Toshiba travels to this week's CEDIA Expo to unveil a substantially updated LCD TV product line for the second half of the year.
In an unprecedented move for the company and a highly unusual one in the industry, Toshiba will be replacing the majority of the models from its spring television introductions with new fall offerings, said Scott Ramirez, Toshiba TV marketing VP.
The assortment will feature two new technologies that just became available for step-up models and four new model series addressing a wide range of price points.
"We are doing this for two different reasons," Ramirez told TWICE. "The first, and at the bottom of the line, is cost competitiveness. This is a hyper-competitive marketplace we are in right now, and we have to make sure that in the more commoditized models we can be at the everyday right price points. We are making sure that we are buying correctly — at the right time and at the right prices. Making these adjustments right before the fall helps us be certain that we are going to be competitive going into the holiday shopping season.
"The other reason, at the top of the line, is to make sure we deliver new technologies to the market faster. We are introducing two new technologies — Super Resolution Technology (SRT) and the other called Auto View," he said.
The SRT system makes use of Toshiba's core competency in semi-conductor design and production, using some of the capabilities of the Cel processor, which Toshiba co-developed with Sony for use in the PlayStation 3 and other devices. The "SRT processor" will be added to select step-up Regza LCD TV models to enhance incoming standard definition signals (480i and 480p) "to look almost like true HD signals," Ramirez said. The processor will not touch true high-definition signals.
Toshiba will promote the concept with the slogan: "Feels Like HD."
Ramirez said that the SRT feature will offer five different levels of enhancement. Sets carrying it will be pre-set at level 3, which Toshiba feels is optimal for most preferences. Users can select the level they prefer or shut it off entirely.
"Any time you enhance edging and sharpness, if there is noise in the picture you can bring that out too," Ramirez explained. "So, we want to give the consumer the ability to adjust that. But by turning it on or off is a good way to see how well it works."
Previously, Toshiba used a standard interpolation filter, Ramirez said. "When you go from a 480 signal to a 1080 signal, you basically have to double up on everything by taking line A and line B and filling in between them with line A plus B. But sometimes that's not the best way to handle it. If you have a gun flash, for example, the line just before and just after the flash may be dark.
"So the system doesn't have the information it needs to create a line that is supposed to be bright. This technology looks for the most similar pixel to use to create the interpolated line, not just the pixel immediately next to it."
Ramirez said that by introducing the technology in September Toshiba expects to get an early jump on competitors who may be planning introductions using similar technology.
The Auto View system, which will also be included in select step-up models, will monitor the incoming signal and the ambient room light to automatically adjust picture settings — brightness, contrast, tint, color and gamma — for optimal picture performance under varying room conditions.
Ramirez said that unlike other ambient room adjustment technologies in the market, Auto View is applied to all of the picture settings – instead of just raising and lowering brightness – to produce the truest picture possible for the conditions. He added that the technology, which can be switched off by viewers who would rather make their own adjustments, can also add a cost savings on energy consumption by reducing brightness output.
The four model series will start by adding a new 22-inch screen size to join a pair of 19-inch models in the AV500 series. The 22AV500 (shipping in September at a $499 suggested retail) will, however, add the AV502 series features and LCD panel, Ramirez said. He called the 22-inch screen size and the unit's under-18-inch height (short enough to fit beneath kitchen cabinets) "the perfect size and quality for digital broadcast transition sales."
The company is also replacing its current AV500 models in the 26-, 32- and 37-inch screen sizes with new 720p models in the AV502 series, Ramirez said. These add a Game Mode, Native Mode, EnergyStar 3.0 compliance and thinner high-gloss black cabinetry. The series also adds DynaLight dynamic backlighting for higher contrast performance.
All three AV502 series models are available now. The 26AV502U carries a suggested retail range from $549 to 649; the 32AV502 has a price range of $649 to $749, and the 37AV502 has a price range of $749 to $899.
In new 1080p offerings, Toshiba is also introducing its first non-Regza-branded 1080p models designed "to hit hot price points," Ramirez said. The new RV525 1080p models will be offered in the 40-inch (shipping in September at a suggested retail price range of $999-$1,099 and 46-inch (shipping in October at a price range of $1,399-$1,599) screen sizes.
Stepping up, Toshiba will introduce its new Regza models in two model series — the RV535 and XV545. Screen sizes in both series include 42, 46 and 52 inches, and all will include the previously mentioned SRT Super Upconversion and AutoView technologies.
In addition each model will comply with EnergyStar 3.0 ratings, include Pixel Plus Pure 4G 14-bit video processing circuitry, IR pass-through to enable hiding components behind doors or walls, and auto-input. Models will also include "Double Skin" (DS) cabinetry, marking the design identity for SRT, Ramirez said.
Ramirez explained the DS design uses a semi-transparent top-layer skin to reveal a second skin with texture and an angle, giving the cabinet a feeling of depth.
Models in the 535 series will all ship this month at the following suggested retail ranges: 42-inch 42RV535U ($1,199 to $1,399); 46-inch 46RV535U ($1,599 to $1,799) and the 52RV535U ($1,999 to $2,299).
After a year's absence, Toshiba will also reintroduce its top-of-the-line Cinema Series in XV545 series 1080p LCD TVs.
Models will include all of the features of the RV535All will include the PixelPure 4G and DynaLight systems, new SRT and AutoView technologies, and will add ClearFrame 120Hz frame rate technology for smooth motion images, and ColorBurst Wide Color Gamut (WCG). The latter produces 108 percent of the NTSC color gamut.
Models in the 545 Cinema Series will all ship this month at the following suggested retail price ranges: 42-inch 42XV545U ($1,599 to $1,799); 46-inch 46XV545U ($1,999 to $2,299) and the 52XV545U ($2,499 to $2,799).