October 14, 2008
CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced TECnologies) took place recently in Chiba, Japan. There were a number of new products and technologies shown, providing a glimpse of what will appear in the US market in 2009 and beyond. Here are the highlights.

Panasonic exhibited prototypes of its NeoPDP plasma panels. Its new plasma technology claims to double the efficiency, which reduces power consumption about 50% below 2008 Panasonic plasmas. This move could make plasma HDTVs the “green” flat screen leader in 2009. The high efficiency is the result of new phosphors, new cell design technology with improved electrical discharge and lower power drive circuits.

In addition, there will be 24.7 mm (under 1 inch) thick models with less than 65% of weight of its 2008 models. For example, Panasonic will drop the weight of its 50” plasma from 74.8 lbs (for its current 50” monitor) to just 48.4 pounds.

Other changes to the Panasonic 2009 displays were revealed during a press briefing with four US journalists. They include:

All the NeoPDP models will be “Full HD” 1080p, with the current power efficiency technology limited to its 42” and 50” 720p models. The NeoPDPs will be available in screen sizes from 42” up to 103”.

The 24.7 mm models will be “Monitors”, like the upcoming Premiere TH-65VX100, with no built-in tuner. However, they will have built-in stereo speakers.

They are working on an 85” NeoPDP, and it may appear in the first half of 2009 if the Panasonic bigwigs decide to put in into production in 2009. This model was part of a previous cooperative agreement with Hitachi, before the companies’ decision to merge their respective plasma technologies.

Panasonic confirmed they will be supplying plasma panels to Hitachi, however they will produce the flat plasma screen with a different production run than the panels used in Panasonic branded models. Drive electronics, power supply,case and features will all be made by Hitachi.  Ditto for panels produced for Pioneer around Q2 of 2009.

Panasonic will continue offer the 48 Hz mode in some of its 2009 1080p PDP models if they can solve the current flicker problem.

Panasonic management predicted it will be 5 years before there will be competitively priced large screen OLED panels and stated, “during the next two years OLED HDTVs will only be available in screen sizes up to around 30”.

Panasonic will be introducing a freestanding Blu-ray recorder/player in the US during the first half of 2009. (BTW, Blu-ray recorder prices have really dropped in Japan. I spotted a Sharp Blu-ray recorder at Yodobashi camera for around $800 US).

3D technology was displayed by a number of companies. Panasonic demonstrated the world’s first “Full HD” 3D system using its newly developed 3D Blu-ray player feeding a signal to a 3D 103” plasma. The system allows for the recording of a full-length motion picture with separate, full1080p left and right eye images on a single Blu-ray disc. The system uses active shutter glasses. The demo consisted of a number of clips including Disney content (see photo above), music videos and a jaw-dropping clip of the opening ceremony from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This was the best, brightest and highest definition 3D demo I have seen to date. Panasonic is working with the Blu-ray Disc Association, which consists of Hollywood Studios and CE manufacturers, to develop a 3D consumer HDTV system industry standard.

Toshiba showed an LCD console concept HDTV (pictures above, it is designed to lean back) along with a demo of its Cell Processor which can display eight HDTV recordings simultaneously.

Hitachi’s provided a glimpse of some the directions they are planning for next year, including lighter weight LCD flat panel, a model with LED backlight and its “Super Resolution” standard definition upconversion chip. The demo was quite amazing, (flowers pictured above, though the small photo really does not convey the level of image quality improvement). Unfortunately, the Hitachi spokesperson said that the chip will not be ready to 2010, we will have to wait to see chip in action in a production HDTV.

One of the oddest Hitachi demos was a prototype “Gesture Control TV” that uses different hand gestures (I am not joking folks) to perform remote functions such as waving to turn on your TV or a vertical wave to change controlling the volume.

Sony rolled out some of its Japanese market LED backlit HDTVs and displayed its latest 27” OLED prototype (pictured)

Pioneer introduced its Kuro Elite plasma model to the Japanese market. It is similar to the models that have been on sale in the US for months. Pioneer also provided a “first look” at its LCD “Kuro” models available in Europe.  Three sizes were demoed, a 37”, 42” and 46” (pictured). Sourced by Sharp, the images were very unimpressive, and did not have the deep blacks that have made its plasma “Kuro” models some of the top rated HDTVs in the  CE industry.

After CEATEC, Panasonic invited the US press on a tour of the Panasonic museum. Pictured is the first tabletop (standard def) color TV. The 17” screen size TV was manufactured back in 1960.

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