In formally unveiling its 2004-05 television line to dealers here, Toshiba revealed a new product direction focused on fixed-pixel digital display technologies, including direct-view LCD TV, plasma displays, and Digital Light Processing (DLP) rear-projection HDTV sets and monitors.
The company is also adding 10 fully integrated HDTV sets with CableCARD digital cable-ready compatibility, and a high-definition-capable digital video recorder designed to work exclusively with its own IEEE-1394-enabled integrated HDTV sets.
At the same time, the company said it would continue to support CRT-based rear-projection and direct-view products, although with fewer SKUs capable of analog-only input, and it will add more SKUs and screen sizes in flat-faced, widescreen HDTV-capable models.
As announced at CES, the highlight of the new line was the addition of 10 rear-projection HDTV DLP sets and monitors based on Texas Instruments’ 0.8-inch HD2+ Digital Micromirror Device (DMD), supported by a front-end light engine — called the Toshiba Advanced Light Engine (TALEN) — designed entirely by Toshiba.
The combination, which uses advanced optics matched to the DMD chip, was said to provide superior picture quality to many competitive DLP sets based on TI’s newer “HD3” chip.
Scott Ramirez, Toshiba’s TV marketing VP, said his company opted to go with DLP after finding it impossible to garner adequate supplies of LCoS chips for its previous microdisplay-based rear-projection TV offerings.
Now onboard with DLP, Ramirez said Toshiba will push hard to build the brand into a top-three DLP TV manufacturer within the next two years.
The company also expanded its flat-panel TV lineup to include a total of 10 LCD and plasma display products, including the first two flat-panels added to the step-up Cinema Series line, which is reserved primarily for A/V specialty dealers.
Also added to the Cinema Series were two DLP rear-projection HDTV sets and two DLP rear-projection monitors. The remaining six DLP models are split between fully integrated and monitor-only displays under the TheaterWide series that offers more open distribution practices.
The addition of the flat-panel models to the Cinema Series line answered the concerns of many A/V specialty retailers, who have seen profit margins on flat-panel models eroded by volume-oriented chains that were given access to the same flat-panel SKUs distributed to specialists.
Also expanded to 10 models was Toshiba’s assortment of fully integrated HDTV sets, all of which include CableCARD slots for unidirectional digital cable-ready capability. Most of the sets in the new line include both HDMI/HDCP and IEEE-1394/DTCP digital interfaces and TV Guide Onscreen interactive program guides.
The 1394-equipped models will be capable of connecting with Toshiba’s first HDTV-capable digital video recorder called Symbio. The DVR will include a 160GB hard drive and will carry a $499.99 street price. The programming circuitry for the recorder — which is based in part on Gemstar’s TV Guide Onscreen interactive program guide — is built into Toshiba’s fully integrated HDTV sets, making the recorder compatible only with select Toshiba models.
TheaterWide DLP rear-projection monitors will be offered in the HM84 series in the 46W-inch ($2,999.99, July delivery), 52W-inch ($3,499.99, July) and 62W-inch ($3,999.99, July) screen sizes. TheaterWide fully integrated DLP HDTV sets will be offered in the same screen sizes under the HM94 Series starting in October at street prices of $3,399.99, $3,899.99 and $4,399.99, respectively.
All DLP sets are designed to look like Toshiba’s flat-panel plasma displays, with silver cosmetics and thin cabinets, featuring under-screen glass component racks.
Cinema Series DLP monitors and sets will add to the TheaterWide mix differentiated cabinetry with black bezel accents, virtual Dolby surround sound, 6-item A/V illuminated remote, and two HDMI inputs in the integrated models. These will be offered as the HMX84 series and will include the 52W-inch ($3,799.99, August) and 62W-inch ($4,299.99, August) screen sizes. Fully integrated Cinema Series models will be offered in the same screen sizes this October in the HMX94 series at street prices of $3,799.99 and $4,299.99, respectively.
