series models hitting shelves, earlier models are seeing minimum $200 price drops. Over at Amazon, we found similar price drops and 720p resolution Samsung LCD's are seeing some pretty decent price drops as well, as 1080p sets are pretty well the resolution standard across all manufacturers. We'll keep an eye out for deals!
When it comes to standalone Blu-ray players, we recommend buying a Playstation 3 at the moment. Until prices come down, you mine as well take full advantage of the multimedia superpowers of the PS3 for the same price that'll buy you standalone Blu-ray playback. But what about for you HTPC types that would rather watch a movie on your monitor than your HDTV? Now that Blu-ray has won the format war, Blu-ray drives are starting to hit the market.
Pure playback devices are cheap, starting at about $130. But there are a few things you need to be aware of. First off, Blu-ray isn't the best way to back up your computer data. Blank discs are just plain expensive; you're better off springing for an external hard drive at the moment. If you have anything buy the newest computer technology on the market, there is a chance a Blu-ray drive will be incompatible with your graphics card and your monitor may not have proper inputs. And if you do have a newer computer, make sure your monitor is at least 24-inches, or Blu-ray's excellent picture won't display too well on your screen.
In the end, HTPC fan or not, the best Blu-ray solution right now is still the PS3.
All of the 2008 HDTV models are slowly trickling into Amazon's television stock and not only does that mean early adopter discounts on new models, but also big discounts on previous models from the past few years.
3D Ready DLP Giants
67-Inch Samsung HL67A750--$2499.99. Pre-order, shipping June 1. LED powered meaning no lamp, 1080p resolution, picture-in-picture, 3D gaming ready, 3 HDMI-CEC inputs
61-Inch Samsung HL61A750--$1799.45, $300 off. LED powered meaning no lamp, 1080p resolution, picture-in-picture, 3D gaming ready, 3 HDMI-CEC
72-Inch Samsung HL72A650--$2999.99, free shipping. Pre-order, shipping June 1. 1080p resolution, picture-in-picture, 3D gaming ready, 3 HDMI-CEC
Samsung 720p LCD TV Discounts
Samsung is discounting some of their 2008 additions to Amazon. All from the entry-level Series 3 lineup, the models feature 720p resolution, 8000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, a couple of HDMI inputs, and super easy setup.
Hitting Asian shelves next month is Sony's Bravia V4 Series featuring 3 new models, sized 32-, 40-, and 46-inches. The three LCD TV's are all loaded with features, typical of Bravia models. The larger 40 and 46 inch models, the KLV-40V400A and KLV-46V400A, boast 1080p resolution, 30000:1 contrast ratio, the Bravia 2 Engine, 1080p24 input-ready also known as 24p True Cinema, Bravia Sync and 3 HDMI inputs. A full complement of other inputs are included include VGA, component, and composite ports. Both sets include S-force audio and a couple of built-in 10W speakers. The smaller 37 inch model features identical specs aside from a 720p resolution and 15000:1 contrast ratio. So far no prices have been released.
Pioneer plans to add a couple of big screen plasma monitors to its KURO line come fall when the new Signature Series hits US shelves. Aimed at the high-end custom install market, the two new monitors--the PRO-101FD and PRO-141FD--are for those with fat wallets and premium home theater tastes. The Signature Series' specs are very similiar to the new KURO plasma TV's, but with a little more flexibility and control, enabling them to be tweaked perfectly to match the ambient and video lighting conditions. The 60-inch PRO-141FD will ship in August, price TBA, with a 2 year warranty, while the 50-inch PRO-101FD will ship a couple months later in October, price TBA with the same warranty.
Though the National Association of Broadcaster's wasn't consulted by the FCC in the planning of the Wilmington analog shut-off, they do want the FCC to look for a few things post September 8 to see exactly how smoothly things will run on February 17, 2009 when the entire country will forever lose their analog TV signals. What are those things the FCC should be looking for? The NAB says answers to the following questions:
"What is the coordination plan between the federal, state and local governments to distribute information about the Sept. 8 experimental analog shutoff?"
"How will the government ensure retailer coordination so that enough coupon-certified converter boxes will be available given the increased demand of the early shutoff date?"
"In particular, what specific actions will the government take to ensure that retailers have "analog pass-through" converter boxes available, given the low-power television stations in the Wilmington market, including one major network affiliate?
"How will the government prioritize converter box coupon application requests originating from the WilmingtonDMA, given the current national backlog of coupon requests?
"What action will the government take to ensure that national messaging or messaging from bordering markets about the February 17, 2009 transition date does not result in confusion in the Wilmington DMA?
"How will the government ensure that satellite operators accelerate their coordination schedule?
"How will the government ensure that cable operators serving the Wilmington market are prepared to coordinate in early analog shut-off and have they made plans to ensure viewability to analog television subscribers?"
So what do you think? Will Wilmington be ready September 8, 2008?
