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Pioneer Features 50-Inch 1,080p Plasma, Blu-ray Player

Las Vegas — A Blu-ray disc player, a 50-inch 1,080p plasma display, one of the industry’s first two XM headphone stereos that double as MP3 players, and more advanced car navigation systems are among the products that Pioneer is highlighting here at International CES.

The Blu-ray BDP-HD1 is a play-only model due in May at a suggested $1,800 under the Elite brand. It uses HDMI 1.3 output to transfer 1,080p video to 1,080p displays, such as the new Elite PRO-FHD1, said to be among the industry’s first 50-inch 1,080p plasma displays. It is due in June at a suggested $10,000. The display doubles pixel density compared to traditional 50-inch plasmas, Pioneer said. It also up-scales video to 1,080p and features HDMI, DVI, component and composite inputs. A tabletop stand and wall-mount bracket are optional.

The Blu-ray player comes with Home Media Gallery function that allows it to display A/V content from Ethernet-connected servers compliant with Digital Living Network Alliance interoperability specifications. It will also display content from Windows XP PCs using Windows Media Connect.

It wasn’t certain whether the Blu-ray player will deliver HD video through component analog outputs to HD monitors and TVs that lack HDMI inputs. The AACS content-protection group hasn’t yet finalized content-protection rules for the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, marketers said.

The Blu-ray player supports all high-bandwidth multichannel audio codecs but lossless Dolby TrueHD because of the codec’s late development, Pioneer said. The high-bandwidth codecs, including multichannel PCM and the DTS HD family of lossy and lossless codecs, emerge in native form through the HDMI 1.3 output. It wasn’t certain whether soundtracks using those formats would emerge from the player’s 5.1-channel analog outputs, which deliver mandatory DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks that are also delivered via digital SP/DIF output.

As a first-generation product, the player doesn’t support Internet-streamed audio content, such as director’s comments, while discs are playing.

In the first quarter, Pioneer plans delivery of a $995-suggested Blu-ray/DVD writer for PCs, but the BDR-101A is intended primarily for content creators who will use them to test and evaluate high-definition consumer Blu-ray Disc titles during the authoring process. Nonetheless, consumers could use the half-height writer to record HDTV shows from a PC’s internal TV tuner, Pioneer noted.

The Blu-ray Disc/DVD writer will read BD-ROM/R/RE, DVD-ROM/DVD-R/DVD-RW and +R/+RW discs. It writes Blu-ray discs at 2x speed, write-once DVDs at 8x speed, and rewritable DVDs at 4x speed.

To go with the high-resolution disc and display formats, Pioneer also launched its EX reference loudspeakers, due in March with a suggested retails of $1,700-$4,500 each. They include a floorstanding model, a bookshelf, a center channel and a powered sub.

The XM headphone stereo with MP3 player is the Inno, due in March with 1GB flash-memory capacity at a suggested $399, including home docking kit. Additional home docks cost a suggested $70, as does a car dock equipped with FM transmitter. Inno receives live XM broadcasts and stores up to 50 hours of time-shifted XM content. Less XM content can be stored when MP3 and WMA files are also onboard. The time-shifted XM songs remain playable for as long as the user has an XM subscription, XM said.

Samsung is also launching a similar device.

Pioneer said it considers in-car navigation a key category, predicting industry growth for the segment at 35 percent this year, on top of 40 percent growth in 2005 to 110,000 units. The company is introducing three new navigation devices at CES, including the AVIC-Z1 with built-in 30GB hard drive at a suggested $2,250. All three models are compatible with XM NavTraffic real-time traffic, and all offer iPod capability. The two new DVD-based units, the AVIC-N3 and AVIC-D2, offer lower price points than the 2005 products they replace, at $1,800 and $1,500, respectively. Shipping is expected in March and April.

Also in car audio, Pioneer is introducing two new head units that are among the first to offer built-in Bluetooth capability that does not require an adapter.

Also new is a six-disc double-DIN DVD changer with 7-inch touch screen, enhanced iPod capability, Bluetooth compatibility with optional adapter and satellite-ready tuning for XM and Sirius. Model AVHP6800DVD is expected to ship in May at a suggested retail price of $1,400. – Additional reporting by Amy Gilroy.