What CES 2010 did for...home cinema
CES isn't CES unless you find yourself standing in front of the world's biggest TV. Fortunately, Panasonic provided the honours this year with a 152-inch 3D plasma display - probably one for the kitchen counter. Thankfully, it was only LG who decided to play for the thinnest panel this time around, but more on that later.
Before the halls even opened though, we had word that Skype had struck a deal with both the AV makers above to have support for video calls on our TVs. So, provided you pick yourself up a webcam, something with VieraCast or NetCast and it's one of this year's models, then you can talk to your distant relatives in massive HD. Once we got a closer inspection during the Wednesday press conferences and on the show floor, it became pretty clear that something all the screens had, pretty much as standard now, was a wireless internet connection and often wireless HD if they didn't have them already.
3D was the unsurprising buzzword of the show with all but one of the major players cashing in on what the consensus believes is the next big thing. Beyond that it was all about digital content - whether streamed from your computer or over the Internet - and the good news is that if your set couldn't do it already then there are now boxes like those from Netgear and the Popbox that will on the relative cheap.
Most people chose top-end LED panels for their 3D ready offerings, LG also came up with a single lens projector to do the same trick too and it was probably Sony who served up the biggest one out of left field with the inclusion of Face Recognition in its line of new monolithic-looking Bravias. But the real movers and shakers for us were...
Star of the Show: Toshiba Cell TV
- Display and box combo
- 55/65 inches, LED, 3D, 9M:1 contrast
- 1TB, BD-player, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wireless HD, 3D upscaling
- Autumn 2010 US-only
There were two or three standout announcements in the normally quite pedestrian AV world this year, but the pick of the crop has to be the Toshiba Cell TV system. What's so striking about it is that it's absolutely complete. It's a total home cinema solution and one that would make anyone tech-minded or otherwise drool until their salivary glands shrivelled up and died.
The Cell engine processor in the screen runs at lightening speeds, the LED backlit panel is localised to 512 individually controlled areas and, like everything else at CES 2010, it's also 3D ready. It's probably the box that really does it though. First up, it sends wireless HD signals up to the screen, so there's no cables to mess with. Second, it networks with your entire home, computers and the rest of the Internet over Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Third, it supports 3D playback over Blu-ray and will upscale 2D programs to 3D as well.
On top of that, there's a 1TB HDD you can record from anywhere onto, it plays back every file type you can think of, it's DLNA-enabled and it runs Toshiba's Net TV solution too. You also get access to HD movies in NetFlix and Cinema Now, and there's also Pandora music access. The only issue is that it's US only for now. Doubtless we'll see it once some online partners can be established in the UK and Europe. So, does anyone out there not want one of these?
Future Flier: Sling Monitor 150
Sling Media has a history of impressing us with AV ideas at CES and it was this year's secondary screen concept that caught our eye. It's essentially a monitor that receives wireless HD signals so you can watch content on it streamed from other TVs and set ups about the house. So that's live TV content, content stored on a recorder, content playing on an optical disk and even content on you network. What's more, you can also use the Sling Monitor 150 to set recordings and other preferences on your primary units as well. It's not for direct sale, but the idea is that the unit inside the screen that makes it all possible will be bought by other screen manufacturers to include in their sets. Fingers crossed.
Top of the Flops: Sharp's extra pixel
It's slightly unfair because, actually, Sharp's QuadPixel technology addition to its LCD range sounds like quite a good idea. There's now a yellow pixel along with the RGB trio which is supposed to lift the colour palate to 1 trillion rather than just the plain, old 1 billion. Let's ignore the fact that you're supposed to be able to make all the colours with red, green and blue anyway and, while we're at it, let it slide that the human eye probably isn't good enough to notice anyway. The real trouble is that against the dramatic background of every other AV manufacturer producing 3D TVs and all the exciting new connected content technologies that were announced at CES 2010, what Sharp came up with was rather hard to notice.
The Best of the Rest
Of all the networked set top boxes on show in Vegas, it was the D-Link Boxee Box that most captured our hearts. For those that won't be able to afford the Toshiba Cell TV, the Boxee Box offers part of the equation at least. For under $200 you get a 802.11n Wi-Fi unit with support for just about every kinds of audio and video file, bags of web vids and access to services like Pandora and Last.fm as well as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa and Netflix.
LG INFINIA TVs
On another day the astonishingly thin LG INFINIA series of 3D LED TVs would have been the pick of the crop. The idea from the Korean company was to prove that you don't have to sacrfice performance for style and just to prove the point there's NetCast access and Skype integration thrown into them as well. Lovely looking sets that we're really looking forward to reviewing.
Panasonic's 3D Plasma
If you can brush aside Panasonic's pontifications on the matter, you realise that the 600Hz, THX certified, Wi-Fi, DLNA, 1080p 3D plasma TVs the company has launched are actually pretty damn special. Combine that with the deal that's been struck with DirecTV for two 24/7 3D channels and you've got a very tasty set up indeed. Just a shame that Panasonic's too tight to include more than one free pair of 3D glasses.
So which was your favourite and what will you be holding out for from CES 2010? Let us know in the comments.