Reuters: US Consumers Shrug Off 3D, Internet TVs

REUTERS – Fancy new features like 3D screens and Internet connectivity have failed to inspire U.S. television shoppers, dashing a hoped-for recovery in the global consumer electronics industry. Manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung and Sharp are learning that features such as razor-thin LED TVs are just not enough for television sales to stage a comeback in the United States.

On Tuesday, Best Buy Chief Executive Brian Dunn told analysts that sales of 3D TVs had fallen behind industry expectations.

“There was confusion about 3D early (on),” Dunn said. “It was a little short on content.”

The largest U.S. electronics chain cut its full-year profit forecast, and its disappointing results put pressure on shares of Best Buy and other electronics companies.

“The stock got killed today,” said Frank Ingarra, a co-portfolio manager of Hennessy Funds, which holds 32,000 shares of Best Buy. The retailer’s shares dropped nearly 15 percent on Tuesday to close at $35.52.

Despite a better-than-expected performance by U.S. retailers in November, consumers are holding off on big-ticket purchases like TVs with the latest bells and whistles. Consumer electronics executives say TV sales will improve once more 3D content becomes available next year and when consumers start recording their own content on 3D-enabled camcorders.

“Just like how high-definition TV started in sports and movies, as 3D evolves, it will go with sports and movies and then become more of an everyday thing,” Jay Vandenbree, head of home entertainment at LG Electronics, said in an interview.

For now, investors are demanding to know why retailers aggressively pushed a new generation of TVs after many consumers had just upgraded to their first flat-screen sets this year.

“People don’t understand the added benefit of 3D,” Ingarra said. “When you get into $2,000 TVs, you start thinking: ‘At what point do I really need this, and is it going to make my viewing experience that much better?’”

Consumers are also put off by the need to purchase expensive 3D glasses to go along with the new TVs, said NPD analyst Ross Rubin. The picture quality of some shows produced in 3D has also made some viewers queasy.

“If the 3D content hasn’t been produced well — if it has been aggressive on certain kinds of effects — that can result in discomfort for viewers,” Rubin said.

This holiday, consumers are more interested in buying TVs with bigger screens, rather than pricier ones with more features, Rubin said. Sales of TVs with Google TV software, which lets viewers surf the Web directly from TV sets, were also hurt as consumers realized they could find the same services, like movie service Netflix, elsewhere.

“People can also buy lower-priced alternatives to connected TVs, be it video game players, Blu-ray players or Apple TV.”

Dec 2010

3D, Hardware, Televisions


Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception Unveiled

Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive peek at Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the highly anticipated third game in the Uncharted series created by Naughty Dog for the PlayStation 3. Due for release in late 2011, Uncharted 3 will see protagonist Nathan Drake and mentor Victor Sullivan travelling to desert locales, such as the Rub’al Khali desert, in search of the legendary lost city, the Iram of the Pillars. The plot will draw from the archaeology days of T.E. Lawrence.

Creative director Amy Hennig has explained that the desire for a desert-themed Uncharted stemmed from wanting to push the team creatively and technologically, as “organic” elements such as sand, water, and fire are “technically difficult to credibly render with animation.” The game will also be the first 3D compatible title in the series.

Jimmy Fallon, host of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC, said today on Twitter, “Attn Gamers: the first live demo of Uncharted 3 on Mon, Dec. 13th here at Late Night. Set your DVRs.”

The Uncharted series has been critically acclaimed by reviewers and has sold over 6.5 million copies. The first game in the series, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune received numerous positive reviews from critics with a total of 89% on GameRankings and 88% on Metacritic. The second title in the series, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has been met with much higher acclaim than the first title in the series, it garnered a total score of 96% on GameRankings and 96% on Metacritic. The second title has also received numerous awards such as PS3 and Overall Game of the Year of 2009 from IGN as well as overall Game of the Year from the Spike Video Game Awards 2009.

New features in Uncharted 3 will include “enhanced backward climbing” and the ability to fight multiple enemies at once. The multiplayer and co-op features will also be greatly expanded.

