Viva Las Vegas

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Despite the economic downturn reportedly taking its toll on visitor numbers, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show appeared to be as lavish as ever. Based in Las Vegas, the world’s largest consumer electronics show attracted 2,700 companies, including 300 new exhibitors, while an estimated 20,000 new gadgets were unveiled. Final visitor numbers had yet to be released at the time of going to press, but initial estimates put the figure at more than 110,000 attendees.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, the show’s organiser, was bullish about the global recession’s impact on the show, commenting: “More consumer technology business deals start at the International CES than any other event on earth. The success of the 2009 International CES gives us optimism that innovation will restart the world’s economic engine”.

Return to slender

As with the 2008 show, slimline TVs were once again big news at CES, with many manufacturers competing to show off the slimmest models possible. LG presented two 15in OLED screens, one measuring 2.5mm thick with the other boasting a svelte 0.85mm profile. LG says that it will be launching a version of the OLED panel in the UK before the year is out.

Sony exhibited 21 and 27in prototype OLED TVs, along with a slimmer version of its current 11in OLED, measuring just 0.9mm thick. The maker also took the opportunity to offer a sneak preview of its foldable OLED technology – known as FOLED. Concepts being previewed included a walkman bangle and one-screen laptop incorporating a touch screen keyboard.

Also making a big splash at the show was 3D TV, with several manufacturers, including Sony and Samsung, showing off their technology. LG unveiled a 55in 3D LCD panel which uses integrated 3D technology and passive polarized glasses to produce three-dimensional video footage from a Blu-ray disc. The manufacturer also displayed a 60in 3D plasma panel which uses glasses with active shutter lenses.

Panasonic displayed its full HD 3D TV technology, first shown at last year’s CEATEC technology show in Japan. The system comprises Panasonic’s 103in plasma, along with a Blu-ray deck and active shutter glasses.

Most of the major CE manufacturers were also displaying wireless HD TVs, including Hitachi which was also showing prototype gesture control and video communication TVs.

First shown at the CEATEC show in Japan, Toshiba showcased its Cell TV technology based on its CELL processing, currently used in the Sony PlayStation 3. Expected to launch in Japan by the end of the year, the internet-enabled TVs allow users to watch up to six HD sources at one time and also boast a high resolution of 3820 x 2180 pixels. The LCD panels also feature LED backlighting – found on the majority of LCDs introduced by manufacturers at CES this year.

Many manufacturers introduced environmentally sound products, including Sony’s new Bravia VE5 series, which offers a 0W standby button, along with motion and light sensors that reduce energy usage without compromising the performance.

Sharp took its AQUOS TVs one step further into the future by introducing the world’s first LCDs with integrated Blu-ray players. Incorporating side-loading disc drives, the TVs will initially be available in the US in 52, 46, 42, 37 and 32in screen sizes. According to Sharp, the space-saving product offers single-step operation that turns on the TV and activates play when a Blu-ray disc is inserted.

Blu-ray news

Along with Sharp’s Blu-ray enabled TVs, several other manufacturers introduced new Blu-ray products at CES. Equipped with more advanced features and designs as well as more affordable prices than in previous years, the new wave of products signals the format’s continual move into the mainstream.

Samsung introduced three new Blu-ray players including the entry-level BD-P1600 and the striking wall-mountable BD-P4600 which, along with the BD-P3600, is capable of wireless networking. Along with two new Blu-ray home cinema systems, the maker also introduced the HT-BD8200 – its first sound bar speaker equipped with a Blu-ray player and wireless subwoofer, designed to complement Samsung’s Crystal TV design.

LG strengthened its Blu-ray arsenal with the introduction of the BD370 deck. Due in the UK from April, the hi-def disc spinner is Profile 2.0 compatible and boasts networking capabilities enabling users to access online content from the likes of YouTube. The manufacturer also launched several Blu-ray home cinema sound systems offering full iPod compatibility and tuned by Mark Levinson.

Pioneer also unveiled a collection of three Blu-ray decks with BD-Live compatibility, which are due in US shops in the summer.

Panasonic took the concept a step further with the introduction of the world’s first portable Blu-ray player which will be available in the States from May (see Products to Watch).

And finally…

Despite home cinema once again being the major technological focus of the show, there were numerous other highlights including LG’s watch phone (see Products to Watch).

What’s more, Sony unveiled its first Walkman MP3 players to incorporate OLED touch screens. The NWZ-X1051 and NWZ-X1061 boast 3in OLED panels which are capable of video playback, while the gadgets are also Wi-Fi enabled.

CES 2010 is set to take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 7-10 January 2010.

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