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New 2006 TVs Slim Down

Jun 5, 2006 8:00 AM


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While only 17 percent of consumers currently own a flat-panel TV, nearly half (49 percent) say their next TV will be thin, according to a study by the Consumer Electronics Association. The latest round of 2006 product introductions indicates TV makers have gotten the message that thin is in.

Hitachi execs last week told journalists at its new product walkthrough in New York that it will phase out CRT TVs at the end of the year. Michael Nadasi, product-training manager for Hitachi, cited high costs for tubes, parts, and shipping along with consumers’ overwhelming preference for flat-panel TV as factors.

Highlighting Hitachi’s flat-panel lineup is 55in. and 42in. plasma TVs in the high-end Director’s Series. Both models incorporate RS-232 and IEEE 1394 interfaces, three HDMI inputs, and three component video jacks. The 42in. model is the first to incorporate 1080 lines of vertical resolution, using a 1080i design. Both sets incorporate CableCard and Hitachi’s separate day and night memory settings for each source. A 55in. plasma with 1080p resolution is slated for 2007.

On the LCD front, Hitachi showed 32in. and 37in. Director Series models. Produced at Hitachi’s IPS Alpha factory, a joint venture with Toshiba and Panasonic, the TVs pack a new 120Hz double refresh drive and 16-bit video processing that are said to improve motion response time, black level, and viewing angle. The TVs pack three HDMI and three component video inputs, auto link input sensor, and discrete IR codes.

At its annual May line show, held in Bonita Springs, Fla., Toshiba launched a new premium LCD brand dubbed REGZA. The high-end line banks on the company’s new 12-bit digital video processing technology called PixelPure Hi-Bit, and a proprietary Toshiba-sourced CineSpeed LCD panel. Toshiba says the 12-bit processor offers 4,096 levels of gradation resulting in smoother images, and reduced banding in images. The CineSpeed panel boasts an 8ms response speed, which the company says is 33 percent faster than other panels, resulting in fewer motion artifacts. REGZA models also claim a 176-degree viewing angle, pitting LCD specs closer to their plasma counterparts.

The REGZA line includes 12 widescreen models, starting at 26in. and topping out at 47in. The flagship 47in. Cinema Series REGZA XHD TV, due in August, is followed by the 42in. 42LX196 (July). Both models offer 1080p resolution but don’t include 1080p inputs.

The REGZA line also includes three combination models with built-in DVD players. The 26in. and 32in. models will ship this month, and the 37in. model hits stores in July.

For the kitchen, Toshiba also took the wraps off a 20in. LCD TV designed to match stainless steel kitchen appliances. Called Real Steel, the $799 20in. TV (July) is housed in a stainless steel cabinet.

For the custom market, Toshiba showed no-tuner LCD monitors in 26in., 32in., and 37in. screen sizes. The 32in. and 37in. monitors ship in July and the 26in. model will be available in August.

Taking a cautious approach on its HD-DVD players, Toshiba execs said the company sold out of initial shipments of its two HD-DVD players and is planning a major rollout of product for the holiday season. Marketing vice president Jodi Sally told journalists the company expects 200 movie titles to be in the market by Christmas.

At Samsung’s May 2006 product line show in New York, the company showed 42in., 50in. and 63in. HD plasma TVs featuring FilterBright, an anti-glare technology designed to improve viewing in brightly lit rooms. The filter absorbs external light and transmits internal light, which is said to improve contrast as well. All models are 720p, with 1080p plasma models on the drawing board for 2007. According to senior manager Bill Dickey, 1080p sets are slower to come to market than LCDs because of the extra engineering involved to make pixels smaller, while delivering the same amount of brightness without generating more heat.

Although Samsung showed ED models in its TV lineup for national distribution, Dickey said that the diminishing delta (now $600) between the cost of HD and ED means the days of EDTV are numbered. “We hope to be out of it by the end of the year,” he says.

In LCD, Samsung now covers 23in., 26in., 32in., 40in., and 46in. screen sizes with a 19in. model slated for later in the year. The latest series from Samsung Gen 7 plant, the high-end 51 and 52 series are available in piano black and white pearl, respectively. The 32in. and 40in. TVs feature a manual swivel and two HDMI connectors. The high-end models also include a game mode, developed in conjunction with Microsoft engineers, that enhances dark scenes, reduces lag time, sharpens the picture, and enhances bass. An MP3 player feature enables users to connect a special Samsung bidirectional cable for new Samsung Yepp players and Apple iPods via the RS-232 port.

Samsung showed a first in DLP TV: a 56in. 1080p model that creates light with LEDs rather than a lamp and color wheel. According to senior marketing manager Dan Schinasi, the LCDs hold their brightness for the duration of their life (given as 20,000 hours) rather than degrading over time. Schinasi says next year LED types will represent 25 percent of Samsung’s DLP line. The company also showed a 46in. Slim DLP model as a low-cost alternative to plasma. Measuring 10.6in. deep, the sub-$2000 set is scheduled to ship in September. Expect to see Samsung DLPs pack Slim and LED features in coming years.



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