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A Meeting of the Minds at the Greener Gadgets Conference

This is held once a year! A must see

This is held once a year! A must see

New York City just hosted last week’s “Greener Gadgets Conference” to aid in the awareness of making consumer electronics “greener” in the ways they are manufactured, used, and disposed. Co-produced by CES sponsor, CEA, this is the second of these annual meetings. The topics discussed at the GGC stem from a public concern about the need for eco-friendly products now. It is no longer a problem that only will one day face our descendents, because it is affecting us now.

A primary concern that arised at the conference was whether manufacturing standards reflect this need to be “green.” Though there a growing popularity of marketing the eco-friendliness of products and services, when will standards show the value of making “green” products by reflecting this trend as well? Indeed, people who are shopping for “green” CES are also concerned with product efficiency and performance, mainly in the department of saving energy. Unfortunately, the measurable effects on environment such as carbon footprint are only made aware to businesses and government, while consumers see savings in the form of dollar signs.

At the Greener Gadgets Conference, recyclability was a large topic on the table. The functioning of

just some ideas with more to come

just some ideas with more to come

programs and end result for recyclable products offered up by consumers were the main ideas discussed. According to David Thompson, director of Panasonic’s Corporate Environmental Department, the pressure is on manufacturers of electronics to remain environmentally conscious through all the activities of business, including use of their products. Panasonic is teaming up with Toshiba and Sharp in the MRM Co. (Manufacturers Recycling Management Company), which is a shareholder in the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. As a Sharp dealer, Advanced Technology Services is proud of the efforts that are being made by these companies to respect and preserve our environment.

Other efforts by companies and individuals to create new “green” products and programs were showcased at the conference. For instance, customers are now able to buy carbon offset cards for their mobile phones according to Michael Newman, vice president of cell phone recycler ReCellular. Four inventions to make consumers aware of energy usage were displayed at the conference. One was the power hog piggy bank, a plug-in device for children that helps them understand energy usage. Also, a wooden indoor laundry drying rack creates less energy waste because there is less dryer usage. The tweet-a-watt is a device set up to relay a consumers’ energy usage to friends via twitter. Finally, the laundry pod was introduced, an electricity-free washer that operates like a salad spinner. The field of CE is looking for more and more ways to be “green,” so stay tuned!

March 4, 2009 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Shopping Tips for a Home Theater System: Part 2

hometheateraccessoriesWhen shopping for a home theater system, you’ve got to check out the details of your potential product in the following categories. Will your “soon-to-be-adopted” TV make the cut?

Visual

When considering the important decision making factors of the visual aspect, focus on the following three features: display type, resolution, and screen size. The type of display you choose will most likely be decided by your budget, the size of the room, the location of the TV in the room, and lighting conditions. Three types of displays that can achieve a desirable image larger than life are flat panels (LCD or plasma), rear-projectors, and front-projectors. LCDs, plasmas, and rear-projectors can display HD images up to 70 inches, while the front-projectors can show an image up to around 10 feet. For a room with much light, LCD is a stronger option. For a dimly lit room, go for plasma or a projection display. The resolution is a semi-important factor when choosing between a non-HD television and an HD television. For a screen size of 30 inches or more, HD is going to make a visible difference to the viewer. However, when comparing HD models, the differences between resolutions are slightly less noticeable unless you are sitting within 10 feet of the screen. A good rule to follow when deciding on the screen size is that the diagonal measurement should not be larger than half of your seating distance. For example, a 60 inch screen should be viewed from at least 10 feet away (120 inches).

Audio

To create the ultimate surround sound experience, you will want a 7 speaker system plus a subwoofer (for extra strong bass). However, the size of your room and the size of your budget may be satisfied with a set of 5 or even 3 speakers. The most important set to start with will include a left, center, and right speaker. It is better to buy high-quality and low-quantity, because you can always add to your collection as your budget grows and room size changes. After securing the three speakers, add a subwoofer first and satellite speakers next. Now you’re on your way to the full home theater experience.

