Premature Savings: Amazon launches Pre-Black Friday sales

October 31, 2010 by  
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It appears the trend (as we predicted) towards launching pre-Black Friday sales is in full swing, as Amazon got into the party with a great deal on a 55″ HDTV, as written about here:

Amazon today is launching an early Black Friday sale, starting with a Toshiba 55-inch LED HDTV for 50 percent off.

The set, model 55UX600U, normally costs $2,399 but is available today for $1,199 while supplies last. The 55-inch TV is Net enabled and features Net services such as Vudu, a VOD service.

Now 50% off is an amazing deal, especially given its size and features, and it isn’t even November yet! We like the trend, and this season should see HDTV ownership skyrocket due to decreasing prices and great deals that should be offered. Offer subject to selling out of course.

TV Related and the Quote of the Week: Cablevision ends standoff with Fox

October 31, 2010 by  
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Occasionally, we’ll bring you news that’s only slightly HD related, in this case, the quote from the affected company was too good not to cover. Read on and prepare to chuckle:

Evidently missing the first two games of the World Series was about all Cablevision thought it subscribers could take, as news just hit the wire: the fourteen-day standoff is over and both tonight’s game three of the World Series and tomorrow’s Jets vs Packers game are available to subscribers. While these carriage disputes are pretty common, it is very rare for channels to be pulled and downright unheard of for a channel as popular as Fox. It came to this because Cablevision was very unhappy about News Corp’s new terms and after many pleas to the FCC and politicians to intervene, an advertising campaign, and eventually an unaccepted offer to match the price that Time Warner Cable pays, a deal has finally been done. Not exactly all’s well that ends well, though, as Cablevision released the following statement: “In the absence of any meaningful action from the FCC, Cablevision has agreed to pay Fox an unfair price for multiple channels of its programming including many in which our customers have little or no interest.”

Wow, read that again. Amazing honesty from Cablevision, even if it will probably pass its costs to the consumer down the road.

‘Bang’ for your Buck: B and O Goes Cheap (Sort Of)

October 29, 2010 by  
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We occasionally like to cover our Bang & Olufsen, due to their slickness, technology and boutique qualities. This one is more of a ‘budget minded’ model, relatively speaking of course; it seems they’ve heard wallets everywhere crying out in pain with the BeoVision 10-32:

It’s still a long way from the more budget-friendly model you may have been hoping for, but Bang & Olufsen has now at least introduced a smaller BeoVision LCD TV. That comes in the form of the company’s new 32-inch BeoVision 10-32, which hangs onto many of the features of the other BeoVision 10 series TVs, including edge LED-backlighting, a DVB-HD module, and a pair of built-in speakers that B&O says offers a sound quality that is “quite superior compared to the market level for TVs of this size” — you can even add your choice of one of two motorized stands.

The “bargain” price? Only $5,500 USD, which is a far cry from the 8-10K you’d spend on their larger model HDTVs.

Big Time Blu-Ray release day: BTTF and Aliens among the jewels

October 27, 2010 by  
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It seems at least a few days a year, major movie properties get their due on Blu-Ray, and that’s the case as of Oct.26th, as two major movie anthologies get their releases on the HD disc medium, along with a slew of other major and minor movies. The volume of titles is pretty rapidly expanding now for BR, and it shows little sign of slowing down.

Among the releases, complete with our own previous coverage of the titles on the links:

Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (Universal)

Alien Anthology (Fox)

Sex and the City 2 (New Line)

And that’s just the tip of the release list. We always appreciate companies who take the time to remaster classic films for 1080p, as they really benefit from the increased resolution. It’s a trend we hope continues well into the future.

Browsing for Opinions: Do you do the web on your HDTV?

October 25, 2010 by  
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We all know that HDTV units do more and more non-TV stuff these days, including local weather reports, Facebook, and sports scores, and that also includes browsing the web, with a small window still devoted to watching TV in some cases. Google TV recently released, and that will no doubt swell the ranks of users who utilize their HDTVs for surfing the web, but we’re curious about how deep the market penetration is on this feature.

