Christmas In September

Pepcom had its Holiday Spectacular event in New York on September 28th. This press-only event highlights new technology items that will be available for the coming holiday season. Many of the 75 companies exhibiting the event were showing bring your own display (BYOD) type systems.

For these systems, the company is selling not the display (i.e. the smartphone or tablet) but the system the smartphone controls. Some of the more display-oriented exhibits at Pepcom’s Holiday Spectacular included:


TCL was showing its 55” C-series TV. I had seen this TV before at a TCL event in May (Subscription required). The “C” in C-series stands for contemporary design, as opposed to the “P” in TCL’s P-series TVs that stands for “Performance.” In fact, the performance of the C-series is almost as good as the P-series and the two series share almost all the same features. These features include UHD resolution, wide color gamut and support for Dolby Vision HDR. The streaming features of the TVs are driven by Roku software and owners have access to Roku’s library.

The biggest difference between the C-Series and the P-series is the C-series is edge lit, leading to a very thin system but unable to use dynamic dimming for contrast enhancement. The P-series has a 72 zone backlight system to enhance contrast and allow the showing of better blacks when showing HDR signals. TCL has dropped its 50” and 65” P-series models (subscription required) but continue to sell it’s P-series 55” version.

While it was not at the Holiday Spectacular, TCL was talking about its new 75” C-series TV. Looking at the good image shown by the 55” C-series TV, you could get a good idea of what the 75” version will look like. The 75” unit is expected to be available before Thanksgiving (November 23rd) and in time for Christmas. The price has not been announced yet.

Even display and television companies like TCL are getting into the BYOD business. In the photo you can see both the remote control that comes with the TV and the remote control app on a tablet. The app has both the appearance and all the features of the remote control. One of the nice features is the ability to listen to the TV sound using the headphone jack on the remote control. Of course, if you have a newer Apple device it doesn’t have a headphone jack – you have to use Bluetooth and Bluetooth headphones.

Pepcom TCL 55 C series resizeTCL C-series 55” TV at Pepcom. Note both the remote control and the remote control app on the tablet. (Image: M. Brennesholtz)


The adjacent booth to the TCL TV booth was from TCL Communications along with Alcatel and Cricket. The most interesting thing they were showing a VR unit that consisted of a Alcatel UNI360 HMD with an Alcatel Idol5 smartphone installed. The $49.99 UNI360 is said to be optimized for the Idol5/Idol5S smartphones and the sub-$200 Idol5 was said to be optimized for VR. It looked OK, I suppose, but… it wasn’t virtual “reality.” Pixels were clearly visible in the 120° FOV HMD and, perhaps more seriously, the processor in the Idol5 simply couldn’t keep up with head motion. This led to a relatively low frame rate and jerky image motion whenever your head moved. Personally, I’d give it a pass.

Pepcom TCL Alcatel Cricket both resizeLeft: The Alcatel UNI360 HMD with an Alcatel Idol5 smart phone. Right: Meko’s Matt Brennesholtz checks out the UNI360 HMD with an Idol5 installed. Note the Cricket brand on the back of the Idol5. (Credit: M. Brennesholtz)


Anker Technology Co. Limited was showing its two picoprojectors at the Holiday Spectacular, the new Nebula Capsule and the existing Nebula Mars systems. The Nebula Capsule is currently on Indigogo but I was assured that it would actually ship in November, in time for Christmas. (Note: while the Anker rep at Pepcom said it would ship in November, the Indigogo page says December.) The Indigogo price is $199 while the expected list price will be $299. The Indigogo campaign has raised $521,020 with 30 days left on the campaign, far more than the goal of $50,000, so funding shouldn’t keep it out of the market.

The Nebula Capsule is roughly the size of a US soda can. It is a 100 Lm., WVGA (854 x 540) DLP projector with built-in Android 7, 10W speakers and a battery said to be good for 2½ hours of video or 40 hours of audio. The battery can be recharged fully in 2½ hours or to the 70% level in one hour. The image was surprisingly good, considering the low gain screen used and the high ambient light at the Holiday Spectacular. In a dark room (really dark) you may even be able to see well enough to enjoy the 100” image claimed by Anker.

The Nebula Mars was also being demonstrated at the Holiday Spectacular. It is a larger picoprojector with a 0.45”DMD WXGA (1280 x 800) chip. The Nebula Mars will support 4K content and down-scale it to fit the display. The specs given on the Anker website are quite different from the specs I was given by the rep at Pepcom. Since the rep’s specs were more believable, I’ll pass them on. The projector has 500 ANSI lumens output and internal 15W speakers. The battery, like the Nebula Capsule, is said to be good for 2½ hours of video or 40 hours of audio. The unit is currently available on Amazon for $599.99, including free shipping.

The Anker booth at the Holiday Spectacular. Left: Two Nebula Capsules are visible, with the black one producing the projected image. A Nebula Mars is visible on the right. Right: The other image didn’t do justice to the clarity of the image produced by the 100 lumen Nebula Capsule even in Pepcom’s high ambient light, so I added this second image. This makes a case for HDR imaging. In the left image, the projectors are correctly exposed but the image is clipped while in the right image, the projected image is correctly exposed but the Nebula Capsule is badly underexposed, losing all detail. (Image: M. Brennesholtz)


Epson was showing its new 2500 lumen, 1080p (1920 x 1080) Home Cinema 2150 projector as a static display, i.e. not operating. That made sense in the high ambient Holiday Spectacular environment which makes it very hard to show projected images. I had seen the projector in July under NDA in a dedicated Epson press event – also as a static display. While the 2150 seems to have a very good price/performance ratio and I personally prefer 3LCD to 1DLP for home cinema, I really would like to see it operating. The Home Cinema 2150 is available now at a $899 MSRP. Epson was also showing statically its new 3100 Lm., 1080p Home Cinema 1060 3LCD Projector with a $649.99 MSRP. Again, I’d like to see it in operation.


ViewSonic was there with three of its monitors, the VP2785-4K, a 27’’, UHD (3840 x 2160), Adobe RGB monitor; the VP3268-4K, a 32” UHD (3840 x 2160) monitor; and the VP3881, a 38” Immersive Curved Screen Monitor. These monitors were actually unveiled at CES last January but have just recently become commercially available. The VP3881 was the only one I spent time looking at so It’s the only one I’ll write about.

This 21:9 monitor has what ViewSonic calls WQHD+ resolution, which is 3840×1600 pixels. According to ViewSonic, “this monitor is ideal for video editing, content development, and other color-critical applications.” Maybe, although the resolution is low for editing 4K/UHD content and while they claim it is usable for color-critical applications, the specs have only a modest and non-technical discussion of color gamut and color calibration. Claimed contrast for the IPS panel is 1000:1 static contrast and 20,000,000:1 dynamic contrast. ViewSonic actually gives themselves away when they say, “What’s more, HDCP 2.2 content protection is standard across all ports to provide secure 4K content playback, streaming and gaming.”

Oh, a gaming monitor – that makes more sense, including unveiling it at CES and showing it at a consumer gadget-oriented event like Pepcom. While a curved monitor makes little sense for group TV watching, it can improve image quality, including both contrast and color uniformity, for a single user, such as a video editor or a gamer, who sits near the center of curvature.

The VP3881 is available now. When it was unveiled at CES, it had an estimated MSRP of $1999 but the current street price is much lower. For example, CDW has it in stock at a price of $1299.99 and the ViewSonic rep said you could find it as low as $1200.

Pepcom Viewsonic resizeViewSonic VP3881 curved monitor for video editing, gaming and other single user applications. (Image: M. Brennesholtz)


Pepcom Holiday Spectacular 2017 resizePepcom’s Holiday Spectacular in New York attracted a good crowd of both exhibitors and the press. (Image: M. Brennesholtz)

First, BYOD is alive and well – not a surprise. Remote controls are vanishing and being replaced by smartphones for everything from spider robots to drones to toy race cars – and that was just at the Holiday Spectacular. Of the 75 exhibits, I would guess 65 of them featured BYOD in one form or another. A few, like ViewSonic, were selling primarily the display, not an app to run on a smartphone. A very few others, like Petmate’s CALMZ Anxiety Relief System for dogs had no remote control at all – you had to actually touch your dog to activate the system.

Second, even at a gadget-centric show like Pepcom’s you can see more than just smartphone apps. I was glad to have the chance to see several of the displays at the show along with some jaw-dropping gadgets that made me wonder “Why would anyone want that?.” My wife and kids all think I’m badly out of date, so maybe there is a market for them.

Third, in the reminder sent out just before the event to all pre-registered members of the press, Pepcom said that in addition to the “75 companies showing the season’s hottest new gadgets, we’ll keep you fueled with open bars and those yummy food stations.” I have to have a really serious conflict to miss a Pepcom event. –Matthew Brennesholtz