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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The All New Digital Living Room Of Tomorrow

(Via MSNBC) The biggest transformation of living room entertainment is happening now with significant changes happening all at once - in the way home entertainment is conveyed, played and displayed. The exhibits in local consumer electronics emporium once at home would provide it with a royal ambience. In the living room - larger screens as a result of the move to high definition television. Go much beyond that size and you’re looking at plasma, LCD and projection sets. Plasma screens are an excellent and well-established technology with great black levels (a key element in picture quality) and wide viewing angles.Prices are rapidly dropping, due to both production over-capacity and overblown fears about “burn-in”. LCDs are coming up quickly as plasma competitors, although they are still more costly and not quite up to plasma’s richness of image. A surprise contender for space in the living room is the new generation of rear-projection sets. This new breed uses microdisplay technology such as DLP (digital light processing) or LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) to create HD images on screens in the 50 inch range and larger—in sets that are less than 18 inches deep. The biggest news in video is the advent of the DVR - the hard disk based digital video recorders pioneered by TiVo but now duplicated, with varying levels of quality, in everything from cable and satellite TV boxes to DVD recorders to Media Center personal computers.
DVDs with high definition video are on the way, but two competing standards are fighting now. Audio is the other big change in the living room environment. Systems now provide surround sound with 5.1, 6.1, even 7.1 speakers. The recent popularity of “home theater in a box” (HTIB) gives all the components needed plus easy connection directions. We’ll see a number of home theater systems with wireless speakers. Media Servers are the latest addition to the living room - basically a giant hard drive on which you can store both video and audio files. Media servers can offer a multitude of functions, ranging from an HD television tuner and DVR functionality to DVD recording and playback when users begin to play their MP3 files through the living room’s high quality surround sound systems, the results may prove distinctly disappointing. As media servers catch on, expect a big market for upgraded audio files in the years ahead.The key trend is that everything in the living room will be connected. In future, each component needs to play well - and also to play well with others.

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