IFA, the world’s largest consumer electronics show with over 1000 exhibitors, got underway in Berlin yesterday. Click here for full stories
* Philips unveils world’s smallest MP3 hard disk player
* Philips to debut video streaming devices
* Garden chair speaker
* Nokia to deliver digital TV receivers/recorders
* Panasonic reinvents the camcorder
* Pioneer unveils DVD hard disk recorder
* LG announces world’s largest Plasma display
Philips gets connected
As usual Philips hosted one of IFA’s most high profile press conferences, wheeling out a succession of company bigwigs to outline its strategy for the coming year.
Although the company majored on technological innovations – it is particularly keen on the wireless home – very little new product was displayed. This was largely because it paraded many new items to journalists at a conference in the Netherlands several months back.
There were however a few surprises:
World’s smallest disk audio player
Following on from the HDD100 hard disk MP3 player, Philips had added a second HD model – the HDD60, which it is billing as the smallest hard disk MP3 player available. Almost certainly using the latest version of IBM’s mîcro Drive the device has a storage capacity of 1.5 Gigabytes (enough, so Philips claims, for 375 MP3 tracks).
We reckon it will be very similar to the Rio Nitrus, which was announced earlier in the month The device is due on sale in Europe in October (no definite date for a UK arrival) with a retail price of around £250.
Video streaming devices
Philips also confirmed the specifications of its range of video streaming devices. Its flagship product is likely to be the MX6000i audio and video streaming home entertainment system. The successor to its existing Streamium hi-fi system the MX6000i enables the user to stream audio and video files from their PC to the product, which then displays the content on a TV screen.
The product sports a ‘walled garden web browser’ that offers access to video and audio content. Video content will be provided by partners Ivideo and Yahoo. Unlike the original Streamium, the MX6000i will be compatible with wireless systems 802.11g which offers faster transfer rates and therefore smoother video than the more common 802.11b wireless format.
Philips is also offering two wireless multimedia links that perform a similar function to the 6000i. These will also use 802.11g to stream video. The difference between the two is the SL-400i includes a USB dongle so that it can be incorporated into a wireless system while the SL-300i is designed for homes that already have wireless. All three products will be launched early next year.
Philips is also going to take its streaming video concept to displays. Next year it will launch an LCD with Wi-Fi enabled broadband connections.
Garden chair speaker
Probably a little too late for this summer, but Elac has developed a speaker integrated into a garden chair. By means of an exciter using DML flat membrane technology recliners can both hear and feel the sound. The system was originally developed for use in private jets.
Nokia to deliver digital TVreceivers/recorders
In what could be worrying news for Pace, Nokia has anounced plans to launch a pair of digital TV decoders with integrated hard disk video recorders. At present Pace dominates the UK market with its Sky Plus (satellite) and Twin products (terrestrial).
NokiaMediamaster 260 S (satellite) and Nokia MediaMaster 260 T (terrestrial) give the user to ability to ‘pause live TV’, tapelessly record entertainment and create Image Albums for personal images transferred from camera phones supporting Bluetooth wireless technology.
Both products sport electronic programme guides and feature basic games. Crucially they boast an 80Gigabyte hard disk – twice the size of the Sky Plus box and four times the size of Pace’s Twin box. However, it is unlikely the satellite product will ever be able to receive or record Sky programmes.
Both will be availble before Christmas in Europe. There’s no confirmed UK launch, but we’ll let you know as soon as we find out. Nokia also announced a free-to-air digital terrestrial set-top box for Freeview (the Mediamaster 110T).
Pioneer unveils DVD/hard disk recorder
Pioneer has joined Panasonic and Toshiba in bringing a combined hard disk/DVD video recorder to the UK. Available next month, the DVR-5100H-S records on to an 80Gigabyte hard disk, which Pioneer claims can store up to 102 hours of video footage. Users can then archive the video on to DVD-R and DVD-RW discs.
Included is a feature called One Touch Copy which allows programes stored on the hard disk to be transferred at high speed to DVD. The model has many of the usual features associated with hard disk video recorders including Chase Play, which lets the user store live TV, and simultaneous recording and playback.
The company also unveiled many other new products including:
* New 50inch and 43inch plasma TVs
* DV-565 DVD player with SACD and DVD-Audio playback
* NS-DV990 home cinema system with NXT flat panel speakers
* A range of new AV receivers
All the products will be on sale this autumn
Panasonic re-invents the camcorder
Must admit we’ve not so far been convinced by Panasonic’s attempts to produce a video recording/image snapping/MP3-playing gadget. The SV-AV10 from two years ago was a complete dog’s dinner with a very poor camera, while its recent update, the SV-AV20, was only a marginal improvement.
The key issue centres around storage. The Panasonic gadgets use SD cards, which up until recently had a maximum storage capacity of 256MB – small beer when compared with the 20 and 30 Gigabyte hard disk recorders from Apple, Archos and the like.
At IFA Panasonic has just unveiled two additions to its D Snap range – the SV-AV100 and the SV-AS10.
Due in October, the SV-AV100 bills itself as ‘the world’s first MPEG2 SD camcorder’. Great, it can record MPEG 2 video. The bad news is that the 512MB SD card that it comes with can store only twenty minutes of MPEG2 video. Of course when the one Gigabyte card comes later in the year this doubles the storage to 40 minutes. Yet the 1 Gig card is likely to be around £300.
Around twenty minutes is actually enough for all but the most-demanding camcorders users. However with a hard disk it could have been so much more.
Still the SV-AV100 looks good, has an 800,000 pixel CCD, MPEG4 and still image recording and a 10x optical zoom. It can also be hooked up to either a TV or a PC. The clincher though is the price. At around £1000 it is ridiculously expensive. Neat product, but can’t believe there will be many takers.
Likely to be much more of a hit is the D-Snap SV-AS10. It has a two mega pixel digital still camera, five x digital zoom, Motion JPEG video, MP3/AAC/WMA playback and a voice recorder all wrapped up in a really thin (9.9mm) casing. It is also available in rather funky blue and orange colours and will retail for around £250. You have to your own storage cards. Also due in October.
Also new from Panasonic
· Panasonic E-100H hard disk/DVD-RAM recorder which will replace the now-legendary DMR-HS2. Has a larger hard disk (80 Gigabytes) and comes with an SD card. Users will be able to record programmes on to SD in MPEG4 which they can then play back on the any of the D-Snap video devices. No electronic programming guide though.
· DMC-FZ2 digital camera. Rather cool two mega pixel model with a 12 x optical zoom. Due next month for around £400.
· New line up of plasma and LCD screens.
LG feels the width
There are two ways of grabbing headlines at IFA. Either introduce a useful product that’s going to make people’s lives better or, if you can’t do that, at least make sure it is the world’s biggest or the world’s smallest.
It seems LG has got both bases firmly covered at this year’s show with two of the ‘world’s biggest’ displays on show as well as some interesting, if not exactly revolutionary, products.
First up is the world’s biggest plasma TV – a whopping 71inch widescreen model with picture contrast ratios of 1000:1. Then there’s a 52 inch LCD TV that LG claims provides a viewing angle of nearly 180 degrees. Of course you probably won’t ever be able to buy these products in the shops and even if you could they would probably cost a year’s wages – but no matter.
And if it’s innovation you want then LG has that too – well sort of. At IFA it’s showcasing an all-in-one home cinema system (the DA-SW6100) which doesn’t require wires trailing across the living room from the rear speakers to the AV amplifier. OK it’s an idea that’s been tried before (most notably by Philips) but it’s never really worked properly because of interference problems. Here’s hoping the LG product fares better.
Perhaps most interesting of all is LG’s home network demonstration area. Featuring a kitchen, a living room and bedroom it shows how a home server could be used to operate a number of digital home appliances via a mobile phone connection.
Other products on display:
• A DVD/VCR recorder combi (the RC5900) which LG claims is one of the thinnest available (83.5mm)
• New LCD monitors and flat screen 16:9 TVs named the Lafinion series