In a move intended to bring clarity to the market, the Consumer Electronics Association has selected "Ultra High-Definition or Ultra HD" as the official name for TVs with "4K" resolution capability. While "UltraHD" a nicer ring to it than "4KTV," it may be a bit of a misnomer -- even higher resolution displays than 4K will eventually be coming down the pike.
That, and a general predisposition toward going its own proprietary way, is why Sony has decided to forego the new nomenclature and continue to call its next-generation TVs "4K." The company says it doesn't want confusion with the even higher resolution displays that will eventually supplant even 4K, which is the name Sony will use for this technology from now on.
UltraHD, with 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels of height, has four times the resolution of today's top-end 1080p HDTVs. The first 4K products began shipping in earnest early this year. Between 4K resolution and the new OLED display technology just coming to market, the TV industry is hoping that high-end, high-performance video is the answer to the industry's financial woes.
Will consumers bite? Hard to say in the age of the knockoff economy, where this morning's breakthrough innovation is this evening's cut-rate offering. Stay tuned for more information and hands-on reviews of this exciting but nascent technology.
Just when you thought HDTV couldn't get any better or any cheaper, you find out that it can get a lot better and a lot less cheap. The next big thing in video is 4k, which has quadruple the resolution of today's best 1080p TVs. The first two models on to the US market, from Sony and LG, will be here for the holidays.
That's the good news. The bad news is that both of them will cost as much as an automobile. The other good news (if you love this stuff) is that at 84 inches, both of them are as wide as an automobile. The other bad news is that so far there's virtually no 4k content, though that could change fast.
I'm looking forward to spending some time with these monster sets, particularly since opinion is already so divided on 4k. Could true digital cinema quality in your home rejuvenate the declining TV business? Or is it just a marketing ploy that may make sense one day, but doesn't now?
We'll find out soon.
There are a lot of great A/V receivers out there, but once you get to a certain level of sophistication and price, your eyes and ears begin to glaze over. The features can be so complex they're only useful to a pro installer or extreme enthusiast, and the sound, plus or minus, doesn't really differ so much, brand to brand.
Rotel's latest A/V receiver, the RSX 1562, takes a nervy approach toward simplicity (read: fewer bells and whistles) and a relatively novel amplifier technology that will really turn your head. This receiver produces tremendous sonic detail and punch, especially at lower volumes. It's almost like a new kind of sound, and in a conventional listening space, with conventional speakers, can really be a deal-maker.
This was my first extended experience with these new(ish) Class D amplifiers and I was duly impressed. It's a nascent technology that's already good and is going to get even better. You can read a full hands-on review of the Rotel RSX 1562 here.
With streamed media being so central to today's video landscape, you've got to look at your Wi-Fi router as another source component, just like your disc player or cable box. Anyone who's endured an interrupted video stream, sat through endless re-buffering or had to abort a movie altogether knows how crucial Wi-Fi is to the audio-video chain.
Would a better Wi-Fi router change the streaming experience? And if not, can anything else be done? I wanted to find out, so I took at look at one of the state-of-the-art models and put it through its paces to see how much of a role the Wi-Fi router really plays in your streaming experience. Check out the hands-on review of the Linksys E4200 here.
Monster, with no small help from Dr. Dre, changed the headphone game in 2008 with the now-ubiquitous Beats. Four years later, there are hundreds of me-too wannabes hawking thousands of headphones -- the new speakers -- mostly through style, name recognition, and in some cases, even good sound.
Monster is one of the prime perpetrators, with dozens of models that are heavy on design and logos that you've seen everywhere. The difference is that Monster is a technology company that happens to do great marketing, as opposed to a marketing company that sees technology as an afterthought. I took a listen to a good mid-line example in the N-Ergy earphones, which are endorsed by Nick Cannon. I've never watched his show, but you can read my impression of his headphones here.
Ever try listening to a big-sounding Hollywood blockbuster through headphones? Not very satisfying compared to the real thing, is it? Dolby Laboratories didn't think so either, so their resident geniuses have come up with a new variant of their theater sound called Dolby Digital Plus.
The idea here is to transpose the full-range, multi-channel audio experience you get from a movie theater to the personal confines of a set of headphones or a small portable player, like the built-in speaker(s) from your phone or tablet.
There's a lot of digital and perceptual science going on in this new format. You can read the full story here...
Beset by heavy losses, shrinking workforces, crushing competition from China and Korea and an oversaturated consumer market, some of your favorite electronics brands are on the ropes. Or on the floor. Maybe even on the way out.
Sony and Panasonic have become partners, which is akin to Ali and Frazier putting their differences aside for a nice cup of tea. Sharp may end up exiting its consumer business altogether. Best Buy, the last remaining national electronics chain is trying to buy itself back from the public in an attempt to stay relevant. Onkyo was sold to a guitar maker. The list goes on...
All this points to an industry in deep flux. The winners are doing very well -- unfortunately, there just aren't many of them. Apple stock is at an all time high, and its recent win over Samsung in a patent dispute was a happy day in Cupertino. Makers of turntables are enjoying a renaissance, not that they're breaking down any doors at retail. Companies like Roku retooled themselves into relevancy; most people forget that they started out as a music server.
The electronics boneyard is littered with the remains of brands that used to rule the roost. At one time Westinghouse was a premium brand, now it's what you get at the warehouse club. Philips was once the Apple of the video world, now it's fighting for the same shelf space as Westinghouse. Names like JVC, RCA, Magnavox, Quasar and Zenith (among many others) are now absorbed by other companies, badged on faceless cheapie goods or defunct altogether.
Things are changing, and for most of these former giants, it's not for the better. Read the story here...
The TV delivery wars are heating up, and as if big cable companies like Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner didn't have enough headaches already, a new name has dipped its toes in the water -- none other than Google.
Google has deployed a fiber delivery service in Kansas City (the smaller one in KS, with the bigger one in MO to follow) that's up to 100 times faster than the broadband that most of us are used to. They've signed up a lot of big-name content providers, they've assembled a pretty impressive package of hardware and services, and while not cheap, their cost is in line with similar premium delivery services, like Verizon's FiOS.
Google has a long history of trying out ambitious projects that failed before going back to their bread and butter businesses of web search and ads. Will this initiative be their breakthrough? You can almost hear the Rolaids being chewed in competing boardrooms coast to coast.
The average household cable TV bill is now around $86 per month, and satellite charges can run even higher. That's more than a $1000 a year. With the rise of streamed programming, web access to popular shows and a seemingly infinite universe of free content on the Internet, people are cutting the cord and leaving cable and satellite in droves.
I recently tried out the Mohu Leaf, an indoor DTV antenna that delivers free over the air programming and frankly gave me a better picture than my cable carrier (who I happen to like). Between the antenna, my Roku media player, a sizeable disc collection and the apps built into my TV, I began to ask myself if cable TV is still worth the scratch.
I've decided that it is -- so far -- but I may be in the minority here. A lot of things will have to get better before free is really the way to go, like better broadband, better user interfaces and more pay-as-you-go options. But change is in the air, or rather over the air. Read the review to see how.
Sharp has hit the market with a line of huge Aquos LED TVs that go all the way up to a whopping 90 inch screen size. All this while being about 2 inches thick and compared to most anything else on this scale, competitively priced.
My hands-on review of the 70 inch LC-70LE847U model will give you the full impression, but in a nutshell, these Sharp TVs are a real paradigm shift. They give you the kind of theater-sized experience that was previously possible only with a custom installed front projection system (expensive) or one of the few remaining rear projection systems (not flat).
In some ways, it's better than either. You don't have to darken the room or give up any space. I haven't had this much fun with a TV in quite some time, I hope you'll enjoy the read!