The 2008 CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) Expo recently concluded.  The show provided a first look at late 2008 HDTV products including new plasma panels, LCD flat panels, Blu-ray players, front projectors and a new TiVo.  Here is a breakdown and some on-the-fly evaluations, based on demos and manufacturer announcements.  Part One covers LCD flat panels, TiVo, and Blu-ray players.  Part Two will cover Front Projectors and other products.


Sharp, Sony and Toshiba introduced new LCD flat panels.  The trend towards thin LCD monitors continues with Sony and Sharp joining Hitachi offing LCD panels without a built-in digital or analog tuner.  Instead, Sharp will include a separate tuner box with its thin displays, as well as an external speaker bar (as seen in the photo above).


Toshiba led the introductions with 12 new standard depth LCD flat panel HDTV models.  The line is topped out by the 1080p Cinema series called the XV545 models.  Available in 42”, 46” and 52” sizes, the models include a new bezel they call “Double Skin”, 120 Hz refresh rate (to reduce motion blur) and new scaler called SRT. Toshiba claims  its new scaler chip greatly improves the image quality of standard definition signals.  This new chip is designed and manufactured by Toshiba.  The Cinema models also have 14-bit color processing for 16,384 gradations (to avoid dithering artifacts) as well as a wide-color gamut CCFL backlight.

Moving down the product line is the REGZA RV535 series, available in 42”, 46” and 42” sizes, which retain the SRT scaling chip, 1080p panels and the 14-bit video processing, however, they refresh at 60Hz instead of 120Hz.

The RV525 series eliminates the SRT scaler and the 14-bit processing and are available in the 40” and 46” screen sizes using 1080p/60Hz panels.

Rounding out the line is the 720p AV502 series in 26”, 31.5” and 37” screen sizes with a thinner width bezel than its predecessors and two HDMI inputs.

The XV545 models the HD GURU® observed produced fine looking demo images, they were quite bright and vivid. A review is planned for the near future.  The model numbers, pricing and availability are:

REGZA Cinema Series XV545
42XV545U ($1799, September)
46XV545U ($2299, September)
52XV545U ($2799, September)

REGZA Series RV535
42RV535U ($1399, September)
46RV535U ($1799, September)
52RV535U ($2299, September)

RV525 Series
40RV525U ($1099, September)
46RV525U $1599, September)

AV502 Series
26AV502U ($649, Now)
32AV502U ($749, Now)
37AV502U ($899, Now)


Sharp announced two new thin LCD monitor panels with a minimum depth of 1” (at press time Sharp did not provide maximum depth, I guesstimated it at around 2.25”).    They are the 65” LC-65XS1U-S ($TBA, October) and the 52” LC-52XS1U-S ($TBA, October).  Both use 10-bit panels with 120 Hz refresh and Red, Blue and Green light emitting diodes (LEDs) as backlights in lieu conventional CCFL lamps as found in the thin 850 series Samsung LCDs.  The dynamic contrast is rated at 1,000,000:1, though no real world (relevant) contrast ratio number was provided at press time.  Called a “limited edition” the XS1 models will be sold through select Sharp dealers.  The separate tuner box includes 5 HDMI inputs, two component video inputs as well as a PC input. It is interesting to note the included tuner is shaped to reside on a shelf or table and can’t be mounted flat on a wall. Sharp also announced another set of optional extra cost boxes (transmitter and receiver) for wireless connection between the tuner box and the display (price and availability to be announced).

Sharp also announced new 1080p/60 Hz models LCD HDTVs with standard depth.  The line includes the 52” LC-52D65U ($2399, October); 46” LC-46D65U ($1899, October) and the 42” LC-42D65U ($1599, Now).  These models have a new “Power Saving Mode” which” enables active contrast and an active backlight to reduce power consumption” according to Sharp’s press release.  This “65” series model replaces the current “64” series.  If Sharp follows last year’s marketing strategy, you can expect low closeout pricing on the “64” series soon.  This post will be updated with new prices if and when they are announced.