Japanese company Sumitomo Chemical expects to launch the production and sales of OLED panels 40-inches and larger next year. The chem company is currently looking at possible partnerships in Japan, but claims to be developing macromolecule-type OLED panels which can be produced using ink-jet printing, lowering production costs and allowing the company to focus on larger panel sizes.
Wilmington, NC's planned digital switch this September 8 is getting all the attention, but 11 Orlando, Florida stations are planning their own analog shut-off testing, starting this June 25 at 8 PM. The participating stations include WESH, WKMG, WFTV, WCEU, WKCF, WMFE, WVEN, WRDQ, WOTF, WTGL and WBCC and two more tests will follow the initial June 25 switch. So far tests in Las Vegas have gone off without a hitch, but some concerns have been raised about the Wilmington switch being smack dab in the middle of North Carolina's hurricane season.
After concerns were raised about the September 8 Wilmington analog shut-off falling right in the middle of North Carolina's hurricane season, the FCC has assured city officials that should a hurricane or tropical depression occur prior to shut-off day, the test would be postponed. Kevin Martin, FCC chair, also pointed out that coming February 17, 2009 when the entire country switches to digital the country will be forced to deal with all kinds of similar issues. Additionally, one of the main reasons for the digital switch is to free up spectrum for a nation-wide public emergency alert system.
Pioneer Electronics is making a move to spread the KURO brand beyond the plasma TV frame with the introduction of the new Elite KURO projector. Also known as the Pioneer KURO KRF-9000HD across the pond in the UK, Pioneer claims the Elite KURO brings the same black levels and 1080p picture to the screen as the industry-leading KURO plasma TV's and features 3 viewing modes-standard, dynamic, and movie-to take full advantage of the KURO technology by tweaking it to best display the type of content being watched. Designed for the custom-install market, the Elite KURO projector features advanced calibration, LCoS 1080p technology, wide lens shift, dual HDMI 1.3 support, and a variety of other features allowing the viewer to tweak the picture to the most optimal level possible. The Pioneer Elite KURO projector will ship in June through the company's Elite dealer channel, but it'll cost you a giant chunk of change. Price: $9000.
Given the concession by Capitol Broadcasting president Jim Goodman that some OTA viewers in the Wilmington test market would lose their TV picture all together, a group of senators have come together and lobbied the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to make a few changes in the $40 converter box coupon rules. Currently they need to be used within 90 days or they're no longer good and can't be reapplied for. Nor can they be used for converter boxes that aren't on shelves yet, a problem for those waiting for a better selection of boxes with analog pass-through. Analog pass-through is a feature that Wilmington-area residents would appreciate as it would seem from comments made from those familiar with the test market that a fair amount of resident rely on low-power stations. Those stations will still broadcast in analog for the next few years, hence the analog pass-through feature.
The NTIA is saying they have the power to allow for reapplication of converter box coupons, and may consider changing the regulations after a period of review. First they want to look at how many people redeem their coupons by the time the first set expire in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, be aware that if you have a converter box coupon you haven't used yet, now's the time to do it. The rule hasn't changed yet.
The quarter one numbers are in for 2008 and Samsung, Sony, and Vizio are in a close and vicious battle for your dollars. Samsung took the top LCD TV spot in NA with Vizio placing third in the three-company battle, but amazingly between Samsung and Vizio is only 0.3% market share. All three companies are engaging in a price battle, started by Sony looking to gain control of the LCD TV industry with the introduction of some low-cost models you'll be able to find in discount chains like Wal-mart. However, their hand was forced by Vizio who gained wild popularity in North America in 2007 because of their relatively cheap prices. While Samsung hasn't made a big pricing move yet, they did introduce the 605 and 705 series, with that red Touch of Color, bringing a whole new design sense to LCD TV. Here's to hoping prices keep dropping into Christmas 2008.
Yesterday the proposal to cutoff analog signals early in Wilmington was outlined by the FCC who said analog signals will be cut off in Wilmington September 8, 2008 at noon. Five stations from the Big Four networks and a Trinity Broadcasting Network affiliate will all be involved in the early switch.
Wilmington volunteered for the early switch after being approached by the FCC, in part because the town's digital infrastructure was ready to go. And while other markets have also been approached no one else has volunteered so far. Not everyone is happy about the early switch though. Some have called the September date little more than poor timing as it's right in the middle of North Carolina's hurricane season and for OTA viewers that lose their signals, the early cutoff is a safety concern.
Some have also questioned whether the early cutoff in Wilmington is little more than a "staged dress rehearsal under false conditions", which happens to be exactly what we wondered yesterday. Can such a small test market really expose any nasty problems that can be applied to the entire country come February 17, 2009? We doubt it.
Dainippon Screen Manufacturing Company and American chemical company DuPont will be putting their heads together in a joint effort to develop low cost manufacturing methods for producing large size OLED panels for next-gen flat-panel TV's. Dainippon Screen claims it has developed a nozzle printing technology that'll print OLED panels at very high speeds, and with DuPont's help hopes to have a manufacturing process for 32-inch panels ready for launch in sometime in 2010.
