The annual Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association EXPO was held again this year between September 8 and September 12, 2004 in Indianapolis, IN. As far as trade shows go these days covering Consumer Electronics products, it?s a pleasure to attend this terrific show as virtually all exhibits are located within the confines of the Indiana Convention Center and RCA Dome, which is attached to the I.C.C. Originally, the C.E.D.I.A. EXPO was conceived as a specialized show for the custom installation market. However, over the years, it has evolved into a Home Theater show covering all mid-to-high-end A/V products. It has also become popular with the manufacturers as well. Numerous audio brands now introduce their new wares at C.E.D.I.A. each year instead of C.E.S. (Consumer Electronics Show), which is held each year now in January in Las Vegas, NV. It should also be noted that several display companies also like to introduce their new models at C.E.D.I.A. including brands like SONY.
Trends and Developments
We are just starting to see new high-end audio products starting to include HDMI connectivity. However, one has to be careful about HDMI at this time. Those products that currently include HDMI only pass 2.0 digital audio and not full-blown 5.1 audio, which include A/V Receivers and DVD players/recorders. Presently, only two manufacturers have announced A/V Receiver products with 5.1 audio HDMI switching capabilities ? Denon and Pioneer. Others will follow in 2005.
HDMI, which was conceived as the successor to DVI, for the passage of digital video signals has the capability to carry uncompressed digital audio and video signals through the use of one connector. This means that it has the capability to bypass digital audio connectors ? coax and optical (TosLink) and 1394. HDMI connectors, which have started appearing on DVD players, will show up on more A/V Receiver products in 2005. Potential buyers will have to ascertain if it passes 2.0 digital audio or 5.1. Digital audio. HDMI has the capability to carry all digital audio signals including Dolby Digital, DTS, DVD-Audio and SACD via one connector plus full-blown HDTV signals. 2005 versions of satellite and cable HD Receivers will most likely include 5.1 audio HDMI capabilities. As a side note, instead of including 1394 to pass high definition signals to recording devices, these companies may include integrated PVRs.
PART I – TVs and HD Displays
Sony finally unveiled their new QUALIA 006 (@ under $10,000) SXRD rear projection HDTV. SXRD, which stands for Silicon X-tal Reflective Display that is related to LCoS. Originally, SXRD technology was only available as a front video projector. QUALIA is Sony’s high-end upscale line, and only offered in select A/V specialty retailers and QUALIA stores. This spectacular micro-display device displays a full 1920x1080p image. Utilizing a new WEGA engine and three SXRD chips, it also includes version 2 of Sony’s Digital Reality Creation chipset that easily reproduces 1080i HD signals. To keep images crisp and bright, a 200-watt high-output lamp is included along with a special Lenticular glass screen with AR (anti-reflective) coating for excellent contrast. Connections include HDMI and 2-way 1394 for the easy recording off HD images on standalone DVHS and HD PVRs. Like other micro-displays currently available, the set?s cabinet only measures about 16-in. deep.
InFocus is taking on the high-end rear projection TV market by the introduction of their revolutionary ultra-thin micro-display HDTVs. Using Texas Instruments? HD2+ DLP chip plus their proprietary light engine in lieu of a standard CRT, InFocus is offering two special models in their ScreenPlay line: a 50-in. (50md10 @ $6,499) and a 61-in. (61md10). What makes these integrated Digital Cable Ready HDTVs with CableCARD amazing is that they measure only 6.85-in. deep. This allows them to be easily wall-mounted (like a plasma or LCD flat-panel TV), or placed on a base. Both models feature a native resolution of 1280×720, brightness levels of 900 cd/m2 and contrast ratios of 800:1. Identical models are also available from RCA Scenium in their Profiles line (HD50THW263 & HD61THW263). RCA provides manufacturing prowess and InFocus provides the light engine technology. Each company offers the models in different markets so they don?t compete with each other. All models include HDMI and 1394 connectivity.
Epson has also entered the Home Theater market with two new rear projection LCD HDTVs ? the Livingstation LS47P2 (47-in. @ $3,199) and the Livingstation LS57P2 (57-in. $3,699). Both models include both an ATSC and NTSC tuners plus feature a built-in digital photo center using Epson?s proprietary Photo On Demand technology. The sets include slots for all popular memory cards including SD, MMC, MemoryStick, CompactFlash, and SmartMedia and produce borderless 4?x 6? glossy prints. Using the latest HD 3-LCD (0.7-in.) display technology, the Livingstations have a native resolution of 720p. As well, using Epson?s proprietary engine with DNX Technology, all incoming video signals are upconverted digitally. Unlike other DLP and LCD rear projection TVs, the lamp can be easily replaced from the front of the set, and there also is a center channel speaker shelf.
