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CES 2012 Day 3: Sony Crystal, Dish, ‘Shocking’ ioSafe Video and More

by John Sciacca   My third day in Vegas began with a visit to what, in my mind, will always be known as the Las Vegas Hilton (apparently it changed names/ownership a couple of weeks ago, and now it is the uber-generically named, The Las Vegas Hotel) to see projector manufacturer, BenQ. They were demonstrating t

by John Sciacca

My third day in Vegas began with a visit to what, in my mind, will always be known as the Las Vegas Hilton (apparently it changed names/ownership a couple of weeks ago, and now it is the uber-generically named, The Las Vegas Hotel) to see projector manufacturer, BenQ. They were demonstrating the new GP2, a $549 LED model that is made for portable viewing and presentation. The little-larger-than-palm-sized device will blast out 200 lumens and has a port for direct docking of an iPod/Phone and comes with the breakout cabling needed to connect an iPad. (It also features a USB port if you happen to store your videos or presentations in that format.) The GP2 produces 1280 x 800 native resolution, and could easily pump out a 60- to 80-inch image, especially in a dark environment. It also includes a battery pack that will give you three hours of portable power (at 100 lumens), or enough to keep the kids quiet for most of the evening.

BenQ’s tiny GP2 LED projector

Following BenQ, I headed back to the convention center’s South Hall to check out Atlona. They were demonstrating the new LinkCast Wireless HD broadcasting system that features 3 Gbps video bandwidth up to 1080p resolution and 18 Mbps audio bandwidth including lossy audio formats and LPCM. The transmitter is a simple HDMI dongle that connects to a device – in this case a tablet and a Blu-ray player – that beams audio and video up to 40 feet to a receiver. Up to five sources can be connected simultaneously and multiple receivers are also capable, meaning that a housewide system is definitely feasible. The system will sell for $299 and I look forward to bringing in a sample for review. In the interim, enjoy the video of the system in action.

There is absolutely no shortage of headphones on the show floor this year, in fact, you could almost wonder if a company can even still consider itself part of the CE industry if they haven’t released – or are about to release – a new line of “well, ours are really better” headphones. One pair that really caught my attention was from AfterShokz. These phones use bone-conduction technology, something that has long been popular with Special Forces types. These phones don’t go inside or over your ears, rather press against the area just in front of you ears and use your bones to relay audio into your head. While I imagined this would be an in-head, voice of God-type sound, it was actually quite enjoyable. Because they aren’t in your ears, they are far more healthy to use and share and also WAY more comfortable to wear for extended periods. Another huge benefit is that because there is nothing on/in your ears, you can hear what is going on around you, meaning they are much safer for cyclists and runners. There is also no fear of any hearing damage, meaning they would be great for young children. The phones are also surprisingly affordable, starting around $59.

AfterShokz headphones use bone-conduction technology, something that has long been popular with Special Forces types

My next stop was a visit with speaker manufacturer, Definitive Technology, which had several exciting products to show. First was a new subwoofer in its SuperCube series, the 8000. This sub features a single powered 11-inch driver and two passive 12-inch drivers, powered by a 1,500-watt digital amplifier with DSP control and 5 separate EQ curves. Also new is a smaller version of its ProCinema speakers, the ProCinema 400. This will be a complete 5.1 package retailing for $599 that has speakers little larger than a Coke can. The speakers feature the classic, high-gloss Definitive look along with 3-inch driver, 19 mm tweeter and a passive radiator on top for improved bass output. They also have a removable base for easy wall mounting.

Definitive Technology’s new ProCinema 400 5.1 speakers

More big news from Definitive was the introduction of the Solo Cinema XTR soundbar. This is a fully powered bar with 200-watts going to 9 drivers and a true, 250-watt 8-inch subwoofer that receives its signal wirelessly from the main unit. They speaker has the ultra-thin styling of the XTR line-up, matching the profile of current super-flat panel displays. The sub is also svelte enough to slide behind or under furniture, while still producing real punch and impact at the low-end. The bar will feature 3×1 HDMI 1.4 switching as well as 1 optical and 1 analog. Definitive Technology’s senior VP of marketing, Paul Dicomo, describes the new speaker here.

A day at CES is never complete without a trip to one of the video giants. Since I missed Sony yesterday, they were high on my list especially since I attended the press event on press day and was looking forward to checking out some of the promised tech. First on my list of “must see” items in the Sony village was a new 46-inch Glasses-Free 3DTV. Also impressive was that this set was gaming 4K resolution. While still not a convert, I will say that the glasses-less 3D effect on the Sony set was far more impressive in my opinion than the Toshiba set I viewed yesterday. (Someone with me said that this set looked better because it was less 3D-ey.) Here’s a video of the set in action.

Now for the product that I am calling the most impressive-looking video display at the show, the Sony Crystal. The Crystal is a technology statement piece with no announced delivery or pricing, but it is a TRUE LED set, in that it has a separate red, green, and blue LED for every pixel. For you non-math types, at 1920x1080p resolution, that means more than six-million individual LEDs in the 55-inch set. This set produced the most amazing, eye-popping color, and deep, pure blacks and unbelievably smooth and natural motion of any set that I have yet to see. If any TV can say that it is truly the heir apparent to the Pioneer Elite Kuro throne, it is the Crystal. Also, it proves that you don’t need 4K – or even 8K – to produce stunning video when you do everything else correctly. According to Sony’s numbers, “the 55-inch prototype exhibited at CES is boasting approximately 3.5 times higher contrast in light environment, approximately 1.4 times wider color gamut, and approximately 10 times faster video image response time.” Here’s the set in action being described by a Sony product rep.

There were lots of kangaroo logos and stuffed animals floating around the hall with Dish Network logos on them, so I figured I’d head over and see what all the fuss was. (And, because someone else told me that it was one of the coolest things he’d seen at the show. Hey, I’m always down for a good tip. This show is huge, and if you see something that you think I should cover, tweet me at @SciaccaTweets and I’ll try and check it out.) Turns out that Dish is taking whole-home DVR to the next level by introducing a new system they are calling Hopper (the main unit) and Joey (the clients). This is likely the most advanced HD DVR system in the history of ever, including a 2 Terabyte hard drive for storing up to 2,000 hours of recording, the ability to record up to six HD programs simultaneously including a feature called PrimeTime Anytime for capturing every primetime network show and storing it for a full week, and the ability to watch and control DVR content in four rooms, all over existing coax cable lines using MoCA technology. Here’s of video of the system in action.

Data storage and protection is becoming an even bigger issue than ever. Between photos, videos, music, and documents, we all have possibly Terabytes of irreplaceable data. And if you’ve ever experienced a drive loss – either though failure or some disaster – then you know the pain that can result. ioSafe is a company that all but promises to safely store and retrieve your data in the event of…well, in the event of just about anything. In fact, to date the company has a 99.9904-percent data recovery rate for clients. And its Rugged portable drives come with backups that sound like a challenge: fireproof to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit, waterproof for up to three days at 10 feet in sea or salt water (or diesel or gas), shock/drop rated to 10 feet and crush rated to 2,500 pounds. Included with the drives is a one-year data recovery service (extendable) that includes ioSafe paying to have your drive forensically reconstructed, a process they claim can cost up to $2500. To prove just how bad-ass-tough their drives are, they stage a variety of torture tests each CES. Past events have included shotgun blasting drives and dropping giant machinery on them. This year they hired Dr. Megavolt who brought his 1-million volt Tesla coil to zap the living crap out of the drive to see if it would survive. (Spoiler: It did!) Enjoy the video, probably the closest thing to seeing Force Lightning that you’ll ever get!