For years, TV manufacturers and retailers have relied upon major sporting events to provide a boost in sales, whether it’s the Super Bowl, the World Series or World Cup Soccer. Hands would wring and teeth would gnash in anticipation of whether the numbers would meet these heightened expectations. Often, manufacturers would lower prices or introduce new HDTV models in advance of these events. With the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics just around the corner, there is no exception, to be sure.
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One manufacturer, Epson America Long Beach, CA; www.ea.epson.com), has taken this approach in announcing this week that it is shipping a new, fully-integrated high-end home entertainment solution, timed for its promotion for the Olympics. We covered the Ensemble HD Home Cinema System when it was first introduced last year at CEDIA and was selected as a finalist for the show’s Best New Product Award. What’s unique about this system is that it combines the projector, the screen and the sound system — all the key components of a home theatre system — in one easy-to-install package.
The home entertainment market, in my opinion, has reached a level of maturity, where most households of sufficient income and interest have already sprung for their flat screen HDTV. What’s next? Home theatre systems have caught a lot of attention, but are beyond the reach of a vast number of ready and willing entry-level buyers.
It’s Epson to the rescue. The company combines its PowerLite 3LCD 1080p or 720p projector, a100-inch motorized screen, an audio/video controller with integrated DVD player, 5.1-channel speakers with amplification, and all the cables and mounting brackets you will need.
Any retailer can put a package together, but it’s the uniquely integrated design that makes this solution special. For example, the screen quietly lowers and retracts from an integrated ceiling-mounted front channel speaker housing. A unique wire management track system hides all of the included cables from sight.
And the speaker system itself, newly engineered from Atlantic Technology, includes a proprietary 150W subwoofer containing all 5.1 channels of amplification. According to Epson, the idea is to cost-effectively transform virtually any living room or family room into a dual-purpose living and entertainment area without compromising space or the room’s decor.
All this for the low MSRP of $7K ($5K for the 720p version). But here’s the issue. Home theatre buyers are notoriously picky about their projection unit and sometimes spend tens of thousands to fill the same 100-inch screen. So what are we sacrificing here?
At 12,000:1 with a dynamic iris, the PowerLite doesn’t have the outrageous contrast specification of some LCOS home theatre projectors from JVC and Sony, and perhaps not the color and grayscale accuracy of the DLP unit from Samsung. But the projector (27 lbs. with ceiling mount) kicks out some 1200 lumens, more than some HT projectors costing twice as much.
The Epson PowerLite projector uses the latest C2Fine 3LCD technology for better blacks, detail and color depth. In fact, according to 3LCD’s Tim Anderson, the technology offers better "color brightness" than comparable DLP projectors. (For a detailed coverage of image quality tradeoffs between DLP and 3LCD see Projection Summit coverage in this month’s issue of Large Display Report.
This economical, flexible and compact configuration may not be for everyone and certainly not the more serious home theatre enthusiast. But it just might convince many of those sitting on the fence to jump into the HT arena. If not for the Olympics, maybe in time for the Super Bowl.