In core-line flat-panel monitors, Toshiba will offer two EDTV (640 by 480) 4:3 LCD models in the 14-inch ($499.99, June) and 20-inch ($999.99, June) screen sizes, and three HDTV (1,366 by 768) 16:9 LCD TVs in the 23W-inch ($1,799.99, September), 26W-inch ($2,499, June) and 32W-inch ($3,499.99, May) screen sizes.
The company will also carry a 23W-inch 16:9 LCD TV/progressive-scan DVD combo player starting in September at $1,999.99.
TheaterWide plasma display monitors will include the 42W-inch 42HP84 ($5,499.99, September) and the 50W-inch 50HP84 ($7,499.99, October). The 42W-inch model will offer 1,024-by-768 resolution.
Flat-panel Cinema Series models will include the 32W-inch 32HLX84 LCD TV monitor ($3,999.99, October) and the 42W-inch 42HPX84 ($5,999.99, October) plasma display monitor. Both feature a new double-baffle design. The 32W-inch model offers 1,366-by-768 resolution, while the 42W-inch plasma panels list resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels.
In CRT-based rear-projection displays, Toshiba will exit the analog and 4:3 businesses while carrying four TheaterWide HDTV monitors. Screen sizes include the 46W-inch ($1,399.99, June), 51W-inch ($1,699.99, May), 57W-inch (1,899.99, May) and 65W-inch ($2,199.99, June) inches. Also offered are two fully integrated/CableCARD-enabled TheaterWide models in the 51W-inch ($2,099.99, July) and 57W-inch ($2,299.99, August) screen sizes.
Fully integrated/digital cable ready CRT rear-projection models under TheaterWide include the 51W-inch ($2,099.99, July) and 57W-inch ($2,299.99, August) screen sizes.
In the Cinema Series Toshiba will offer three fully integrated/Cable – CARD enabled HDTV sets in the 51W-inch ($2,399.99, September), 57W-inch ($2,599.99, September) and 65W-inch ($2,899.99, October) screen sizes.
In TheaterWide HDTV direct-view CRT monitors, Toshiba adds the 26W-inch screen size ($699.99, July), joining models in the 30W-inch ($899.99, August) and 34W-inch ($1,399.99, June) screen sizes.
Cinema Series direct-view CRT HDTV monitors include the 30W-inch ($999.99, August) and 34W-inch ($1,599.99, September) screen sizes.
Ramirez said he foresees a long future ahead for direct-view televisions, as consumers look for products priced closer to analog models of the past. Meanwhile, the company will continue to offer full lines of analog CRT direct-view models in both curved and flat-faced picture tubes.
Also announced was an expanded line of DVD recording products, including single-deck, DVD/VHS, DVD/DVR and DVD/TiVo configurations. Toshiba’s next-generation combination TiVo DVRs combine DVD-RW/-R recording drives. The TiVo models offer TiVo’s Series 2 platform with networking upgrade capability and free basic service. Models are offered with 120GB ($599.99, August) and 160GB ($699.99, August) hard drives.
Most DVD recorders now add Toshiba’s new Easy Navi menu system, which simplifies unit operation, especially when archiving camcorder tapes to disc. Also included is IR blaster capability for automatic recording from separate connected components.
The new entry D-R3 single-deck DVD recorder offers the DVD-RAM/-R formats and ships in September at a $349.99 suggested retail. The D-VR3 ($499.99, July) is a combination DVD-RAM/-RW/-R and VCR dual-deck recorder with bi-directional dubbing.
The RDXS53 is a combination DVD-RAM/-R DVD recorder and 160GB hard drive recorder, which includes the TV Guide Onscreen program guide and HDMI output. It will ship in October at $699.99.
Toshiba will also carry a full line of DVD players in single-drive, dual-deck and changer configurations. New this year are HDMI direct digital outputs in step-up single and dual-deck models.