September 7, 2005
On the eve of the CEDIA convention which happens this weekend, we have already seen two significant announcements from LCD makers that will undoubtedly gain a lot of attention. First, the Panasonic AE900 was announced today, representing another step forward in price performance for 1280x720 resolution widescreen LCD technology. At 1100 ANSI lumens, it is 10% brighter than the popular AE700 released last fall. But the AE900's contrast rating of 5500:1 is what will really cause the buzz. This unit features a dynamic iris that is capable of reconfiguring itself on a frame by frame basis every 1/60 of a second. In addition, gamma is similarly reconfigured frame by frame. The result is a projector with markedly improved dynamic range over its predecessor. The AE900 showed exceptionally well against the AE700 in a side-by-side demonstration staged by Panasonic in Los Angeles earlier today. With an aggressive MSRP of $3,199, the AE900 will clearly be among the highlights of this year's CEDIA show. It will be shipping by the end of this month.
The other noteworthy announcement in advance of the show came from Epson, with their release of several home theater products. On the high end is the Epson Powerlite Cinema 800, another 720p projector rated at 1600 ANSI lumens and 5000:1 contrast. This is priced at $4,499, and offers a unique ISF certification, which means it should be close to perfectly calibrated right out of the box. A step below the Cinema 800 is the Epson Cinema 550, priced at a more modest $2,499. This 720p unit is ever so slightly less bright at 1400 ANSI lumens, and has a contrast rating of 3000:1. Both of these units are scheduled to ship by the end of October.
There will be more news to follow on all of these units, and many others that are about to be released in the next few days. Based on these three announcements, it is apparent that LCD is positioned to make a significant competitive advance against DLP. However, several strongly competitive DLP products will appear at this show as well. We will post a CEDIA review summarizing the entire event as soon as we can get all the new product data compiled early next week.
This is an exciting time for the home theater projector industry. However, there is a real world beyond projectors, and we continue to watch the events unfold in the Gulf states region. For those who are motivated to help and have not yet done so, you may donate directly to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been decimated by this tragedy.
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