In other new technology display news, Brillian Corp. showed for the first time publicly their new Gen II LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) HDTV. Unlike the Philips Cineos TVs currently on the market, Brillian has employed a 3-chip (0.7-in.) solution offering 720p native resolution. This 65-in. beauty will be sold by Kenwood and under its own label. It was also supposed to have been sold by Sears (under the Sears private label), but the deal was aborted in mid-September 2004. On the plus side, we welcome LCoS back to the fold, and hope to see more products in 2005. However, this set offers only dim 400 cd/m2 brightness and a lowly contrast ratio of 200:1 from a 150-watt metal halide bulb.
Plasmas?plasmas?and more plasmas.
Pioneer Elite unveiled three more plasma HDTVs — PRO-920HD (43-in. @ $10,500), PRO-1120HD (50-in. @ $13,500.), and PRO-1410HD (61-in. @ $21,000). These new PureVision displays are fully-integrated HD models that are Digital Cable Ready featuring CableCARD. All three models offer upgraded processing power by combining scaling and I/P Conversion into one process for its integrated video decoder. As well, each display features Encased Cell Structure technology that produces greater light emission, and a Capsulated Color Filter for more realistic color reproduction. Progressive scan technology has also been improved with Advanced PureCinema by including 3:3 film-to-video conversion with a refresh rate of 72 Hz instead of a 3:2 pull-down with a refresh rate to 60 Hz. Pioneer has also introduced two Digital Cable Ready models with the Passport electronic program guide in the main Pioneer line ? models PDP-4345HD (43-in. @ $9,000) and PDP-5045HD (50-in. @ $12,000). These models include Pure Drive technology, Advanced PureCinema, and Advanced Continuous Emission II (ACE II). All five plasma displays, which include two HDMI and twin 1394 connectors, will be available in October.
Not to be outdone, Panasonic has introduced their new Onyx XVS Series of Plasma Digital Cable Ready HDTVs with CableCARD in 42-in. (TH-42XVS30U @ $7,499), 50-in. (TH-50XVS30U @ $9,499), and 65-in. (TH-65XVS30U @ $19,999) models. Onyx represents Panasonic?s 7-th generation plasma display panel (G7). Each panel includes a bounded cell structure, a deep black filter for improved bright-area contrast, and asymmetrical cell structure for high brightness and crisp whites. Reportedly, these G7 panels have the capability to produce 8.58 billion colors. All models offer a contrast ratio of 3000:1 and feature HDMI connectivity. Panasonic also offers five integrated HDTV plasma models, which range in screen size from 37-in. to 50-in., in their VIERA line that are all currently available. VIERA models range in price from $3,799.95 (TH-37PD25U/P) to $7,999.95 (TH-50PX25U/P).
LG pushes the envelope by delivering the world?s first 71-in. 1920x1080p plasma HDTV monitor. Their model MW-71PY10 utilizes their proprietary XD engine technology that takes low-resolution analog signals to near high-definition levels by minimizing distortion and noise while reportedly enhancing details and color. Featuring a 1200:1 contrast ratio and brightness levels exceeding 800 cd/m2, the MW-71PY10 is housed in a sleek black frame. A variety of inputs is available including DVI, HDMI, RS-232C and PC. Unlike other plasma monitors, LG offers a two-year warranty. It will be available late in the 4th quarter in limited quantities at which time pricing will be determined.
High-end display brand Dwin has introduced three new Plasmaimage HD Series monitors (sans HD tuners) in 42-in. (HD-142 @ $8,995), 50-in. (HD-150 @ $10.995), and 61-in. (HD-161 @ $19,995) models. Except for the 42-in model that has a screen resolution of 1024×768, all models offer a native resolution of 1366×768. To enhance contrast, brightness, and picture fidelity each panel offers individually Filtered Color Cells within each pixel. Each monitor display includes an outboard HD processor / controller featuring twin DVI inputs and one DVI output. As well, each display includes a Motion-Adaptive screen saver to help prevent phosphor burn-in.
Titan Global?s new brand – EPOQ ? introduced five new flat panel displays at CEDIA housed in sleek brushed aluminum cabinetry, which are comprised of twin integrated NTSC LCD TVs, a standard definition 42-in. plasma, and two integrated HDTV plasmas (a 50-in. & 63-in.). The LCD HDTVs are available in 30-in. (HTV-30A2 @ $3,999) and 40-in. (HTV-40A2 @ $7,999). The plasma displays are available in 42.in (HDV-42A3 @ $6,499), which includes a standard definition NTSC tuner, and two fully integrated HDTV plasmas with ATSC (over-the-air) tuners ? a 50-in. (HTV-50A2 @ $10,999) and a 63-in. (HTV-63A2 @ $22,999). All models include an integrated NTSC tuner plus also feature an advanced video scaler engine with DCDi and O-Plus processors. Besides DVI, all models include a digital optical output to pass Dolby Digital signals to a separate audio processor. An electronic program guide is featured to complete the package.
