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DLP looks forward to rear projection

Crave managed to interview a senior Texas Instruments bod at CES, checking out the latest on the company's DLP chipset and what it means for 2006's rear-projection TVs and home-cinema projectors

Try as we might to suck all the goodness out of CES 2006, there was simply too much great stuff to digest. So, back on UK soil and with interview notes dredged from the depths of our suitcase, we can now serve up another platter of delights that we'll be gorging on throughout 2006.

While rear-projection TVs might be shunned in favour of the sexier flat-screen variety, Texas Instruments' DLP stand was the most visually arresting of CES 2006, full of televisions too big to fit into any reasonable living room, and cinema screens showing life-sized American football matches. We crept behind the madness and the crowds to talk to the company's DLP products manager from Japan, Peter Van Kessel, and chewed the fat on all things 1080p, three-chip and rear-pro.

Blu-ray made 1080p high definition the talk of the show, and Texas Instruments added fuel to the fire by showing off its new 1080p 65-inch rear projection chipset. Van Kessel said we should expect to see TVs incorporating the technology from Toshiba, Samsung and HP (pictured). The catch is that 1080p is such a high-quality standard that it won't be widely available until the first Blu-ray players and Sony's PlayStation 3 arrive. As always, it's going to cost you to stay on the cutting edge of televisual cool.

As well as 1080p televisions, Van Kessel also promised that 2006 would see 1080p projectors arriving for $10,000 (£5,600). The first such model will arrive from Optoma, called the HD81, with the 1080p resolution enabling previously unseen levels of detail. This will present an interesting choice for the hardcore home-cinema enthusiast -- will they go for a three-chip 720p projector for around £8,000, or choose a higher-resolution model for slightly less? We'll see how it pans out later this year, when Marantz, Sharp and SIM2 also release 1080p DLP projectors. And if money's no object, we would expect InFocus or Sim2 to solve the problem with a three-chip, 1080p projector sometime this year.

All this talk of a new high-definition standard means that you'll be able to find a bargain on the older 720p technology. Texas Instruments promises that high-definition projectors based on DLP will arrive this year for under $2,000 (£1,100), but we were more interested in the new Toshiba TDP-ET20, which is only the third projector available to integrate a DVD player into the main chassis (the only other such model available in the UK is the Optoma MovieTime, reviewed here).

Crave grabbed a peek at this new take on the 'home cinema in a box' idea and was impressed with the results. As well as full Dolby Digital 5.1 support and a progressive-scan DVD player, the truly impressive feature of Toshiba's TDP-ET20 is its throw distance. The projector can create a 2m image from only 1m away from the screen, which is perfect for people with small living rooms. We'll keep a close eye on this new projector as we can't wait until it wings its way over to the UK later in the year. -GC