So we ask our loyal readers: Do you browse on your HDTV? What type of sites translate well to a HDTV experience? Is the convenience worth the extra initial unit cost and setup?

Our thoughts is that it still has a ways to go to really become a mainstream way of surfing the web, but then again, prices are coming down far enough now to where that might not be a far-off thing.

Super Slim HD: Ultra-Thin 3D Blu-Ray player to be released by Sharp

October 24, 2010 by  
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Speaking of the word Sharp, the design of this thing is mega-sharp: a super-thin Blu-Ray player with tons of great features, as described here:

Remember that slimmer-than-slim Blu-ray 3D / BDXL player that Sharp demonstrated at CEATEC? Looks like the world now has a ship date and price, though you aren’t likely to be keen on either. The unit itself — which measures but 35mm thick and looks eerily familiar to the slimmed-down PlayStation 2 — will tout a Blu-ray recorder while supporting BD 3D and BDXL playback, and there’s even compatibility with OTA broadcasts for those looking to toast television to blank Blu-ray media. Naturally, a contraption this awesome is going to be reserved for the Japanese market, with reports suggesting that it’ll ship anywhere between mid-December to early January. The real kicker, however, is the price — at ¥85,000 ($1,047 based on today’s exchange rate), we’re surmising that only a handful of individuals can afford to give this thing the time of day.

We imagine this will have a pretty limited market given its feature set and price combination.

Stream of Consciousness: Netflix to offer ‘streaming only’ plan by years end?

October 23, 2010 by  
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We’ve talked on here about how we think HD and SD movie streaming is probably the future of TV and movies at home, but isn’t quite there yet. Well, it may be here sooner than we think: the world’s biggest movie at home provider, Netflix, may be on the road to launching a ‘streaming only’ monthly plan by the end of the year.

Read on via blog tvpredictions:

The online movie rental service has offered a ‘streaming only” option in Canada — and experimented with one in the United States.

The Canadian plan costs $1 less per month than Netflix’s minimum payment plan ($8.99) which allows subscribers to rent DVDs as well as watching movies over the Internet, called streaming. (To include Blu-ray discs in your Netflix plan requires an additional fee.)

Netflix has been shifting the company’s focus in recent years to emphasize streaming instead of the hard disc. In fact, company CEO Reed Hastings said yesterday that “we are now primarily a streaming company that also offers DVD-by-mail…DVD-by-mail shipments are still growing, but streaming for us is much larger and growing much faster.

Netflix’s streaming service, which allows viewers to watch a film almost immediately, is available on many devices including PCs, Blu-ray players, Apple TV and the XBox 360.

The company said 66 percent of its subscribers watched at least 15 minutes of Netflix video streaming in the last financial quarter; the number was 61 percent in the previous quarter.

Netflix believes that streaming will mean fewer costs and more subscribers in the coming years.

We do believe overhead will be lower, but will costs really go down via the price on your end? Probably not. We’ll see.

The Specs Specs: Prescription 3D HD Glasses?

October 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Industry News, Product News

In all the hubbub over 3D and such, people forget that many need prescription eyeglasses to see anything, 3D or otherwise. Now Samsung is apparently doing something about this, as they’re preparing prescription level 3D active-shutter glasses for certain parts of that population. More here:

If the only thing holding you back from that new 3DTV purchase was the inconvenience of slipping the 3D glasses over the regular old 2D glasses you already wear, Samsung is the first major manufacturer with a solution now that it’s unveiled a prescription version in Korea. The SSG-R2200 models appear to be very similar to the company’s other active shutter 3D glasses in various shapes and sizes, but they’re made to order from an optometrist.

We’ll see these in the US as well at some point, but we’ll also have to see what kind of prices these go for.

