Sony to sell a 4K front projector; Epson adds 3D to its lineup

If you’re just not getting enough detail from your home-theater projector, Sony has a solution, albeit a costly one: the VPL-VW1000ES, a $25,000 4K home theater projector that has four times the picture resolution of standard high-def models.

If 3D is more your thing, Epson is adding 3D capability to several new LCD projectors in its fall lineup. Both companies announced these new products at the CEDIA trade show last week.

electronics_sony_vplvw100es.jpg

Sony VPL-VW1000ESSony’s new projector—an LCoS-based SXRD model—is billed as the first 4K projector designed for the home-theater crowd; it will be sold though custom installers. According to the company, the projector’s claimed 2,000 lumens of brightness make it suitable for screens up to 200 inches (measured diagonally). Given that there’s not a lot of native 4K content, the projector has a built-in video processor that will upscale 2D and 3D 1080P content. The projector will be available in December.

Epson’s new 3D projector lineup starts at $1,600, for the entry-level Home Cinema 3010 model. A model with a wireless transmitter for sending high-def video signals to the projector (3010e) is $1,800. (We recently wrote about Optoma introducing the lowest-cost 1080p 3D projector, the HD33.) All the new Epson models have access to online content and feature a 2D split-screen mode for watching two pictures at once (or watching a movie while accessing the Internet simultaneously). Other common features include 1080p resolution and the use of Epson’s Bright 3D drive technology—which drives the LCD panels at 480Hz, double the rate of 240Hz models—for improved image brightness and less crosstalk, the company says. Both the 3010, which comes with two sets of active-shutter 3D glasses, and the 3010e, which doesn’t, will be available in October.

Stepping up to Epson’s 5010 and 5010e models—$3,000 and $3,500, respectively—gets you a bit more brightness, more sophisticated video processing, and improvements in contrast and color, plus a 2D-to-3D conversion feature. The 3D glasses have to be purchased separately with these models, which will be available in November.

At the top of the new lineup is the $4,000 PowerLite Pro Cinema 6010, which has all the features of the 5010 series plus two anamorphic lens modes, ISF calibration, color isolation, and a ceiling mount, cable cover, and an extra lamp. It also comes with two sets of 3D glasses and has a three-year warranty, one year longer than the warranties offered on the other models. Like the 5010 and 5010e models, it will be available in November.

Personally, my front projector–based dedicated home theater is where I’d like 3D, and these new lower prices have me considering one. Let us know whether a $1,500 or $1,600 price tag would be low enough to lure you into the market.

—James K. Willcox

Advertisements

First Look review: Motorola Droid Bionic is super, but battery life may be a concern

The Motorola Droid Bionic, which landed on store shelves September 8 for a whopping $300 with a two-year contract, is Verizon’s most powerful Android smart phone to date. Having used a press sample of the phone for a day, I find that it’s easily one of the fastest phones I’ve ever used, and it’s a superb multitasker.

But the Bionic’s hefty battery drained very quickly in my informal trials, even compared with other phones that run on fast 4G networks, which draw more power from phones than do 3G networks. Our engineers are now conducting a battery of lab tests on a Droid Bionic we bought at retail to get more definitive data on its battery life.

Key features of the phone include a dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP processor, 1GB of RAM, a giant 4.3-inch qHD Gorilla Glass display, an 8-megapixel camera with 1080P video recording, and 32GB of memory (16GB on board and 16GB on a preinstalled microSD card). The phone runs on Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), which gives the phone top-notch document-editing tools and makes it easier to insert teleconference information within Google Calendar meetings (conference bridging).

The details:

It’s rocket fast. Applications launched almost instantly, and Web-based content populated browser and app screens loaded almost as quickly—within a fraction of a second. The Bionic seemed even a tad faster than its AT&T cousin, the Motorola Atrix.

The battery drained fast. In my trials, the Bionic’s hefty 1,735 mAh min battery seemed to drain quickly, with its gauge moving from full to almost empty in just a few hours, even when the phone was idle. And during a video chat (see below), I was concerned to see the phone’s battery gauge drop from full to 40 percent after 12 minutes of conversation.

It’s a bit of a handful. The Bionic is large but comfortable to hold, measuring 2.63 inches wide by 0.5 inches tall. The specs say it’s just 0.43 inches thick, but that’s only in the middle: The phone is actually 0.53 inches at the top end housing the camera and also flares out to 0.48 inches at the bottom.

