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TEA London News & Views

A glance at the Home Technology Event (CEDIA) 2011 0

Posted on July 01, 2011 by Timothy Francis

After skipping the 2010 event, the Tea London team went to the Home Technology Event which ends today at the London Excel Centre.

What happened to just plain CEDIA?

In the past the show was always referred to as CEDIA, named after the The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association. Apparently CEDIA get upset if the event is not referred to as the Home Technology Event. I suspect because there is a CEDIA Expo hosted during September in the United States, I suppose they may want to draw a distinction between the two events?

No matter, this article is quick summary of some of the nifty things seen at the show, which made the visit worthwhile.

The all-directions HDMI cable from Cablesson

Cablesson are one of our many suppliers, and we really find them to be quite endearing.

Cablesson design a number of good quality (predominantly) HDMI cabling and connector products, get them made in China, and they then distribute through their 3 bases dotted around the world. They pretty much supply every means of connecting up HDMI devices together around the home.

The also have HDMI extender, switches and matrices in their product portfolio, including two rather excellent HDBaseT HDMI extenders, one of which has finally gone on a diet (see our report on HDBaseT, coming soon).

Despite the fact that Cablesson had plenty of gadgets on show, the product that impressed us most was their take on a swivelling HDMI connector.

This new connector essentially allows you to connect an HDMI cable pretty much in any

Swivel head HDMI connector

Swivel head HDMi connector

direction you want into the back of a component. They basically have taken an existing idea, and added a design tweak to it. There are HDMI cables that have a swivelling head, allowing you to ‘bend’ the connector over a 180 degree arc, this cable does the same but there is an added pivot movement of the connector as well, allow you to plug in and orientate a cable in pretty much any direction you want. This will ensure that you can have a cable plugged into the back of, say a TV which is to be placed close to a wall, and allow the cable to drop safely behind a TV, no matter what direction or orientation of the HDMI port(s) on the back of a TV. This means that the cable itself will not need to be forced into a right-angle, and further reduces the chances of damaging the cable or the TV, as the TV is pushed against a wall  during mounting, which believe you me is a common occurrence in TV installations.

Shock and AWE

AWE Europe, another of Tea London’s choice suppliers put on a grand show this year.

152UX1They had most of their product portfolio on show, but they dedicated a lot of their Expo floorspace to Panasonic’s CHT (Custom Home Theatre) range of premium Plasma monitors. The CHT range of Plasma monitors, are in essence, the best plasma displays on the market. They are considered specialist and for the custom install market only. These displays you will not find in your local Dixons or John Lewis. They can cost up to 8 times the price of their standard domestic counterpart, if we look at an ‘inch for inch’ comparison alone, however comparing these to the lower end consumer TV’s would not do these monitors justice.

Panasonic’s CHT range of monitors are aimed at two niche markets – professionals who need accurate colour and as ‘honest’ as possible video supply, where all of the strengths and weaknesses in video content can be observed clearly – so the likes of the BBC for example would use these. The other niche market is for those fortunate individuals who want the best image possible out of Plasma display, and have a bank balance large enough to buy one of these wonderful displays.

AWE had pretty much the entire VX200 range on show, including the 85″ and 103″ plasma display, plus an exclusive preview of the a 65″ display from the VX300 range which will be launched in September this year.All I can say about the VX300 is it simply the best image quality I have ever seen, the 3D was astonishing – images leapt out of the display with no perceptible flicker. If money was no object and 65″ is about the right size for you, this is the Plasma Display to get your hands on. I even started working out if I could finance one of these beauties in the near future…

AWE put the CHT range range to good use:

  • With the 85″ VX200 they ran a 3D driving game, and ran a Top Gear style fast lap competition, inviting all punters to have a go where the best lap time would get a trophy and a bottle of bubbly. It was great fun sitting in front of a huge 3D screen and (trying) to burn some rubber. I unfortunately did not clock up a good time, I kept on using the clutch pedal as a brake.
  • The 65″ unit showed a slide show, just showing how balanced the colours are and how good 3D is on these displays
  • Their showpiece was the “Million Dollar” home cinema. I do not know if it really did have a million dollars worth of equipment, but it must of cost at least half that. In this they had the huge 152″ UX1 Panasonic plasma monitor, which I think it the largest plasma monitor on the market. Capable of reproducing 4K2K image resolutions, which is 4 times that of Full HD image resolutions – I think a very necessary feature given how huge the image is. This huge monitor with a street price that goes into hundreds of thousands of pounds was coupled with Kef’s Muon loudspeakers, Arcam amplifiers and some sublime Chord Company speaker and interconnect cables, and you had a very impressive showing of how a ‘money no object’ home cinema could perform. In a word, the results were astonishing

Marata’s Exclusive Sony Projectors

Marata had Sony’s latest ‘entry level’ home cinema HD projector on show. It’s price point is around £3,000 but it delivers the level of performance I have seen in products that cost almost 3 times that price. It is incredibly well priced, with an incredible after-sales support plan. I simply could not find any faults with this.

Marata have exclusive distribution on this and several upper range Sony projectors, which I take great comfort in, as Marata will also provide the after-sales care, rather than Sony – which means that level of support will be considerably better than most.

