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CES Impressions

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) just wrapped up yesterday in Las Vegas. All things considered it was a quieter show that usual. There was not a lot of pre-show buzz. And, to nobody's surprise, attendance was down noticeably from years past. However, that was all good for those of us who don't care for lines and crowds. It was easier to get around, and for that reason probably the most pleasant CES experience in memory.

As far as home theater projectors go, this was not a big event. However there were some notable releases. Sharp debuted their new Z15000, which is a DLP-based 1080p projector rated at 1300 lumens and 30,000:1 contrast--the highest contrast ratio we've seen on a DLP product to date. The Z15000 will begin shipping in another month or two, and will see street prices around $2500.

Optoma showed up with two new DLP models also. Their new top of the line 1080p model is the HD8200, rated at 1300 lumens at 20,000:1 contrast. This model will be available through the CEDIA dealers and specialty retailers at a retail price of $4,999. A less pricey version of this projector will be the HD808, rated at 1200 lumens and 15,000:1 contrast. These are both 1080p resolution DLP projectors, but the HD8200 uses the DarkChip3, whereas the HD808 uses the DarkChip2.

Samsung and Joe Kane were unveiling the SP-A900, the latest product of their design/manufacturing collaboration, and the next generation model to follow the DLP DarkChip2 based SP-A800. The SP-A900 steps contrast up to 15,000:1 using a DarkChip3, and it also steps the retail price up to $15,000. The A900 should be shipping by the end of the month.

LG was showing a new LED-based projector called the HS102, which is already on the market in Europe, but not yet available in the US. It is a very small, one-pound unit, in SVGA resolution, and rated at 160 lumens. In Europe it currently retails for 699 euros.

Vivitek announced the industry's first 1080p projector with an LED light source, the HC7500A. The unit is rated at 700 lumens and 35,000:1 contrast. The LED light source is expected to deliver 20,000 hours of operation. The HC7500A is scheduled to ship in June at a retail price of $13,999. We will be anxious to see it in operation as the release date gets closer.

This year's CES saw a flurry of new "micro" or "pico" projectors. These are about the size of a pack of cigarettes, in either SVGA resolution or lower, and quite dim. Light output is in the 5 to 15 lumen range. On spec sheets their weight can be stated in grams rather than pounds. You can hold them in the palm of your hand and project an image onto any white wall or surface. Prices vary, but they are typically in the range of $300 to $500. They are available from a variety of vendors. Optoma, Toshiba, and 3M have them, among others. And a Chinese company called Butterfly Technology was showing an assortment of them in a very black demo space.

These tiny projectors stimulated quite a bit of conversation. The big questions of course are these: Who will buy them, and what will they be used for? If you have an opinion on this, I would be very interested to hear it. Are you interested in micro or pico projectors? Under what circumstances would you use one? From a marketing perspective, do you think this new class of product should be called micro-projectors or pico-projectors?

We are expecting to receive a second sample of the Epson 6500 UB in the next couple of days. Hopefully that will get our review of that model back on track. We will also be getting into the Epson 6100 later this week as well.

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