September 9, 2008
The annual CEDIA trade show just concluded Sunday in Denver, Colorado. This show is focused on high-end home theater, and it is attended primarily by custom home theater designers and installers. But it is also the show at which many new home theater projectors are unveiled, regardless of whether they are priced for the high end market or the larger consumer market.
Three observations about this show:
1. Cinemascope 2.35 widescreen format was definitely in vogue in a way that it has never been in the past. Swing the proverbial dead cat, and you'd hit a booth with an anamorphic lens in it. If this show was your only exposure to home theater, you'd think that quaint old 16:9 HDTV format was a relic of the ancient past.
2. LCD technology made a significant competitive advance with new contrast ratios heretofore unheard of--up in the 60,000:1 to 75,000:1 range. And this was not just plain ole overhyped contrast ratios based just on dynamic irises. This new breed of LCD projectors were showing major improvements in black levels and apparent ANSI contrast--that is, dynamic range within a given frame. And Sony's latest high contrast SXRD model, the VPL-VW70, with contrast rated at 60,000:1, appeared to have ANSI contrast improvements similar to those of the LCD competition.
3. It was eerily quiet on the DLP front. Though there were several new high-priced DLP models from the boutique vendors, those looking for new and improved DLP home theater projectors under $10,000 were disappointed. Sharp, InFocus, and Planar/Runco released no new 1080p models, and Optoma didn't even come to the show. Mitsubishi, which uses both LCD and DLP in their product line, has opted to go with LCD for their newly announced "Diamond" series projectors. Come to think of it, Texas Instruments didn't even bother to stage a DLP promotional booth in the exhibit hall, which hasn't happened in our recent memory. Meanwhile, of the latest high-end DLP models, contrast ratings remain in the 10,000:1 to 15,000:1 range where they have been for the last year or two.