Will we see $49 Blu-ray players this Black Friday? Research firm NPD's director of industry analysis, Ross Rubin, thinks it's possible. Given the huge uptake in Blu-ray sales this year as prices continue to fall, he thinks if anything we'll definitely see a ton of $99 deals. And as opposed to last year, 2009's deals won't be from second-tier brands like Magnavox and Sylvania, but first-tier brands that ship web-connected models. What do you think? We'll we see a $49 Blu-ray player this Black Friday?
Best Buy and Netflix have teamed up to bring instant movie streaming to Insignia brand Blu-ray players. Netflix subscribers with unlimited plans will be able to access movie content instantly with Best Buy's Insignia brand NS-WBRDVD Advanced Series Blu-ray player and NS-BRDVD3 Connected Blu-ray player. The former Blu-ray player streams Netflix movies over Ethernet while the latter Connected model can also stream over Wi-Fi. This is pretty significant as at $180 and $250, respectively, the two Insignia Blu-ray players are bringing advanced functionality to the mainstream consumer at a price that was unheard of even a year ago.
Sanyo has launched its second projector using its proprietary QuaDrive technology which combines two 330 W lamps and three mirrors to produce the brightest 100 V AC projector on the market. The PLC-XF1000 manages to pump out 12000 lumens combined with a 4000:1 contrast ratio making it suitable for large auditoriums and other large-sized venues. Sanyo claims the brightness and color clarity is also perfect for the digital signage market. How much will you pay for 12000 lumens? A cool $25000--not your typical home theater projector.
Microsoft has responded to the Sony's 250 GB Playstation Slim with its own 250 GB strategy. Costco and Amazon will both ship a 250 GB Xbox 360 with the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and a pair of wireless controllers. You'll pay $50 bucks more than you would for the Playstation Slim ($399.99), but it's worth it for the extras.
The United States finally took a leap forward today in the world of mobile TV as the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) finally announced a new mobile DTV standard. The new standard, comparable in some ways to DVB in Europe et al. enables typical TV like that you usually watch in the living room, to find a new home on mobile devices. Good for live television, video-on-demand, targeted advertising and all the other fun stuff that comes with typical cable, the ATSC standard is already supported on select Samsung and LG devices, and will hopefully roll out sometime in the near future. Over 800 American stations are already signed up to broadcast the new signal over existing 6 MHz airwaves. You can read more about the new standard here.
Sony today announced it would be releasing another PS3 Slim with more memory and a higher price tag. Targeting high-end gamers, the new PS3 Slim features 250 GB of storage space as opposed to the current PS3 Slim and its 120 GB hard drive. Sony says the current model, which has only been on the market for a few weeks, sold one million units in its first three weeks on the market. The new PS3 Slim will cost $350 and ship November 3.
Samsung and Blockbuster announced yesterday that Blockbuster OnDemand is now streaming to Samsung home theater products.
The agreement, originally announced in July, will enable owners of Samsung Series 650 and above LCD and plasma HDTVs, Samsung Series 7000 and above LED HDTVs, Samsung BDP-1600, BDP-3600, and BDP-4600 Blu-ray players, and Samsung HT-BD1250, HT-BD3252, HT-BD7200, and HT-BD8200 Blu-ray home theater systems to get instant access to thousands of Blockbuster's streaming video offerings. Movies will cost $2.99 to $3.99 to rent (like the TiVo), while purchases will range from $7.99 to $19.99. The service is available now through a firmware upgrade.
Also yesterday, Samsung announced an agreement with Amazon to stream Amazon Video On Demand content to its Series 650 LCD and plasma HDTVs and Series 7000 LED HDTVs. Over 50, 000 movies will be available, for rental or purchase, through a downloadable widget accessible through Internet@TV.
This morning Mitsubishi announced the LVP-HC3800, its latest full high-def DLP projector for the Japanese market. Featuring 1080p resolution, 3000:1 contrast ratio, 1200 lumens of brightness, a DDP3021 full 10-bit panel driver, a 230 Watts lamp with a 5000 hour battery life, and a 25 dB minimum noise output, the LVP-HC3800 DLP projector will ship November 20 for the equivalent of US$2200. No word yet regarding possible export to North America or elsewhere outside of Japanese borders.
The makers of the legendary VUDU box were busy yesterday, announcing LG BD390 Blu-ray player compatibility, and the addition of Rotten Tomato movie reviews to its ever-expanding feature set. Each flick that VUDU streams can now be sorted by Rotten Tomato review score, and viewers can see quotes from top reviews on the VUDU interface.
Western Digital has announced the second-generation WD TV Live HD Media Player, network and 1080p playback capable. The WD media player enables users to playback media from USB thumb drives or local networks, on their HDTV. The second-generation has a more responsive interface, according to WD, as well as YouTube, Flickr and Pandora streaming. The player has an Ethernet port for connecting to home networks, a pair of USB ports, composite and component video outputs, and SPDIF digital audio output. The WD TV Live HD Media Player is available for pre-order currently for $119.99.
