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CES 2008 News: Home Entertainment

OLEDs, Ultra-thin TVs, All-in-one PCs and Wireless Streaming

My CES 2008 news update comes in the following sections: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies. To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here. Details of dates, pricing and specifications described below are given from the best information available at the time of writing and may change at any time at each manufacturer’s discretion.

All-in-one PCs

Dell and Gateway brought their recently all-in-one releases to CES. Both have similar names and compete with the same leader in the class – Apple’s smart-looking new iMac.

Gateway’s One (above) looks like a cross between the iMac and the prototype LimePC. Meanwhile Dell (below) has given its XPS One a more individual, and fussier, look with screen mounted side speakers and ultra-cool vibration feedback button which light up when you move your hand towards them. Both Ones are based around Vista with a blaster supplied for controlling Media Center.
All three models have decent amounts of Intel Core 2 Duo power to handle tough multimedia applications. However out of the box these are not hardcore gaming machines. The graphics implementations on all three are aimed more at home video/photo usage than complex in-game graphics rendering. Gamers would do better to choose other models in Dell and Gateway’s ranges. It will be interesting to see if this sector is successful in 2008. The iMac had a bumpy ride last year and now there are suddenly more players looking to share this slice of the pie. Design-wise it’s probably Dell first, then Apple with Gateway last. That’s not to say the iMac or Gateway One are doing anything wrong. However neither approaches Dell’s superb design details such as the minuscule motors under its screen buttons, stunning wireless keyboard and glow-in-the-dark features which light only when you reach for them. This is the One to watch.

Video

Organic LEDs stole the TV show at CES, with Sony’s (below) and Samsung’s stunning models lighting up their stands. In a one-on-one comparison I can say first hand that OLED screens make most current LCD images look ordinary without the need for complex image assessment technology. Sony’s OLED screen was so vivid it was as if the screen border was a window frame.

Current LED screens work by controlling pixel coloration whilst a backlight provides illumination. This means it is difficult to produce true black as the backlight is always present. When controlling one pixel is also difficult to stop surrounding pixels being lit, which is why current LEDs can suffer from blurring/tracing effects with fast action sequences.

OLED screens work by lighting up individual pixels, there is no fluorescent backlight. So colors are highly vivid and black is reproduced amazingly well. Contrast and brightness are also superb. They are also exceptionally thin.
Sony are currently selling a hyper-thin eleven inch OLED screen for $2,500 and Samsung will be releasing a digital camera with an OLED viewing screen later this year. The other big news was the ever-dieting TV panel, with several manufacturers showing off screens under two inches deep. Hitachi’s range (below), which carried the branding ‘1.5 is here’ (referring to panel depth) is due to hit stores in Q1 (32 inch) and Q2 (37 and 42 inch) this year. LG (below), Sharp, Samsung and Sony also carried ultra-thin panels on their stands. Samsung also showed a 3D-ready plasma display, although unfortunately we still needed to wear the funny glasses to see the images jumping out!

Panasonic had an amazing 150 inch high definition plasma screen on display (see top), which was awesome.

Wireless HDMI devices also made an appearance, with Hitachi demonstrating one of their 1.5 inch TVs receiving a signal over the airwaves. LG showed its useful dual format HD-DVD & Blu-ray player on their stand. This could be the best bet for wary consumers waiting for the format war to be played out (although Blu-ray seems to be emerging as the pick of many studios).

Audio

Several manufacturers showed their take on the single box home theater speaker solution, similar to Yamaha’s existing product. Both Samsung and Philips had an offering with a name derivation on ‘sound bar’, whilst a similar looking unit was on display on Sony’s stand.

These speakers typically need a fairly well structured room and a subwoofer to deliver best performance. I tested the Yamaha YSP-800 a while back, which made a brave attempt but struggled to deliver a solid surround picture as the room was an odd shape.

Wireless Media Streaming

Klegg showed two wireless media streamers, one of which can act as a DVR with a cable TV input. The devices can stream audio and video files, including Windows Media Center format. They will ship with an empty drive bay leaving the buyer to pick their desired hard drive capacity and fit in place with the built-in Serial ATA connector. Once attached to the network, computers see the devices as local drives. Both models have extensive connectivity options. The DVR version is likely to cost around $299 and will be available later this year. The non-DVR capable Media Share Mega model should be $199 and in stores imminently.

Neil Berman

http://www.neilberman.com/

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Jan 14, 2008 - Posted by | Apple | , , ,

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