Here’s a little more information from the official Uncharted 3 announcement on the PlayStation blog:

UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception features the return of famed fortune hunter Nathan Drake and follows him through a gripping, action-packed storyline that will take you all over the world. In his search for the fabled “Atlantis of the Sands,” Nathan Drake and longtime friend and mentor Victor Sullivan set off on a daring trek into the heart of the Arabian Desert. But when terrible secrets of this lost city are uncovered, their journey becomes a desperate bid for survival that will force Drake to confront his deepest fears.

Throughout UNCHARTED 3, you’ll be taken to spectacular new locations around the globe,that will showcase all of the work we’ve taken on to take acclaimed physics, particle and visual effects to a new level.

Competitive and co-op multiplayer will return as a key ingredient to the UNCHARTED 3 package, where all of the new features we have planned will combine with our signature single-player cinematic gameplay to create a unique action-adventure multiplayer experience that can only be found in the UNCHARTED universe.

Oh, and there’s one more thing – UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception fully supports high-resolution Stereoscopic 3D.

Dec 2010

3D, Hardware


Gran Turismo 5 Now Available

Gran Turismo 5 is now available for the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Can you believe the wait is over? Known for its signature beauty and precision, the highly anticipated racer will showcase new jaw-dropping cars, real-life tracks, and diverse racing styles. Gran Turismo promises to deliver exciting advancements to the series in the most comprehensive racing experience ever.

We have the complete list of cars in our post, “The Full List Of Cars In Gran Turismo 5“. There was also a GT5 launch event today of course and what better than to host it in Madrid. PlayStation Blog EU has some pictures and I also saw a nice set of shots by flickr user armo. If your hungry for even more GT5 coverage hit this Google News link. I think you could spend days reading all the reviews within.

The game was currently holds a Gamerankings score of 88.5%, and an 87% on Metacritic at the time of this writing. Reviewers praised the number of cars, car-specific information and single-player content included and commented positively on the driving-physics which had been improved from Prologue. The inclusion of karts as well as licensed WRC and Nascar-vehicles was also received positively.

The graphics received mixed reviews with reviewers praising the lighting-effects as well as in- and exterior-details of premium-cars, stating that Photo Mode showed-off their detailed graphical design very well, but commenting negatively on the detail of standard-cars which lacked cockpit-views, looked like upscaled versions taken from GT4 and did not keep up to the level of detail found in the premium-models. The newly-included damage-feature received criticism for barely effecting car-handling and damage-effects only being applied after multiple serious crashes. Graphical on-track-detail was also criticized as being sub-par to the detail found on the cars.

The new Course Maker-feature was also commented negatively upon. Reviewers were dissatisfied with the tool only allowing to edit randomly-generated tracks instead of letting users create their own track-layouts.
The AI was also criticized for still making CPU-drivers brake unexpectedly and not being aware of the player’s car on the track, just as in previous games in the series. IGN called it “the series’ now trademark zombie A.I.”

Here is an incredible overlook of GT5 by Qore:

We couldn’t resist posting this video by the main man himself, Kevin Butler, about his influence on GT5:

Please leave a comment about your thoughts regarding the game and any other helpful links!

Original photo at the top of the story taken in-game by flickr user pllll.

Nov 2010

3D, Hardware, Playstation, PS3


Sony Optiarc Unleashes A 12X Blu-ray Disc (BD-R) Drive

Sony Optiarc America has revealed its next-generation half-height internal Blu-ray Disc (BD) rewritable drive (BWU-500S/BD-5300S) for after market computer enthusiasts. The specs are pretty impressive with the ability to write single BD-R media at up to 12X and dual layer BD-R media at up to 8X speeds, recording a full 25GB disc in about 10 minutes. The 12X recording speed can be used with 6X compatible BD-R media.

The new drives can record up to 50GB of data for random access storage and backup on BD-R (write once) or BD-RE (rewritable) discs, or up to 220 minutes of high-definition 24M bps MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video on a BD-R/RE 50GB disc. The drives also record standard 4.7GB DVD+/-R discs at up to 16X speeds, 8.5 GB DVD+/-R Double/Dual layer at up to 8X, DVD+RW at up to 8X, DVD-RW at up to 6X, CD-R at up to 48X, CD-RW at up to 24X, and support DVD-RAM recording at up to 12X speeds.