HD or Not: Fox’s broadcast of NLCS baseball games not up to snuff?

October 21, 2010 by  
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There have been many grumblings and complaints about Fox’s MLB NLCS coverage, including the distracting little “pitch location” graphic on the side of every pitch, but nothing beats the complaint leveled against the broadcasts; they’re not “real” HD at all, but enhanced SD, even on HD feeds.

This would be quite shameful given the resources of a company like Fox, to cheap out on baseball’s biggest stage with substandard HD feeds.

The Fox picture has been a mess, lacking detail and clarity typical of an HD program. The centerfield camera is really bad, displaying a picture that appears as if filtered with a Brillo pad. That’s really bad for a billion dollar corporation and a program that will grab millions of viewers.

HD won’t catch on for real as a mainstream format if companies don’t really show what it can do. Here’s to hoping there’s enough people complaining that Fox reconsiders their feeds next year and that it improves during the World Series, which Fox will be carrying.

First Black Friday Report: Sears fires the first shot

October 19, 2010 by  
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It looks like Sears will be launching the first salvo in the holiday price wars this year with an early “sneak peek” of some great Black Friday deals, but about a month earlier than most other chains. Here’s a few of the deals they’ll be hawking:

Vivitar X029, 10 Megapixel Optical Zoom Camera — $49
RCA 40-Inch, 1080p LCD HDTV — $499
PlayStation 3 160GB Entertainment System — $299
Nintendo Wii Bundle, including Wii Sports and Motion Plus — $199

What catches our eye immediately is that very cool price on a 40″ 1080p TV for $499….anyone can now afford to put a decent sized HDTV in their living room and enjoy HD and Blu-Ray content the way it was meant to be seen.

We’re hoping more sets get added, but that alone is a reason to keep a look out for Sears on October 29 and 30 (the two days of the sale), and it seems to also indicate the BF wars may be starting early for other companies as well.

Shipping Out: Sony outsourcing high-end HDTV production – bad news?

October 19, 2010 by  
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Sony is a company in financially bad straits, no doubt about it, but it appears they must be pretty bad off to consider their possible next move – outsourcing the production of their high-end units to another company in Taiwan. Here’s the scoop courtesy of Engadget:

Potentially bad news this morning for fans of high-end Sony HDTVs. The company, still struggling with huge losses and desperate to find reasonable pricing for its exported TVs amid historically high values for the yen, is looking to outsource not only assembly but full panel production on many of its LCDs. According to the report, up to 80 percent of Sony’s 2011 sets will be manufactured externally, with between 40 and 50 percent of those getting panels manufactured by Foxconn-affiliate CMI. Foxconn itself is said to be producing 18 million sets, while Wistron, the other major partner here, will stamp out Sony’s Google TV. If true this will be the first time Sony has outsourced full production of its higher-end models to Taiwan. None of this has been confirmed by any of these players, so apply salt to taste, but the concepts certainly make sense, and recent production slowdowns at the company’s massive new LCD production facility could be related.

Who knows if this will affect quality; it may or may not, but we’re hoping it doesn’t reduce Sony to an also-ran in the HDTV wars.

HD Stream: Netflix to offer 1080p HD movie service

October 17, 2010 by  
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It seems even larger companies like Netflix have latched onto the 1080p HD bandwagon: they plan on launching a full HD movie service on the PS3 very soon (as of the 18th or so). More details here:

The company said more devices would get Dolby sound and 1080p movies “over time.” Netflix’s instant streaming service is also available on Blu-ray players, PCs, Apple TV and the XBox 360.

Netflix did not say which movies — or how many — would be available in 1080p, a format that purports to offer a sharper picture. Blu-ray movies are also in 1080p, but many industry analysts believe that a streaming 1080p video does not deliver a picture as good as the high-def disc.

However, Netflix said that PS3 owners would no longer have to insert a disc in the console to view its library of movies and TV shows.