Video Source

Consider that the picture you see on the screen originates from your DVD player, and therefore is limited by the type of resolution allowed by the player and input/output connections. You obviously want the highest resolution possible on your screen, since you’ve invested the money in a TV that is capable of displaying a gorgeous picture. Ideally, use an HDMI connection if at all possible and then use a component connection as a second choice. If you want more info on specifics of several types of input/output, see our blog entitled, “Audio/Video Input for Dummies (AKA Beginners)” on our blog home page. A television with several connection points of various types is a big bonus when hooking up several output devices, such as DVD players, CD players, video cameras, and game consoles. Remember that some of these devices like VCRs and video cameras may require an S-video input or composite input.

Secondly, traditional DVD players operate in 480i output, like most TV broadcast stations do. Upconverting DVD players can produce HD-resolutions of up to 720p, 1080i, or 1080p. However, most HDTVs actually do this process of upconverting internally. The best option is to go with a high-definition DVD player or Blu-Ray player, which both play discs that are originally written in HD language.

As a side note, be sure to consider whether the following will be important factors for you personally. Some people choose to use a DVD player also as a CD player. This makes it possible to listen to music CDs as well as CD-Rs and CD-RWs that contain music files. If this meets your needs, then check to see if the DVD player supports multiple disc formats. In addition, decide if you want the convenience of a multiple disc player that can hold several DVDs and CDs at once.

Lastly, but not of least importance, look to purchase these products from a reliable and supportive retailer (like Advanced Technology Services!) that will help you find the exact products that work for you, and will follow up with installation and customer support. The most important thing is that you go home satisfied and stay that way as you continue to use your home theater system throughout your life.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

LG Quitting on Plasmas: Fact or Fiction?

LG signSuspicion is that rumors are flying about the possibility of LG leaving the market as a plasma producer. LG’s vice-president, Lee Gyu-Hong, has been reported as saying that the future is uncertain for LG in the plasma sector. If LG does pull out of the market, they would be following the recent resignations of Vizio and Pioneer plasma. These changes would leave all the work to only three major manufacturers on the plasma market – Panasonic, Samsung, and Hitachi. Is this a sign of doomsday for the plasma TV or will the lack of competition cause Panasonic, Samsung, and Hitachi to rack up in sales? It seems that manufacturers are pulling away slowly as profitability decreases, going from six major brands to a possible three in the timespan of a few months!

Shortly after this rumor of LG’s withdrawal hit the media, there was a contradictory response from George Mead, Marketing Manager for Digital Displays at LG Electronics UK. He said reportedly that the UK division of LG did not intend to withdraw from the plasma market at all, although there were discussions going on at LG about the major changes going on currently in the plasma market. Other specifics from his conversation seem to support the idea that LG is doing well in the UK, but what about the US market? LG’s recent release of the LGH9000 plasma television, which uses a wireless HDMI connection, leads us to believe that LG, as a company, will persevere. Is it possible that LG would continue to prosper in other markets while withdrawing from the US market, like Phillips did last year?

As a Pioneer dealer and Samsung dealer, Advanced Technology Services wants to continue to support our customers through this time of change in the plasma market. We will continue to offer superior customer service to those who have purchased Pioneer televisions from us. Please comment on our blog below or contact us via our website with any questions, thoughts, or concerns.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | HDTV, Industry News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flat Panel TVs: Is Buying Cheap Brands Worth Saving Dollars?

no-walmartBig distributors like Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco are turning out less expensive flat-panel televisions almost as quickly as milk and eggs. While this might be a slight exaggeration, it seems that as the price of these TVs declines, the quality does the same. When is it worth it to save the money, and when should you be worried you are actually wasting dollars on a low-quality product?