Fujitsu presented its new PlasmavisionHD displays at CEDIA, which are upgraded versions of pervious models that now include a new digital video processor ? Advanced Video Movement-II 9(AVM-II). The AVM-11 digital video processor includes four distinct improvements: AVM Noise Reduction that reduces ?digital? artifacts, Picture Text Optimizer that processes graphics and text, Ambient Light Sensor that adjusts screen lights depending on room light, and Advanced Color Management that adjust specific hues to appear more natural. The new Plasmavision HD monitors will be available in four screen sizes: a 55-in. (P55XHA40US), a 50-in. (P50XHA40US), and two 42-in. ((P42VHA40US & P42HHA40US) models. Pricing was unavailable at press time. All models will be available later this year.
Samsung launches its first 55-in. integrated high definition Digital Cable Ready plasma HDTV with CableCARD. The model HPP5581 is priced at $9,999. Boasting a pixel resolution of 1366×768, the HPP5581 offers brightness levels of 1,000 cd/m2 a contrast ratio of 900:1, and also features Samsung?s proprietary DNIe (Digital Natural Image engine) that improvises contrast, detail, white tone, and noise reduction. It will be available in October. Samsung also introduced a new 37-in. (HPP3761 @ $3,999.99), and a 42-in. (HPP4261 @ $5,499.99). Both HD plasma monitors offer brightness levels of 1,000 cd/m2 and contrast ratios of 1000:1. All HD monitors are currently available.
Runco has upgraded its line of flat-panel display monitors to include the CinemaWall CW-42HD (@ $7,495). This model features a native resolution of 1024×768, and is one of the few plasma displays that perform properly at high altitudes of 9,000 ft. The CW-42HD includes a DVI input. As well, Runco added three new plasma packages that feature its DHD Digital Video Controller. The DHD is designed to enhance each individual plasma display using Runco?s proprietary ViVix II digital processing that enhances all SD and HD source material. It also features Orthogonal Line Correction that adjusts for unwanted time-lapsed field artifacts, and 3:2 and 2:2 pull-down. The three packages include: PL-43DHD ($10,995), PL-50DHD ($13,995), and the PL-61DHD ($23,995). All models are currently available.
Not to be left out, Bang & Olufsen (B&O) has also entered the plasma arena with their new BeoVision 4. The BeoVision 4 system consists of a 42-in. HD monitor and a BeoVision 1 media center that houses all of the inputs/outputs for the system. The frame is available in brush aluminum, dark gray, and black depending on your dÃ©cor. BeoVision 4 is also equipped with a set-top box controller and a picture-in-picture module. B&O also includes VisionClear technology that reportedly ensures picture competencies and optimal viewing conditions. Pricing was unavailable at presstime.
Other Noteworthy Flat-Panel Displays
Sharp delivers the largest available integrated widescreen Digital Cable Ready HDTV LC-TV with CableCARD ? their Aquos model LC-45GX6U. This 45-in. HDTV includes a next-generation Advanced Super View (ASV) 16:9 LCD panel Black TFT low-reflection coating. Native screen resolution is 1920×1080 featuring an ultra high contrast ratio of 800:1, which the manufacturer claims enriches black tones. Brightness levels reach 450 cd/m2 with a 170-degree viewing angle allowing the display to be placed in any lighting situations. A separate AVC control center houses all terminal connections, which features Sharp?s proprietary advanced CV-IC System III video processing circuitry that upconverts all incoming 720p and 1080i signals to 1080p. Housed in a striking titanium cabinet, this model also includes detachable bottom-mounted speakers, a 1-bit digital audio system, and DVI connections. The LC-45GX6U is priced at $8,499.99 and is available now.
Not to be outdone, Samsung is pushing the envelope by announcing their largest LCD TV with their 1080p capable 46-in. LTP468W. This model, which has a native resolution of 1920×1080, offers a contrast ratio of 800:1, brightness levels of 500 cd/m2, a 170-degree viewing angle, and a 12-millisecond response time. Like other high-end Samsung products, this model includes the company?s DNIe picture enhancement circuitry. According to Samsung, the LTP468W will be available late in the 4th quarter at a price of $9,999.