In addition Sharp, added a new 1080p/120 Hz series with the 52” LC-52D85U ($2599, October) 46” LC-46D85U ($2199, October) and the 42” LC-42D85U ($1899, November).  According to a Sharp spokesperson, the 1080p/120 Hz D94SE series, sold by regional dealers, will continue to be offered.


Sony revealed two new LCD panels.  The 52” KDL-52XBR7 is the industry’s first 240 Hz LCD HDTV.  The demo at CEDIA consisted of looped video footage showing sideways motion; similar to sitting on a moving train looking out the window and watching the scenery go by.  There was a 60 Hz and 120Hz Sony display next to the 52XBR7, to demonstrate reduced “motion blur” with the 240 Hz display.  What a revelation! Just a couple of years ago LCD set makers never mentioned resolution loss due to motion blur.  Now Sony has a comparison in its booth showing bad, better and best, clear demonstrating how badly 60 Hz LCD panels handle motion.  The big question: What, if any image degrading artifacts will 240 Hz add to video and film-based images?  Will the display repeat each film frame 10 times or create interpolated frames.  If it does interpolate frames, the TV will need to create 9 synthesized frames for every single  frame of film, a tough assignment to perform without adding image degrading artifacts.  The HD Guru has requested a sample from Sony, when it becomes available this December ($TBA).

The KLV-40ZX1M is a 40” 1080p/120Hz monitor that measures 9.9 mm at its thinnest part, (HD GURU guesstimates around 2.2 inches at its thickest part, Sony has not released full specifications).  The display weighs just 26 lbs.  There is no tuner available from Sony; however, they will offer as an extra cost option, its Bravia wireless transmitter/receiver to connect from a source (cable, satellite, Blu-ray etc.) to the monitor via wireless HDMI.  The KLV-40ZL1M uses white LEDs with local dimming as a backlight.  The KDL-40Z1M will be available in December 2008 with a price to be announced.

Who Wants Thin?

There are five LCD makers (Sony, Hitachi, Sharp, Samsung and LG) that will be offering thin LCD displays this year.  Currently, Samsung, LG and Hitachi have product offerings and depending on screen size, the price premium over standard thickness (about 3”-4.5”) LCDs is around $200-$400.  There is no performance advantage in “thinner”; and it is more difficult to engineer very svelte displays, due to considerations for miniaturizing key components such as power supplies, along with effective cooling are critical to maintain long-term reliability.  The HD GURU® questions whether many potential buyers will want to pay a price premium for a flatter panel, and suspects the market is quite limited.  Time will tell if a lower price and high performance will win consumers dollars over a higher priced displays with a thinner form factor.


Personal Video Recorder (PVR) maker TiVo added a new CableCARD model, the TiVo HD XL ($599, Now).  It is the successor to the discontinued TiVo Series 3.  As with the Series 3 and TiVo HD, the box has two CableCARD slots for decoding subscribed scrambled cable channels.  The big improvement is in its hard drive capacity.  It has a 1terabyte hard drive for around 150 hours of HD content, or 1350 hours of SD programs.  The current HD TiVo has a 160 GB hard drive rated at about 20 hours of HD storage.

Like the HD TiVo, you may add one SATA external hard drive (it needs to be designed specifically to work with a TiVo like Western Digital’s My DVR) to the XL to increase capacity.  External hard drives are currently 500 GB.  1 TB models are expected shortly.

A caveat to prospective buyers, a number of cable systems have begun using “Switched Digital Video” to increase capacity.  The HD TiVo and the HD XL require a “tuning adapter” to receive channels that are “switched”.  Promised by the end of June 2008 by Cablelabs (a testing, design consortium owned by a group of cable providers), it is still not available.  Please check with your cable provider to find out which, (if any) of its HD channels are “switched digital” and when the “tuning adapter” will be available.

For more information on the “switched digital” fiasco, read the HD Guru article at


A number of new Blu-ray players were debuted at CEDIA with models from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and Denon


Panasonic announced the successors to its current Blu-ray models with DMP-BD35 (replacing the DMP-BD30) and the DMP-BD55 (replacing the DMP-BD50).  These new players will be available in October, with prices to be announced shortly.