Surely you are looking for the best bang for the buck, even if it means you may have to make a slightly larger investment for a better return on your money. If you are not penny-pinching, it is best to go for a better quality product from your local audio video dealer, like us, Advanced Technology Services. If you are penny-pinching, maybe it is not the right time to be buying a flat-panel television!

panasonicRemember that most of the televisions sold on discount in large distribution-style stores are often stripped of the best features that can be found with the devices that we, as a Toshiba and Pioneer Elite dealer, sell and service on a consistent basis. These TVs in stores may also be made by brands you are not familiar with. The products and brands we sell have passed the test of time. Sometimes, finding positive feedback and reviews for many of these new, cheap, no-name brands is tough.

It is important, when choosing the right television, to listen to the audio, check out the connections, and put your “hands-on” the product you are buying, in addition to just seeing the screen. It’s a big purchase and you should be completely satisfied with your choice! We are happy to demonstrate the product you are interested in buying, answer any questions, inform you of the products offerings, and provide product support after your purchase.

If you are looking to build a new home theater system or a RV satellite system feel free to give us a call or email anytime!!

February 11, 2009 Posted by | HDTV, Industry News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Audio/Video Input for Dummies (AKA beginners)

HdmiNo Fear.  We’re Here….To un-confuse you about audio-video inputs.  Don’t enter the boxing ring with your electronics salesperson unprepared.  The following descriptions of various types of input types should help clarify the differences in TVs and devices you may be shopping for in the near future.

HDMI:  High Definition Multimedia Interface

This is the most advanced form of video input available currently and will deliver both video and audio signals to your home theater system.  The cable port is a flat, thin shape which is featured on most HDTV’s that are being made and sold today.  The HDMI input allows a digital signal (perhaps from an HD DVD player or Blu-ray player) to be passed through without being converted to analog, which helps to retain maximum picture quality.   HDMI also supports audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD master audio.

DVI:  Digital Visual Interface

This term usually applies to digital projectors and computer displays, as well as some older HDTV’s.   This input only delivers a digital video signal.  You can try using a DVI to HDMI cable if you want to hook up your HDTV to a DVD player with DVI output.

Component Video

This input uses an analog signal, which is different from the two digital inputs listed above.  Component av Video is supported by some devices, like Xbox 360, yet some manufacturers do not allow the signal to pass through component video because it doesn’t support DRM copy protection.   Though a salesperson may try to sell you on HDMI, component video is capable of transferring a beautiful digital signal as well from an HD device to your HDTV.  The component video tri-input is marked with a “Y” and “Pb” and “Pr” accompanied by the green, blue, and red ports.

S-Video:  Separate Video

Carries purely a video signal and was created around the same time as high-end VHS players.  This works for standard-def images, but are not compatible with HDTV signals.  The S-video input does better for a screen that is 32 inches or less and the cable connection may give you a hard time due to the small pins which must be aligned perfectly to be inserted properly.  It transmits via a two-part signal.

Composite Video

This input is lower quality than all the others mentioned above and only transmits via one signal.  It’s RCA cable attachment is simply user friendly and is available on most HDTVs.  We recommend using all other connections type first if possible.  Don’t be a dinosaur lover.

These are all options to hooking up your home theater systems or signal distribution throughout your home or office.

February 6, 2009 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1080p 1080i what’s the dif?

pioneer-elite-kuro-signature-hdtvHave you or a friend recently purchased the latest, top of the line television?  Is the TV supposed to have the clearest resolution available at 1080p?  But is doesn’t?  So, you might be asking yourself:  If I bought a 1080p television, why is the resolution only 1080i or lower?

First of all, most cable and HD Satellite broadcasters only operate in 1080i or 720p.  The television may be capable of a 1080p resolution picture for your stellar home theater design, but it can only display one that is broadcast in that same resolution.  If the picture is 720p, that is what will be seen on the screen, but remember that a 1080p is also capable of fully resolving any picture less that 1080p.  A 720p television will have to scale down the resolution of the picture to meet its native resolution.  Although right now, broadcasters are full of networks operating in 1080i/720p, it is rumored that satellite providers may be offering a full line up of 1080p channels.

