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CES 2015 - What's New for Home Theaters

The 2015 International Consumer Electronic Show (CES 2015) runs 6-9 January 2015 in Las Vegas, NV.  As far a home theater projectors go, the CEDIA show, typically held in September,  is the venue where we typically see the most new projector introductions, but there are sometimes a few new projector announcements made at CES.  Beyond projectors, CES is normally the venue for introducing the other home theater gear, such as video sources (e.g., disc players) and audio gear (e.g., AV receivers and speakers).  CES


Going into CES 2015 one of the major things I am looking for is news on the upcoming Blu-ray 4K/UHD Disc standards and possibly information on planned Blu-ray 4K/UHD players and movie releases in this new higher resolution format.  I'm hoping there will even be a demo or two of engineering models of these new players.  Also the first products featuring full bandwidth HDMI 2.0 inputs/outputs with HDCP 2.2 support are expected to be introduced.  This includes 4K/UHD displays, AV Receivers and perhaps 4K/UHD sources and accessories (e.g., HDMI switches). As CES 2015 is kicking off the Consumer Electronic Association (the sponsor of CES) has released a statement that says, in part:

"“4K UHD is our future, and the future is now,” said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. “Consumers recognize that 4K Ultra HD is the next step forward in a long line of outstanding high-definition televisions and displays. With new next-gen technologies and features being added by manufacturers that help improve the already outstanding picture quality and viewing experience, 4K UHD is set to become the next great success story in television technology.”

'"4K UHD stands as one of the spotlight product categories at this week’s CES with almost every major television manufacturer expected to display their latest 4K UHD products. 4K UHD manufacturers will show their next-generation displays during the 2015 CES, including some with early implementations of new technologies, including high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut and higher frame rates. These technical advances further enhance 4K UHD’s unparalleled viewing experience.'

"Also reflecting 4K UHD’s momentum is today’s announcement by CEA members and leading Hollywood studios, consumer electronics brands, content distributors and others in the 4K UHD ecosystem. Their intention to work together to ensure next-gen displays and video entertainment meet premium quality standards complements CEA’s Technology and Standards efforts on HDR and other pixel enhancements for 4K UHD going forward.'

A group of consumer electronics manufactures, movie studios, programming suppliers and content delivery companies have released information that they have joined forces to create the "UHD Alliance".   It appears the group intends set industry standards for 4K/UHD content creation, delivery and terminology as a way of promoting a consistent rollout for 4K/UHD content, distribution, displays and related products as well as the terminology being used.  The official press release says, in part:

"Leading Hollywood studios, consumer electronics brands, content distributors, post-production and technology companies announced today the launch of the UHD (Ultra High Definition) Alliance – a new coalition of companies united to set the bar for next generation video entertainment by establishing new standards to support innovation in video technologies including 4K and higher resolutions, high dynamic range, wider color gamut and immersive 3D audio."

"The UHD Alliance was created with the consumer in mind; it provides information on premium Ultra-HD content and devices to deliver best-in-class home entertainment. The Alliance is also focused on helping consumers benefit from a seamless, integrated and high-quality Ultra-HD ecosystem from end-to-end. Premium Ultra-HD content and devices will be clearly identified so consumers can easily recognize them in-store."

"The Alliance was formed by global companies including DIRECTV, Dolby, LG Electronics Inc., Netflix, Panasonic Corporation, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Sharp Corporation, Sony Visual Product Inc., Technicolor, The Walt Disney Studios, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. Entertainment."


Panasonic -

Julie Bauer, the USA head of the consumer electronics division,  introduced the growing the line of Panasonic consumer products.   Two 4K consumer camcorders were introduced.  Technics audio brand products will be returning to the US market.  Panasonic is participating in the new UHD Alliance that includes CE manufacturers and movie studios. Panasonic unveiled a prototype Blu-ray 4K/UHD player (pictured below).  The Panasonic press release in talking about the prototype Blu-ray 4K/UHD player being displayed at CES says, in part:

"This prototype integrates video processing and optical disc drive technologies that Panasonic has refined over many years, making it capable of reproducing 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixel)/60p/10-bit high resolution video, and supporting the latest technologies such as High Dynamic Range that marks a major leap in the brightness peak from the previous 100 nit to 1,000-10,000 nit to improve the power of expression; wide color gamut standard BT.2020, which greatly increases color reproduction; high-efficiency video compression technology HEVC (H.265)/ Blu-ray Disc playback at a high bit rate of 100Mbps."

"This marks a major advance in picture quality over current Blu-ray Disc players, and paves the way towards allowing consumers to enjoy the crisp, true-to-life quality of amazing 4K Ultra HD content in their own homes."

