CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW: CNET editors cover the Next Big Thing
By David Carnoy
(January 11, 2005)
Maybe I'm jaded, but I gotta say, this year's Consumer Electronics Show was a bit disappointing. Bill Gates mentioned the Xbox Next only in passing during his keynote speech, and nothing all that mind-blowing appeared on the home-theater front except for larger LCD and plasma TVs and thinner-tube HDTVs. Alas, the much anticipated battle of next-gen, high-def DVD formats--HD-DVD and Blu-ray--didn't really materialize. They just tussled a little, with Toshiba announcing it would ship a $1,000 HD-DVD player by Christmas, while several Blu-ray Consortium manufacturers showed "concept" Blu-ray player/recorders without saying when they'd be available or how much they'd cost.
As expected, one of the bigger stories turned out to be higher-quality, higher-resolution mainstream TVs that can finally show or, resolve, the full resolution of HDTV. Thus, 1080p high-definition displays littered the show floor--you couldn't escape them. In fact, we picked the 67-inch Samsung HLR6768W DLP 1080p model as our Next Big Thing, essentially the best of show. The only problem was that the source material (that loop of video they had playing on the screen) wasn't quite good enough to do the new sets justice. The picture looked good, but so did the high-def images on 720p displays. We'll just have to get a couple of 1080p sets into our Labs for our golden-eyed editors to stare down, one pixel at a time.
Audio hit a flat note. And I mean that literally. Not surprisingly, companies are trying to tap into the whole flat-panel craze with wall-mountable speakers that actually sound good. Yamaha had one of the more interesting speakers: a single, slim speaker that simulates surround sound (the YSP-1) and costs $1,500. The folks at Yamaha had it mounted directly beneath a plasma, so it appeared to be attached to the TV. No subwoofer is included in the base price but you can--and probably should--add one.
As usual, the show floor was overwhelmingly crowded, even by New York City standards. But the biggest crowds congregated around Samsung's 102-inch and 80-inch plasma sets and Sharp's 65-inch LCD TV. Many gawked longingly at them while others took pictures as if they were tourist attractions or great works of art--which, in a way, they were. Jaded as I am, standing before an 80-inch plasma can be a religious experience, and I myself was deeply moved for a brief moment--until I remembered that I had another product blurb to write.
To clarify, the 102-incher is 102 inches (diagonally) and not 108 or 122, as a couple of people suggested to me outside CNET's trailer-cum-office space in the convention center parking lot ("Dude, have you seen that 122-inch plasma?"). The Samsung seemed to grow as the day got longer and more CNET editors entered the trailer like so many clowns cramming into a Volkswagen Beetle. I also had to remind folks that the 102-inch plasma was not a production model, but the other two were and will be available later this year.
As for the rest of the stuff, well, there was more evolution than revolution and a lot of integration. In fact, we gave our Next Big Thing Award in this category to Humax's LT2650, a 26-inch LCD TV with a built-in TiVo DVR/DVD recorder. But we could just as easily have given it to the 60-inch LG plasma with a built-in HD DVR or the Philips 50-inch LCD with optional Wi-Fi that allows you to stream music and images directly to your set.
In a nutshell, the home-theater world is increasingly becoming a space-conscious place. Booth to booth, the message came across loud and clear: less is more, and bigger is better.
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