The latest Panasonics both boast Profile 2.0 with BD Live capability out of the box, as well utilizing Panasonic’s latest PHL Reference Chroma processor chip and its new P4HD scaler chip.

Yesterday, Panasonic staged a press demonstration in New York where they compared the 35 and 55 along side a Samsung BD-P1500 and the discontinued (yet still widely available) Sony BD-P300.  Using a Panasonic 1080i Blu-ray test disc, the Panasonic engineer compared the four players’ scaler and color detail performance using a Blu-ray test disc.  First, the engineer confirmed the Panasonics’ ability to properly deinterlace 1080i signals (used on many Blu-ray concert discs and some TV series).  The Samsung and Sony failed the test (as does the current Sony BD-P350 as seen in the recent HD Guru review).

Next, jaggies were evaluated using a “three moving bar” test signal.  The BMP-BD55 Panasonic did an excellent job, displaying almost completely smooth edges on the three bars.  The two competitors players’ yielded poor results displaying saw tooth jaggy edges on all three bars.

The new Panasonics also upsamples the color information on the Blu-ray disc from native 4:2:0 to 4:4:4.  The result is a better color detail when compared to the other players using the Panasonic color “zone plate” test signal. The demonstration clearly showed the increased detail with a larger area of the zone plate being visible on the display connected to the new Panasonic Blu-ray player.

In addition to improved color detail, proper 1080i deinterlacing and reduction of jaggies, the new Panasonic Blu-ray players include:  7.1 lossless decoding of DTS MA and Dolby TRUEHD (via HDMI), Deep Color/ x.v. color capability, 192kHz/24 bit Audio D/A converter and Movie AVCHD/JPEG viewing via the SD memory card slot.  The DMP-BD55 adds analog 7.1 lossless format output and DivX playback


Denon’s added the DVD-1800BD ($749, October) to its existing line of Blu-ray players.  It’s a Profile 1.1 player that features HDMI 1.3a with Deep Color and Bonus View support (BD Profile 1.1).  It does not have an Internet connection and as a profile 1.1 player, it will not support BD Live (interactive content via the internet).


Sony latest Blu-ray player is part of its ES line, the models BDP-S5000ES ($2,000, November) features Profile 2.0 with BD Live capability, fast boot up, isolated audio circuitry and 14-bit video.  According to the press release, it also has a new “Precision Drive” “which helps to detect and correct wobbling discs from three directions, stabilizing playback of bent or scratched Blu-ray Discs or DVD”.  Wow! Until now I didn’t never heard that Blu-ray discs can warp.


Samsung introduced its latest Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player, the BD-P2500 ($499, October). It features an Ethernet connection for BD Live, 1 GB internal memory, Silicon Optix HQV video signal processing, 7.1 analog audio outputs with Dolby TRUEHD compatibility and a USB port for memory expansion.


Pioneer unveiled its latest flagship Blu-ray player, the Elite BDP-09FD ($2199, around November). It incorporates Pioneer’s best audio and video circuitry including 16-bit video processor, a Mavell QDEO scaler and a video decoder jointly developed by Renesas and Pioneer.  The player is Profile 2.0 compliant and comes with 4GB built-in flash memory. The audio circuitry has its own dedicated power supply and uses eight Wolfson WM8740 Audio DACs.

Blu-ray Outlook

The number of players available is rapidly expanding, perhaps faster than the market can currently absorb. While it is difficult to gauge the demand for profile 2.0 players with BD Live, I believe this differentiation will help accelerate price erosion in the Blu-ray category. I expect to see Profile 1.1 players to drop to the magic $199 “on sale” price by sometime in November and the entry level Profile 2.0 players will soon be priced at $299 (or possibly less!).

Copyright ©2008 Gary Merson/HD Guru®  All rights reserved. HD GURU is a registered trademark.  The content and photos within may not be distributed electronically or copied mechanically without specific written permission.

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