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Sony, Toshiba Unleash New Arsenal in Format War

5 Sep, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey

DENVER — While much is at stake in the high-def format war, both Sony Electronics and Toshiba America Consumer Electronics, at least, seem to be having a good time with it all.

Toshiba representatives, dressed in “Star Trek” uniforms, were virtually “beamed” onto the stage and played lines from Captain Kirk during their press conference at the CEDIA Expo on Sept. 5. At its press conference Sony trotted out director/producer Barry Sonnenfeld, who did more stand-up comedy than promotion of the latest Sony projection systems.

There apparently is room for fun in a mostly serious Blu-ray Disc vs. HD DVD battle.

Both companies discussed their latest high-def player offerings, with Sony arguably making the bigger splash, revealing two new Blu-ray set-top models, two new home theater projectors, and a first-of-its-kind home entertainment Blu-ray server. Toshiba discussed its line-up of third-generation HD DVD players and unveiled a series of new LCD TVs.


Sony's BDP-S2000ES ($1,300) and BDP-S500 ($700; the next generation of the BDP-S300) feature 1080p/60p and 24p True Cinema output and support 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, DD Plus, and DTS-HD high-resolution audio. Both support Blu-ray, DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW, CD and CD-R/RW, MP3 and JPEG on DVD. The BDP-S2000ES is built to last, with dual shield construction to block against dust and a rigid beam chassis to soften vibration. The player has separate audio and video boards. Both appear to be available to consumers in November.

“I'm even more convinced the only question that remains is not if Blu-ray will win the format war, but when,” said Chris Fawcett, VP of marketing for Sony's Home Products Division. “Consumer support of Sony's Blu-ray Disc products has been outstanding and the new models are targeted to satisfy the demand of those who crave an even greater level of entertainment and performance.”

Two sharp-looking home theater projectors were spotlighted, the VPL-VW200 and VPL-VW60, both showing 1920x1080 displays, and delivering 35,000:1 contrast ratios. The latter model also features improved brightness of 1,000lm.

“What's interesting to me about home theaters … nine times out of 10 you can have a better theater experience at home,” said Sonnenfeld, who showed slides of his home theater set-up in his Colorado home.

“As the front projector home theater market grows, our commitment is to deliver high-quality, feature-rich equipment at all performance levels,” said Jeff Goldstein, VP of television and projector marketing for Sony Electronics. “Features like high frame rate, 24p True Cinema, exceptional contrast and brightness raise the stakes and bring consumers closer to a true movie theater experience in the home.”

Both projectors can be paired with other Sony equipment to watch movies in 2.35:1 aspect ratios. The VPL-VW200 has a high-output Xenon lamp that keeps the proper color temperature characteristics of red, green and blue. It is also armed with an Ethernet input.

Both models also run with an all-digital video signal via BRAVIA Engine. The VPL-VW200 is slated for October with a price tag of $15,000. The VPL-VW60 will be available later this month for $5,000.

Lastly, Sony showed off its sleek-looking HES-V1000, a home entertainment server with a combo Blu-ray, DVD and CD changer that holds 200 discs, and also boasts a 500GB hard drive. The drive can hold 137 hours of video, 20,000 photos or 40,000 songs.

The HES is compatible with VAOI notebooks that can burn content to Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. Owners can create customized slideshows and media presentations via remote, and does the simple things too, like playing back the music it stores and linking to other Sony products, such as the PlayStation 3. It can link to as many as 10 other devices, and has five video, composite, audio and HDV/DV inputs, including HDMI. It will be available in October for roughly $3,500.

“With its extraordinary storage capacity, the HES-V1000 unit is the perfect device to store and share personal digital content, such as high-definition home movies and photos,” Fawcett said. “Not only can you burn photo slide shows and home movies directly to BD or DVD to share with friends and family, the device's massive storage capacity allows you to house an entire collection of movies, digital music and photos.”


Toshiba boldly went where most home media presenters wouldn't dare, adorning its stage with “transporters” and dressing its executives up in “Star Trek” uniforms. Not only good for some laughs, it made pitching a promotion behind the HD DVD release of Star Trek: The Original Series — Season One that much easier.

“HD DVD players already lead in available pricing,” said Jodi Sally, VP of marketing for Toshiba's Digital V/A Group. She walked the press in attendance through details of the third-generation HD DVD players that were leaked via Amazon.com preorders last month: the HD-A3, featuring 1080i output ($299.99, available in October), the HD-A30 ($399.99, available in September), and the HD-A35 ($499.99, available in October). The latter models output 1080p, and allow two-way control between the HD DVD player and the TV via HDMI. All three are a quarter inch thinner than the second-generation models.

New promotions were the big announcement. Every third-generation player will include two free HD DVDs, 300 from Warner Bros. and The Bourne Identity from Universal. Through Feb. 28, 2008, buyers will also be able to take advantage of five more free HD DVDs, including the latest releases from Paramount, which went HD DVD-exclusive last month. The deal also applies to the Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on and Toshiba computers with HD DVD drives.

Those who buy both any Toshiba HD DVD player and the “Star Trek” HD DVD series will receive a limited-edition “phaser” remote that works with the player.

Lastly, Toshiba showed off its new 1080p Regza TV line, with super-thin bezel models available in 40-inch and 46-inch screens.

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