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CEDIA 2006

The CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association) trade show, held every year in early September, has established itself as the premier show for the unveiling of new products for the home theater industry. This year CEDIA attracted over 28,000 attendees, most of whom are specialty retailers and custom installers. These are the folks who design, sell, install, and support custom home theater systems. Products featured at this show include video systems of every sort, screens, audio components and speakers, DVD players, AV receivers, cables and interconnects, control systems, lighting systems, wall treatments, theater seating products, curtain fabrics, decorative posters, popcorn makers, and pretty much everything you could imagine being used in home theater design.

The theme for this year's show came across loud and clear: 1080p video is finally here. And not only is it here, it is affordable. We have anticipated a rapid collapse of 1080p pricing, and it materialized in spades at this show in both flat panel and front projection products. Consider that it was just two years ago that Sony introduced the Qualia 004 for $25,000, lens not included. That unit featured Sony's proprietary reflective LCD technology known as SXRD in 1920x1080 resolution. Last year Sony followed with the VPL-VW100, a projector with the same 1080p SXRD engine at $9,999. And last week they introduced the latest projector in their 1080p family, the VPL-VW50, which brings 1080p resolution down to $4,999.

The lowest price quoted thus far for 1080p front projection comes from Mitsubishi. Their new HC5000BL, retailing at just $4,495, is a full 1920x1080 resolution LCD projector with a contrast rating of 10,000:1. It includes a 1.6x powered zoom and focus lens and powered lens shift, a 5,000 hour lamp life in low-power mode, and a two year warranty. Mitsubishi expects to begin deliveries later next month.

Another low-priced 1080p LCD projector, the Panasonic PT-AE1000 will be released somtime in the fourth quarter. Pricing was not yet available at the CEDIA show, but given Panasonic's aggressive posture in the world of home theater projectors, we would encourage readers to stay tuned for the release of this one.

As far as the high end of the market is concerned, we offer an enthusiastic standing ovation to Digital Projection International (DPI) for staging one of the most spectacular video systems demonstrations ever assembled for a trade show of this type. The DPI theater featured five screens showing both single chip and 3-chip DLP 1080p and 720p models. There were two 12-foot wide Vutec Vision XFT screens at eye level side by side. On the left screen was DPI's Titan 1080p-500, which retails for about $50,000. On the right screen was their Titan HD-250, a 3-chip 720p DLP projector retailing for about $21,000. In a second row above these two large screens were three somewhat smaller Stewart Snomatte screens that were featuring (a) the dVision 1080p single chip DLP ($29,995), (b) the iVision 20HD single chip 720p ($6,995), and (c) the dVision HD single chip 720p, $17,995).

All of these projectors were driven simultaneously by the same HD content. The purpose was to demonstrate side by side the trade-offs in image quality involved in single chip vs. 3-chip engines, and 1080p vs. 720p physical resolution. DPI did their dealers and potential dealers a great service by staging this remarkable display. It was intended to eliminate any doubt in viewer's minds that Digital Projection is among the elite makers of the highest quality digital video systems in the market today. In our view it surely accomplished that.

Overall, over a dozen new 1080p projectors showed up which are scheduled to commence shipment between now and the end of the year. In addition to the Panasonic AE1000 for which there is no announced price, the new 1080p projectors (in ascending order of retail price) were as follows:

Mitsubishi HC5000BL, LCD, $4,495
Sony VPL-VW50, SXRD, $4,999
Optoma HD81, DLP, $6,999
BenQ W10000, DLP, $8,999
Planar PD8110, DLP, $9,999
Runco Reflection RS-1100, DLP, $11,995
SharpVision XV-Z20000, DLP, $11,999
Sim2 Grand Cinema HT3000, DLP, $15,995
Runco Reflection RS-1100 Ultra, DLP $19,995
Digital Projection Titan 1080p-250 (3-chip DLP) $42,995
Sim2 Grand Cinema HT5000 (3-chip DLP) $49,995
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