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The annual CEA Line Show event in New York City seems to be gaining in popularity, although the pickings were slim again this year.  Still, this event, coupled with Mitsubishi’s press showcase on 18th Street and Pepcomm’s evening Digital Experience tabletop show, held later that evening, gave me a good excuse to make a trip to the Big Apple.

My first stop was at DriveIn24 Studios, where Mits had set up a very nice dealer and press display of their latest LCD and DLP HDTV sets. As most readers know, Mitsubishi is the lone hold-out in rear-projection TV, a product category that’s nearly extinct thanks to super-low prices on big plasma and LCD TVs, along with the general public’s obsession with super-thin TV profiles and their disinterest in replacing lamps.

Still, Mits has claimed to sell in excess of half a million RPTVs every year (a number I have some doubts about) and is hanging in there as the remaining ‘niche’ player in the category. And they had a few new products to brag about, including two upgraded 82-inch DLP Rear-pro sets (WD-82738 and WD-82838), a larger, less-expensive Laser DLP product (the 75-inch L75-A91, MSRP $5,999), and a 3D Starter Pack (Model 3DC-1000, $399).

Now, THAT is some serious 3D TV viewing!

This starter kit is designed to retrofit older Mitsubishi DLP TVs for active shutter 3D and contains two pairs of active shutter 3D eyewear, a 3D emitter, a 3D adapter with remote control, an HDMI cable, and also features a Disney 3D showcase Blu-ray disc with 3D trailers of A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland, and Toy Story 3. The 3D adapter is also available separately for $99.

Mitsubishi also showed off a new line of six Unisen LCD TVs (40, 46, and 55-inch) with their unique 18-speaker soundbar. Paired with a separate woofer, this audio system does provide some amazingly good surround-sound effects, and it’s also found in their ten rear pro models. The soundbar can be used by itself, or set up as the center speaker in a surround sound system (I liked the audio quality better in that mode).

The funny thing about the Mits line-up is that they’ve managed to survive some very turbulent times in the TV industry and maintain their distinct brand identity as a high-end product. (Too bad their dealers can’t pull that trick off; 62-year-old specialty retailer Ken Crane’s in southern California just announced they’re closing their doors for good this year.)

And Mits does make a high-quality product – I was quite taken with the 3D demos on that 82-inch behemoth in a darkened room, the best way to watch 3D content. They were a lot more impressive than the 3D stuff Sony showed at the Line Show (see my related post here). As for 3D on LCD TVs, Mits doesn’t think the technology is ready for prime time yet, due to crosstalk problems between LCD TVs and active shutter glasses.

Mitsubishi execs Max Wasinger (left) and Frank DeMartin (right) are all smiles as they show off their new 75-inch Laser Vue DLP RPTV...and continue to thrive in the rear-projection TV business.

Back at the Line Shows, I found a few items of interest. Envision Peripherals is a specialty brander of 19-inch, 26-inch, 32-inch, and 42-inch LCD TVs under the AOC name, and they had a demonstration of a 32-inch set that uses a standard flash memory stick as a DVR. This feature will work with any ATSC or QAM signal and writes the program to flash memory, allowing you to fast-forward, pause, rewind or skip through programs.

Currently, the minimum storage supported is 512 MB, while the maximum is 2 GB. (You’ll need about 9 GB per hour to record or shift HD programs and 3 GB per hour of SD programs.) So it’s an intriguing feature, but one which needs more work if it has any value. The literature mentioned that AOC is working on making 8GB flash drives compatible with their TVs.

Across the way, Vizio set up their booth to show a full range of consumer electronics products, including a new broadband WiFi router (XWH100, dual-band operation) and a wireless 5.1 surround sound system with sound bar for under-TV mounting (VHT510) and separate wireless subwoofer and rear speakers. Vizio also showed a passive 3D LCD TV prototype using alternate-line circular polarization, but it was plagued with purple-tinted ghost images from crosstalk. (Back to the drawing board!)

Vizio's 65-inch passive 3D TV made for an interesting concept demo, but had serious crosstalk problems.

As mentioned in my other post, Monster Cable is in the 3D glasses business. They’ve signed a deal to OEM active shutter glasses from Florida-based Bit Cauldron, and these glasses don’t use infrared (IR) signaling. Instead, they rely on the 802.15.4 RF (wireless) ZigBee protocol, which (as a sage company representative pointed out to me last January at CES) “…will still work even if you are standing in the next room!” (No comment…)

The advantage of an RF-based connection is immunity to interference from intense lamps, fluorescent lights, and momentary obstructions of the TV’s IR emitter. Best of all, these are universal (learning) active shutter glasses that will work with ANY 3D TV. (And they work a heck of a lot better than Sony’s own glasses with Bravia LCD TVs!) They’re not cheap at $170 a pair, though.

Need a pair of 'works anywhere' 3D glasses? Monster's got your number.

I wrapped the day up a visit to the Digital Experience gadget fest, where Logitech was showing a prototype of the Google TV set-top box. They couldn’t tell me anything about it or what it would cost (those details will be forthcoming in the fall), but I can tell you it has HDMI input and output connections, dual USB sockets, an Ethernet port, a SPDIF connection, and an external DC power plug. So far as I can tell, it has no provision for time-shifting or recording, although (as mentioned earlier) that could easily be done with flash memory sticks, which can be bought for about $20 apiece with 8 MB of capacity.

Across the way, TiVo had their Premiere DVRs out for inspection (they run on a Flash operating system) but no new updates to announce. They were intrigued, though, by Google’s attempt to get into the TV Guide business and what that means long-term for manufacturers of TVs and set-tops.

Here's the Logitech prototype Google TV box. Not much to look from the top, is there?

And here's a look at its connectors. Hmmm...HDMI inputs and outputs, eh?

Posted by Pete Putman, June 24, 2010 9:31 AM

About Pete Putman

Peter Putman is the president of ROAM Consulting L.L.C. His company provides training, marketing communications, and product testing/development services to manufacturers, dealers, and end-users of displays, display interfaces, and related products.

Pete edits and publishes HDTVexpert.com, a Web blog focused on digital TV, HDTV, and display technologies. He is also a columnist for Pro AV magazine, the leading trade publication for commercial AV systems integrators.