The internal drives feature a Serial ATA (SATA) interface and standard 5.25-inch form-factor for easy installation inside a desktop PC. They also incorporate intelligent monitoring for consistent recording, and adjusting read-speed technology which enhances smooth playback.

The BWU-500S retail branded model comes with CyberLink’s Media Suite 8 software for capturing, authoring, editing, backing up, viewing high-definition personal content and playing back Blu-ray Disc movies including 3D Blu-ray movies. Also included in the retail box is one 25GB Sony BD-R blank disc.

Interestingly enough I found both versions (retail, OEM) of the drive on Google Shopping. The BWU-500S was $167, and the BD-5300S was $139 at the time of this writing.

Nov 2010

3D, Blu-Ray, Hardware


CEDIA 2010: Sony Booth Pictorial/Video

The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) is a global trade association of companies involved in the electronic systems industry. Founded in 1989, it has 3,500 members who specialize in home automation, networking, communication, security, lighting control, HVAC and entertainment systems. The organization influences public policy, provides referrals, promotes better business practices, educates members and provides other benefits. CEDIA hosts an annual trade show, the CEDIA Expo, to allow exhibitors to showcase the latest technological advances to industry professionals.

CEDIA Expo has been held in Atlanta, GA (my home town) for the last several years, and will transition to Indianapolis next year.

Sony had a healthy presence at CEDIA 2010, offering a robust booth experience that demonstrated their latest products in home theater receivers, Blu-ray, 3D gaming, 3D photography, LCD TV’s, and projectors. Sony’s big announcement during the show was the VPL-VW90ES, which is a $9,999 Sony ES 3D HD Projector With 240Hz. We also did a hands-on With Sony AV Receiver Remote App on an iPad, which was really cool.

On a side note, I was hoping to see some kind of demo for Google TV, but apparently it remains confidential until its October 12th unveiling in NYC.

Here is a video of various footage we caught during our time at Sony’s booth during CEDIA 2010, including VP of Television Chris Fawcett and VP, Home Audio and Video Brian Siegel talking about Sony’s refreshed Home Audio and Video lineup:

Here is our gallery of pictures taken at Sony’s booth during CEDIA 2010:

Sep 2010
DISCUSSION 10 Comments

CEDIA 2010: VPL-VW90ES – The $9,999 Sony ES 3D HD Projector With 240Hz

Sony has announced the VPL-VW90ES projector at CEDIA 2010 for the US market, and it has become Sony’s flagship device for an incredible HD and 3D cinematic experience in the home. The projector is unique because it is a model of two firsts; it is the first front projector from Sony to feature 3D capability, and it is the first Elevated Standard (ES) projector ever. The price is reasonable at $9,999 – which seems high at first glance but is actually quite competitive. Several other manufacturers have released 3D projectors this year and also simultaneously with Sony at CEDIA 2010, but they simply do not compare in quality.

There are several advantages for Sony right now with this projector compared to the competition (aside from 3D capability), incredible quality, an early release date of November, and a 240Hz refresh rate. The 240Hz technology, which is not available in any other 3D projector, “minimizes cross talk for minimal image distortion” according to Sony. Other noteworthy features include two active shutter 3D glasses and transmitter included with the projector, which is capable of 1,000 ANSI lumens and a dynamic contrast ratio of 150,000:1.

Looking at some of the competition, the VW90ES will do well because there isn’t really much out there that can rival it. Mitsubishi has a 3D DLP front projector called “Diamond 3D” that also has SXRD technology like the VW90ES, with 120,000:1 contrast ratio, 120Hz SXRD technology, 1000 ANSI lumens, and will come with one pair of active shutter glasses. There is no price or release date for that projector, though, with some mumblings of a 2011 release. Don’t forget about LG’s recent release, the CF3D, which uses passive 3D glasses and has some key advantages, namely brightness, but costs five thousand more than the Sony VW90ES. There is also competition from Sharp, which has announced a somewhat similar projector (XV-Z17000) that has lesser features, but there is also no indication of price and a confirmed 2011 release. Then of course is the Runco D-73d, which is a super high-end 3D projector which uses passive 3D glasses and costs $50,000. I won’t even bother discussing that beast.

