Last week I was mildly astonished by the sheer reduction in big name companies showing their wares at this year's CEATEC in Japan, leaving swathes of the venue completely empty. A clear sign of the global recession indeed, and since hard times seem to always go hand-in-hand with thrift, it's no surprise to see a focus on eco-friendliness in the second part of our CEATEC report.
Charge of the Green Brigade
From the evidence at both this and last year's CEATEC shows, the main Japanese manufacturers really do seem to have embraced eco issues with a remarkable level enthusiasm which, to be honest, doesn't seem reflected by the degree to which consumers consider green issues when wondering what TV to buy. But I guess this makes the Japanese companies' green endeavours arguably more rather than less laudable?
Every key AV brand stand had some grand eco comment to make. But before planet-lovers get too excited, I have to say that there wasn't much of a sense of product-level progress over last year, with many of the eco comments being either near-total repeats of last year's announcements, or rather vague general messages of intent rather than anything we could relate to specific products.
Sony, for instance, merely talked about its WE5 eco TV series again, and couldn't even be bothered to repeat last year's oddly cool light bulb-based demonstration of its TVs' low energy consumption in action.
Sharp, meanwhile, had a massive bank of solar panels in one corner of its stand ranged around a few tellies. But rather than pointing towards a new iteration of some bonkers solar-powered TV solution of the sort shown behind closed doors by Sharp last year, so far as I could tell the solar panels were merely on the stand to show that Sharp manufactures them - and to give you a sense of the brand's green credentials, natch.
A slightly more tangible demonstration of how AV technology might play a role in saving the Earth came from Panasonic, as a large 'Eco Ideas' exhibit right on the front of its stand showed how your TV could become both the one-stop control hub of an eco-centric, energy-saving house, and a means of monitoring energy consumption around the house at the touch of a single remote control button.
However, while this sort of stuff might have members of The Green Party drooling into their compost, it's hardly going to be something we'll physically be able to get our hands on for some time to come. Panasonic claims it will be in a position to build new Eco Houses in Japan in the next three to five years that incorporate the sort of energy-saving light automation and energy consumption reminder techniques on show at its CEATEC stand. But it's currently unclear if Panasonic Eco Houses will ever find their way to the UK's shores.
When all was said and done, the only really obvious eco-friendly new product I could see at the show that's actually definitely coming to the UK in the next 12 months was Panasonic's Triple Luminance Efficiency plasma screen, which apparently delivers three times as much brightness as Panasonic's 2007 plasmas from the same power usage. This technology will grace the brand's next NeoPDP range, including the promised 3D model.
And the Other Interesting Bits Were…
Really the only other recurring theme of CEATEC 2009 was the reappearance of '4k2k': the ultra high definition format, comprising a 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution. Though in truth, only two stands actually bothered with notable 4k2k screen demonstrations.
Panasonic had a 103in 4k2k screen running some drag racing footage to dazzling effect, while Toshiba had put together a 4k2k concept version of its Cell Regza TV that was also producing some pretty mesmerizing results.
Obviously you need a pretty big screen to really appreciate 4k2k, but I have to say that I found myself feeling more excited about the future possibilities of 4k2k than I did 3D. But then I always was a sucker for a bit of picture fine detail.