Still worried about the existence of Pioneer's KURO line after the company announced they were quitting the plasma biz? Remember they were only outsourcing panel production to Matsushita, and here's proof the KURO is alive and well. Yesterday Pioneer announced two new plasma KURO models, the 50-inch PDP-5020FD and the 60-inch PDP-6020FD. The company claims the new line has black levels 5 times deeper than their previous award-winning models from 2007, plus both feature 1080p resolution, six new sound settings specific to what you're watching, auto volume stabilization and SRS WOW HD technology that enhances mid to high frequency sound.
The new KURO's also display a little intelligence with the Optimum Mode, which monitors ambient lighting conditions and video sound, automatically adjusting the sets setting for optimum performance. It's a great feature for those who don't want to manually fiddle with six different sound settings and brightness controls. At only 3.7-inches thick, the 5020FD and 6020FD are 20% thinner than 2007's KURO lineup, and feature a new and improved user interface, Networked Media Home Gallery for multimedia playback from a PC or USB device, and both DLNA and Windows PlaysForSure compatibility.
Look for the new plasmas to hit shelves in June with the 5020FD setting you back $4000 and the 6020FD $5500.
Panasonic will have to hold off on dominating the plasma biz for now. LG has taken over the global plasma market share lead with 34.8%, followed by Samsung with 30.5%. Panasonic fell all the way to the number three spot with a 27% market share. Not surprisingly, plasma panel shipments fell 19% from the holiday quarter, but are up 53% from last year's Q1 shipments. Why? One, 32-inch displays are being made like hotcakes. Two, demand is high for low-priced flat-panel plasmas given the supply woes of manufacturers of late. Three, Panasonic has started shipping 46-inch, 1080p panels. And fourth, the price of 42-inch plasma panels are US$114 cheaper than LCD panels of the same size. Prices are down as a whole 31% compared to 2007 Q1 and 6% since the holiday's, but its predicted that price decreases will level out by this year's 4th quarter.
LG is calling their new Scarlet Super Slim LCD TV the world's thinnest at 44.7 mm thick, even though the new Hitachi 1.5-inch UltraThin's we told you about the other day are thinner. Aside from the false claim, the 42-inch 42LG61 looks impressive with 1080p resolution, 600000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, a 120Hz refresh rate and 4 HDMI ports. And, in what's becoming a new standard HDTV feature, the new Scarlet Super Slim also has Green EYEQ which reduces the sets power consumption by up to 60%. Price? Currently shipping in Korea for 2500000 KRW or US$2395.
The people of Wilmington, North Carolina are so excited about the February 17, 2009 digital television transition they've volunteered to cut off their analog signals early. We're starting to see the odd trial run here and there now and Wilmington, a town with a body count of about 100, 000 will cut off their analog signals permanently as early as September 8 as a sort of test market run for the big event come 2009. An announcement is expected this afternoon by FCC Chair Kevin Martin who also happens to originate from North Carolina. Exactly how many Wilmington residents rely on over-the-air analog signals is unknown, but more than likely a test in such a small population is nothing more than ploy to ease the public conscience.
BDLive.com will be launched by Sun Microsystems and Related Content Database, and while supplies last you'll be able to get a free BDLive developer disc full of sample code, available API's, and a sharing feature to share new applications with other BDLive users. The whole point of the website is to offer network structure and software to allow developers to create new BDLive features in order to expand on the new interactive feature-set available on the newest Blu-ray players and discs. I must say that this is great. Who would have thought a virtual open source home theater enabled by manufacturers basically revealing their secrets would ever happen? Not me, that's for sure.
Out and about and worried about missing the NBA semifinals? No worries, because MobiTV's mobile television platform will have all the games live on its ESPN channel. Starting tonight at 7PM EST Cleveland's playing Boston followed by San Antonio and New Orleans at 9:30. Friday, May 9, also known as tomorrow, LA plays Utah at 9PM EST and on Saturday at 5PM, you can check out Detroit gearing up to battle Orlando. And if you're not a basketball fan, MobiTV says that's okay, because all month long ESPN Mobile TV will have plenty of sports action from MLS soccer to boxing to arena football.
The Sharp Aquos LC-32X20E is nice to look at design wise and features a flurry of features including a 2000:1 native contrast ratio, three HDMI and a component input, a digital audio output for Freeview-loving Brits (yes, this is a UK model) waiting for Dolby Digital sound, 24p support, manual backlight adjustment, two different progressive scan modes, and a few added energy-saving features for good measure.
