I've been seeing a lot of articles lately about Blu-ray's fuzzy future, how it's doomed, and how its success will be short-lived even if it does take off. Well, that may well end up being the case, but I gotta say, from where I'm sitting, there's a far greater probability that Blu-ray will do just fine--for a long time. And I'm not saying that because I'm a fanboy or a shill for Sony. I'm saying it because a lot of simple market factors point toward it doing just fine. Here are nine reasons why I'm right.
1. Digital downloads will not eliminate the need for discs anytime soon.
Let's address this first since this is the biggest factor that people cite when trumpeting Blu-ray's defeat. If you haven't noticed, here at CNET we spend a good amount of time covering new streaming video platforms and services and really enjoy testing these new products. Everything from Hulu to Netflix streaming video to Slingbox to Apple TV to Vudu all show promise. That said, all these products have some limiting factors, including lack of content selection, pricing hurdles, and most particularly, bandwidth issues, which affect video and audio quality. … Read more
The television category is a perennial CES staple and this year was no different. For some reason nobody showed a TV bigger than Panasonic's 150-inch plasma from last year (have we maxed out in flat-panel screen size?), but most of the other trends I discussed in the preview were borne out in the show's extensive announcements. Here's my take on what CES 2009 bodes for HDTV this year.
Plasma ain't dead yet. I get more than my share of e-mails, and have seen plenty of blog comments and forum posts that are quick to claim the demise of plasma at the hands of LCD. Judging from CES announcements by companies that comprise the "big three" of plasma--Panasonic, LG and Samsung--those big glass flat panels have a brighter future than Detroit, at least.
Panasonic, by far the biggest and most-committed of the group, bragged about its newest plasma factory (No. 5) coming online, and showed its largest plasma lineup ever, with five new series and a new 54-inch screen size. I'm really excited to review the company's new "NEO PDP" panels, the first of which, members of the S1 series, will ship in March. They boast significantly improved black-level performance and contrast ratios, according to the company, yet manage to cut power consumption in half. If the latter claim proves true, LCD will lose perhaps its biggest arrow in the antiplasma quiver (at least among consumers who care about the planet and are savvy enough to ignore the nonissues).
Absent any announcements by Pioneer (which will come in late spring, most likely), Panasonic's G10 series is probably the surest bet for Editors' Choice of any TV I saw at the show. That's why I awarded it Best of CES in the TV category. In case you're wondering, however, all of the Neo PDP panels, including the least-expensive S1, share the same basic picture-quality specs.… Read more
We've already seen the entry-level LG BD370, but now we've gotten a glimpse of the step-up Blu-ray player in LG's 2009 line-up: the BD390. The BD390 includes all of the features of its little brother--DVD upscaling, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio, BD-Live/Profile 2.0 support, and the ability to stream online video from Netflix, YouTube, and CinemaNow. But it also adds some nice upgrades: built-in Wi-Fi (so you're not limited to wired Ethernet), 1GB of on-board memory (no need for a USB stick to access BD-Live features), and 7.1-channel analog outputs (maximum compatibility with … Read more
LG's home theater announcements came fast and furious at CES. Streaming is big: The LH50 series of LG LCDs will stream Netflix and other broadband content; the BD370 Blu-ray player will stream Netflix, CinemaNow, and YouTube; and the LG LHB977 Blu-ray home theater system also will offer online content. Read the stories below for more home theater goodies from LG.LG's 240Hz line flashes backlight really fast LG clips wires on high-end LCD lineup LG LHB977: Blu-ray home theater system streams online video, includes extra inputs LG Blu-ray players stream Netflix, CinemaNow, and YouTube LG LCDs offer Netflix streaming and other broadband goodies … Read more
Samsung's got three new all-in-one home theater systems for 2009, all of which are headlined with built-in Blu-ray and support for streaming online Netflix video and Pandora's free Internet music service. The HT-BD8200 and HT-BD7200 are both "lifestyle" systems with minimalist form factors, funky designs, and front-only virtual surround sound (the former is a speakerbar with wireless subwoofer and the latter sports a 2.1 design). But if you want real surround sound, you're going to need actual rear speakers--and that means the more traditional 5.1-channel design of the Samsung HT-BD1250.
Samsung, of course, … Read more
The HT-X710T was one of Samsung's funkier home theater products of 2008, a 2.1-style (two speakers plus subwoofer) home theater system with a tapered, wall-mountable DVD player head unit. While the 2009 follow-up shares a similar "Touch of Color" red-accented design and curved enclosures, the HT-BD7200 gets a Blu-ray upgrade (replete with BD-Live capability and Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding) and support for streaming Netflix online video and the Pandora music service. It's also Wi-Fi-ready, but you'll need to invest in a separate USB 802.11n dongle, or stick with wired Ethernet … Read more
The Samsung HT-X810T--which debuted at 2008's Consumer Electronics Show--wasn't the first sound bar home theater system with a built-in DVD player (that'd be the Philips HTS8100). When CNET eventually reviewed it, we praised the inclusion of the wireless subwoofer, but included this knock: "the [built-in] DVD player's nice, but a Blu-ray player would have been even better." Well, it seems Samsung took that criticism to heart. The 2009 version, known as the HT-BD8200, does indeed get the upgrade to a Blu-ray player. Like the other models in the Sammy's '09 line-up, it's … Read more
Your flat-screen TV looks awfully lonely mounted on the wall by itself--why not give it a companion? That, we assume, is the rationale behind the Samsung BD-P4600 wall-mountable Blu-ray player. The BD-P4600 looks to include all the features of its step-down sibling, the BD-P3600: Profile 2.0/BD-Live, Netflix and Pandora streaming, 1GB onboard memory, built-in Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, "Touch of Color" style accents, and--the big upgrade for 2009--802.11n Wi-Fi via an included USB dongle. But unlike the 3600, this ultraslim 1.5-inch model has a slot-loading disc drive and can be mounted … Read more
The BD-P3600 Blu-ray player includes much of the same basic feature list as the Samsung BD-P2550 released last fall: Profile 2.0 (BD-Live), built-in Netflix and Pandora streaming, and 1GB onboard memory. But the 2009 model includes a few niceties missing from the 2550: an included USB dongle adds 802.11n Wi-Fi (in addition to Ethernet) and the 3600 should support DTS-HD Master Audio decoding out of the box (no need to wait for a future firmware update, as with early purchasers of the 2550). On the design front, the BD-P3600 will also sport unusual topside button placement and Samsung'… Read more