GlideTV today announced the Navigator, a palm-sized, bowl-shaped peripheral designed to act as a remote control for your HTPC. The device, which connects to your PC or Mac via a wireless USB receiver, enables control of PC-based media from the HDTV. It is compatible with Windows Media Center, Playstation 3, Apple iTunes, Boxee, SageTV, and has integrated search menu links to Amazon On Demand, Netflix, Hulu and other web-based media sites. The GlideTV Navigator is now shipping in the United States and Europe for US$149.
It's been a long time coming, but today TiVo owners will finally be able to stream Blockbuster OnDemand movies. First announced in March, the TiVo/Blockbuster partnership will stream $3.99 new releases, $2.99 classics, and "select HD titles" in the next few weeks. As part of the agreement, Blockbuster stores will also sell TiVo units--at least in the United States. Owners of TiVo models Series 2 and Series 3 will be able to access the service immediately, after signing up for a Blockbuster account.
The threat of a hefty fine or a jail sentence is going to stop a movie pirate--you know, those enterprising thieves that lug video recording hardware into theaters and get it all on tape. Both threats rank as intangibles that can't register until they actually happen. Mess up a video recording--even threaten it--and that will register.
Isao Echizen of the National Institute of Informatics, in cooperation with Sharp, has invented a technology that places near-infrared LEDs behind the movie screen, sending light through little holes when the movie is playing. The human eye can't see them because the wavelength used is indistinguishable to the human eye. But playback that video recording, dear pirate, and you'll see really, really annoying red and green blotches all over the screen.
Sharp aims to commercialize this technology in 2-3 years, though by that time I'm sure pirates will have moved to something way more high-tech than camcorders for in-theater movie piracy.
This is interesting but not entirely surprising. A Dutch study has revealed that "framing" a TV viewer's expectations of picture quality can have a significant effect on how that quality is perceived. The study showed 60 participants the same TV image. However, half were told the image was HD quality, a claim backed up by posters and other verifying material placed around the display. The other half of the participants were told the image was standard-def DVD quality. The power of suggestion was very apparent, as the majority of those participants told they were seeing an HD image could notice a 'difference' from SD picture quality--even though they were being shown the same quality. Whether of not this would be as prevalent in North America in unknown. The PAL standard used in Europe is closer to HD than the NTSC standard used on North America. The difference in SD and HD picture quality on this side of the pond tends to be more obvious.
This is interesting: Panasonic is not only in the business of creating 3D TVs, it is also making the "Active Shutter Glasses" that accompany the display technology. As per usual, they are silly looking, don't look particularly comfortable, and won't catch on with mainstream consumers (I'll bet alot of money on this). But at least the 3D revolution has begun.
Viewsonic last week announced the PJD6251 and PJL9371, a pair of new projectors geared toward commercial applications that differentiate by being brighter than the norm. The 3D-ready PJD6251 sports a resolution of 1024 x 768, a 2800:1 contrast ratio, and 3700 lumens of brightness. Designed for classroom and conference room use, it also has HDMI, composite, VGA, and S-video inputs, plus Ethernet for local network control. The PJL9371 is built for larger spaces such as auditoriums, boasting a 1024 x 768 resolution, 2000:1 contrast ratio, and 4000 lumens of brightness. It bumps up the feature set of the PJD6251 to include an Eco-mode for energy-efficient use, 7 picture modes for different settings such as Cinema and Blackboard, and an RS-232 serial port for remote control. Available now, the PJD6251 and PJL9371 cost $950 and $1750, respectively.
LG announced the HB954SP Blu-ray home cinema system this past Thursday bringing Mark Levinson-approved audio to the masses. The 5.1-channel theater system features 1080p video playback, 1000 Watts of power and 5 oval-shaped pictures. The included Blu-ray player has an attractive design with a slide-out slot for an iPod Touch or iPhone, both of which can be controlled by remote control. The Blu-ray player is also Profile 2.0 so owners can access interactive film content on the web via the built-in Ethernet port. Full YouTube integration is also included if you're more of an amateur video fan. Other specs of note include standard-def video upscaling to 1080p, a pair of HDMI slots, a USB connection, and the LG Sound Gallery, enabling owners to access 7 sound controls to match the room ambiance. While LG hasn't released a price yet, the HB954SP Blu-ray home theater system is expected to arrive on retailers' shelves in November.
