By Jon Kenton
With this being the Entertainment issue of North Valley Magazine, here is a rundown of the latest entertainment products that were announced at the beginning of the year. Most will be available for you to purchase soon. Check out your local electronics store or the relevant manufacturer’s Web site for the latest details.
2008 saw televisions getting bigger and bigger, but not much has changed since we reported from CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) last year with Panasonic’s 150-inch plasma and Sharp’s 108-inch LCD continuing to rule the roost. This year, the trend seems to be televisions heading for the gym and slim coming in as the new big. Multimedia and Internet connectivity is the other commonality across many of the newly introduced televisions. Now you can watch TV, listen to music, and surf the Web all from the comfort of your armchair, with only a few button presses of your TV’s remote for exercise. I think it’s us, and not the TV, who need to consider a visit to the gym!
New for 2009, the Z1 series was added to Panasonic’s VIERA range of plasma screens. Sporting a slimmed-down panel only one inch thick, the Z1 will support full 1080 resolution and is THX certified. There is a slot for SD memory cards, and the VIERA Image Viewer can display digital photos and videos. For music connectivity, Panasonic now has added an iPod dock to four of their X1 series LCD TVs. Simply plug in your player and control your music library from your remote.
Samsung is also going for ultraslim models with three of their LCD series (6000, 7000, and 8000). With their own new slimline wall mount that allows you attach their TVs just over half an inch from the wall, the combined TV and mount will be less than two inches. With TVs and mounts getting thinner and thinner, it really is just like hanging a picture on the wall.
Internet-connected TVs are being introduced by many of the major manufacturers. Utilizing Yahoo’s “TV Widgets” technology, these new TVs will provide the capability to access a variety of Yahoo features. View digital photos at Flickr; check on the stock market, news, or weather at Yahoo!Finance Yahoo!News, and Yahoo!Weather, respectively. There will also be supported content from third parties such as USA TODAY, YouTube, eBay and Showtime Networks, with many more sources due to be added as the service grows and develops. Among the major manufacturers to announce products supporting TV Widgets and other Internet access features are LG, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and VIZIO.
If you don’t feel like upgrading your existing HDTV but do like the idea of broader Internet access, there are now even more options. If you haven’t moved up to Blu-ray yet and can wait another few months, LG has two players that also have networking features. The LG BD370 and BD390 support 1080p native with the ability to upscale existing DVDs to 1080p. The audio side is equally matched with advanced audio format decoding of Dolby TrueHD, Digital Plus, and DTS-HD. Both feature Internet connectivity with the ability to stream online video from Netflix, YouTube, and CinemaNow. The BD370 needs an Ethernet cable, while its big brother, the BD390, has built-in wireless connectivity. Netgear continues to bridge the worlds of TV and networking. The Digital Entertainer Elite (EVA9150) is the latest in a line of all-powerful media players. Bringing together all things digital, it connects to your television and can pull content from your home network as well as the Internet. If you just want to be able to get Internet TV direct to your new slimmed-down HDTV, check out the Netgear ITV2000. There is plenty of streamed media to choose from, with sources such as BBC.com, CNN.com, ESPN.com, and EuroSport.com, to name but a few.
With the television continuing to maintain its status as the center point of home entertainment, don’t forget to get out of your chair once in a while to stretch your legs!