But the real question is whether or not the full 1920x1080 pixel resolution is at all useful on a 32-inch screen. Typically cramming that many pixels into such a small area does nothing spectacular for the human eye, and it seems Sharp has failed in its mission because, as the reviewer states, "I've seen HD-ready 32-inch pictures that look sharper". Turns out its standard definition performance isn't too hot either, with all kinds of screen noise from everywhere but the highest quality sources. Interestingly though, color tones seemed to be a bit off with the LC-32X20E, but this issue didn't seem to carry over to video games. Could be why it's marketed as a gaming TV? So what's the verdict: the Sharp Aquos LC-32X20E is a very good TV if the inputed HD sources are of the best quality, otherwise spend a few hundred Pounds more for a higher-end 32-incher.
Panasonic's DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player, first announced at CES 2008, is finally nearing its release date and a few lucky people had the chance to see it demoed yesterday. Extremely similar to its predecessor, the DMP-BD30, the new Blu-ray player from Panny has one major difference. It has BD-Live. Yes that's right, we've been waiting for a while now, but finally we'll have a Blu-ray player that can handle BD-Live discs. BD-Live if you remember, allows all kinds of interactive features including multiplayer games on the internet, and trailers and other extra features that can be downloaded and stored on your computer.
The Panasonic DMP-BD50 also allows decoding of Dolby HD and DTS-HD Master Audio, something the DMP-BD30 can't do. This means you'll have greater control over audio playback, so when you do things like use the picture-in-picture feature, you can choose which picture will have the emphasized sound. Other added features include 24p playback and standard DVD upconversion. Interestingly, the DMP-BD50 doesn't have the 1GB of internal storage required for BD-Live. Instead you'll be forced to use your own SD card to make up for its lack of memory, though Panasonic doesn't seem sure exactly what SD card types will be the best to use.
So how much will you pay for the new and improved Panasonic BD-Live Blu-ray player? Try $700. In my humble opinion, I still think the best Blu-ray deal around, BD-Live or no BD-Live is the Playstation 3. But in case you want to pay the $700, the shipping date remains "late spring".
ArcSoft has achieved an industry milestone, as its TotalMedia Theatre has received DTS-HD audio certification from DTS. This marks the first time multimedia software features DTS-HD which can decode lossless DTS-HD Master Audio recreating the studio master sound track "bit for bit". It also means users of the ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre have control of a Bass Management System, allowing bass signals to be directed to the most appropriate speakers and subwoofers in the theater system. Other supported features include "speaker remapping" for playback on a variety of speaker configurations, and "DTS digital surround transcoding" which basically upscales sound quality found on traditional DVD's to 5.1 surround sound. The ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre plays back MPEG-2, AVC, and VC1 Blu-ray disc formats, as well as a variety of other HD formats including WMV HD, QuickTime HD, DivX HD, and H.264 HD. Looks for it to hit shelves in the coming weeks.
A group of Chinese companies have formed the DIVA consortium in order to develop a new A/V interface spec, unsurprisingly called DIVA, that the consortium plans to market as an improvement on the popular HDMI interface. Apparently the China Video Industry Association has thrown its full support behind the new interface spec which the consortium claims can be used to operate AV equipment through TV's without any compression. And how exactly is it different from HDMI? Because the transmission of AV data is bi-directional, entire home networks can be set up by connecting devices using DIVA.
Sony's BRAVIA V4500 LCD line brings three new high-def TV's to Europe in three sizes--26-, 32-, and 37-inches. The V4500 line features a simple black design intended to emphasize the screen, accented by silver speakers and a bottom swivel that allows you to angle the set to wherever you're sitting. The picture is driven by the BRAVIA Engine 2 onto the WXGA LCD panel with 720p resolution and 33000:1 dynamic contrast ratio (on the 26- and 32-inch models). And given that Blu-ray is a Sony technology, all the models feature True Cinema 24p ensuring Blu-ray discs are played back at the correct frame rate, plus all screen sizes feature a built-in MPEG-4 AVC HD tuner enabling DVB-T/DVB-C services where available. Other features include Picture Frame Mode for digital picture viewing via the USB port, the Xross Media Bar interface that simplifies everything from flipping channels to selecting inputs, BRAVIA Sync allowing a one-button remote press controlling the entire home theater, and finally a trio of HDMI slots.
While the digital TV transition is a massive technological change of which people must be made aware given the importance of the television medium to the American public, if you really want it put into proper perspective, just ask Popular Mechanics tech editor Glenn Derene. Derene decided to do a little number crunching, ultimately arriving at a cost to taxpayers of $1.5 billion, including the 33 million $40 converter box coupons. Yes, that's right, when it comes right down to it you're still paying full price for your digital converter box if you happen to buy one.
This led Derene to openly ask officials from the FCC, NAB and other regulatory bodies if Americans really have a right to TV? I would have to say that given tax dollars are paying for DTV2009, yes. Compare the 98% of American households that own a TV to the 86% that can read and write, and it would seem freeing up the analog spectrum for emergency alerts and education would be a smart move. But Derene points out that a pretty small minority of us actually use television for those purposes and the 2009 proposed funding for adult literacy is only $574.6 million.