Secondly, if your DVD player or other input is not 1080p “quality,” then again, the television will scale down the resolution to that of the lower-resolution device.  Recommended player include Blu-Ray, X-Box, Playstation 3, or an HD DVD player.  These devices are capable of playing a DVD that is originally written in 1080p resolution.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All you need to know about buying a HDTV and more

glossary_pic_with_wordsSo you know that it’s time to shop for a new television. You also know that you want a big, beautiful, colorful, clear picture and a booming and well-balanced sound, so why can’t the product specs tag say just that? Sorting through the list of impressive numbers and lingo can be a labyrinth for someone who is unfamiliar with what these terms actually mean. Let’s get down to business with some of these commonly used descriptions and find out what really matters when shopping for a high-definition TV set:
HDTV: High-Definition Television. This is the high-resolution subset of our HDTV system. The FCC has no official definition for HDTV. The ATSC defines HDTV as a 16:9 image with twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of our existing system, which is accompanied by 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital audio. The CEA defines HDTV as an image with 720 progressive or 1080 interlaced active (top to bottom) scan lines. 1280:720p and 1920:1080i are typically accepted as high-definition scan rates.
SDTV: Standard Definition Television. This is the lower resolution subset of the ATSC’s DTV system. 480i is typically accepted as an SD signal. Digital broadcasters can offer multiple sub-programs at SDTV quality, as opposed to one or two HD programs. Digital satellite and digital cable often refer to the majority of their programs as SDTV, somewhat erroneously, as neither system has anything to do with DTV, though both, technically, consist of a digital 480i signal.
Plasma: Flat-panel display technology that ignites small pockets of gas to light phosphors. They are known for excellent image quality and superior color contrast.
LCD: Liquid Crystal Display. A display that consists of two polarizing transparent panels and a liquid crystal surface sandwiched in between. Voltage is applied to certain areas, causing the crystal to turn dark. A light source behind the panel transmits through transparent crystals and is mostly blocked by dark crystals. An LCD television is known for a bright and vibrant picture, but may give an inconsistent picture quality and color contrast from seats that are not directly in front of the screen.
DLP: Digital Light Processing. This is a Texas Instruments process of projecting video images using a light source reflecting off of an array of tens of thousands of microscopic mirrors. Each mirror represents a pixel and reflects light toward the lens for white and away from it for black, modulating in between for various shades of gray. Three-chip versions use separate arrays for the red, green, and blue colors. Single-chip arrays use a color-filter wheel that alternates each filter color in front of the mirror array at appropriate intervals.
Virtual surround sound: The television’s built-in speakers are not going to meet the same quality of a surround sound system that is purchased separately with several speakers. However, it will attempt to produce the equivalent of the sound of a home theater installation of surround sound.
Contrast: Relative difference between the brightest and darkest parts of an image. A contrast control adjusts the peak white level of a display device.
Black Level: Light level of the darker portions of a video image. A black level control sets the light level of the darkest portion of the video signal to match that of the display’s black level capability. Black is, of course, the absence of light. Many displays, however, have as much difficulty shutting off the light in the black portions of an image as they do creating light in the brighter portions. CRT-based displays usually have better black levels than DLP, plasma, and LCD, which rank, generally, in that order.
Energy Star qualified: The most recent rules are called Energy Star 3.0. These require the product to perform at a certain level of maximum power consumption when in use. It is best to find a TV that meets these guidelines. The older rules are not as strict on energy consumption, because they pertain to when the set is on standby, not when it is in use.

Aspect ratio: The ratio of image width to image height. Common motion-picture ratios are 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. Television screens are usually 1.33:1 (also known as 4:3), which is similar to the Academy standard for films in the ’50s. HDTV is 1.78:1, or 16:9. When widescreen movies (films with aspect ratios wider than 1.33:1) are displayed on 1.33:1 televisions, the image must be letterboxed, anamorphically squeezed, or panned-and-scanned to fit the screen.24p, or 1080p24: A set with this feature can show 24 frames per second, exactly the way movies are shot. Cinephiles may notice smoother, more cinematic images, but the feature works only with Blu-ray players connected by HDMI cables.
120 Hz: The display will smooth out motion, making scenes with action or a moving camera look sharper. Expect to pay more for these sets.
720p: The display has low resolution, but is still high-definition. Adequate for screens smaller than 40 inches, or ones meant to be watched from more than 12 feet away.
1080p: The display has high resolution. Good for screens larger than 40 inches, or ones used for gaming, as computer displays, or for Blu-ray playback.
Anamorphic: Process that horizontally condenses (squeezes) a 16:9 image into a 4:3 space, preserving 25 percent more vertical resolution than letterboxing into the 4:3 space. For the signal to appear with correct geometry, the display must either horizontally expand or vertically squish the image. Used on about two or three promotional laser discs and many DVDs. This may also be referred to as “Enhanced for Widescreen” or “Enhanced for 16:9.”
HDMI: HDTV connection format using a DVI interface that transfers uncompressed digital video with HDCP copy protection and multichannel audio.
VGA: An input for a computer video signal. Many newer computers can use the higher-quality HDMI inputs instead, so VGA is not essential even if you plan to connect your PC to your TV.
ATSC: Advanced Television Systems Committee. This is a government-directed committee that developed our digital television transmission system. The ATSC tuner allows reception of digital television signals broadcast in North America, and is typically a standard feature in HDTVs.
NTSC: National Television Standards Committee. This is a government-directed committee that established the U.S. color TV standard in 1953. Also known, sarcastically, as Never Twice the Same Color or Never The Same Color due to the inherent difficulty in achieving proper color calibration. The NTSC tuner is for analog broadcast TV. These signals will not be used after the digital conversion this year, so don’t pay attention to this feature.
Composite: This is a low-quality video connector for older game consoles and VCRs, which is not able to carry a high-definition signal.
Component: A high-quality, three-lead connector for game consoles, DVD players and cable boxes, which is able to carry a high-definition signal, but is not quite as good as HDMI.
As a custom audio video dealer we looking forward to bringing you home theater or mobile satellite dish to life.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | General Information | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Circut City Is Closing it’s Doors

circuit-city_exterior-store-frontLong-lived consumer electronics store, Circuit City began the process of closing its doors as of Friday, January 16, 2009, when bankruptcy judge Kevin Huennekens approved the liquidation plan. The sales will begin at a 10-30% discount for the liquidation, which should last through March before finally closing the doors.

Circuit City has made attempts to save the company through layoffs of high-paid employees, changes in management, seeking potential buyers, and opening small concept stores. Earlier in 2008, Blockbuster Inc. made an offer of$1 billion to buy Circuit City, but the offer was withdrawn in July. Two other interested potential buyers were Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego and the Golden Gate Capital private equity firm, who were both interested in operating the company at a reduced size of 180 to 300 stores. In the end, these efforts have not been successful in preserving the future of the company.

Circuit City has struggled ever since opening of electronic guru, Best Buy Co., whose stock market shares rose +2.20 on Friday, growing to 29.34 for an 8% total increase. It is also not surprising that this closure for the famous electronics store follows the worst retail holiday season since 1969. Consumers are voicing their opinions of Circuit City in public forums and media to the tune that this closure does not come as a surprise. Many think that Circuit City might still be in business if they weren’t so overpriced in comparison to the competition. Even during the liquidation sale, many items are only discounted 10%. These prices are not even coming close to beating prices at other electronics stores and wholesale distribution stores who also sell products from home theater design as well as home theater installation.

By the completion of Circuit City’s closure, 567 US retail stores and 34,000 jobs will be lost. In Canada, the outcome is uncertain for the765 retail stores and dealer outlets.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Industry News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pioneer Kuro LCD Released!!

pioneer-elite-kuro-signature-hdtvPlease welcome to the family a new member from Pioneer Kuro! Until recently, Pioneer Kuro has always been a plasma model, but a new Pioneer Kuro LCD flat screen has just been released. There is some questioning of this new edition by Pioneer Kuro fans, due the plasma version’s reputation for the deepest blacks available. See, the Japanese word “Kuro” means black, and how could an LCD live up to this name?

