|CES Report #3
Specs/Photos of Newly Announced Blu-ray Players at CES
For the third and final portion of our CES 2009 coverage, I thought I'd look more closely at each of the
32 new models of Blu-ray Disc player - or BD-equipped HTiBs (Home Theater in a Box systems) or LCD displays - that were announced at the show. I'll provide photos of each unit and specs where available. So let's get started...
The first model is the BluCobra EZ3000, from EzGear, which the company says will ship to retailers in March (the SRP is expected to be around $399). The player will be fully compatible with DVD, SACD, CD and Blu-ray, and will support video output resolutions of 1080p 1080i, 720p and 480i. The player will feature an HDMI 1.3 connection, and will also be BonusView (profile 1.1) compatible. It will process Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master lossless audio, and will include 7.1 analog outputs. This is apparently the first in a new line of "BluCobra" products from EzGear. It will be interesting to see just how reliable the player is, and how well the company supports it with firmware updates as they're needed.
JVC's LT-42B300 is a Blu-ray Disc player of a different feather... it's actually a 42-inch LCD HDTV display with a built-in Blu-ray player. Word is the player itself is BonusView (profile 1.1) compatible only - not BD-Live. Expect it to arrive in stores in June. (No price has been offered yet by JVC.)
LG announced a pair of new Blu-ray Disc players at CES - the BD370 and BD390. Both will be fully BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible. Both are upgrades of the company's existing BD300 Network player, which is currently able to access the Internet and stream movie rentals from Netflix. The BD370 adds Cinema Now rentals and YouTube streaming to the Netflix offerings of the BD300, and also features DVD upscaling and onboard processing of both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD lossless audio. The BD390 includes all that, as well as 7.1 analog outputs, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, 1 GB of onboard memory, and additional home networking capabilities. The SRP of the BD370 is likely to be south of $399, and it should be in stores sometime in the 2nd quarter of 2009 (read: April or May). The BD390 will follow shortly thereafter (likely June), and will be slightly more expensive than the BD370. Here's a look at the BD370 (the BD390 model on display at CES was virtually identical in appearance).
Also newly announced by LG at the show is the LHB979 Network Blu-ray Disc home theatre system, which features a set 5 speakers (front/center/surround) as well as a subwoofer. The speakers receive their audio signals wirelessly, so there's no need to run audio cables around your room. The system's integrated Blu-ray player (different from the standalone models above) is BD-Live compatible and allows Netflix, Cinema Now and YouTube streaming. It also features an iPod dock and 2 HDMI inputs for use with external video sources. The LDB979 is expected to arrive in May (no pricing info is yet available). Here's a look at the system as a whole...
The Memorex MVBD-2520 Blu-ray Disc player almost completely snuck under the radar at CES, which is surprising given that the unit (due in June) will carry an SRP of just $200. Surprise - it's also BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible and features onboard lossless audio decoding of both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA. Other specs are TBA, but here's a visual...
Panasonic has four new models of Blu-ray player on the way for 2009, as well as two new BD-equipped Home Theatre in a Box (HTiB) systems, all fully BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible.
The DMP-BD60 is the eventual replacement for the current BD35, while the DMP-BD80 will take the place of the BD55. Both will offer VIERA Cast Internet access to streaming movie rentals from Amazon VOD and other online services, will decode all the latest lossless audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA) and employ the company's PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus signal processing technology. All of Panasonic's new players are designed to reduce power consumption. (The BD60 reportedly consumes 16% less power in standby mode than the BD35.) Like the BD55 before it, the BD80 includes added convenience features for enthusiasts, including 7.1 analog audio outputs and "a playback information window that can be used to display detailed image information while a movie is playing." The BD60 will carry an SRP of $299, while the BD80 will sell for around $399. Both are expected to hit stores sometime this Spring (likely March).
Meanwhile, for those who like to combine the old with the new, Panasonic offers the DMP-BD70V, which includes VHS playback capability with Blu-ray. You read that right: a VHS/Blu-ray Combo player! The BD70V reportedly offers all the same features and capabilities as the BD60 (above). According to the company's press release, "The BD70V allows for premium 1080p up-conversion for all video formats." Look for it in May (SRP $449).
Finally, for those who want their Blu-ray on the move, the company is introducing the DMP-BD15.
The portable will include an 8.9-inch WSVGA LCD display (1024x600), an HDMI output, bitstream output for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, an SD card slot and an optional headrest mount for use in a vehicle. It will also be BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible, and will reportedly have a 3-hour battery. No word yet on price or availability.