Okay, so pointing out how your tax dollars are being spent are always a good way to put things into perspective. Are you happy with the way your tax dollars are being spent given some of America's other pressing issues?
Panasonic's Viera TH-42PX80 42-inch plasma TV is considered to be an absolute bargain dollar-wise, but feature-wise the Viera is definitely not a low-end model. Yes, it only features 720p resolution, but given it's a plasma with 15000:1 native contrast ratio, excellent color response and motion handling, don't read to far into the resolution number.
The real concern with the TH-42PX80 is whether performance had to be sacrificed in order to achieve such a low pricing level. Turns out that Panasonic has done an excellent job maintaining quality in this Viera, with natural looking black levels, subtle details in screen corners and sharpness impressive enough to see a single human hair. The V-Real 3 engine is Panasonic's proprietary technology behind the Viera's picture quality, and its success is proven further by the the sets ability to upscale standard-def images via the built-in digital tuner to 1368x720 pixels. And by upscaling, we mean better than the majority of the TH-42PX80's rival flat panel sets.
Any motion issues, such as slight judder, from previous models have been resolved and the picture remains smooth even from 1080p/24 sources. The only real concerns are the uninspired sheer black design and the HDMI input's incompatibility with Deep Color--pretty mild considering all of the TH-42PX80's pros. Ultimate verdict: best Panasonic plasma performance yet for the lowest price available.
Just a few weeks after HP released a firmware update to the MediaSmart TV, bringing web video directly to the big screen via Windows Media Extender, the company has just announced it'll be bringing YouTube vids to the big screen as well. Users will be able to login to YouTube right on the MediaSmart set using the remote control and then watch, share and edit videos as well as create playlists. YouTube product manager Jim Patterson says that "people want to participate in the YouTube community in ways that fit their individual lifestyles" and that's why the monolithic video site feels bringing its vids to the living room is a smart choice.
Picking and choosing all of the right products to optimize your high-def gaming setup can be pretty complicated. The choices that have to be made between different HDTV's, gaming systems, and routers can be not only infinite, but for hardcore gamers, beyond stressful. But gamers of the world can now relax, because the AVSForum has come up with guide to choosing the right HD gaming gear. Their recommendations? When it comes to displays, don't get sucked in by the Game Mode featured on some of the newer models. The gains are so small as not to be worth the money spent. The best sets to buy are average 1080p models with HDMI and component video inputs such as the Samsung PN50A550 and Sony Bravia KDL-46XBR4. If you want to take advantage of digital downloads or online gaming, a network adapter is a must-have. Look for a good 802.11b, or preferably 802.11g, model such as the Linksys WRT54G, Linksys WRT54GS or D-Link's DGL-4300 Wireless 108G Gaming Router. And what about speakers? Full surround sound is the way to go. If you own an Xbox 350, which only supports 5.1-channels, try the Logitech Z-5500 or the Pioneer HTS-GS1. On the other hand, if you own a PS3 which supports 7.1 channels and you want to go all out, try the Onkyo HT-SP908.
The NEC NP100 DLP projector is a good choice for the budget-oriented shopper looking for a portable projection solution suitable for both home theater use and business presentations. Lightweight at only 2.4kg, the NEC NP100 features native 800x600 pixel SVGA resolution, can kick out 2000 ANSI lumens, and is suitable for use in small to medium rooms with low lighting. For those interested in the presentation side of things, tests revealed a crisp 64-inch image from a projector placement of 3 meters away from the screen. Text and graphics were sharp and color rendering was good when connected to both a laptop's VGA port and a DVD player's composite video output. The projector also features a built-in 2 watt speaker perfect for presentation audio, but not so much for home theater use.
If you're wondering when the best time to buy a new plasma or LCD display is, and you're not willing to wait for Black Friday, May (as in this month) may be the perfect month to make your high-def purchase. The HD Guru Gary Merson has it from his industry sources that both LCD and plasma display prices will drop like rocks this month. Sparked by top-tier vendors like Sony trying to jack up their HDTV market shares, big name manufacturers will be forced to drop their prices. Sony will drastically reduce their 2008 1080p model prices in the next few days forcing competitor's such as Sony, Sharp, and Toshiba to respond in kind. For example, Sony's 40-inch KDL-40S4100 LCD TV will be priced $500 less than its lowest priced last-generation model, and the company's 46-inch KDL-46S4100 will feature a $400 price drop. And this are Sony's recommended prices. Head over to discount online retailers such as Amazon and you're likely to see price drops beyond these. Big plasma brands like Panasonic, LG, and Samsung will like start dropping prices later in the month, and even second-tier brand such as Vizio and Westinghouse will probably feature some price drops, though not as drastic.
If your familiar with the TubeStick hybrid TV tuner, you'll know that it was previously only compatible with DVB-T, the European broadcasting standard. But Equinux, the company behind the TubeStick has developed a tuner specifically for the US market, combining both ATSC and NTSC tuners for decoding over-the-air HDTV and SDTV signals, unencrypted cable (ClearQAM) signals, and over-the-air analog signals. The USB device for the Macintosh, can also store video from analog sources such as video cameras and game consoles with S-VHS or composite video outputs.
