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Sunday, September 23, 2018

What’s next, a wall-to-wall TV Screen?

Big, bigger, biggest plasmas and LCDs keep on coming at the Consumer Electronics Show. High-def players make a splash too.

Las Vegas — TELEVISIONS in recent years have taken over living rooms. Now, they’re almost as big as one.

At the annual Consumer Electronics Show, manufacturers showed off ever-bigger TVs in a size race that showed no signs of slowing.

Panasonic this year bragged that billionaire Mark Cuban owns one of its wall-filling, 103-inch plasma displays, which retail for about $70,000.

But Sharp did Panasonic one better, showing off a 108-inch liquid crystal display prototype that it exhibited on the show floor. That’s 9 feet, measured diagonally from corner to corner.

The company won’t disclose pricing or shipment dates. It’s just the sort of attention-grabbing technology demonstration that’s necessary at a show that attracts some 2,700 exhibitors, fanned out over 1.8 million net square feet of space.

Walls of flat-panel displays were everywhere, which hardly comes as a surprise as the Consumer Electronics Assn. forecasts a year of record sales of $22 billion, with prices dropping and consumers replacing their bulky old sets with slim displays.

But the gains were measured in inches, not technological milestones.

Panasonic, for example, demonstrated a prototype for a 42-inch plasma display capable of full 1920-by-1080 high-definition resolution, together with new 50- and 58-inch plasma displays. The 42- and 50-inch displays are due out this spring, with the larger of the sets out in the summer. No pricing information was disclosed.

Sony Electronics showed off a slender, 70-inch Bravia display — the largest of its line of liquid-crystal display televisions. It incorporates new technologies designed to compensate for motion blurring, to expand the color range by about 1.8 times and offer a new form of back lighting.

It goes on sale in February for a suggested retail price of $33,000.

But the big news for the living room came in smaller packages. LG Electronics introduced the first dual-format high-definition disc player. The Super Multi Blue Player plays either Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs in full 1920-by-1080 resolution.

Hee Gook Lee, president and chief technology officer of LG Electronics, said the company wanted to allay consumers’ concerns about investing in a player, given the two incompatible formats. But the new player has certain compromises. It doesn’t preserve all the interactive features of HD-DVD. Due out in February, the suggested retail price of $1,199 is almost what consumers would pay if they purchased Blu-ray and HD-DVD players.

Warner Bros. employed a bit of theatrics to unveil its answer to the high-definition disc format wars. It played music from Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey" as it introduced the Total Hi Def disc, a two-sided disc with movies in the Blu-ray Disc format on one side and HD-DVD on the other.

Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer dubbed the disc a technological milestone in the tradition of the studio’s role in bringing sound to film. He did not, however, provide pricing or information about availability.

Sling Media debuted the ultimate geek living room accessory: a product called the SlingCatcher, a digital media adapter that brings Web or PC content to the television.

It comes with standard definition and high-definition outputs as well as analog and digital audio.

A feature called SlingProjector wirelessly beams everything from goofy Internet video clips to full movie downloads to the big screen. The media adapter is expected to be available mid-year for less than $200.


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