Picture This: CEDIA 2005
Nov 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer
A farewell to Indy brings a 1080p explosion.
Indianapolis has been the home of CEDIA almost since its inception in 1989 and the home of CEDIA EXPO for six of the last seven years. It's a friendly Midwestern city with surprisingly interesting architecture (the Crowne Plaza Hotel is in a refurbished train depot where you can stay in rooms that are literally old train cars). But, alas, CEDIA has outgrown the city.
CEDIA EXPO attendance has increased 50 percent over the last five years to more than 26,000 at CEDIA 2005. The trade show has spilled out of the exhibit hall, into the RCA Dome where the Colts play, and even into neighboring hotels. Lodging all attendees conveniently has become difficult, so for at least the next three years CEDIA EXPO will move to Denver.
Logistics and sentiment aside, this means the home automation and home theater market is thriving. While CEDIA isn't just focused on residential installation, that's clearly the sector driving the show forward, and higher-quality, more affordable video products that provide a theater-like visual experience in the home are a big reason why.
This sector's technology is growing too. Larger screen sizes have been the story over the last couple of years, but this year was more about growth in native resolution. Several manufacturers introduced native 1920×1080 displays, and although 720p is still the native resolution for the majority of products, 1080p has arrived in a big way — starting with two show highlights from Sony and JVC.
Of course, neither Sony nor JVC is new to native 1080, but each generated plenty of excitement with new offerings. From Sony came the new VPL-VW100 front projector based on Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD — Sony's version of LCoS), which offers full 1080p resolution via a three-chip color technology for less than $10,000. High resolution has always been one of the strengths of LCoS/SXRD, and the VW100 uses a chipset that's only 0.61in. diagonally. That's the same chip that's behind Sony's recently announced 50in. and 60in. Grand WEGA rear-projection televisions.
JVC, the leading LCoS proponent over the last few years, went in the other direction. With multiple native 1080 front projectors in the product line already, JVC announced its new line of DesignerPro rear-projections TVs with native 1080p resolution. A 56in. (HD-56FH96), a 61in. (HD-61FH96), and a 70in. (HD-70FH96) model were all expected to ship last month with costs ranging from $4,000 to $6,000.
A year ago it seemed like LCoS might not have a future (Intel, Philips, and Hitachi all abandoned LCoS programs), but this year the technology was front and center. In addition to Sony and JVC, Brillian introduced a new 65in. 6590iFB rear-projection TV that will be available by the end of the year for an expected MSRP of $7,999.
LG Electronics went even bigger with a new 71in. (71SA1D) RPTV — the company's first LCoS product. It will be digital cable-ready, eliminating the need for a separate cable box, for an expected MSRP of $8,500. (At CEDIA LG also showed two plasmas, a 50in. and a 60in. model that featured built-in DVR record and playback functionality, although neither had native 1080 resolution.) LG's newer LCD flat-panel TV, the 55in. 55LP1D, also boasts 1920×1080p native resolution.
Sharp's biggest LCD-panel TV, the 65in. LC-65D90U that was announced earlier this year, will be available this fall. It features a native 1080p resolution, a built-in HD tuner, and a CableCard slot. The MSRP will be $20,999.99.
Epson continued the 1080p march from a hotel suite rather than the actual show floor. It unveiled a new line of CrystalPro LCD-based RPTVs with a relatively slim 14in. depth. A 55in. TV and a 65in. TV, both with native 1920×1080 resolution, will be available in January, although prices have yet to be set.
DLP CHIPSET ON THE FOREFRONT
Not to be outdone, Texas Instruments' latest Digital Light Processing (DLP) chipset has now achieved 1920×1080p resolution, and the first products to integrate the technology were on display at CEDIA. Toshiba had two 56in. DLP RPTVs that both used TI's latest xHD4 1920×1080p chipset: a TheaterWide model and the premium Cinema series model, which includes a home network connection option to play audio and picture files directly from a networked PC. Mitsubishi's new 62in. and 73in. DLP TVs all feature 1920×1080p resolution and built-in hard drive storage for DVR recording and playback. The base models in each size include 160GB storage, while the higher-end models include 250GB.
Samsung has several 1080p DLP-TVs, although most use TI's slightly older 960×1080 chipset that does not yield the full horizontal resolution. Samsung's newest 56in. 88 series model, however, does use TI's latest 1920×1080 chipset and is currently available for $5,199.
Optoma debuted a new BigVizion series of installation-oriented RPTVs. With 80in. and 100in. models, BigVizion offers some of the largest screen sizes available for home theater (the largest outside of Samsung's 102in. hard-to-get and very expensive plasma). With a depth of only 30in., Optoma's large and front-accessible screens are appropriate for high-end residential, corporate, and commercial installations.
While 1080p was the big story at CEDIA, high resolution is far from the only factor in producing a high-quality image. For example, it's very encouraging that several manufacturers have turned to Silicon Optix's Realta image processing chip to improve picture quality, even if it is a more expensive solution than others. Some of the products incorporating the new Realta chip include NEC's premium plasmas; Yamaha's DPX-1300 front projector; 3M's videowalls; Digital Projection's, Lumagen's, and Calibre's dedicated scaler/improcessors; and Runco's Vivix-enabled displays.
The dog of CEDIA, on the other hand, were the ridiculous contrast ratio numbers — like 7000:1, 15,000:1, even 20,000:1 — that have little to do with actually quality. Indeed, with so many companies now trying to “enhance” black level in the interest of marketing-friendly high contrast numbers, increasingly we're seeing overly saturated images. This trend is simply pointed in the wrong direction. The oversaturated images may grab naïve eyes in TV superstores, but they don't represent true color.
Thankfully, a couple of companies — Panasonic and Hitachi — introduced some interesting technology for dynamic automatic iris shift that can achieve truer blacks without blowing out the colors.
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