Packaged with the Tubestick is The Tube, software for recording and timeshifting TV shows. The software also includes TubeTalk and TubeToGo, allowing public chat and portable viewing with any internet connection respectively as long as you have .Mac or FTP support. So if you have an Intel-based Mac running on a minimum Mac OS X v10.4.10 or later, 1GB RAM, 2GB hard disk space and an available USB 2.0 port, you might like to get your hands on this handy little piece of electronic. It's available for $129 from Equinux.
Hitachi's 1.5-inch UltraThin LCD TV's that debuted to much fanfare at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas are trickling onto US shelves between now and September. Split into a Director's Series featuring 5 models between 32- and 47-inches, and an UltraVision Series featuring 7 models also between 32- and 47-inches, the ultrathin LCD's are a bid by Hitachi to develop an "ideal complement to a luxury lifestyle" with sleek aesthetics and high-end features.. The Director's Series pricing ranges from $1199 to $4699, while the UltraVision models are priced from $1799 to $4499.
We've decided to go with a bit of theme for this week's best HDTV deals. What is it? Given that popular purchases indicate product quality, we're going to show you the top 5 selling products in various HDTV categories. And yes, of course, all the products we show you are on sale!
JVC is claiming to have developed a new 1.75-inch LCOS-enabled D-ILA device that can project a 35-megapixel image, 8192 x 4320 pixels in all. The Super Hi-Vision device projects images at roughly 17 times the resolution of today's high-end projectors and HDTV's, the result of a new production process and pixel structure for finer pixel display. Not expected to hit the consumer market for a couple of years yet, we expect the new projection device will be expensive to say the least. To give you an idea of what we mean by expensive, take a look at the pricing of some of JVC's higher-end projection devices currently on the market: the DLA-HD1 projector based on a 0.7" 2K1K D-ILA chipset priced at $4600, the DLA-HD100 sells for about $6000, and the professional 4096x2400 pixel DLA-SH4K projector is priced at a whopping $142, 500. All's we have to say is that you better start saving your pennies.
Despite some recent concerns that January 17, 2009 could be the television broadcasting apocalypse, KVBC Las Vegas is anything but concerned. A simulated analog shut-off yesterday in which the station stopped feeding its normal programming, instead replacing it with simulated static and instructions to call 888-DTV-2009 or head over to DTVanswers.com (or TVSnob.com of course) for information on preparing for the digital transition, went off without a hitch. Over the course of the day's 7 newscasts, the "plug was pulled" and people with analog sets receiving over-the-air service would catch the static screen. Those with digital sets, cable/satellite service, or a converter box were unaffected, but KVBC feels what they did was extremely effective in reaching those that have been, so far, uninformed. Stats were only available until Vegas presstime, but the first newscast of the day with a reach of 29, 500 households per day only received one inquiring call. Pretty impressive for the apocalypse.
First there was the Samsung PAVV Cannes 450 and 550 series and now Samsung is rolling out the Samsung PAVV Cannes 650 series in 50- and 58-inch sizes. First hitting shelves in South Korea, the two new Cannes 650 models are the larger siblings of the previously released 40-, 46-, and 52-inch models. Featuring 1080p resolution, a whopping 1000000:1 contrast ratio powered by Cell Light Control, 2008 Ultra Daylight technology and a DNIe+(Digital Natural Image engine+) chipset, the new PAVV Cannes 650 models are priced at 3,000,000(KRW, US$2970) and 4,900,000(KRW, US$4851) for the 50-inch and 58-inch sets respectively.
Following Apple's announcement that they would be offering iTunes movie sales day-and-date with the corresponding DVD title release, the company quietly added a new feature to the Apple TV. Previously the Apple TV only allowed movie rentals directly. Purchases had to be done via the internet, then streamed/synced to the set-top box in order to view it TV. Now, iTunes movies can be purchased directly from the Apple TV, adding a big convenience for users. Check out your Apple TV interface now, and you should see a "Buy" button.
Just before last October's beta launch of Hulu, the NBC and FOX network-backed online video platform, NBC pulled all of its content off of YouTube in order to throw full support behind its fledgling web video startup. Just before the March 3 public launch of Hulu, NBC signed up for its own Hulu channel on YouTube, leading some to question whether Hulu is struggling with traffic numbers, forcing to leverage its main "rivals" massive traffic numbers to boost its own. But everyone seems to be forgetting that around the time of the beta launch in October 2007, there was a rumor circulating that stated NBC fully intended to head back to YouTube eventually, one day hoping the company would become a formal distribution partner to Hulu. NewTeeVee's Liz Gannes was able to contact Hulu and a spokesperson said, It was absolutely planned by Hulu. We know that there are opportunities to find audiences all over the web. These are short promotional clips and we're working with NBC and FOX on this.