Panasonic has introduced the PT-AE4000U, the company's latest home theater projector. The big differentiating feature here is 2.35:1 wide aspect ratio, specifically used for projecting film-based content. It comes with a default 16:9 aspect ratio and a 4:3 option as well. The 1080p LCD projector features 100, 000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, 1, 600 lumens of brightness, 24/60/120 FPS options, a 12 Volt trigger for a drop down screen, VIERA Link compatibility, 3 HDMI 1.3a outputs, 1 VGA port, 1 component port, 1 S-video, and 1 composite connection. The $2, 499 PT-AE4000U LCD projector, shipping in October, can display a 120-inch image from 11 feet away.
Mitsubishi has found a way around the expensive production costs of OLED TV displays that result in small screens and almost no home theater market penetration. It's actually pretty intuitive: just split the display into smaller modules. At CEATEC, a consumer electronics conference currently ongoing in Japan, Mitsubishi is showing off a 155-inch OLED TV that is actually a giant puzzle consisting of 720 1.5 square inch OLED panels. The modular design means that the set can actually be resized as needed, making it a good fit for commercial applications such as outdoor advertising displays. The display can also be curved to fit into existing infrastructure. Mitsubishi hasn't announced a release date or price for the prototype OLED TV, but if it ever does end up on store shelves, expect the price to be located up somewhere near the moon.
Qualcomm's FLO TV service has always been about bringing television to the mobile masses, but thus far the master plan has been to bring the service to cellphones and other mobile devices. This morning FLO TV entered a new market, leveraging Qualcomm's hardware know-how to bring a dedicated FLO TV mobile device to consumers.
The FLO TV Personal Television is roughly the size of a typical GPS navigator, with a 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display, a 4.4 x 3 x 0.5 inch dimensional form factor, and a battery life providing 5 hours of continuous playback or 300 hours standby. It also sits on a built-in swivel stand so it can be place on any flat service. Owners will receive live or time-shifted TV over the FLO TV network and once swipe of the touchscreen will enable channels to be changed.
Will this catch on? Who knows. FLO TV is offered via mobile phones, in-car entertainment systems, and other mobile devices already. In an era of extensive multitasking, dedicated devices like this are in tough. Just looks at Verizon's Hub--it's already been canceled.
The FLO TV Personal Television is priced at $249.99 (MSRP) while the FLO TV service starts at the $8.99 per month when prepaid on 1 or 3 year subscription plans.
It's official. Japan gets all the cool stuff folks. Sony Japan announced today the TRIMASTER SRM-L560, a 56-inch quad-HD LCD HDTV. The unit sports 3840 × 2160 resolution via a 10-bit RGB LED backlit panel among many other features worthy of a ridiculously high price tag. It also includes "SRM Manager" software which allows owners to adjust color temperature and other pictures controls using a WIndows-powered PC. Coming to Japan November 1, the Sony TRIMASTER SRM-L560 will cost 6,825,000 yen, the equivalent of US$76583.
I hear Toshiba CELL REGZA 55X1 and the first thought that pops into my mind is WOW! The 55-inch LED-backlit set, announced in Japan, utilizes Toshiba's proprietary Cell Platform--a combination of the Cell Broadband Engine and Toshiba's image processing algorithms. Toshiba claims the technology enables the 55X1, which is mounted on a 3 TB hard disk drive, to provide a brightness rating of 1250 cd/m2, a dynamic contrast ratio of 5, 000, 000:1, and the capability to record up to 26 hours of programming from up to 8 channels--simultaneously. The 240 Hz 55X1 is shipping in Japan come the beginning of December, and is expected to reach the Americas in 2010. For a rather extravagant price, of course: $11, 115.
Despite the fact that LG Electronics produces some home theater gear with top-notch features, the company still doesn't have the brand equity of Sony, Samsung or Panasonic. The company continues to pump out good product reviews on a consistent basis though; something to keep in mind next time you're looking for a new HDTV or Blu-ray player.
The latest review, of the 1.8-inch thick LG 42SL80, comes to us courtesy of the folks at PCMag.com. The 42-inch set is not only an aesthetic pleaser, but also quite the performer. It has a handy Picture Wizard that helps the average home theater user calibrate the set to perform maximally. It delivers good color quality and 240 Hz refresh, though the latter doesn't cut all of the motion blur common to faster, action-oriented flicks. On the downside, its standard-definition performance is lacking. Its deinterlacing performance isn't earth-shattering either.
The New York Times has an interested read this morning depicting the monumental task of adding a third dimension to the Toy Story and Toy Story 2 double feature released last Friday. The 3D Toy Story, now in theaters, was created by adding a virtual second camera to the one camera view used in the 2D Toy Story films of the last decade.
Without changing any of the film's action, Pixar's 3-D specialists, or stereographers, returned to each frame of the film and virtually placed a second camera next to the original, creating left-eye and right-eye views of the scene. Then all of the scenes were re-rendered in the computer with this additional perspective.
The process of resurrecting the old data took 4 months, while adding a third dimension took a further 6 months per film!