Panasonic's new Home Theatre in a Box systems are the SC-BT200 and the SC-BT300. They'll replace the company's current BT100 system. Each will come with a full 7.1 channel speaker array for compatibility with the latest lossless audio formats, and both will feature full BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatibility, as well as VIERA Cast service access and an iPod dock. The SC-BT200 will output 1,000 watts and will include 6 matching, wireless-ready speakers, while the CS-BT300 will output 1,250 watts and will include 2 tall front speakers, a larger center speaker, and 4 matching, wireless-ready surround speakers. Both are due Spring 2009. Pricing is still TBA, but our sources expect them to SRP for a stunning $599 and $699 respectively - MUCH lower than the current BT100, which retails for $999. Pretty impressive. Here's a look at the SC-BT300...
Philips introduced a trio of new stand-alone Blu-ray players at the show - the BDP-3010 (SRP $229 - due in April), BDP-5010 ($249 - April) and BDP-7310 ($279 - May) - as well as a new BD-equipped HTiB system, the HTS-5100B (Price TBA - June).
The BDP-3010 will be BonusView (profile 1.1) compatible only, while the BDP-5010 and BDP-7310 will both be full BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible. Word is the BDP-7310 will ship with a 1 GB SD memory card included, and will offer additional audio format, DivX and AVCHD support that the BDP-5010 and BDP-3010 do not. The HTS-5100B, on the other hand, is an HTiB system with a 5.1-channel speaker array and player support for BonusView (profile 1.0) only. We believe most (if not all) of these players will feature HDMI 1.3 outputs. Here's a look at the BDP-7310...
Pioneer's Blu-ray offerings at CES revealed a very strong line-up for early 2009, including the new BDP-120, BDP-320 and Elite BDP-23FD players (a couple of additional models will eventually be announced for late 2009 release as well). All three players will be fully BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible, will feature HDMI 1.3a connections, will decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA audio, and will offer memory upgrades up to 2 TB via USB (you can even use portable USB hard drives as player memory, and you can access the drive's media files too). They'll also allow you to make 13 separate video quality adjustments and offer enhanced noise-reduction circuitry. The BDP-120 (due April/May - SRP $249) will include the base features listed above. The BDP-320 (April/May - SRP $399) will add 1 GB internal memory, 7.1 analog audio outputs and a Precision Quartz Lock System (PQLS) for jitter-free multi-channel lossless audio. Finally, the BDP-23FD (April/May - SRP $599) includes all the features of the BDP-320 and adds additional home integration features, including an RS232C interface and KURO Link picture mode (if you have a Kuro display, the player can control the display's picture settings to ensure a perfect image). FYI, we're told that a firmware update planned for February will increase load speed for the company's existing Blu-ray players (including the Elite BDP-09FD) and will add 7.1-channel audio adjustments. Here's a closer look at the players (top to bottom - BDP-120, BDP-320 and BDP-23FD)...
RCA told me that they're working on new Blu-ray players models, but they weren't yet ready to make specific model announcements at the show.
Samsung had two new models of Blu-ray Disc player on display at CES, the BD-P3600 and BD-P4600, both BD-Live compatible. Both players will offer wireless networking (via an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi USB dongle - available as a separate $40 accessory for the BD-P3600, but we're told that it comes with the BD-P4600) and have standard Ethernet ports as well. Both players will allow you to access online video and music streaming services like Netflix and Pandora. Both will also obviously feature full BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatibility, as well as 1GB of internal flash memory, HDMI 1.3, DVD upconverting, onboard lossless audio decoding and more. The BD-P4600's sleek chassis is just 1.5-inches thick, takes its discs slot-loaded and can be wall mounted for an elegant look to match your flat panel display. The BD-P3600 has a more standard form factor, but also has 7.1 analog outputs for audio enthusiasts that the BD-P4600 lacks. No pricing information is yet available, though both units are expected in the first half of 2009.
Also coming from Samsung this year are the HT-BD1250 5.1-channel Blu-ray Home Theater System, as well as the HT-BD7200 2.1-channel Blu-ray Home Theater System and the HT-BD8200 2.1-channel Blu-ray Sound Bar. All three systems are also due in the first half of 2009 (pricing TBA).