Even though the YouTube Hulu channel is not part of a formal agreement between the two companies, it is catching the eye of millions--literally. With only 37 clips, all under 3 minutes long, the channel had about 4 million views in April, mostly in the form of Family Guy clips. And while that's impressive, we wonder how many viewers are heading back to Hulu. Is Hulu unwittingly turning itself into nothing more than a web video distributor rather than a destination site?
In an effort to reduce the environmental footprint of the growing LCD TV market, the LCD TV Association has launched its GreenTV program. Bruce Berkoff, chairman of the LCD TV Association isn't quiet about his belief that LCD TV is the most environmentally friendly flat panel format currently on the market, but with LCD's popularity growing quickly, energy efficiencies have to improve. And these improvements will come, says Berkoff, through the use of less heavy metals, (including) ambient light sensors and smarter electronics, as well as more LED backlights with spatial and content-based dimming and energy savings over time. Ambient light sensors alone, which detect the amount of light available in the TV's location and adjust the backlight levels accordingly, can reduce LCD TV energy use by up to 30%. Members of the program will be able to place a GreenTV sticker on their TV's that denotes the models spectacular energy efficiency. Companies already signed onto the program include Corning, DisplaySearch, Dolby Laboratories, Fusion Optix, HP, LG Display, Merck KGaA, Micronas, NOVA Chemicals, Syntax Brillian (Olevia), TVIA, Uni-Pixel, the U.S. Display Consortium, Veritas et Visus and Westinghouse Digital Electronics. And not only is this doing a great service to the environment, it'll also cut down your electric bill as well.
If you happen to be a broadcast TV fanatic, none to happy about the growing web and mobile TV sectors, you need to read this. Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC, predicts that within the next 15 years broadcast TV will be event-driven. The prediction, made during Silverman's keynote at the Upfront Summit, means that broadcast TV would be useful for nothing more than live events such as the Super Bowl and reality shows such as American Idol. Although traditional episodic shows will debut on broadcast TV, they'll have to extend to multiple platforms to survive. NBC plans to experiment this fall, attempting to drive TV viewers of its new series, Kath and Kim, online after each episode with extra scenes and storyline continuations completely unique to the web. Looks like it might be time for you to either look for an HD computer monitor or start tweaking your HTPC setup.
That nasty Xbox 360 Blu-ray rumor is back again. This time, Taiwanese newspaper Economic Times is reporting that Pegatron Technology, an Asus subsidiary, has received an order from Microsoft to manufacture the Blu-ray box in time for a holiday release. Microsoft has yet to comment on the latest rumor, but we're sure they'll probably quash it today.
Back in January, gaming mag Electronic Gaming Monthly caught wind of an apparent plan by Microsoft to release a Blu-ray Xbox 360, catching lots of attention because at the time HD DVD was in its death throes. However, at that time a Microsoft spokesperson stated that the company still fully backed the HD DVD format, believing it to be the best optical format for buyers. That wasn't the end of it however, as rumors started rolling again after Microsoft dropped the game consoles HD DVD add-on following Toshiba's discontinuation of the format, and company CEO Steve Ballmer stated they would support Blu-ray in ways that made sense. Just days later Xbox 360 product manager Aaron Greenberg denied his boss intended to imply a future Blu-ray Xbox 360 saying that Microsoft hadn't even discussed the idea with Sony or the Blu-ray Association. So now we have 2 rumors, and 2 denials by Microsoft.
But no, the nasty rumor continued when Digitimes reported that Lite-On was producing BD-ROM drives for the sole purpose of integration into the next Xbox 360 console release. And once again Microsoft killed this rumor too, stating that they wanted to remain focused on providing a huge selection of blockbuster games and on-demand HD content.
Whether or not Microsoft plans on integrating Blu-ray into the Xbox 360 isn't even important anymore. We all just want the company to officially announce their plans so we can stop wasting bandwidth chasing rumors.
Apple is expected to announce today a bunch of partnerships with movie studios that would see digital versions of newly released films to be available on iTunes the same day they're released on DVD. The releases are expected to come from the likes of Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Sony Pictures, Lionsgate and New Line as well as boutique studios, Magnolia and Image Entertainment.
Back in January Apple announced that it had signed all of the major studios to a movie rental agreement, but has so far only offered older movies titles for sale via the iTunes platform. However, sales of older titles have been impressive enough for all of the major's to take the next step, even risking cannibalizing DVD sales by offering day-and-date digital releases. In fact a few titles as of late, such as the wildly popular Juno have already been released on iTunes the same day as the DVD release.
The announcement today should give us some more insight into Apple's iTunes movie revenues so far, which given today's announcement, we expect will be impressive.
Update: Sure enough Apple did indeed announce iTunes movie releases day-and-date with DVD releases. Says the Apple press release: "New releases and catalog titles will be available from 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Lionsgate, Image Entertainment and First Look Studios. Movies purchased from iTunes can be viewed on an iPod® with video, iPhone™, Mac® or PC or on a widescreen TV with Apple TV®, with new releases priced at $14.99 and most catalog titles at $9.99."
AT&T's MediaFlo Mobile TV service we told you about in March is ready to roll. Accessible on the Samsung Access and LG Vu handsets which are set to go on sale May 4, AT&T customers will pay about $15/month for unlimited mobile TV access. The service will have at least two exclusive channels including the Sony PIX movie network as well as 10 major broadcast networks including Fox, plus live CNN content. The LG Vu will cost you $300 after a $100 rebate and 2 year plan and the Samsung Access will put a $200 dent in your wallet, once again after a $100 rebate and 2 year contract. Check out the service in action in the video above.
Sezmi Corporation has developed the world's first "complete TV 2.0" solution, accessing all the major broadcast networks, satellite and broadband content via one wireless television package. Major broadcast network signals are received via an external DTV tuner designed to look like a subwoofer, and the TV 2.0 also features DVR capabilities and internet video. Built for on-demand viewing, you can organize all of your content using program lists simplifying the "browsing and discovery of television content".
Built with the next-generation TV viewer in mind, TV 2.0 can be individualized for every member of the household. The remote features a single button for each person that will bring them to their own homepage interface where all of the content matching their unique preferences can be found. But it has community features as well, allowing users to subscribe to playlists, as well as recommend and rate shows.
Television content is distributed using Sezmi's proprietary FlexCast video distribution technology, combining terrestrial broadcast TV with the existing broadband infrastructure. Not only is it cost-effective, but it requires no broadband upgrades on the user's behalf. The DTV receiver used for acquiring satellite and broadcast signals can be placed anywhere in the home and requires no calibration whatsoever.
Definitely a product to watch, the Sezmi 2.0 is set to undergo technical trials in preparation for its US launch later in 2008.
Dolby may be working on improving your HDTV's picture quality, but that's not to say they still aren't hard at work on new and improved sound technologies. In fact, just today Dolby announced that Toshiba's new REGZA ZH500 and ZV500 series LCD TV's hitting Japanese shelves next month will be the first available sets to have Dolby Volume audio processing.
Dolby Volume performs two very important tasks. First of all, it enables a consistent level of volume no matter the media playback format or audio source. Second of all, it maintains sound quality no matter the volume level, so that some of the subtleties of sound we typically can't properly hear at low volume levels won't be lost. According to Dolby, this results in "improved surround imaging, enhanced dialogue intelligibility, and improved overall clarity of the audio content at lower levels." When's this coming to North America you say? Come on now, do they ever tell us right off the bat?
Remember that Viacom joint venture we told you about last week? You know, the one which will culminate in a new premium TV channel and VOD service rolled out in the fall of 2009? It looks like Blockbuster will be an additional partner in the JV, exchanging an investment in the business for digital rights to its content. "According to people familiar with the situation", Blockbuster would be an obvious addition to the partnership, which also features MGM, LionsGate, and Viacom's Paramount. Viacom previously owned Blockbuster and its top-level execs know its business well.
Blockbuster has been in the process of digitizing its business as its bricks-and-mortar rental stores have been struggling badly ever since the inception of Netflix. In fact, it's been struggling so badly that one CNET editor predicted an upcoming bankruptcy for the rental franchise. Last year Blockbuster acquired internet movie provider MovieLink in a bid to distribute a greater proportion of its rentals online and has been on a bullheaded run to secure as much exclusive content for the service as possible. Taking in a part in the new venture would bring some high-quality movie content to the service.
So far Blockbuster has been pretty tight-lipped about any involvement. A spokewoman for the company only had this to say: We are busy transforming Blockbuster into a multiplatform provider of convenient access to media entertainment. To that end, we're exploring our options so it's not surprising there are rumors out there. We've heard that line before and from those past experiences we'll predict that what the spokewoman meant to say was: Yes, Blockbuster will invest in the Viacom JV in exchange for exclusive MovieLink content.
You may or may not have heard that Verizon has applied to provide FiOS TV service to all five boroughs of New York City. If approved they would become the first telecommunications provider to do this, and the company jumped one big hurdle yesterday when the New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications approved the plan for citywide cable service. Now, come May 20, the plan must be approved by the City's Franchise and Concession Review Committee for final approval.
The agreement, pending final approval, means Verizon will provide fiber-optic cable service to every single residence in New York City. Right now, the majority of New Yorkers only have one provider option, which utilizes a hybrid/coaxial system. With Verizon entering the picture, cable competition will finally be introduced to NYC meaning market forces will finally be applied to service provisions and pricing, instead of the virtual monopoly in effect now. And, according to Verizon, the FiOS TV service provides unparalleled picture quality.
By the end of the year, Verizon has agreed to provide 30% of NYC's homes with FiOS TV availability, with 2014 the targeted completion date. Check out the full press release after the jump for all the details of the agreement...