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More HTiBs Get Blu-ray, Surround Bars

LAS VEGAS – The selection of home theater in a box (HTiB) systems with Blu-ray players, Internet-based music and movie streaming, and surround bar configuration will grow here at International CES.

Pricing on Blu-ray HTiBs also promises to go more mainstream than ever, with at least one due as low as a tentative suggested $399 for a Philips-brand product from TV supplier P&F. That compares with everyday prices that bottomed out at around $479, with promotions at $449, in 2009.

Here is a roundup, by brand, of the products to debut here at CES:

LG: Three new 5.1-channel Blu-ray HTiB systems include the company’s first two models with embedded Wi-Fi and DLNA certification for streaming content from a networked PC. All feature integrated iPod/iPhone dock that’s certified as Works with iPhone.

The LHB975 and LHB535, both with integrated Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, and the entry-level LHB335, which uses a wired Ethernet connection, also go out to the internet to stream an expanded portfolio of A/V content from LG’s Netcast service, which now includes the Picasa photo-sharing site and AccuWeather information. Like LG’s current Ethernet-connected HTiBs, all three also access Netflix, Vudu, CinemaNow, YouTube and the Pandora music service. All three decode all authorized Blu-ray surround formats.

One model, the LHB975, is also the company’s first HTiB to bundle a wireless subwoofer with wireless surround speakers.

All three models ship in February to replace two current Blu-ray HTiBs, whose prices start at $479 street price. Prices hadn’t been set at press time.

P&F: Under the Philips brand, the company will expand its selection of Blu-ray HTiBs with the launch of three new models, which join a current model. All new models are the brand’s first HTiBs with Internet radio and video streaming (via vTuner Internet radio and Netflix service).

Like the current BD-equipped HTiB, all three new models incorporate Profile 2.0 BD players and come with 5.1-channel speaker system. All add AVCHD playback. The top model will be the brand’s first HTiB with wireless surround speakers in several years.

The lineup starts with the HTS3251B at a tentative suggested $399. It features Dolby Digital Plus/TrueHD, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS 5.1 decoding. Other features include 24 fps native playback, playback of discs encoded with JPEG pictures and with MP3 and WMA music files, and compact speakers. It does not come with iPod/iPhone dock as previously stated.

The step-up HTS5580B, whose tentative suggested retail has been revised to $499 from previous statements, offers taller upgraded left-right speakers with angled drivers and a digital algorithm to create a more immersive sound stage. The top-end HTS5251B at a tentative suggested $599 adds Wi-Fi 802/11b/g/n, DLNA certification, iPod/iPhone dock and wireless surround speakers. All three will be in stores in March or April.

The current BD HTiB is the HTS5100 at an everyday $499. It will be phased out in the first quarter.

Samsung: The company is launching two new Blu-ray-equipped HTiBs and two new Blu-ray-embedded surround bars.

The two new HTiBs models are the HT-C7500W with 5.1 speaker systems and the 7.1-speaker HT-C6730W, both due in the first half. The latter comes with two wireless surround speakers.

Both models feature Blu-ray Profile 2.0 like the current models, FM tuner and ability to stream the Netflix, Blockbuster and YouTube video services and the Pandora music service. Additional video content providers were to be announced at the show for viewing through the HTiBs, Samsung TVs, and stand-alone Blu-ray players.

Like current models, both new systems come with iPod/iPhone-certified dock, USB ports to select content on a USB stick and decoding of all authorized Blu-ray surround formats.

The C6730W adds built-in wireless LAN to stream Internet and BD-Live content. It’s the company’s most powerful HTiB to date, said to deliver 1,330 watts.

Prices weren’t available at press time.

The two new sound bars are the HW-C450 and HW-C470. Details weren’t available at press time.

Sony: The company’s first two HTiBs with streaming Internet audio and video services are both Blu-ray-equipped HTiBs,, and both are the company’s first HTiBs with embedded Wi-Fi. Both feature iPod/iPhone docks, Profile 2.0 Blu-ray players, decoding of all authorized Blu-ray surround formats and access to the Sony Bravia suite of Internet video service. Those include Netflix, Amazon On Demand, YouTube, Slacker and more than 20 other services.

Both models ship in the spring at prices that weren’t available.

The company’s current two BD HTiBs will be replaced early this year.

Vizio: Two new surround bars include the company’s first with built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder to deliver enhanced virtual surround. Two current models use analog stereo inputs and a PCM digital input to take in mono, stereo, and matrixed-surround audio for post processing by SRS-licensed virtual-surround technology.

The surround bar with Dolby Digital decoder is the 5.1 Home Theater System, which also connects wirelessly to an iPod/iPhone dock and to a wireless subwoofer up to 90 feet away. The dock can be placed in a convenient location for selecting songs while it transmits music to the surround bar.