Marata told me that this projector will expand later on in the year, where higher models that will have street prices in excess of £10,000 will become available. If a £3,000 projector is this good, how good will these high-end ones be? I can’t wait to find out.

HDMI Distribution – let me count the ways

There were a whole host of HDMI distribution products on show, ranging from standard extenders, to IPTv implementations.

Most of the IPTV products are on the extreme end of the price range and would only be feasible in large hospitality and commercial installations, or would not go amiss on the odd luxury yacht, but for the most part would be a technology that would be out of reach for the most of us… that is until you look at Just Add Power’s IPTV system, and then all of a sudden it becomes a very affordable technology, and what we think will be a significant growth area in video distribution in the modern home. We were impressed with the speed at which the product worked, image clarity and its integration with Control4′s residential controllers. Tea London are Control4 installers, so it just makes sense that Just Add Power needs to be in our product portfolio.

We also saw a number of excellent HDBaseT matrices and receiver units on display by Midwich’s True Colours division. They have a great price point and a very sensible approach to the cabling of HDBaseT products.

We will be releasing a series of article explaining more about the various HDMI and digital video distribution technologies available for the home today. All we can say is that the developments in this area are probably the single most significant developments in custom install AV on show, and will likely become ubiquitous in the next 5 years.

40Gb/s networks likely to be driven by cable installations 0

Posted on January 21, 2010 by Timothy Francis
Siemon 10 gigabit capable network connector

Siemon's 10GB network connector

A recent workshop held between some of the major network cabling, connector and chip manufacturers to discuss the development of  copper networks beyond 10Gb/s was held at Pennsylvania State University CICTR (Center for Information and Communication Technology Research) in August last year.

Why I have only just recently received a press release from one of its co-sponsors, Nexans, is anyone’s guess, however I thought it relevant that I should share the outcomes of this workshop held between some the finest technical minds, and industry leaders in the manufacture and development of copper networks; we are always keen to know what the next big leap in speeds will be. Currently the maximum speeds attainable on both copper and fibre network systems is 10Gb/s, which some would say is fast enough; however we believe that if high definition TV, HD audio and 3D TV continues its development and mass-adoption at the pace we are currently seeing, it won’t be long before even 10Gb/s will seem like a very slow network indeed, even in domestic settings. If we consider that blu-ray movies can be 50 Gigabytes in size, and soon 3D titles could very well require more that 33% more capacity, it is not hard to understand that the transfer, backup and streaming of high-definition video content is going to put demands on networks never seen before on the internet or within domestic settings.

In essence the workshop concluded that in 2010 there is sufficient cause and interest in creating a committee to call-for-interest to establish a 40BASE-T solution.

The key observations, which I have copied verbatim from the press release are:

  • Copper solutions beyond 10G could include many possible options but the highest Twisted Pair Category (Category 7A) is clearly in prime position.
  • Data Centre architecture will play a vital role in next generation networks. Jeff Cain, of Cisco systems, suggested that rack-centric, modular designs could change current thinking.
  • Chip Vendors and Data Centre designers pointed out that structured cabling had many benefits over ’Top of Rack’ switching, and that future copper solutions for 40G shall not be “point to point”.
  • The concept of a unified I/O, spawning the prospect of “any machine, anywhere, anytime” was introduced.
  • The PHY vs. Channel, aka “Chicken or Egg” debate, continues…with chip vendors saying the cable channel needs to be established first, while the cable manufacturers say the PHYs need to be developed first. Workshop attendees agreed that concurrent development was the best plan.
  • Based on his market analysis and model, independent consultant Alan Flatman (LAN Technologies) suggested that the call for interest (CFI) for 40GBASE-T should be initiated in IEEE during 2010.

Bottom line is it is actually possible for you to install 40GB/s capable networks today, even though this technology has yet to be developed. Category 7A cabling systems are already available, and if these cabling systems are installed correctly they will be able to deliver speeds well in excess of 10gb/s, where some cabling and connector manufacturers are even guranteeing 40gb/s performance, even though such technology is only in conceptual stages.

TEA London are already installing Category-7A networks, our first cabling project of this nature started in early 2009, following acceptance of a cabling design proposed in 2008; such cabling systems are not significantly more expensive than good Category-6A copper networks, and if one takes into account that a Category 7A network is truly future proof, and will likely give a lifespan of a minimum of 15 years, but likely as much as 25 years, then this is an investment well worth making in any new build, or during any refurbishment project where you own the building.

The more common Category-5e cabling systems are less expensive to implement, but is already at its end of life, where you will be hard pressed to get a stable optimised 1GB/s network, let alone 10Gb/s, similarly, cheaper Category-6 networks have proven themselves to only just scrape through in passing minimum requirements.

We have been advising our clients to implement a minimum standard of Category 6A cabling systems for some time now, you should strongly consider the same if you consider what developments are around the corner.

Should 40Gb/s copper networks appear in the near future, here is an important fact worth considering: it will be faster than fibre optic networks, currently copper 10Gb/s networks match fibre optics (and we mean only high-0end fibre optic networks, over short distances, using the most expensive equipment), the key difference being that copper networks are always cheaper, in terms of hard costs, implementation costs and installation costs; fibre optic networks have the advantage of being able to deliver data over long distances reliably, but copper networks will soon take over as the faster technology.

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