Panasonic 4K Blu-ray Player The Panasonic press release included the following additional information for the specs of the Blu-ray 4K/UHD player.


4K / 60p High speed display in 60 frames per second of 4K video (3,840 x 2,160 pixels - Ultra HD), which has four times the resolution of Full Hi-vision, for highly detailed videos with extremely smooth movement.

10-bit gradation Previous Blu-ray Discs displayed the color signals (Y, Cb, Cr) in 8-bit gradation each (256 gradations). By expanding this to 10-bit gradation each (1,024 gradations),  even minute signals can be faithfully reproduced to realize richly textured video.

High Dynamic Range A technology that drastically expands the brightness peak from the previous 100 nit to 1,000-10,000 nit, marking a significant leap in the dynamic range of the picture. Bright light sources (e.g. lights or rays of the sun) and reflected light (from metal or water) that up to now were difficult to display can now be shown in rich textures.

BT.2020 wide color gamut Compliant with the ITU-R BT.2020 wide color gamut signal formulated for 4K/8K broadcasting. Enables vividly rich coloration not previously possible on Blu-ray discs (BT.709 standard).

HEVC (H.265) / 100Mbps Support for the highest 100Mbps video signal using the latest high-efficiency video compression technology. Compression efficiency and high bit rate far beyond previous Blu-ray discs (MPEG-4/AVC (H.264), maximum 40Mbps) enabling outstanding playback of high quality video with 4K/60p/10bit, High Dynamic Range, BT.2020, etc.

Panasonic also introduced new 4K/UHD TVs with wide color gamuts using technologies they use in their professional studio monitors.  Four UHD TV series are being introduced for 2015 with 9 models.

Dish Network

Announced they will be offering a set top box with 4K video support, called a "4K Joey".  The Dish Network press release says, in part:

"With the launch of the 4K Joey, DISH is the first pay-TV provider to offer a set-top box that supports all Ultra HD televisions equipped with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. The ultra-thin receiver is small enough to fit behind wall-mounted 4K TVs and features picture-in-picture and native Bluetooth support."

“While 4K Ultra HD televisions have generated considerable buzz in the industry, 4K pay-TV solutions have not been universal,” said Vivek Khemka, DISH senior vice president of product management. “The 4K Joey expands the 4K ecosystem and enables consumers to select the Ultra HD TV of their choice and access relevant content, helping them better enjoy the most advanced picture viewing experience available today.”

"The 4K Joey will be available in Q2 2015. It will connect to an existing Hopper and joins the existing “troop” of Joeys in offering a complete whole-home experience. In addition to the standard Joey, DISH offers the Wireless Joey, the Virtual Joey and the Super Joey."


Samsung's press conference discussed the "UHD Alliance" of which they are a member (overview provided above).  Samsung introduced what they call SUHD TV that includes a 88 inch model that they claims offers higher brightness, more saturated colors (apparently close to DCI-P3 color gamut) and better contrast for an overall superior image.  Samsung continues to promote curved UHD TVs with new models in their 2015 line-up.  The Samsung Co-CEO (head of electronics at the company) was the Tuesday evening keynote speaker.  


At their press conference Sony's CEO mentioned their ultra-short throw 4K projector (announced last year and demo'ed at CEDIA Expo in Sept. 2014) and he also mentioned there will be a portable short throw projector, but provided no specifics.  It was stated that Sony has now sold more than 18 million Playstation 4 consoles.   Sony plans to continue the expand the role for the PS4 as a muti-media platform.  It was also said that most the Sony Studios produced TV shows, such as "The Black List" are already being produced in 4K.   Sony announced a new flagship X900 series of UHD TVs.   Sony is working with Netflix to delivery high dynamic range (HDR) with 4K content to Sony 4K/UHD TVs in 2015.   Sony introduced a new consumer 4K Handycam that will sell for $1,000 and they are also introducing a new 4K Actioncam with improved image stabilization. Sony announced a new entry-level 4K/UHD projector for the US market  with the model VPL-VW350es with a MSPR of $9,999 and with a special limited time introductory price of $7,999.  This is essentially the same projector announced back in Sept. 2014 as the model VPL-VW300es for release in Europe.  These new entry level models are essentially stripped down versions of the VPL-VW500es (international) and VPL-VW600es (USA) models (previously reviewed HERE)  that were introduced more than a year ago.  Basically Sony has removed the dynamic iris and lens memory features from those earlier models, and in the case of the models sold in the USA, dropped by the price by one third (not allowing for the introductory discounted price).  