CNET’s Crave has a good comparison of specifications for the currently available 3D projectors.

I watched some 3D content on the VW90ES, including PS3 gaming clips, exclusive film footage of Green Hornet, and so forth. The experience was very impressive, and there was indeed less crosstalk on motion scenes. In some ways, it almost feels like this 3D revolution is really made for projectors, because when I think about all of the 3D I have seen, its only great for me when its on a large display. If we were talking about 3D TV’s, it only has a wow-factor if its at least on a 52′ set. As for the projector, I am holding off on giving further impressions at the moment because I want to check out the competitor’s products mentioned above at CEDIA 2010. Based on seeing projectors from other companies in the past, though, I could most certainly tell that Sony has set a very high standard in its price range that will be very difficult for any other company to surpass this generation. I find it very hard to believe that the competition will have 3D movement as fluid as the VW90ES.

The VW90ES joins an elite list of Sony products that integrate easily with leading home automation systems including Control4, Crestron, AMX, Savant, Ultimate Remote Control, RTI, Vantage, and others. The projector is also Control4 Certified and includes an AMX Device Discovery Beacon.

Sep 2010

3D, Hardware


Free PlayMemories Software For PS3 Allows Innovative 2D/3D Picture Viewing

PlayMemories is a new picture viewing experience that is available on the PlayStation Store for the PS3. The software offers a great way PS3 users to view and organize their collection of photos. One cool feature is the ability to select a picture and zoom in or out using your PlayStation controller. PlayMemories also allows you to explore and enjoy 3D panoramic images on your PlayStation 3 and 3D BRAVIA or 3D-capable TV.

Sony has a growing collection of digital cameras which offer an innovative 3D Sweep Panoramo mode, which allow you to simply press the shutter button and sweep the camera from side to side. Cameras offering 3D Sweep Panorama currently include the NEX-5/NEX-3, Cyber-shot WX5 and TX9, plus the new α55 and α33 translucent mirror cameras.

Here is a cool video I found on YouTube (by PSN Stores, not us) showing off some of the functionality of PlayMemories:

Sep 2010

3D, Hardware, Playstation, PS3


Sony Introduces Stylish BDV-F7 Blu-ray Integrated Home Theater System

It’s been some time since I have seen an attractive offering from Sony from its Audio/Video Division and Sony’s latest addition to their Blu-ray family line up is a pretty nice surprise. I own a number of Sony products that captured my attention because of its stylish looks and beautiful integration into home decor: Sony DVD/SACD DAV-LF1H, Sony Speaker set SA-FT7ED, Sony Integrated Home Theatre System TAV-L1 and it has been a couple years since the company brought something of a looker to the market. It just seemed like they had a number of cookie-cutter style BD players and home theater products.

Let’s look what BDV-F7 brings to the table. I would say this home theater system is aimed at those who do not want to mess with 5.1 surround set up, but rather have a sound bar, a subwoofer and a blu-ray player.

The BDV-F7′s sound bar packs the equivalent of two speakers into its long slim design, and can be easily mounted right under your TV. You’ll hear details in your favorite movie’s soundtrack that your TV’s tiny speakers probably muffled or missed. And the subwoofer lets you hear and feel powerful effects like explosions or booming cannons. Best of all, it tucks away discreetly in a corner or under a bedside table. You don’t have to see it, but you sure will hear the difference it makes.

The Blu-ray player is ready for the latest 3D releases, and your 2D movies will also look crisp and full of detail. And the versatile BDV-F7 does more than play movies. It also includes a Wi-Fi® adapter so you can connect it to your home’s wireless broadband network. Once you’re online, you can stream movies and music from sites like Netflix®, Pandora®, YouTube™ and more. Or you can access photos, videos and music stored on your computer. The front-panel USB port lets you plug in your iPod® for convenient access to your portable music library. Gracenote metadata service will help you identify the movies you are watching.