Check out the specs on this new model:

It will be available in three sizes; 46-inch, 37-inch, and 32-inch. With a resolution of 1080p, the performance of this LCD HDTV matches the visual experience of a plasma television screen picture. The brushed aluminum finish makes it a tasteful complement to any high class home theater system. Other features include a high-contrast front filter, 100Hz processor, 3 HDMI ports, a PC input that allows the screen to be used as a computer monitor, blu-ray compatibility, aluminum preset remote control, and KURO LINK for remote control usage of main functions with other Pioneer equipment.

The automatic backlight adjustment and ambient light sensor help control the color contrast for optimum viewing, also aiming to maximize the benefits of both LCD and plasma televisions. The Kuro LCD boasts a viewing angle of 176 degrees from top to bottom and left to right. Also, the 32 and 37 inch versions are mounted on a swivel that rotates 15 degrees for optimal viewing angle.

Home Theater system

Home Theater system

The 32 and 37-inch Kuro LCD TV is now available in Europe, with the 46-inch on the verge of release. As a Pioneer dealer, we will keep you updated about any news of its debut in the United States.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | New Products | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Consumer Electronics are Going Green

going_greenThis year, the expectation has been set for citizens, companies, and government to act with an environmentally conscious mindset.  Is this a trend for 2009, or is it a lifestyle that will be adopted to improve our society?

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2009, many company’s booths featured “green” products, alternative energy sources, eco-friendly packaging, and environmental efforts.  This is a convention that we, as an audio video dealer, try to attend consistently so that we stay informed of the latest developments in the field of electronics.  Some of these companies had a separate “green” section at the booth, and some had side-by-side models of “green” models and previous models of their products to demonstrate the improvements in eco-friendliness.


The efforts demonstrated by these companies included, but were not limited to:

use of recycled materials in product manufacturing

buy-back and recycling programs for used products

new products on the market that are more energy efficient

charitable environmental causes and projects

emphasis on compliance with Energy Star ratings

Specifically, Toshiba was honored with “green” ratings by Greenpeace for its eco-friendly laptop, Portege R600, which fell on the list shortly under the “greenest” product, Lenovo’s L2440x computer monitor.  Toshiba has begun a tree-planting program in Southern California’s areas damaged by wildfire, to make an effort toward their goal of reducing their carbon footprint upon the planet.

LG, Panasonic, and Samsung are among some of the companies who are now producing TVs and/or washer and dryer sets that operate on less wattage than the previous generations of these products.  The LG50, LG60, and LG70 series of LCD televisions also include an ambient light sensor for adjusted power usage, so when less energy can be used to operate the device, it will.  In addition, Panasonic and Sony are also involved in recycling and buy-back programs for CRTs, laptops, batteries, and other types of electronics that need to be disposed.

In an effort to create awareness of power usage, energy-monitoring devices are starting to appear on the market from companies such as:  P3 International, Ecobutton, and Green Plug.  These plug-in devices monitor and measure energy flow and may cause idle devices to hibernate when appropriate.

Alternative energy sources have been extended to produce a device we all probably thought was either earthunimaginable or would only exist in the millennial world of the Jetson’s:  a pocket sized solar panel.  The smallest version of this portable energy source, made by PowerFilm, unfolds from a package that is wallet-sized, holds two AA batteries, and retails at $55.  This is an incredible tool for hikers, backpackers, boaters, and members of the military.

Across the board, electronic companies are making efforts to give consumers the option of being “green” in their purchasing decisions.  It is up to us to meet their challenge not only this year, but in our future.

We look forward to bringing you greener ideas and products with out future home theater design. Doing our part creating a greener earth.

January 20, 2009 Posted by | Industry News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments