MANILA, FEBRUARY 18, 2008 (STAR) By Alma Buelva -  “HD-ready.”

One often hears this term now from store specialists trying to make LCD or plasma TVs to appear more attractive to buyers. Short for high-definition, HD is one if not the most important development in television technology of late, and though HDTV programming is not offered in the country yet, sellers recognize that consumers would appreciate knowing they’re getting HD capability in their pricey new flat-panel TV sets today for tomorrow’s use.

It has been actually nine years since the first high-definition TV sets hit the market. In the US, some 112 million households now own an HDTV. Industry watchers attribute the growing demand for HDTV to the improvements in price and quality of production and transmission equipment, the wider availability of high-def versions of TV programs, the declining prices of HDTV sets, and how major cable and satellite operators now offer a collection of HD channels.

But HDTV viewing has not taken off in a big way yet, even in the US where it’s still not well-known to many consumers what cable or satellite HDTV services they could access. Up until December 2007, less than 20 percent of Nielsen Media Research ’s 112 million US TV households watch HDTV content.

Nielsen also found out that only 11.3 percent of this group, or some 12.7 million homes, are currently equipped with an HD television and tuner (an HD set-top or built-in ATSC tuner) and receive at least one channel of HD programming. Another 24 percent of homes have an HD set and tuner but don’t use them to watch HD program because they bought their units primarily to watch DVD movies or simply thought they are automatically getting HDTV programming when they’re not.

In another report, Broadband and the Home of Tomorrow by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), it is determined that some 20.5 million households in America in the next two years would opt for a professional to install their HDTV units because many consumers are technology-challenged or didn’t have the time to do it themselves.

Here in the Philippines, the demand for large flat-panel LCDs and plasma TVs (HD or not) is really a question of affordability rather than desirability. In fact, the way many people would consistently stop in front of showrooms to gaze at these large flat-panels speaks of their huge interest to buy if money is not an issue.

At the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, major TV manufacturers that include Toshiba, Sony, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Panasonic and Pioneer lined up their latest HDTV offerings, which didn’t fail to inspire awe given the huge footprints and high-quality resolutions the new models come in. Here’s a list of the new HDTV products from the CES exhibit floor which, hopefully, would find their way to Filipino homes.

• Sony’s first OLED TV. The company unveiled 14 Bravia LCD models that include the 32- and 37-inch models in the XBR 6 series. Both feature 1080p resolution, 120Hz Motion Flow high frame rate technology and four HDMI inputs. The Bravia Z4100 series of 40- and 46-inch screen sizes both have Full HD 1080p resolution.

Sony also introduced its first OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) TV. The 11-inch OLED with a panel depth of just 3mm is said to produce a contrast ratio of 1 million:1. In addition to affording very thin panels, OLED technology offers extremely bright pictures, uses less electricity, and delivers a rapid panel response time for blur-free motion images and extremely wide viewing angles.

• Toshiba Regza series. The company showed its Regza CV510 series that includes 32-, 37- and 42-inch screen sizes with 720p HD resolution, designed especially for gaming enthusiasts. The Regza RV530 series includes the 32-, 37-, 42-, 46- and 52-inch screen sizes, all with 1080p Full HD models targeted at home theater enthusiasts. The series marks the first under 42-inch LCD TVs from the company to support 1080p resolution. The Regza XV540 series include the 42-, 46-, and 52-inch screen sizes, all with 1080p Full HD resolution. Full HD 1080p models add a high-resolution PC input to enhance the quality of high-end graphics.

• Pioneer Kuro plasma TV. Pioneer unveiled its Project Kuro plasma TV, a 50-inch, super-thin (9mm) plasma panel. Billed as an “advanced design concept,” the thin-screen plasma TV prototype was showcased as the future of big-screen flat panel TV technology.

• Hitachi Ultra Thin. The company showcased one of its thinnest plasma displays on top of its recently announced Ultra Thin 1.5-inch thick LCD TV line. The Ultra Thin plasma panels are expected to be available at the end of 2009 in the 50- and 60-inch screen sizes and will measure under 1.5 inches in depth. Although the largest panel planned is at 60 inches now, the technology could eventually support larger screen sizes.

• LG Full HD 1080p model with built-in 802.11 wireless connectivity. In addition, LG Electronics will roll out this year eight series and a total of 24 models, 17 of which will have Full HD 1080p resolution. In plasma, LG will carry four series, including eight products, six of which will have 1080p resolution. Among the LCD TV lines are the LG30, LG40, LG50, LG60, LG70 and LG71 series.

• Panasonic “Digital Hearth.” The company calls its latest flat-panel HDTVs as the “Digital Hearth” of the 21st century home and showed off a 150-inch advanced HD plasma display with an image quality that is the equivalent of nine 50-inch displays and a 2,160 by 4,096-pixel resolution, four times the resolution of the 1080p Full HD specification. Panasonic targets delivery to begin when a new factory is online sometime after 2009. A wireless 1080p Full HD transmission system developed by Panasonic can transmit uncompressed 1090p Full HD content wirelessly with no deterioration in quality that enables interconnected equipment to be controlled by one remote.

The company also introduced its 2008 line of Viera plasma Full HD 1080p televisions, with a new cosmetic look and the addition of the company’s first 46-inch screen size. It also showed a 150-inch plasma TV at CES. The 2008 1080p line includes 10 models across four series. At the entry-level, the company will also offer 720p resolution in 42-inch and 50-inch HD plasma models under the PX80 series.

In a related development, the US analog TV broadcast system is scheduled to be shut off on Feb. 17, 2009, with preparations happening now. With this, the US government will start funding a complex set-top rebate program with plans to underwrite consumers’ purchases of more than 20 million digital converter boxes. Who knows, by that time some Filipino households could be watching such historic news in high-definition.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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