Hi-def revolution

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This year’s exhibition saw 1,212 exhibitors from 32 countries making the trip to Berlin, a 15% increase on last year. And like last year’s show, the biggest news stories centred around High Definition TV (HDTV) and in particular, the hi-def disc players, the first wave of which were introduced at last year’s show.
Hi-def revolution

While the prices of HDTVs are falling rapidly as the technology becomes more mainstream, the specifications are constantly improving. A full 1080p resolution, as displayed on Blu-ray discs and HD DVDs, is rapidly becoming standard, as is 100Hz processing. More and more products are able to show images at 24 fps (frames per second), the speed at which movies are shot and mastered for the cinema. HDMI-CEC systems, such as Panasonic’s Viera Link and Toshiba’s REGZA-Link, whereby users can control several compatible pieces of kit using one remote, and an onscreen menu are also becoming a common feature.

HD DVD

Toshiba took the opportunity to announce the launch of its two third generation HD DVD players – the HD-EP30 and HD-EP35. Both of the new decks offer 1080p playback at 24 frames per second (fps), and also feature the maker’s REGZA-Link function.

Olivier Van Wynendaele, deputy general manager, HD DVD, Toshiba Information Systems, commented: “It was under a year ago that we launched the first ever HD DVD player in Europe at what was considered to be a very competitive price point, and that has led to HD DVD capturing a majority share of the high-definition standalone player market. We are now delivering products with premium specifications that offer even greater value to the consumer and will continue to drive the adoption of the HD DVD format”.

Speaking at the European HD DVD Promotional Group’s press conference, co-chairman Ken Graffeo explained that the range of HD DVD disc titles is growing rapidly, with a total of 400 titles expected by the end of the year. Popular titles due for release include Heroes, and a remastered version of the original Star Trek series. The news that both Paramount and Dreamworks will now release content exclusively on HD DVD is also sure to help the format.

Blu-ray

The fortunes of HD DVD’s rival format also looked healthy at IFA, with several manufacturers upping their Blu-ray credentials. Sony introduced its first standalone Blu-ray decks, following the launch of the PS3 games console, which incorporates a Blu-ray drive, earlier this year. The affordable BDP-S300 is set to bring the format to a new audience, while the BDP-S500 offers a more high-end alternative.

Philips also joined in the Blu-ray race with its new BDP7100 player, while both Sharp and Loewe have also brought Blu-ray decks to the UK market for the first time.

The Blu-ray Disc Association reported that there are already over 300 titles available on its format.

One of the highlights of the show was Samsung’s BDUP5000 Duo Player (see products to watch), which supports both Blu-ray and HD DVD playback.

LG then followed this with the unveiling of its Super Blu dual-format player, which follows its earlier Super Multi Blue model though, unlike its predecessor, the new model offers full support for all of the interactive features of both competing formats.

CE goes green

Several manufacturers introduced schemes to show their environmentally sound credentials. Philips introduced a new consumer logo for its environmentally friendly and safe consumer product range – the Philips Green Logo. The new logo is designed to help consumers easily identify products that have better energy efficiency than their nearest competitors.

DAB experts Pure Digital also launched a new initiative with its EcoPlus range of products. Models within this range must meet certain standards in the following areas: reduced power consumption, use of materials from recycled and sustainable sources, packaging size and the use of components with minimal environmental impact.

Other new launches

Amongst the highlights of the show was the world’s first Blu-ray camcorder from Hitachi (see products to watch). The manufacturer also launched its X-Series 1080p plasma and LCD panels, incorporating 250GB HDDs along with twin digital tuners.

Practically all of the big CE manufacturers launched new ranges of HDTVs, such as Toshiba’s Z Series and its XF Series Picture Frame TVs, sporting an extra-slim bezel.

Pioneer unveiled its new full HD Kuro plasmas, which have already managed to scoop an EISA award, while LG launched the LT75 LCD TVs and the PT85 panels, which all include built-in digital video recorders.

Along with its first standalone Blu-ray decks, Sony also introduced the BRAVIA X3500/X3000 Series, which takes over from the X2000-Series as the flagship of the BRAVIA range.

Other manufacturers launching new full HD TV ranges included Panasonic, Sharp, and Loewe.

JVC previewed its new ‘True Black’ front projector which boasts a 30,000:1 contrast ratio, and is HDMI 1.3 compatible, along with the GZ-HD3 High Definition Everio Camcorder with a 60GB hard drive and its V Series full HD LCD panels. Philips also displayed its amBX gaming peripherals, while Samsung introduced its first HD camcorder along with a brand new range of MP3 players.

IFA 2008 is set to take place from 29 August to 3 September 2008.

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