Hot Technology Trends for 2009
Thin, compact designs inspire innovations in the home electronics industry.
sharp flatpanel
A metallic edge around Sharp’s LC-65XS1U-S frame offers a stylish, sophisticated look, while a slim integrated speaker housing at the bottom provides audio.
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December 22, 2008 by Lisa Montgomery

TVs are continuing to shrink around the middle. Last year, 4-inch-deep flat panels were all the rage. Now 1 inch or less is the new benchmark. All the big names are in the game, including Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp and Sony.

Why the never-ending desire to get slim? Do we really need our TVs be skinnier than a deck of cards?

“Thin televisions offer consumers the combined benefits of choice, flexibility, elegance, aesthetics and performance,” says Daniel Lee, vice president of marketing for Hitachi Home Electronics America. “Consumers are now demanding thin and sleek sets to improve their homes’ aesthetics and create a space-saving design. They also want all the technology and rich features of a state-of-the-art display.”

Hitachi has answered consumers’ demands with a line of super-svelte LCD and plasma TVs. The company’s UltraThin 40-inch plasma display, for example, measures 1.5 inches in depth, about one-third the thickness of earlier plasma models. Following the trend, Sony’s 40-inch Bravia KLV-40ZX1M LCD high-def 1080p display is about as thick as a CD jewel case, while Sharp’s new furniture-friendly 52- and 65-inch Limited Edition Series Aquos LCD TVs measure 1 inch from front to back.

Mounts That Hug the Wall
The manufacture of increasingly trimmer TVs has led to other changes in the home electronics marketplace. TV mounts, in particular, have been redesigned. Just like the TVs they’re meant to hold, new flat-panel display mounts are thinner and engineered to sit closer to the wall. Mounts in OmniMount’s Ultra Low Profile Series, for example, protrude just 1.5 inches from the wall, affording flat-panel TVs a cleaner, more contemporary appearance in the home. Chief trims off even more excess with a mount that’s less than the width of a penny.

Of course, with so little space between the wall and display, it can be difficult to reach the back of the set when hooking up cabling. To make wiring a wall-hugging flat-panel TV easier, manufacturers have added new features to their products, such as “kickstands” that prop the bottom of the TV a few inches from the wall so you or your installer can access the cabling and connections. Other improvements include accommodations for accessories such as electrical outlets and surge suppressors. These products can now be recessed into the wall behind a TV, allowing the display to stay as close to the wall as possible. 

Another helpful addition, particularly for TVs over fireplaces, are motorized tilting mechanisms. When triggered, the mount’s internal motor tilts the display downward for a better viewing angle. Most motorized systems are designed to be engaged from a handheld remote. You push a button to tilt the set and press the button again to return it to the wall. It’s a simple enough solution, but be on the lookout for mounts that automate the process. The T2 mount from CLO Systems, for example, tilts an attached flat-panel TV to a preselected angle automatically when the TV is turned on. Turning off the TV triggers the mount to bring the TV back to its original position.

Lowboys Make a Comeback
Regardless of the shape or size of your TV, it’s going to require connections to satellite and cable box receivers, DVD players and other components. These additional pieces of hardware can compromise the aesthetics of a trim wall-mounted display. Thankfully, furniture manufacturers will offer a wide array of eye-pleasing storage solutions in 2009. The trendiest is the lowboy cabinet. A throwback from the 1960s and 70s, this short, wide storage unit is making a comeback. Unlike lowboys of the past, though, today’s models are significantly skinnier, just deep enough to hold a flat-panel TV.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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