We follow the CEDIA trade show, as its where many manufactures strut their new home tech stuff. Earlier this month, this year’s show was full of home technology wizardry. Here’s what caught our eye.
TVs, TVs, TVs
TVs are always a big part of these shows, and the likes of Sony and Samsung showed off their fancy TVs. Sony joined the 8K TV push this year with their TVs like the A9G and Z9G series. You can future proof as much as possible for 8K and get a dazzling TV that you can enjoy today. It might be wise to wait until prices drop a bit though, especially if you’re interested in their Crystal LED Display video wall (scalable from 109 inches to 65 feet!) The amazing 219” one they demoed (yes, that’s 16 feet x 9 feet) is available for a mere USD877,000. Although LG’s transparent OLED screen is focused on commercial installations (like digital signage), we can see this trickling into homes in the future for art and control screens.
Short throw projectors
Speaking of TVs, short throw projectors were also literally shining bright. Short throw projectors are designed to be placed very close to your wall and projection screen. For example Epson showed a package of a short throw laser projector with an ambient light rejecting screen. Laser projectors can produce bright images and don’t need their bulbs replaced. An ambient light rejecting screen will do just that – not reflect the room’s ambient light but allow the projectors light to get to your eyes. The Epson LS500 Laser Projection TV will be available in 100″ or 120″ screen sizes that you can watch with the lights on.
A few items that will help fill specific gaps in homes were the Luxul’s Epic Mesh, Sonos Move outdoor speaker and Lutron’s LED+ dimmer. For homes where it doesn’t make sense to re-wire, Luxul’s Epic Mesh system should provide another option for better Wi-Fi. While the Sonos Move isn’t the last word in portable outdoor speakers, it is the one that works with a Sonos system. You can use in your yard and take it to the beach as a Bluetooth speaker. With the Lutron LED+ dimmer, Lutron makes it easier to match a smart dimmer with lightbulbs and LEDs lights. While not effecting home owners directly, this dimmer should make it easier for professionals to help clients.
The CEDIA trade show is focused on home tech professionals, but its really is about sharing interesting products that we can then help get into people’s homes. Some may be pricy today (we’re looking directly at you Crystal LED Display), but prices will eventually drop. Others like mesh Wi-Fi and portable Sonos speakers are affordable today. Either way, its a home tech win.
Believe it or not, this isn’t about encouraging you to buy a 4K TV. Its about arming you with the knowledge to make a decision either way. A nice 4K TV is great, but a good HDTV may still fit your needs. Here are some of the things that you need to know to understand whether a 4K TV is for you.
First lets look at the consumer TV screen resolutions. Resolutions are described in pixels, or the little coloured rectangles that make up TV images. 1080p HDTV resolution is 1920 horizontal by 1080 vertical pixels. This is usually simply denoted as 1920×1080. Doing the math, there are 2,073,600 pixels on a 1080p HDTV. Smaller TVs sometimes are 720p HDTV or 1280×720. Of course when TVs get larger, those tiny HDTV pixels start to get more noticeable (more on that in a bit). UHDTV 4K TVs have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, or 4 times the resolution of 1080p HDTV. The ‘4K’ is named because of the approximate 4000 horizontal pixels (the movie projection industry’s DCI 4K resolution standard is actually 4K at 4096 x 2160, but let’s focus on the consumer standards). You can see that there are a lot more pixels of picture information in 4K TVs.
For smaller TVs, 1080p or 720p HDTV may be fine, as they are usually viewed far enough away that individual pixels aren’t noticed. Retina distance is the distance a typical person’s eye has to away from a screen to not pick out individual pixels. Since the trend and prices are moving towards affordable large TVs, HDTV pixels are starting to be noticed at average viewing distances. Below is a table of TV sizes and retina distances for 1080p HD and 4K TV. Using a 65” TV as an example, you may start seeing pixels when you are at 8 feet away from a 1080p HDTV, while you’d have to be 4 feet away for a 4K TV. You should consider this for your seating distance. For example, THX recommends that you should sit about 6 1/2 feet from a 65” TV to be immersed in the viewing experience. While perhaps aesthetics and not THX will decide your seating distance, its worth considering all the same.
There are some other terms that get pulled into the 4K discussion. While we’ve covered HDR or High Dynamic Range (deeper colour palette), what the heck is a Nit? A Nit is a unit of brightness that is used by TV manufactures. The idea is that a screen should reproduce all levels of luminance from pure black to daylight like images. Current 4K TVs are claiming to be able to reach 1000 Nits (pretty bright!) without sacrificing ability to show blacks that are close to black.
4K TVs prices are falling, and manufactures are adding great features like HDR to justify premium prices. Specs are one thing, but you need to balance out quality as well. A cheap 4K TV might be just that, cheap. Your money may be better spent on a good HDTV. Good 4K TVs have very nice pictures though, and they do a great job making ordinary HDTV content look good as well while we’re waiting for more 4K content.
This busy couple were looking to update the home technology in their new high-rise home to work for their tastes and lifestyle. When they took over the space, it had a weak and dated music system in the living room, kitchen and master bedroom & bath. The old system didn’t provide any flexibility for their preference for satellite and iTunes music, and the only space to watch TV and movies was shoehorned into the den.
They previously had expensive and complex systems in other homes, but those didn’t live up to promises and were wrought with reoccurring issues. We decided to step back to focus the technology side of their home renovation on what truly mattered to them: simplicity with music throughout, and immersive but not overbearing TV & movie experiences. For this update, we worked with Sandra McIntyre of McIntyre Cresswell Design to meet this power couple’s aesthetic and home tech needs.
The first task was to allow easy access for their satellite and iDevice music throughout the home. For this, we employed Sonos Hi-Fi audio components and custom installed in-wall and in-celiling speakers for all the living spaces: living room & kitchen, den, guest bedroom & bath, and master bedroom & bath. The Sonos system not only offered full access to satellite and iPod music, but also Internet radio & streaming services and even their computers.
Next we turned our attention to design their unassuming but entertaining video spaces. In the living room, master bedroom and guest room, we layered Apple TV, cable boxes and high quality AV components with Sonos to allow flexibility and fun. Now the full range of options from broadcast TV to iDevice AirPlay to Netflix to satellite radio is at their finger tips.
Every room had its unique goals and needs, and as with most Vancouver homes, space is a premium. We countered this by designing the solution to tuck away AV amps and gear in a small laundry room cabinet. This not only saved valuable floor space, but also helped maintain living space aesthetics. We also retrofitted a Nexus21 TV lift in the master bedroom that conceals the TV and front speakers to work in conjunction with the master’s in-wall speakers for flexibility for music and surround sound for movies. The home solution can be controlled using universal remotes and iDevices, including the convenient wall-mounted iPad Mini in the master bedroom. Care was also taken to ensure the wired and Wi-Fi network was solid not only for today’s work and play, but also for whatever tomorrow brings.
Home solutions should be easy to use and match lifestyles. In the end this great couple got the perfect system they deserved – “Nice and simple!”