Bose VideoWave TV hands-on
When Marc Jourlait, vice president and general manager of Bose Europe, announced that his company was about to reveal "what we believe is a game-changing new concept in home entertainment", it started tongues wagging and side bets to be placed among the UK's press.
All manner of of devices, content delivery services and weird and wonderful innovations were guessed at, including the concept of a Bose-branded Scrabble-playing monkey. However, even the unveiling of a word game-fancying simian would've been less surprising than the idea that Bose was moving into the TV market.
It's rare to render a room of tech journalists speechless, but it did. Bose just doesn't make TVs.
But, after playing with the 46-inch VideoWave and its separate media box, it actually makes for a good fit in the American audio specialist's range.
To start with, the VideoWave should not be considered a television as such. Not only does it lack a tuner, so is technically just a screen, it sports a standard CCFL-backlit LCD panel, rather than the LED-lit equivalent so popular with major telly manufacturers these days.
Instead, Bose's innovative device should be seen as an all-in-one sound system that just so happens to have a screen. Therefore, it's uniqueness, and major selling point, comes from the speaker array crammed into the belly of the beast. It is not a rival for the Panasonics or Samsungs out there. And while the price point of £6,000 may put it on a par with Bang & Olufsen and Loewe, neither brand has anything quite like it.
From the side, it's no looker. Indeed, we've seen a smaller footprint in the dirt outside a clown's caravan. But that's because of the six subwoofer drivers, "M" WaveGuide, seven mid-range drivers, and Phase Guide high frequency speaker. There's some serious air being pushed out of this monster, and a thin waistline just couldn't accomodate it.
That will immediately put some people off. The craze for superslim screens continues apace, and this is not designed for them. It's most likely to appeal to those who want robust audio performance, but don't have the space for a 5.1 system. Certainly, it is capable of a soundstage - thanks to bouncing off tables, backwalls, sidewalls and anywhere else within reach - that's beefier than licking the side of a cow.
It's definitely at its best when the volume control is raked up a notch, and that, in itself, features another innovation for the company: Bose Click Pad.
Along with the VideoWave, the manufacturer has taken another of Marc Jourlait's adages to heart: "Make home cinema and content delivery in the home simpler," he says. "Ease of set up and ease of operation; these are what consumers have asked for". And the Click Pad certainly does that.
At present, the stripped down remote control only works with the VideoWave. It has simple buttons for volume, channel changing, on/off, that sort of thing. However, there's also a touch sensitive panel just above centre which brings up an onscreen menu when you lightly brush it.
Depending where you put your finger or thumb, the corresponding section of the menu lights up. Click the centre button and you've performed that action. It's staggeringly simple to use, yet we found that every possible thing we'd want immediate access to was there for us within seconds. A lot of research has gone into the Click Pad, and it shows.
We also noticed other areas of the screen to be simplified beyond what normal manufacturers would offer. To start with, the set comes with the Bose's proprietary Adaptiq auto calibration system. Wall-mount or put it on a stand, switch in on and the software will come up with the most suitable audio configuration for your surrounds, so that you don't have to. Also, there seems to only be two picture modes, for light and dark room ambience. That's it.
There's no denying that the VideoWave, with its overly simple feature-set, Unify control console, iPod dock, and Click Pad remote control, is an esoteric product, and its £6,000 price tag will marginalise adoption, but Bose should, at the very least, be applauded for attempting something new.
We still reckon the next launch will be a lemur with its own Boggle set, though.
Weird but wonderful? Let us know your opinion in the comments below...