LG's press conference was promoting their OLED TVs in sizes up to 77 inches, one model of which was previously shown at CEDIA Expo in Sept. 2014.  LG's 2015 OLED lineup includes both HD (1080p) models as well as 4K/UHD models.  New at CES is a 77 inch model that can flex between a flat surface and a curved surface.  The price of the 77" flexible OLED TV was not announced but the curved only (i.e., rigid) 77" model that was introduced in Sept. 2014 has a retail price of $25,000, so one would guess the flexible version will cost even more.  LG also introduced a new line of LCD/LED UHD TVs for 2015.  LG, as did Sony, announced their new UHD TVs will be compatible with the Netflix High Dynamic Range (HDR) 4K streamed programming.  


The Chinese manufacturer Hisense, demo'ed a 1080p ultra-short throw projector, called Vidaa Max 100P1.  This projector uses a DLP single chip, using TI Dark Chip 3, combined with a laser light source rated for a 25,000 life and can project a 100 inch (diagonal) image on a screen or wall.  The expected selling price and release date were not announced.  


BenQ is showing some of their previously announced projectors in their 2015 lineup of DLP based models.  The HC1200 is a home entertainment class projector with additional light output making this model suitable for use in a mixed use environment where full room lighting control is not practical or desired.  For home theater use BenQ is showing the  HT1075 and short throw HT1085ST.  The HT1075 was recently reviewed - HERE and is the successor to the popular model W1070.  


Viewsonic is featuring the previously announced model PJD7822HDL home entertainment projector with a specified 3200 lumens light output.  This is a 1080p single chip DLP model.  They have also introduced the "LightStream(TM)" PJD5 series of affordably priced projectors delivering up to a claimed 3,200 lumens that are said to be suitable for the classroom, conference room or home entertainment environment.  Prices for the budget PJD5 series range from $399 to $699.  

Next Generation Blu-ray Disc

There was a session held on Tuesday, Jan. 6th, at CES called "The Road to 4K UHD Content".  One of the speakers for that discussion was Victor Matsuda.  Mr. Matsuda is a Vice President with Sony and also serves as Chief Financial officer and Chair of the Global Promotions Committee of the Blu-Ray Disc Association (BDA).  It was in that latter role that he made a few comments about the plans for the next generation Blu-ray Discs to support 4K video.  First the name of this next generation disc is "Ultra HD Blu-ray".  He could not say specifically when manufacturers will be releasing the first players or the studios the first discs in this new format, but he did say that he expects licensing of Ultra High-Def (UHD) Blu-ray to start in mid-2015 and he indicated that he would not be surprised to see the first production players and discs become available before the end of the year.  This is essentially the same timetable Mr. Matsuda announced during the IFA show in Berlin, Germany back in Sept. 2014. While the specifics for the disc capacity not have yet been officially announced by the BDA, there is a report by "The Digital Bits"  that BDA spokesperson Dan Schinasi and Ron Martin of Panasonic Hollywood Labs have confirmed that there will be two disc formats used for Ultra HD Blu-ray releases with a dual layer 66 GB version and a triple layer 100 GB version. Based on information provided from a number of sources, including the Panasonic press release for their prototype Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and statements from Victor Matsuda and Dan Schinasi (both representing the Blu-ray Disc Association) it appears that the technical details of the new UHD Blu-ray Disc format are starting to become more clear.  Below is a summary of what we have learned, so far (assuming the information from the above sources is correct and does not change as the Ultra HD Blu-ray standard is finalized):
  •  use dual layer 66 GB discs or triple layer 100 GB discs (compared to HD Blu-ray's 25 GB and 50GB discs)
  •  support multiple color gamuts up to and including the extremely wide Rec. 2020 (the UHD Blu-ray standand will probably specifically identify Rec. 709, DCI-P3, and Rec. 2020 as valid color gamuts - my opinion)
  • will use a nominal/minimum bit depth of 10-bit and the standard will allow for up to a 16-bit depth to be used
  • will support data rates up to 108 Mbps for the recordings on the 66GB discs and up to 128 Mbps for recordings on the 100 GB discs
  • discs will use H.265/HEVC for the encoding (given the above max. allowed characteristics that means version 2 of H.265 standard will be used rather than ver. 1 as used by the 4K streaming services)
  • will support 3D as an option (basically what we have now with HD Blu-ray players where entry level models are not required to support 3D and discs can support 3D as an option)
  • will support High Dynamic Range (HDR) recordings
  • UHD Blu-ray players will be backward compatible in that they will also play conventional HD Blu-ray Discs and DVDs
The one major technical characteristic that I have not yet been able to confirm is which chroma subsampling schemes will be supported.  Current HD Blu-rays use 4:2:0 while many videophiles are hoping that the UHD Blu-ray standard will also support the higher fidelity 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 schemes which provide higher resolution for the color information within the recorded video.   ____________________________


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