Decent, bullet-proof display. The Bionic’s Gorilla Glass screen is super tough. Using considerable force, I pecked it repeatedly with keys, coins, and even a small ball peen hammer, but I couldn’t make a scratch. Text and photos appeared quite sharp on the 540 x 960 display (256 pixels per inch), though not as sharp as on the displays of the iPhone and Galaxy-class Samsung models. Readability in sunlight was also decent.

Clean interface. The Bionic’s desktop is relatively clean, with a contacts widget on top of the home page and another carousel-like widget that pulls photos posted on Facebook and other social networks. One point of frustration: I couldn’t get the e-mail app to show me more than one account on the same page. This may be a glitch with my review sample, so stay tuned.

Video chat, even on the Verizon network. Like most 4G phones, the Droid Bionic has a front-facing camera, but it’s one of the first phones that allows you to use the Google’s Video Chat app to make video calls to Google Video Chat users on PCs and Macs. And unlike iPhone’s Facetime, Google Video Chat on the Bionic works on 3G and 4G networks rather than just via Wi-Fi.

Video Chat quality was decent, with few hiccups, when I held the phone vertically, even when the phone’s 4G signal gauge showed only one or two bars. But when I tilted the phone sideways to switch to widescreen mode, the screen froze. I was still able to carry on a voice-only conversation with my friend without interruptions.

A cool streaming app. Verizon is notorious for cluttering its phones with apps few people need or want. But I was intrigued by one app called ZumoCast, a free service that allows you to download or stream multimedia, Office documents, and other files from your PC or laptop over the Verizon network. In short, your computer becomes a content server for the phone.

I found that ZumoCast worked well enough in allowing me to use my iTunes playlists, which sounded fine. But video-streaming from my computer was more problematic: ZumoCast wouldn’t allow me to stream copy-protected videos from my computer. The videos I ripped myself streamed quickly but appeared severely compressed, much like a low-grade YouTube video. Also, the service stops working when your computer goes into sleep mode, and leaving your computer on all day may be hard on the computer as well as on your electric bill.

Multitasking on the Lapdock. I also used the Bionic with its optional $300 Lapdock accessory. This dock, which we first reviewed with the Motorola Atrix, transforms the Bionic into a thin laptop.

The accessory proved to be a great showcase for the phone’s ample processing power and Verizon’s high-speed network. Snapping the Bionic into the rear, flip-out port of this semi-dumb laptop terminal gave me a humongous 11.6-inch display, a full-size keyboard, and a track pad. I was able to stream music and view Web pages while editing documents with reasonable speed.

Besides giving you the larger-scale hardware at your fingertips, the Lapdock improves the mobile computing experience through its own Internet-connected “webtop” applications, which include a full version of the Firefox Web browser and Facebook. Most other times, you’re accessing mail and other apps directly from the Bionic. But as with the Atrix’s identical Lapdock, I found the Shift, Enter, and Arrow keys on the keyboard’s lower-left side too scrunched together, which made typing occasionally awkward.

Bottom line: With its large display, powerful processor, ultra-fast data connection, and intriguing accessories, the Droid Bionic may just be one of the best smart phones on the market. But those exceptional qualities may potentially be hampered by gluttonous power consumption. Check back with us soon for the results of those and other tests of this highly promising phone.

Future tech: British researchers create safer, cheaper gel battery

Rechargeable lithium-based batteries are the heart and soul of power-hungry electronics, such as the new speedyMotorola Droid Bionic, which drained the life of its hefty battery way too fast for our liking. But in the future, they could be replaced by polymer jelly batteries that could also make all sorts of gadgets both cheaper and safer.

Researchers at the University of Leeds came up with a way to replace the volatile and hazardous liquid electrolyte currently used in most lithium batteries with a polymer jelly. The researchers blended a rubber-like polymer with a conductive, liquid electrolyte into a flexible film that sits between the battery electrodes.

So even lighter laptops and more efficient electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf, could be in our future. However, just as importantly, this technology could also be the answer to the long standing issue of batteries posing a fire hazard. The BBC, which reported the gel battery news, pointed to the 2006 recall of 4 million Dell laptop batteries because they were a fire hazard.

More recently, we reported product recalls due to the fire hazard posed by batteries, both toys and computers:Recall expanded for HP notebook computer batteries that are a—fire hazard, and Toy helicopter recall for fire and burn danger.

Jelly batteries: Safer, cheaper, smaller, more powerful [BBC]