From 3D to online streaming video, home theater has been a hot category at the last few CES shows, but this year there wasn't much new technology, with design innovations taking center stage. A few major trends stuck out to us over the course of the show.
Design innovations, especially from Samsung
The most impressive part of CES on the home theater side was Samsung's striking new form factors. The ultracompact Samsung BD-D7000 won the Best of CES award in the home theater category for shrinking down a Blu-ray player to the size of an external DVD drive. Samsung also got a home theater Best of CES nomination for the slick HW-D7000 AV receiver/Blu-ray player and Best of CES design nomination for the HT-D7100 cubelike HTIB. Aside from some high-end speakers from LG, we just didn't see the same kind of design innovations from other manufacturers.
Almost everyone has an app store
Samsung and Vizio were ahead of the game with their app stores last year, and now competitors such as LG and Panasonic have rolled out their own. Panasonic couldn't confirm if its new Viera Connect app store will come to its Blu-ray players this year, but we expect most major manufacturers will get onboard sooner or later.
2D-to-3D conversion is new for Blu-ray players
Another new feature we saw rolling out across most manufacturers' lines was 2D-to-3D conversion, which means the players can take standard 2D movies and automatically convert them to 3D. We haven't been fans of "converted" 3D in general and most 3D TVs already have this feature, so we're not that excited about this upgrade. Maybe we'll change our minds when we actually try the products.
AirPlay-compatible products are coming
Apple's new streaming audio platform was launched late in 2010, but we already saw a couple of compatible products at CES, including B&W's Zeppelin Air. We expect to see a lot more AirPlay-compatible products in 2011.
More portable Blu-ray players
Panasonic had been the only company making portable Blu-ray players for two years running, but now it has competition from Sony and LG. We still think this will be a relatively niche product category, but it will be more mainstream as prices fall and more people get onboard with Blu-ray.
Aside from some unannounced Samsung products (that had no real product information), there was essentially no Google TV news at the show, as some suspected. We expect to see more Google TV products and software updates throughout 2011, but there wasn't anything at CES.