The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show is packed with new and innovative home theater products as all major home entertainment manufacturers debut their latest product lines. HD Guru and Geoff Morrison spent the week scouring press events and company booths seeking out the best new HDTV, 3D TV, Blu-ray player, Streaming Media Player, Sound Bar and the Best In Show.
This year’S HDTV products are the most innovative we’ve seen in years, with much larger screen sizes, new big screen display technology, new remote controls and much more. On to the winners.
Best HDTV: Panasonic VT50 Series Plasma (to be available in 55″,65″ screen sizes)
With picture improvements coming from almost every major TV maker gave us a long lists of finalists to consider. However, the improvements in the 2012 Panasonic top of the line VT50 plasma series are significant. Last year’s VT30 series took top honors for picture performance. In 2012 Panasonic raised the bar with a new way to drive the pixels that lowers the black level to the deepest ever, and better motion clarity using its new 2500 focused field drive circuit, according to a Panasonic spokesperson.
In a side-by-side comparison of the VT30 and VT 50 plasmas on the show floor the improvements a clear. The VT50 has the best image quality of any 2012 plasma or LED LCD we’ve seen at the show.
LG’s SP820 Smart Upgrader turns any HDTV into a Smart TV providing instant streaming from Vudu, Amazon Instant, Cinema Now, Internet browser and more. In addition there are many apps available from LG’s app shop. This 2012 version adds Flash, HTML5 content viewing capability and LG’s Magic Motion remote that allows control by buttons, moving and tilting or with a wheel. The SP820 will ship this spring.
Best Sound Bar: Sharp HT-SL77
Sharp is no stranger to audio business, making audio components for decades. This year Sharp is introducing the innovative HT-SL77 2.1 system. The midrange and tweeter sections can be placed horizontally below the screen and comes with extensions to match the width of 46, 52, 60 or 70-Inch HDTVs. The HT-SL77 can also be separated into to sections as left and right vertical towers and includes an attachable base for each speaker. The height can be set to match 60 or 70-Inch flat panels.
The HT-SL77 also includes a wireless subwoofer. The HDMI output supports the Audio Return Channel feature found within 2011 and 2012 Sharp and many other major brand HDTVs to direct the audio from multiple HDMI sources such as HD cable box, game console and Blu-ray player to the sound bar seamlessly. The H-SL77 ships in April with a retail price of $449.99
Best 3D TV: LG 84″ LED 84LM9600
The LG 84LM9600 is loaded with industry firsts. It is the largest consumer flat panel HDTV being offered for sale. It is the first to offer a screen with four times the resolution of HDTV (3840×2160). LG calls it UHD. The cherry on top is the 84LM9600 is the first 3D TV using inexpensive, light weight passive 3D glasses to maintain Full HD vertical resolution (1080 as half of 2160), overcoming our biggest objection regarding passive 3D technology.
The 3D image is not only big, but bright and beautiful as it doesn’t have the visible lines when viewing 3D that to date has been associated with all other passive 3D TVs. Being the top series in LG’s 2012 LED LCD HDTV line this giant screen set includes Internet streaming and apps, LG’s best new Magic Motion remote with voice and gesture control. It all comes wrapped in a slim, brushed aluminum bezel. The 84 converts all content to its 4K resolution and will accept future 4K sources through its HDMI input. Scheduled for Spring release LG has not yet revealed pricing.
Best Blu-ray Player: Panasonic DMP-BBT01
The Panasonic DMP-BBT01 is like no other Blu-ray player Panasonic has ever produced. It is heavily featured with Panasonic’s latest video processor, offers Smartphone remote control capability, a new touchpad remote control, 3D disc play, 2D-to-3D up-conversion, and Internet streaming thanks to Panasonic’s VieraConnect system. The player comes wrapped in a new small slim design with a slot-in drive allows one to insert a disc without the need for a tray. TheDMP-BBT01 player comes with a stand and can be operated either vertically, or horizontally.
Best In Show: LG 55EM9600 55″ OLED
OLED (organic light emitting diodes) is the first new big screen flat panel tech since 1997. The LG 55EM9600 delivers everything big screen OLED promises, vivid color, fantastic contrast, 180 degree viewing angle and pitch black blacks. All coming from a 4mm thick design the OLED image beat out everything else at CES.
The LG 55-Inch 55EM9600 has three configurations. One is a table stand version with the speakers and electronics built into the base. Another, a wall mount version with the electronics and downward firing speakers housed within a backpack that sits between the wall and the screen. The third is a pole mounted version (see photo above) This OLED is a full featured HDTV with 1080p resolution, Smart TV with voice and gesture remote and 3D. Expect to see it yourself in Q3, at a priced to be announced.
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