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CES 2006

Once again, CES managed to out-grow itself. This year's attendance reportedly exceeded 150,000, and the show spilled out of the Las Vegas Convention Center over to the Sands Expo Center.

At the other extreme, Optoma came up with three super-sized BigVizion 1080p DLP RPTVs in a 600-pound crate for in-wall installation. All three have 1080p resolution and the screen size choices are 80, 90, and 100 inches with prices in the $18,000 to $26,000 range. The front screen tilts up at a 45-degree angle for servicing, and there are two front screen surface choices.

For those into the whole “Elvis has been sighted” thing, Canon and Toshiba's elusive surface-conduction electronic-emitting device (SED) was much easier to inspect this year — both companies set up small theaters to show arrays of 36-inch models. For some odd reason, the lines were enormous at the Toshiba booth, while you could easily walk right into the nearby Canon demo.

Unfortunately, we still haven't seen the promised 55-inch version of this technology, so we only know that the Canon/Toshiba joint venture SED Inc. can make more than one 36-inch model. There's a formidable obstacle to the success of SED, and that's the market priced structure for flat-panel displays in this size category. Unless the 55-inch product can be delivered for less than $5,000 retail, it doesn't stand a chance against plasma, LCD, and all the different RPTV iterations.

No visit to CES would be complete without a discussion of about Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Both formats had plenty of demos around the convention center. Although most of the players shown incorporated Blu-ray technology, the HD-DVD camp had numerous announcements of movie titles and software partners.

Toshiba claims its HD-DVD players will be shipping shortly; two models were demonstrated at CES with the least expensive priced at $500. In addition to HP and Microsoft, both of which insist on support for the iHD interactive overlay for HD-DVD (something the Blu-ray camp doesn't plan to support), NBC-Universal, Warner Brothers, and New Line studios will have films available in the HD-DVD format for 2006.

CES showed that if you follow the display industry, you've got plenty on your plate for the coming year. Price wars between plasma and LCD (particularly at 40- and 42 inches), continued migration to 1080p resolution on all technology platforms, another video format war (just what we need), and the usual “phantom” technologies hovering in the background will keep things interesting for months to come!

Pete Putman is a contributing editor for Pro AV and president of ROAM Consulting, Doylestown, PA. Especially well known for the product testing/development services he provides manufacturers of projectors, monitors, integrated TVs, and display interfaces, he has also authored hundreds of technical articles, reviews, and columns for industry trade and consumer magazines over the last two decades. You can reach him at pete@hdtvexpert.com.



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