Here are some spec details:

  • home theater system with 3D Blu-ray Disc™ player/receiver, a sound bar, and a subwoofer
  • Internet-ready — plays TV shows, movies, and music from a number of sources, including Netflix®, YouTube™, Pandora®, and Slacker® (broadband service required; subscription required for Netflix service)
  • includes Wi-Fi® adapter for easy access to your home’s wireless network
  • streams photos/videos/music from a compatible DLNA-enabled Windows® PC
  • USB input for connecting an iPod®, digital camera, MP3-player or thumb drive
  • speaker wire and remote control included
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Player/receiver:
  • plays 3D Blu-ray discs, standard Blu-ray discs, DVDs, CDs, MP3 CDs, and JPEG CDs
  • proprietary Digital Media Port for optional iPod dock, wireless PC music player, or other accessories
  • audio inputs include stereo, coaxial digital, and optical digital
  • video output for TV includes composite, component video, and HDMI

There was no official press release yet, however we spotted this system listed in a couple of e-tailers and expect it to be shipped on October 6th for $600.

Sep 2010

3D, Blu-Ray, Hardware


Sony Debuts Their First Slim External Blu-ray Drive With 3D Compatibility

The BDX-S500U is just another word for power performance. To make things even more exciting, it is also lightweight, slim, portable and more versatile than ever. The BDX-S500U is your premium choice for fast, perfect writing on BD-R (6x), BD-R DL (4x), and BD-RE (2x), storing up to 50 GB of HD video or data content on one disc. To make your entertainment complete, this drive also supports Blu-ray 3D. The BDX-S500U is supplied with the Media Suite 8 software from Cyberlink for authoring, editing, data writing and back up.

The portable drive offers quick and easy connectivity with a high speed USB (USB 2.0) digital interface for simple setup and maximum flexibility.

The BDX-S500U drive can record up to 50GB of data for random access storage and backup on BD-R (write once) or BD-RE (rewritable) discs, or up to 220 minutes of high-definition 24M bps MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video on a BD-R/RE 50GB disc.

The drive also records standard 4.7GB DVD+/-R discs at up to 8X speeds, 8.5GB DVD+/-R Double/Dual layer at up to 4X, DVD+RW at up to 8X, DVD-RW at up to 6X, CD-R at up to 24X, CD-RW at up to 16X, and supports DVD-RAM recording at up to 5X speeds.

Expect to see the BDX-S500U available at retail this month; its pretty affordable too, as we spotted it at Provantage for around $200USD. That’s a far cry from the Sony BWU-100A external Blu-ray drive that came out years ago for a price point around $800.

Sep 2010

3D, Blu-Ray, Hardware

DISCUSSION 12 Comments

3D Blu-ray Playback Graces PlayStation 3, Available Now

Looks like as promised the special and highly anticipated (by some of us 3D early adopters) firmware that miraculously transforms your already versatile PlayStation into 3D Bluray player is out. Simply amazing piece of hardware that Sony ever designed, keeps on evolving and getting better. So if you are like me who has gotten a huge library of 3D titles, you will be prompted to get the newest firmware loaded as soon as you start your console. Sony also added some other goodies in this 3.50 version:

  • Facebook Integration: Developers will be able to create PS3 games that have more interaction with Facebook. Once compatible PS3 titles are available, PS3 users can choose to access public information on Facebook – including user name, profile, uploaded photos and friends list – to enhance their gameplay experience.
  • Grief Reporting Function: Users can send claim reports directly from the XMB for any inappropriate messages they receive from other PlayStation Network users. This feature is accessible from the option menu of the messages list in the FRIENDS category.

It’s pretty amazing that in one fell swoop of a firmware upgrade, there are now 38.1 million consumers (that’s how many PS3′s have sold worldwide since late July) that can play 3D Blu-ray movies. This will be a compelling reason for people to upgrade their displays and possibly purchase a 3DTV so they can enjoy Blu-ray 3D entertainment.

Well what are you still sitting around, go get it already! Here is the direct US Download link for PS3 firmware 3.50. Other PS3 3.50 firmware download links for other countries, courtesy of KillThee at NeoGAF. He says these links are not required for your location, but rather merely for the convenience of a faster download speed: UKEUJPAUKoreaMexicoRussiaSouth AmericaTaiwan

Additional editorial by Christopher MacManus

Sep 2010

3D, Hardware, Playstation, PS3