To get Netflix’s streaming service, Netflix subscribers must pay a minimum of $8.99 a month. The fee allows subscribers to rent hard discs via the mail as well watch movies instantly over the Net. But the company is reportedly considering launching a streaming-only subscription plan in the near future.

We like and appreciate the idea, even if a full Netflix subscription is necessary to get ahold of it. More 1080p sources are always a good thing in our book, however.

New News: Google TV arrives in stores?

October 17, 2010 by  
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It appears that Sony and Google HDTV alliance has begun, as many blogs are reporting early releases on the new platform, and the world of interactive HDTV content may never be the same again. Read on to see more about it from Engadget:

Sony told us that Best Buy wouldn’t begin selling its Google TV sets until October 24, but it looks like that wasn’t quite right — sources within the big box retailer tell us the TVs have already arrived, and will be free for all to purchase when an October 17th street date breaks tomorrow morning. The scrap of paper you see above goes on to suggest that full shipments may not actually arrive until the 19th and that the Logitech Revue won’t appear until the 20th, but if you’re looking to get a nice big NSX without hunting for a Sony Style store, it’s definitely worth a shot.

It’s a big-time hype release, and we’ll have some coverage on it soon when it releases officially and we get some hands-on reports into our greedy fingers.

Black Friday Early?: HDTV price dips could come in next few weeks

October 15, 2010 by  
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We all know that Black Friday deals can be some of the lowest prices on items we see all year, and that includes HDTV sets obviously. Rumors are abound that many retailers will start marking down units and announcing BF price leaks as soon as next week in preparation for the holiday season, and the deals could be huge.

How about a 42-inch Plasma 720p set for less than $400? It could very well happen, according to many industry observers. A 1080p HDTV unit for $600? Could happen. We can’t wait, because this could the year where many go HD and don’t look back, which would be a source of great joy for us at SS for many reasons. Price is no longer a barrier, especially with online sales, pay as you go online shopping channels, and other avenues.

Here’s to great BF sales that makes everyone join the HD paradise.

Extra, Extra: Inception Blu-Ray HD to include 90 mins of exclusive extra features

October 15, 2010 by  
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We like it when companies load their HD Blu-Ray releases with extra features that are exclusive, as it encourages those on the fence about 1080p to move over to the light side already. That will be the case with Inception, the hit theater release when it arrives on Blu-Ray Dec. 7th (estimate street date).

Extras include a unique “Extraction Mode,” probably similar to other Warner Maximum Movie feature where the director comes in and explains details in PiP (something we really dig), and a full DTS-HD MA soundtrack as well that’s supposed to be ear-blowing.

The sellsheet for the $35.99 Blu-ray (with Digital Copy and DVD version) combo pack will include more than 90 minutes of exclusive extras featuring the director and star Lenoardo DiCaprio in commentaries and documentaries about the film. Look for it in December if you’re a big fan   of content-heavy HD discs.

Speaking of 3D… LG goes BIG

October 13, 2010 by  
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Yes, it seems LG is going big time into the 3D HDTV world, if announcements are to be believed. News of an 72″ 3D HDTV behemoth are emerging from their headquarters, and the TV was put on display as well. We bring you more details:

If you’re going to make the jump to 3D then don’t pussyfoot around. Not when you can go all in with the world’s largest commercial 3D LED backlit television from LG. The 72LEX9 stretches that 400Hz TruMotion panel to a full 72 inches while bunging NetCast online media streaming, Spot Control pixel dimming, DLNA, and Wireless AV Link into the mix. Look for it to be released in Q2 of 2011.

That makes it the biggest 3D equipped LCD TV in existence, and that’s pretty cool indeed. And you all know we’ve supported and endorsed LG as one of the best LCD brands around.

