MARINA DEL REY, CALIF. Calling it one of the most extensive product line revisions in several years, Toshiba Consumer Products America executives unveiled for dealers and the media 13 HDTV monitors, including an expanded lineup of seven widescreen projection models.
The unveiling also marked significant price reductions for the company's HDTV-capable products, while at the same time opening up the selection of widescreen HDTV monitors in the brand's upscale Cinema Series to four.
Rear-projection HDTV monitors in both the standard Toshiba and Cinema Series also underwent a revision in screen sizes. The lineup now adds 42-W, 50W- and 53W-inch models, and drops the 40W-inch and 56W-inch configurations.
Scott Ramirez, Toshiba TV marketing VP, singled out the 50W-inch screen size as a strategic-ally important fit because consumers had requested a size step between the previous 40W-inch and 56W-inch models.
He said he expects the 50W-inch size to be one of Toshiba's biggest selling models in the year ahead.
Summarizing the 2001 product line, Ramirez said, "We have it all … all the right features, all the right quality, and everything it takes to be a great consumer electronics company."
The revamped line, he said, extends to picture quality, sound quality, convenience and cosmetics. "They have all been changed," he said.
The most dramatic improvement, Ramirez said, was made to the HDTV monitor line's video processing circuitry. Virtually all new digital projection sets add a feature called IDSC Pro (Intelligent Digital Scan Conversion), while the IDSC II system introduced last year has been added to Toshiba's direct view HD monitors.
The IDSC Pro monitors add a "hyper-progressive scanning" system with double the memory buffer size to enable a sampling increase from 6,800 to 13,600 points. This produces "a more active – a denser – progressive scan image," Ramirez said.
The system also enables monitors to upconvert 480i and 480p signals to a 540p format. The latter format shares the same 33.75 kHz scanning frequency as the 1080i HDTV format, which is natively scanned by the monitors. The 31.5 kHz frequency that used to display native and upconverted 480p images has been dropped.
This means the IDSC Pro projection sets will display images in either 540p ED or 1080i HD formats using a common optimal focus point for both formats. To add 480p would have required a compromise in focus quality, Ramirez said, unless the monitors were made with two separate focus points for each scanning frequency — something he said no one offers.
"What you end up getting [with a dual-scanning frequency system in projection] is one compromised focus point," he said.
The IDSC Pro system also adds Toshiba's first auto digital CRT convergence system called TouchFocus, which automatically aligns CRT convergence, factoring in the unique magnetic field conditions of the room. Toshiba, unlike most other manufacturers, also elected to include a manual convergence control for users who wish to personally adjust gun convergence by eye.
Most Cinema Series HD projection monitors also add a new lens design called PowerFocus HD-Plus. The six-element lens system is said to deliver 20 percent focus improvement over earlier lines, using both an impregnated cathode and spherical phosphor design. The impregnated cathode yields a smaller dot pitch, while the use of spherical phosphors (which permits a denser phosphor layer) yields higher brightness levels without producing excessive heat that can reduce the longevity of the tube.
Other projection sets use either a new four-element lens system, called PowerFocus HD, or a five-element PowerFocus HCF, system. The former is said to yield a 50 percent improvement in contrast over today's five-element lens systems, while the latter is 59 percent sharper with 15 percent higher contrast than other five-element systems, and 40 percent sharper and 60 percent higher contrast than today's four-element designs.
New direct view and rear-projection HD monitors with the 4:3 aspect ratio offer a choice of two 16:9 display modes: letterbox mode (810i scanning in the frame) and vertical compression (squeezes the raster to fit 1080 vertical lines inside the viewable field). That latter yields a true, viewable HDTV image but increases the chances of uneven phosphor aging, while the letterbox mode reduces the risk of uneven wear by scanning the 1080 lines from the top to the bottom of the screen, going outside the field of viewable area.
An additional safeguard against burn in on new 4:3 models is a feature that "slowly and imperceptibly moves the image 15 steps up and 15 steps down to mitigate the chances of uneven screen aging," Ramirez said.
A new Cinema Mode in HD monitors offers a 3:2-frame pull-down technique for displaying film-based programming sources with minimal picture artifacts. Though offered last year, the feature has not been added to the onscreen display menu to allow the user to toggle between film and video. In video mode, the 3:2 auto detection is turned off, and when in film mode it will automatically sense film-based sources and reassemble 24 frames per second film into the proper order for 30 fps video displays.
New projection sets also include an ambient light sensor (ALS), which automatically detects room light intensity and adjusts the brightness output of the set.
Improvements to sound quality in Cinema Series models include the use of separate woofers and tweeters instead of a single full-range speaker (which continues in the regular line). The Cinema Series also offers a sound processing systems called "SRS Wow," which combines SRS 3-D, True Bass and Focus techniques for raised image, vocal clarity, deeper bass and simulated surround sound.
The 2001 Cinema Series includes 13 models: seven direct view (two of which are HD compatible) and six rear-projection models (three are 16:9 HDTV monitors, two are 4:3 HDTV monitors and one is analog only). The widescreen assortment includes the 50W-inch 50HX81, which ships in August at a $3,299.99 suggested retail; the 57W-inch 57HX81, priced at $3,799.99; and the 65W-inch 65HX81, priced at $4,299.99. The latter two ship in September.
The 4:3 Cinema Series HDTV projection models include the 43-inch 43HX71 ($2,299.99) and the 53-inch 53HX71 ($2,799.99), both of which ship in September.
The 4:3 direct-view models include the 32-inch 32HFX71 ($2,099.99, September) and the 36HFX71 ($2,499.99, August).
The regular Toshiba color TV lineup includes 31 models: 19 direct view including two HD monitors; 11 rear-projection models (9 HD compatible, including five 16:9 units) and one 42W-inch HD plasma display panel ($15,999.99, July).
Toshiba series widescreen rear-projection models include the 42W-inch 42H81 ($2,699.99, August), the 50W-inch 50H81 ($2,999.99, July), the 57W-inch 57H81 ($3,499.99, July) and the 65W-inch 65H81 ($3,999.99, July).
Direct-view HD compatible monitors include the 35HF71 4:3 model ($2,299.99, September) and the 34W-inch 16:9 34HF81, which ships in September at the recently reduced suggested retail price of $2,999.99.