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CES 2010 wrap-up: home theater

CNET wraps up all the most important home theater news and trends at CES 2010.

3D was the big story at CES 2010, but LG's BD590 was the best home theater product we saw.
3D was the big story at CES 2010, but LG's BD590 was the best home theater product we saw. LG

LAS VEGAS--For the past few years, Blu-ray has been at the center of CES home theater news and 2010 was no different. Whether its 3D, portable players, streaming media, HTIBs or even AV receiver/Blu-ray combos, Blu-ray seemed to play a part in nearly every aspect of the home theater gadgets announced at the show this year. Here's a quick summary of the major trends we saw.

Panasonic DMP-BDT350
Panasonic DMP-BDT350

3D is coming, like it or not
3D was the biggest story at CES 2010, and four manufacturers announced 3D Blu-ray players: Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, and Toshiba. We liked the Panasonic DMP-BD350T the best out of the bunch (and it was a Best of CES nominee in the home theater category), as its two HDMI outputs make it easier to integrate with existing AV receivers.

But the bad news is even if you invest in Panasonic's 3D Blu-ray player, there probably won't be many Blu-ray movies released in 2010, you'll need a new HDTV, and you still need to wear 3D glasses. All those reasons, plus our lack of hands-on testing with the new 3D format, kept us from choosing the DMP-BD350T as our home theater Best of CES pick.

For a more in-depth look at 3D Blu-ray news, check out our 3D Blu-ray roundup.

Blu-ray is here to stay
Looking back at our CES 2009 home video wrap-up, it surprising to see that we were happy to see that most of the players were Profile 2.0-compliant. Blu-ray made huge strides in 2009, ditching its niche reputation and going mainstream, and at CES 2010 the technology seemed pedestrian, rather than cutting edge.

For standalone players, we saw more players (LG BD570, Samsung BD-C6500, Sony BDP-S570, Toshiba BDX-2700) with built-in Wi-Fi, with some players (Panasonic DMP-BD85 and Samsung BD-C5500) still requiring a dongle. Streaming media services are now widely available on all major manufacturers Blu-ray players, and most importantly, Netflix is now on both Sony and Panasonic products. Our favorite home theater product of the show was LG's BD590, which included all the functionality we loved on last year's BD390, plus a built-in hard drive for ripping CDs. Sure, it's not quite as cool as 3D, but it'll be a much useful product in 2010.

Panasonic showed its second-gen portable Blu-ray players.
Panasonic showed its 2nd-gen portable Blu-ray players.

Blu-ray home theater systems are no longer a step-up--we didn't see any DVD-based home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems announced this year. LG's Blu-ray HTIBs looked most the interesting from the spec sheet, with built-in Wi-Fi and HMDI connectivity--plus the company showed a slick soundbar with a slot-loading Blu-ray player built-in.

Panasonic rolled out second-gen portable Blu-ray players with larger screens and better battery life, and Denon showed an AV receiver with a built-in Blu-ray player--we're still not sure who that's for. The one Blu-ray product that still yet-to-be-seen? Blu-ray recorders.

You can check out each manufacturers new Blu-ray products in our slideshows: Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG.

Streaming video content is the future--or is it already here?
Many Blu-ray naysayers thought streaming video would beat the high-def disc format out, but so far it looks like the opposite has happened; part of Blu-ray's popularity is that so many of the players offer streaming media (like Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, Vudu, YouTube) in the same box.

Still, we haven't seen the cable box-killer yet, although we're getting close. The D-Link Boxee Box is one of the best we've seen, with its mix of streaming media services, file format compatibly, and slick interface winning us over to give it a Best of CES nomination in home theater category. If it can really deliver its "secret" ability to access Hulu, it could be the box we've been looking for. Syabas Popbox HD isn't far behind Boxee, offering much of the same functionality at a lower price.

See all CES 2010 home theater posts