- Written by Administrator
- Published on 03 July 2012
When I finished my initial review of Control4 I had it controlling my AV system but nothing else. As complete home integration is one of the reasons to use Control4 I needed to test something out. Control4 was nice enough to send over a few light dimmers to install so that I can see how they integrate.
Reviewing the Samsung UN85S9AF 4K UHD TV is far from a simple task. The entire construct requires around 4 people to stand upright. This 85" behemoth is a self contained home theater experience – it stands on its own and although it can technically be wall mounted, this really breaks from its design statement. Apparently, Samsung discovered that many of its customers prefer to use the built in stand – which is why they've invested a great deal in the built-in stand designs. When Samsung first showed off this design at CES in Las Vegas, I really didn't like it. From afar, it looked like a folding beach chair or scissors. However, when the UN85S9AF is right next to you, the feeling changes. The design is elegant and looks much better in person than it does on the Vegas show floor or in pictures.
Samsung made a big show of their updated Smart Hub interface at CES this year. For many people the important distinction between Blu-ray players now is the quality and variety of streaming content available and not the disc playback itself. The last player I tested from them had some very innovative search features at that time, though sometimes the results weren't fully accurate which reduced the usefulness. As that was close to two years ago, Samsung has had plenty of time to remedy the issue. With the heavy push towards streaming, and Samsung putting a lot of emphasis there on this new player, I was very hopeful for a nice online experience as I opened up the BD-F5900.
Last time I looked at a Blu-ray player from Panasonic it was their DMP-BDT210 model. It had almost everything I wanted in a Blu-ray player: perfect image performance, fast loading times, and a good deal of streaming content. I liked it enough that I bought one for the bedroom, where it was used happily until it was gifted to the in-laws, and allows them to watch movies and streaming content in their motorhome. It also got our award for Best Blu-ray Value Player that year, which it richly deserved. Because of the success of that model, I looked forward to seeing if the DMP-BDT230 maintained that excellence, and simply added a few tweaks to the formula as more streaming content became available. The only way to know was to put it through its paces.
It now seems our once indispensible couch assistant, the venerable remote control, has fallen out of favor. Previously impossible to live without, new options for controlling our TV and devices have sprung up to take its place. iOS and Android apps for our smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, with every manufacturer having one now. Some devices have moved beyond that, with cameras and microphones to let you control it with actions and voice commands. LG also falls into this category, shipping their Magic Remote with their high-end displays and Blu-ray players, including their high-end Blu-ray player for 2013, the BP730. Black and sleek in the hand, it works much like a Nintendo Wii controller, directing a cursor around the screen. Does this provide a break-through in control for streaming content and movie playback, or is it just a feature trying to distinguish itself from a pack of non-descript boxes?
Last year, Sony's Blu-ray players did a great job of hitting these goals. Their initial firmware had an issue decoding Blu-ray discs to RGB that we discovered, but that was quickly remedied and after that the players performed very well. Sony elected to keep the BDP-S790 at the top of their lineup this year, and it remains one of my favorite Blu-ray players, but the other models have been replaced. One new model is the BDP-S5100, which replaces the BDP-S590 model that I looked at in 2012. Has Sony kept with their winning model from last year, or have updates brought us changes?
With their updated e-shift technology, a full-featured CMS, and black levels that are untouched by other projector manufacturers, the new JVC X55 projector is capable of some truly stunning images. The kind of images that will likely have you painting that room, covering the carpet up with a dark rug, and putting electrical tape over the LEDs on your system components to prevent any little thing from entering the room to distract from its performance.
Recently I reviewed Epson's new Home Cinema 3020e projector and found it to be a tremendous value in the under $2000 class. It offers killer 3D, wireless HDMI, and superb image for less than the price of a 60-inch TV. It was only natural that I should also check out its big brother, the Home Cinema 5020UBE.
Streamers have been around for quite a few years. It took them quite a while to reach maturity. When this field was at its infancy, HD was just starting to get popular and Streamers offered a way to play back a DIVX or TS file without requiring a Home Theater PC in your living room. The beginning was very slow and tedious, early streamers were buggy and often had serious image, sound and build quality issues. Typically, you had to place your content in a hard drive inside the unit, or even burn a DVD containing your desired content - not exactly something that most people are prone to do.
Whenever I attend the CEDIA Expo, I visit all the projector manufacturers, both large and small. While Mitsubishi is a large company, their projectors are not as well-known as other brands. At the 2012 Expo, I had a chance to check out their all-new DLP models. In this review, we test the Mitsubishi HC8000D-BL single-chip DLP 3D projector.
One of the Awards given out in 2012 by Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity for "Technology on the Rise" was for Cube Calibration. For most people this probably doesn't mean much yet, but for those of us that are calibrators, or enthusiasts with an interest in calibration technology, this was a huge development. One might even say that Cube Calibration is the biggest improvement to consumer display technology since the introduction of the Color Management System (CMS).
I'll be blunt: I don't like 3D. I've never been able to justify paying extra to see it in the theater, and at home it has always left me cold. Most implementations give me a headache almost instantly with their crosstalk-filled images and ghosting the drives me crazy... Fast forward to CES 2013 and BenQ is in the South Hall showing off a pair of projectors that are very similar to the W7000, but scaled down: the W1070 and W1080ST.
When I finally took the plunge into a projection setup in my home theater, the hardest decision I had to make was what aspect ratio to get for my screen. Everything that came after that, from the screen material to the projector, was dependent on that decision.
The number of Universal Blu-ray players on the market continues to be strong, despite the much-discussed "death" of SACD and DVD-Audio formats. While no longer mainstream enough to be found at your local Best Buy or other big box retailer, SACD especially remains a thriving format in the audiophile market. The A-1020 is a Universal Blu-ray player that handles virtually all disc formats you can throw at it. In addition to its Blu-ray and audio playback abilities, is has the ubiquitous Netflix support and integrated Wi-Fi for streaming the content. It sounds like a good package from the specs, but with the universal player market being so competitive it really has a lot of good competitors to deal with.
Each year at the CEDIA Expo, I look forward to seeing the latest projectors from all the major manufacturers. While some do not update their products annually, Epson always has something new to offer. This past September, I got an in-depth...
Every year Pioneer updates their Blu-ray players, and every year I wind up happy yet disappointed with them. Each year performance and features seem to improve only to have a flaw, like edge enhancement or poor colorspace support, derail the Pioneer from being really top notch. This year Pioneer is offering the BDP-62FD, a $400 universal Blu-ray player that carries the Elite badge and features dual HDMI outputs among other features.
If you have been to any recent home and garden shows, you may have noticed the increase in outdoor entertainment areas. These usually consist of a covered patio, comfortable seating, fireplace/firepit, and anywhere from just a grill to a full outdoor kitchen area with pizza oven. Sounds like a home outside of your home. But where's the TV? SunBrite has the answer.
For years now, Oppo has dominated the high-end of DVD and Blu-ray players. Virtually every other reviewer and enthusiast I know has at least one in their system, if not more. I've personally been using their players going back to the DVD days, and have had every single one of their Blu-ray players, including their new BDP-103, reviewed here.
At a CEDIA that was big on 4K and sound bars, the introduction of the VPL-HW50ES went under the radar a bit. Slotting into their lineup above the HW30 and below the HW95, the HW50 comes with a few features from each of those, but also has its own unique features to set...
Not long ago plasma and LCD were in a fierce competition for the flat panel market, but LCD has dominated sales the past few years. While the general public has moved to LCD for brighter images and more size choices...