Uneasy Picture: 3D once again a wait and see game with buyers

October 13, 2010 by  
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It appears that 3D HDTV is a wait and see proposition with many consumers these days, according to the latest surveys conducted as of a few weeks ago. See the details below:

We’ve mixed feelings on 3D as a whole, and it seems that the vast majority of consumers do as well. We’ve seen quite a few lovely implementations, and there’s hardly a better way to watch sports away from the field, but those dreaded 3D glasses are likely keeping most people an arm’s length away. According to a new report from DisplaySearch, 3DTVs will make up just two percent of all flat panels shipped in 2010. Paul Gray, Director of TV Electronics Research, noted that “while TV manufacturers have bold plans and a lot of new products, consumers remain cautious,” continuing by stating that “consumers have been told that 3D TV is the future, but there still remains a huge price jump and little 3D content to watch.” In particular, “North American consumers appear to be playing a waiting game,” and in Western Europe, the sales of 3D glasses to sets has failed to hit 1:1. That said, the report feels rather strongly about the future, noting that 90 million 3DTV sets are expected to ship in 2014.

The chart pictured paints a very definite picture about the future of the medium, but if you’ve read our blog for long, you know we’ve always been unsure about 3D’s future in the marketplace. We’ll wait and see along with everyone else, we suppose.

Slim Chance: Samsung debuts new 55″ Ultra Slim bezel model

October 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Product News, Samsung, TV Brands

Ever thinner profiles and bezels seem to be the new goal of many HDTV companies right now, and it seems Samsung is no exception in this race. Witness this new creation that was announced recently:

Remember the world’s thinnest bezel separation touted by Sharp just this past June? Forget about it. Samsung has bested its Japanese competitor with the unveiling of a new 55-inch Digital Information Display panel that features bezels of 3.8mm on the top and left edges and 1.9mm on the bottom and right, leading to a positively svelte 5.7mm distance between the content of neighboring displays. That good stuff is augmented with Full HD resolution and a blinding 700 nits of brightness. There’ll also be a 46-inch model that offers a 7.6mm separation (hint: that’s still pretty damn thin), though we’ve yet to learn on when and where aspiring home cinema nuts might be able to obtain either screen.

No prices announced yet either, but the pic here stirs the imagination for certain. We’ll bring more news when it becomes available.

Three Dimensional Hoops: ESPN to air first 3D HDTV NBA game

October 9, 2010 by  
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ESPN’s 3D channel will air the December 17 contest between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks in HDTV 3D, making it the first NBA broadcast in the format, according to The New York Times. We’ve been skeptical of the format in general, but it seems to be gaining enough steam to warrant taking it more seriously for now.

ESPN will air 8 regular season games and 6 playoff games in 3D HD this season. ESPN 3D is currently available on DIRECTV and the NBA 3D games are also expected to be shown on Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable systems, making it pretty widely available and a good test of whether the format will be popular enough to endure for longer than a typical trend does.

We remain unsure of the 3D format’s longevity in the long term, but hey, we’ve been wrong before.

We Can Get Satisfaction: Survey reveals best and worst TV providers

October 9, 2010 by  
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A recent survey conducted by a major company highlights two things: The cost of TV and HD service is much too high for many people’s comfort nowadays, and the quality of a TV provider’s service can vary widely by region, it appears.

AT&T and Verizon customers are more satisfied with their HDTV service than their cable or satellite counterparts, according to J.D. Power and Associates, which measures customer happiness among many different products and services.

In 2010, AT&T’s U-verse ranked first in satisfaction among HDTV viewers in the West, South and North Central regions of the country. Verizon finished first in customer satisfaction in the East, while DIRECTV and Dish Network finished second and third respectively in the East. In the South and West, Verizon was second with DIRECTV third. So it seems to vary widely depending on where you are in the US.

But J.D. Power said that residential TV service customers are much less satisfied with the cost of their programs compared to 2009 ratings. The customer satisfaction score for all TV providers combined was 541, compared to 555 in 2009, so they have a little ground to make up. Cable customers in particular seemed to voice their objections to prices, but we have little confidence that companies will lower prices unless they need to.

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