Let's talk about the HT-BD8200 first. It's basically a set of stereo speakers with a built in Blu-ray Disc player (profile 2.0 no less) contained in a sleek bar form factor (just 2.6 inches deep) that you can mount on its own stand (under a monitor in a traditional rack or display shelf) or on the wall beneath your flat panel. It also includes a wireless subwoofer - together the two pieces can create "virtual" 5.1 sound. The built-in player offers support for lossless audio formats, and even includes an iPod dock. Here's what it looks like...
The HT-BD7200 is also a 2.1-channel Blu-ray system, this time featuring dedicated front left and right speakers and a wireless subwoofer. The system is powered by a Blu-ray player/amp combination that features a form factor similar to the BD-P4600. It's also BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible, supports all the lossless audio formats, includes an iPod dock, and offers wireless networking via a USB wireless dongle. According to the press release: "The system pumps out an impressive 400W output and simulated 5.1-channel surround sound using just two speakers." Here's a photo...
The HT-BD1250 is a true 5.1 home theatre in a box, featuring an integrated BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible Blu-ray Disc player. It
obviously contains 5 speakers and a wireless subwoofer, and the "head unit" (pictured below) is capable of delivering 1000W of total power. The additional specs and features seem to be similar to the HT-BD7200 - support for lossless audio, etc (pricing is also TBA).
Sharp introduced two new models of stand-alone Blu-ray Disc player at CES - the BD-HP16U an the BD-HP22U. Both will be fully BD-Live (profile 2.0) compatible, and will feature AQUOS Pure Mode signal processing, lower power consumption in both Power On and Standby modes, HDMI 1.3 output and onboard decoding of all the key lossless audio formats. The key difference between the two? The BD-HP22U will include 2GB of USB memory. The BD-HP16U will be available in March (SRP $279.99), while the BD-HP22U will follow in May (SRP $299.99). Here's what they'll both look like...
JVC wasn't the only company at CES showing off combination LCD/Blu-ray Disc players. Sharp's LC-BD80U is actually a series of new LCD displays with integrated Blu-ray playback, that will be available in 32, 37, 42, 46 and 52-inch screen sizes. Most will be available later this month, while the 52-inch model (LC-52BD80U) will arrive in February. We expect the onboard Blu-ray player to be BonusView compatible only (profile 1.1). All except the two smallest models will have 4 HDMI inputs (the 32-inch and 37-inch models will have each have 3). No prices are yet available.
I should note that Sony also has new Blu-ray Disc players in the works, including a 400-disc BD/DVD/CD Mega Changer with Content Management (which allows you to download and organize Internet metadata for all your music and movies including cover art, director/artist and genre, and sorts it for easy access) and Internet Streaming players that can download online movie content from Sony and other services (it apparently uses the Xross Media Bar for menu navigation). Sony wasn't yet ready to announce specific models at CES, however technical demos of these units were on display in the "concept wall" area of their booth. Here's a look at the changer and Internet player units on hand (more pictures are available in our CES Gallery)...
Of course, I also made the obligatory stop at Toshiba's booth on the show floor, to see if they've come to their senses regarding Blu-ray Disc support. Perhaps not surprisingly, they haven't. They continue to put their weight behind new models of standard-definition DVD player equipped with their Extended Detail Enhancement (XDE) processing, in spite of overwhelming market data that shows they're having no impact on Blu-ray Disc player sales. Said a spokesman to me at the show: "We currently have no Blu-ray plays." Brilliant. I still think Toshiba would do very well if they marketed an inexpensive Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo player. But that would require the setting aside of egos back in Japan, and our sources tell us that's unlikely. Meanwhile, Blu-ray has taken over the Japanese market so completely that Toshiba is virtually aced out of their own home market. D'oh!
Finally, if you're looking for a cool little Blu-ray player for under $200, Vizio's got your machine: the VBR100, which is expected to arrive in stores in April. The SRP is $199, but it will likely be $150 by the time it streets. You'll get built-in processing of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, 7.1 analog outs and HDMI 1.3. Not bad. Vizio's press release suggests it will be fully BD-Live compatible, though there seems to be some confusion on this issue. (We'll try to clarify.) If it's true, so much the better! As with the EzGear model, however, the key is how reliable the player is and what Vizio's customer support with firmware updates is like. Anyway, here's a peek...
So there you go! That's what was doing on the Blu-ray player front at CES this year. Be sure to check out our CES Gallery as well. Hope you enjoyed our coverage of the show!
Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits