Pioneer got the jump on its rivals in announcing the first Blu-ray player to hit the market today at CES, even if it was only thanks to press conference timing. However, when it launches in June the BDP-HD1 won't come cheap. This 1080p compatible player will cost $1,800, and it doesn't even record to the format.
The player is geared at the high-end early adopter, which could give Toshiba the upper hand with its $500 budget HD DVD player. Pioneer's BDP-HD1 supports HDMI connectivity, for full digital video and audio down one cable, and it will connect to a Windows PC so that you can stream media across a network. The audio formats used on Blu-ray include new high-definition versions of existing standards, including DTS HD and Dolby Digital. It will also upscale existing DVD movies up to 1080p resolution, which is another high-level feature unseen aside from high-end DVD players from people like Marantz.
If some sort of natural disaster were to hit Las Vegas right now, the gadget world would cease to exist. The entire industry has descended on the notorious American Mecca for consumer capitalism, and Crave is over here right now taking HR-violating levels of sleep, avoiding the gaudy excesses of the Las Vegas strip, and partying with the mighty gods of CNET America. We've also been glancing a keen eye over the first day's offerings so that you can see what you'll probably be buying over the next twelve months.
The new InFocus IN76 was easily the highlight ofÂ Crave's first dayÂ in Las Vegas. We've openly coveted the company's projectors for some time, and with the IN76's combination of high-definition compatibility and a low retail price, our infatuation looks set to continue. Even in the bright lights of the convention hall, the projector did high-definition Xbox 360 full justice. We were first in the queue to play Project Gotham Racing 3 on a 50-inch screen, ironically racing around the Las Vegas track and taking in the same gaudy sights we'd seen on the way to the show. Continue reading...
Toshiba has been shouting about the HD DVD format for a while, fighting off Sony's rival Blu-ray in a bitter standards war. Toshiba's format is supposedly cheaper to produce and has the backing of Microsoft, but so far we've yet to see an HD DVD player. Today at CES, Toshiba showed off not one but two new players, one designed to hit the mainstream market, and one hoping to attract the flush, high-end buyer.
The cheapest way to get HD DVD will be the HD-A1, which will be released for $499 (285 -- but expect to pay more once it's crossed the Atlantic) in March. It will play back HD DVDs in 720p and 1080i formats, which will surely disappoint those holding off for high-quality 1080p TVs. Continue reading...
We've long maintained that the Toshiba RD-XS34 is the best combi-recorder on the market, only recently facing a decent challenge from Panasonic's DMR-EH60D. However, Toshiba is already fighting back with the highly attractive RD-XS55, shown off for the first time here at CES today.
The hard drive is bigger -- the initial 160GB offering has now been upped to 250GB. There's also now an HDMI output with DVD-upscaling capability, so your movies should look sparklingly clean on your high-definition TV. The recorder now supports DivX 4 so you can playback movies from the Internet if you so desire. Continue reading...
What's this? A DVD recorder that has a slot for something called VHS tapes? Oh yeah, we remember them now -- VHS was what cavemen used for recording Hollyoaks. Surely they're not still being used today though? We though that there'd been a government-enforced amnesty and they were all dumped in a massive landfill somewhere, but apparently not. While we expect that the only person left clinging on to VHS is our granddad and his Dad's Army collection, we thought we'd check out what this Toshiba combi machine has to offer.
While it carries 20-year old technology on the inside, the D-VR15 features progressive scan video outputs -- perfect for flatscreen TV owners. Just make sure you don't switch suddenly from high definition Xbox 360 to VHS -- you'll feel like someone's smeared Vaseline all over your screen.
We thought that the award for the year's most stylish DVD home cinema was in the bag for the Denon S-101. But that was before the equally demure Philips HTS8000S arrived -- its pure good looks complementing kick-ass features such as SACD music playback and DivX video compatibility. The system also boasts component outputs, so if you've got a flatscreen TV you can watch DVD movies in gorgeous progressive scan video.
In fact, the system has clearly been specifically designed for the latest digital TVs. Philips has put it on a stringent diet, flattening everything down until it is as thin as an LCD or plasma. Even the subwoofer, normally a massive heavy box, is only 11cm deep. The DVD player eschews traditional design -- instead of lying flat, it sits upright and swallows discs via a slot on the side. The two speakers limit the home cinema potential when combined with a HDTV and an Xbox 360, but the system's 550W power is certainly enough to trouble the neighbours.
T'was two nights before Christmas and all through CNET,
Not a writer was stirring, not even to vet,
The products from vendors dispatched through the door,
Would mPack P600 be cruelly ignored?
The Crave goblin was nestled all snug in its bed,
But visions of portable media players danced in its head,
It awoke with a start and jabbed with its horns,
"Yo writers!", it screamed, "get up and perform!"
Having a Freeview PVR sitting under your TV separates the self-respecting gadgeteer from the great unwashed. We'd point at you and laugh if you told us that you didn't have one, but then we'd reassure you it's all okay -- as long as you go out and buy the Sagem PVR 7280T. The French company's follow-up to the PVR 6280T, the new model features a slot for TopUp TV, but otherwise it's business as usual -- record, pause and rewind digital TV from the integrated hard drive.
The £180 box features an 80GB hard drive, which is enough for 40-50 hours of recording. It also features dual tuners so you can record one channel while watching another. Annoyingly though, it won't let you record two channels simultaneously like the Humax PVR9200T. We like the electronic programme guide though, because it shows the current channel at the top of the screen while you sift through the week's listings deciding what you want to record.
The projector world moves fast, and sometimes you've got to stop and take a look around. No sooner have we finished lusting after the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 than the new model arrives to make us moist with anticipation once again. This cinematic bundle of joy is fully high-definition compatible and has a massive 2,800:1 contrast ratio. Trust us, that's a crazy amount of picture depth.
These huge technological boasts made by InFocus come courtesy of the scarily named DarkChip3 DLP chipset, which sounds like it would be used in Darth Vader's home cinema/torture complex. Anyway, this new chipset is like having a V8 engine in your car, with a 1,100 ANSI Lumens brightness level and the DCDI image processing thrown in for good measure. And if that's not enough for your projector needs, there's a DVI input so you'll be able to play high-definition movies, football and documentaries from Sky when it launches its HD service next year.
Crave has been guiltyÂ ofÂ waxing lyrical about flat-screen TVsÂ all year, but now it's time toÂ redress the balance. In fact, I have to make a confession -- give me a projector over some crummyÂ plasma any day. It's the only way to enjoy theÂ cinematic glory of Gladiator, it makes playing Project Gotham 3 on the Xbox 360 a completely engrossing experience, and it's just plain scary seeing Ian Beale from EastEnders blown up to 80 inches tall.Â In fact,Â the projector is as important a feature in a serious AV collection as a DVD player.
The one I've had my eye on all year is the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205, which was the first projector to bring proper high-end home cinema down to a reasonably affordable price. Of course, I'd really prefer the monsterÂ Sim2 C3XÂ -- a three-chip DLP beast that made high-definition video look crisper than a weekend in a Walkers factory. But the measly 5,000 budget laid down by my Crave overlords means my budget is tight, and I want to save myÂ Santa freebie purchase for something else.Â And hey, it's only worth spending that amount of cash of you've got a proper home-cinema screening room -- the ScreenPlay 7205 can be set up in your front room, resting on the coffee table and shining directly onto your wall. Continue reading...
Has Panasonic created the perfect DVD recorder? Yes, on paper at least. The EH60D has it all -- support for -R/-RW/+R/-RAM discs, a massive 200GB hard drive, and best of all, an integrated Freeview tuner. You can now finally record a full series of The Simpsons to the hard drive, and then archive them to DVD, all from the same machine.
Panasonic DVD recorders have always been easy to use and the EH60D is no exception. The Freeview tuner's integration into the box means that everything is linked into the electronic programme guide -- so you can schedule your recordings without having to type in 23-digit VideoPlus codes from the Radio Times. Genius! Continue reading...
The portable music world has long had the iPod as its poster boy, but media centres have had no such public face. Could the Creative Zen Vision change this with its sleek black exterior, silver border and large widescreen display? Probably, since it takes the Archos AV700 and pours paraffin all over it, lights a match and laughs maniacally as its plastic exterior melts into mush.
The Creative is aimed squarely at the novice thanks to Windows Media Player integration -- simply plug the device into a PC and it will synchronise your media automatically. The downside is that without a hard-drive mode, the device is completely incompatible with a Mac -- sticking one middle finger straight up at those smarmy, better-than-thou, swaggering Apple cocks-about-town.
Christmas, if nothing else, is a time for embarrassing personal revelations, so here goes: the Crave hive mind has, in its infinite wisdom, given me 5,000 VCP (Virtual Crave Pounds) to spend on my dearest Christmas wish. And my first purchase is something I've already got.
The Samsung LE32R41BD was delivered to my flat this week, and it's so good I want another one. My first flat-screen TV, it's everything I've ever wanted in a telly. And that's what makes it such a brilliant product -- you wouldn't believe the number of TVs we see where the manufacturer has cut some little corner to save money and hoped no-one would notice. The Samsung is the first to have everything you could want in a TV for under 1,000. Continue reading...
An Archos video player has become as indispensible on a morning commute as a Starbucks coffee and a croissant.Â And with the portable media market sewn up, it seems that the company has had a refocus, clearly marketing its Gmini 402 with a 'Camcorder' suffix. Has Archos tried to fit too much into its diminutive new media centre?
Well, the answer is yes, it has. The best video recording quality available is VGA -- fine for the tiny built-in 220x176-pixel screen, but if you play it back on your computer, theÂ video quality leaves you wondering if Archos put Vaseline over the lens when it shipped. Describing this device as a camcorder is about as accurate as describing the latest Apple iPod as a video player.
Despite the forced video recording feature, this is still a media centre at heart, and if you have a collection of media on your PC then you'll be watching it back in minutes. The device is tiny, so although it houses a 20GB hard drive, the screen is a minuscule 56mm (2.2-inches) diagonal and is a 4:3 ratio. Considering that all films and most TV programmes are shot in widescreen, the black borders at the top and bottom mean the image is smaller than you'd get on many mobile phones. Continue reading...
With genuine delight Crave today got a chance to play with the MSI MegaView 588 portable multimedia player. This little 20GB hard-disk player player handles MPEG-4 and DivX video, plays your MP3s, allows you to browse photos, and also has a built-in FM radio.
There are several things about his video player we liked right out of the box. It has a clearly labelled volume rocker on the top, and the other controls have a simplicity and ease of use which is one of the few weaknesses of similiar products from Archos.
Ah, Las Vegas, what a heart-warming place: a city in which bad behaviour (drinking, smoking, gambling, debauchery) is marketed on an industrial scale, with all the cheerful professionalism that only good old American know-how can provide.
All it needs to make it perfect is a trade show at which the entire world's gadget companies display all the cool new gizmos that they'll be unleashing upon us consumers over the next 12 months. But wait a minute -- our dream has come true -- in the form of 2006 International CES.
Crave will be going to CES to conduct our own detailed research into the future of gadgets, the functional specifications of Jack Daniels and the difference between red and black. And we're taking along one lucky civilian from the UK, courtesy of CES and CNET.com, our grand American parent.
We first mentioned Toshiba's flagship portable DVD player back in May, but with the season of goodwill (and glorious capitalism) approaching, we thought we'd better get our hands on this Christmas contender. The Toshiba SD-P2700 turned our grumpy morning faces into smily wonders. While we've moved on to hard-drive players like the Archos AV500, we concede that sometimes watching your DVDs on the train is a mite easier than having to convert everything on your computer to DivX first. But Toshiba's player has the best of both worlds -- while its main purpose will be to spin DVD delights on-the-go, it will also play back DivX movies from CD and DVD. And that cheeky little port on the side will even play photos from MMC, SD and Memory Stick media.
The big news, though, is that this is the first portable player we've seen to output progressive-scan video to a flat-screen TV. Progressive scan is much higher quality than S-video and Scart, and it means that this is good enough for home use as well. If you decide to let the player take up permanent residence in your home, then you might also want to output Dolby Digital and DTS to your home cinema system -- this will effectively do everything a normal DVD player does.
Sometimes it sucks being an early adopter. Sure, you look cool by having something before anyone else, but give it a year and something miles better is bound to come out at a cheaper price. Take the Humax PVR-8000T for example -- we bought this Freeview hard drive recorder whenÂ they were justÂ a novelty, and now it looks old hat thanks to the new PVR-9200T.
The jump in numbers between the two models suggests an incremental update. It should really be called the PVR-16000T because it's twice as good. The 80GB hard drive has been upped to 160GB and the single Freeview tuner has been doubled to two. What does that mean? Well, you can make two recordings at the same time, and you now have enough space for over 100 hours of recording. Continue reading...
Archos, you've finally managed it! After media centres that were either clunkily robust or massively impractical, you've made something that we can pull out on the train to receive the same sort of admiring glances as the video iPod or Sony PSP.
The AV500 has a far greater premium feel than Archos' other media centres, and sitting inside its silver chassis is a 30GB hard drive (although other sizes are available). The big improvement on the new model is the screen -- it's nearly as good as the PSP when it comes to detail and colour. It's been given a similiar reflective coating as Toshiba's Qosmio laptop -- meaning it's a mirror when used under office lights, but can be viewed much more easily in daylight. We can't get over how much better it is than Archos' past screens, which have offered flickery video and a distinct lack of detail.
You can't release any piece of electrical equipment these days without boasting iPod connectivity. So it's about time that high-end specialist Denon released a DVD system that will link up to Apple's little box of joy. The S-101 is a 2.1 movie system at heart, with two speakers and a subwoofer filling your bedroom with 200W of sound. It's also got a radio and will play MP3 and WMA music, but Denon's cool brand will probably appeal to the vast majority of iPod owners so the company is really pushing this new feature.
When you plug in an iPod via the included cable, the Denon system jumps on board Apple's player like a pirate and cheekily raises the Denon flag on its screen. It then transfers the same iPod interface across on-screen in a celebration of its mutiny, allowing you to play every song on there. It will even grab your Playlists, and it charges the iPod itself while you're playing music.